Aerial Taxonomy Explained

Here it is — the blog you’ve been waiting for. The one where I reveal all my secrets. Before I do, a little backstory to give motivation:

When I used to tutor math, I would start by giving a speech at the beginning of my tutoring session, “I am so good that I am bad for my own business. My job is to work myself out of a job by giving you all the tools you need to do this on your own. You don’t need me and I’m going to show you. You can do this on your own and if I am successful, I will be out of a job here and on my way. That’s the goal.”

Teaching is about letting the student become the master. In my case, I feel that if I can just get students to *think* a certain way about aerial, then the whole world will open where they will no longer desire classes to teach just skills. They will hunger after classes as a means of communal research, training, fun and exploration, and not at all about teaching trick, trick, trick, trick. Aerial is about something much more fun and exciting — it’s about creating and exploring! And this is why I teach using the methods of aerial taxonomy. The “tricks* I teach are the classics, the basics, the standards. The fun part is the layering, the discovering of the millions of ways to manipulate and weave in between the classics. It’s not fun to go steal how someone on Instagram weaved and twisted and turned. It may be inspiring to see that things can be done a different way, but it could also be done YOUR way if you took the time to research. There are enough variations for us ALL to have our own unique pathways, threads and weaves in and around our apparatuses. Stop being someone else. That’s what this is about. Let’s start teaching the TOOLS to create and each be pioneers of the art form.

The following is from a workshop I give called “Aerial Taxonomy 101,” but I’ve recently started incorporating the language into everything I do. You will start to see classifications of this sort in each of my upcoming books, starting with the Aerial Sling Manual Volume 2, which will be out by the end of 2019. These are all important terms to know and understand in the science of classifying aerial skills.

Aerial Taxonomy Terms

SKILLS

If we are drawing the analogy to the animal kingdom, then skills are your animals. Our job in aerial taxonomy is to classify and put each skill into categories, drawing out the underlying similarities between apparatuses, etc.

Each skill can be defined by four elements: (1) the underlying base position(s) you are in, (2) what actions got you into your skill, (3) what shape you are in and (4) what apparatus you are on.

For example, the following skill can be classified as:

leg rollup 10

 

apparatus: fabric

base position: footlock

action: roll-up

shape: bowsprit lean

BASE POSITIONS

Base positions are the skills which grow other skills. The branches from which the leaves emerge.

Base positions can vary from studio to studio, but the overlapping Venn diagram would include skills that everyone can agree are “must-knows” on each apparatus. For example, a footlock on silks is a classic base position, as is catcher’s (aka open thigh wrap), s-wrap, hip key, etc. These are skills that everyone can agree on that every aerial fabric student should know. Each are independent of one another and help build the rest of the vocabulary.

Skills such as crossback straddle would not necessarily be considered a base position for the sake of aerial taxonomy, but rather a combination of base positions. Crossback straddle is a combination of the base position of crossback and footlocks.

ROOT POSITIONS

These are a subset of base positions. I won’t go into this in detail here, but root positions are helpful when you are trying to boil down all base positions into as few elements as possible. Root positions can be thought of as the tree trunk which grows the base positions, which are the branches; which grow the leaves, which are the skills. More on this in my workshop.

SHAPES

Shapes help describe the orientation of the body while in a particular skill. For example, I could be inverted under a hoop (a base position) and make a wide variety of shapes. I could be in a meathook, a straddle, a pike, a ball, the splits, etc. None of these really affect my location in terms of my contact with the apparatus, but they can affect my tilt, orientation, and general look of the skill.

Some examples of some well-recognized shapes:

Amazon
Angel
Arabesque
Arch Back (Global Extension)
Arm Straddle (aka Nutcracker)
Armbreaker
Arrow
Back Balance
Back Planche
Back Planche Split
Bird’s Nest
Butterfly
Candlestick
Chair
Crucifix
Cuddle (sleeper)
Cupid (Press-Out)
Flag
Frog
Front Balance
Gazelle
L-sit
Lay Out
Leanna
Lotus
Lion
Man in the Moon (Profile Sit)
Martini
Meathook
Mermaid
Neck Hang
Pancake
Pike
Planche
Plank (Straight-body of various directions)
Popsicle
Scissor Legs
Scorpion
Shoehorn
Splits
Spear
Stag
Star
Straddle
Toe Star
Tuck (aka ball)
Vareki (aka arched arrow)

ACTION CLASSES

Actions are the transitions of aerial. They tell us how we got from the trunk to the branch to the leaf. Did we walk, run, skip or crawl? I have placed these in “classes” in order to study them more in-depth as categories.

For example, my favorite action class is knee hooks. On any vertical apparatus, you typically have six classic knee hook options: (1) same-side regular, (2) opposite-side regular, (3) inside reverse knee hook, (4) outside reverse knee hook, (5) inside 2-knee hook, and (6) outside 2-knee hook.

It is a very interesting study to take this list and apply it on top of each base apparatus in term. For example, try each of these 6 knee hooks atop a hip key. What do you get? (In one of my workshops, we go through all these examples, and find some fun connections!)

Some other examples of actions of aerial:

push-out
invert
arch
lean out
tilt
pike (crease/fold)
tuck
sink (trash can)
heel hook
flex foot (ankle) hook
knee hook (reverse, inside, outside, 1 or 2 knee)
leg thread
knee thread
arm thread
(note: arm and knee threading are all a part of the threading class)
spin
hula
balance
key over
flamenco grip (part of the grip-options class)
angel roll
hip block
shoulder block
roll (roll up, down, sideways, etc)
turn
stuff-it (soft bar only)
climb
slide
wedge (press-support)
beat
grab overhand
grab underhand
crochet
sickle block (golf club foot press)
skin the cat
toe grab

APPARATUS

This category is pretty straight-forward. However, I do want to note that often times, I will use terms like “We are in silks-land now” even though we are working on a sling. For example, if you climb up high enough and put on footlocks above you, you are really in “sling-land” anymore. That’s a fabric skill that is being placed on sling. So, sometimes the apparatus where the base position is rooted is different than the apparatus where the skill is being applied.

Let it be understood, that even though I don’t study footlocks as a base position in sling, I am never opposed to using them there. That is part of the fun, the exploration and the creativity. It’s one thing to classify the classics. It’s another to start breaking all the rules. :)

In Summary…

My aerial taxonomy goes more in-depth than this introduction here, but I hope that this gives you a good overview for understanding my categories of study. Like I mentioned above, you can expect to see these classifications come more to the fore-front of coming manuals as I work to create a universal language and curriculum for the aerial arts. I hope to maintain great consistency across all the aerial apparatuses, and provide the study of each apparatus that highlights the unique properties of each, allowing you to cross-train and break all the rules as you may.

 

 

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