Learning from Online Videos: An Important Safety Reminder

Tresa Honaker was doing a move that she learned online when she fell. This is a grave warning to the rest of us about the dangers of learning from online videos. And yet we are in the middle of a site filled with online aerial videos. Yeah…let’s have a chat, shall we?

First, let me say to Tresa Honaker: I am so sorry for your injury. I know it has been a long while since it happened, and your life is forever changed. We pray for you, and wish you a world of support and encouragement as you journey through movement in a new way. To encourage Tresa, visit her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tresa.honaker.

Now for a little background and history into this move and the nature of learning from online videos:

The Kamikaze drop was invented by a group of skilled teachers who knew what they were doing. It quickly spread, as moves do, and got posted on YouTube by both professionals and students alike. In the age before it was taboo to say you learned anything online, learning online was a weekly, if not daily habit of aerialists. Even professional teachers sat down with their students, and poured over YouTube to find the latest move to learn. It didn’t take long before a few close calls proved that to be the worst idea ever, and sad to say, it took a few brutal injuries on moves such as this one for the aerial community to open their eyes, then their mouth and start yelling “Stop learning from online! Go find a live teacher.”

While I think parts of the community have overreacted to the point of paranoia, I will say that facts are backing up their fears. There have been way too many stories lately of injuries occurring from people learning from online videos. It is a good and sensible recommendation to go learn moves from a live instructor. However, I would like to add the following caveats as food for thought.

The moves that have led to injuries have mostly been drops. I feel that most sensible aerialists have decided for themselves that they are not going to learn any drops from any non-live-teacher source. I think that is a very wise decision, and I recommend that everyone embraces that philosophy at a minimum when it comes to what you might learn from any online video. We have drops in our video library on this site, not so that you can learn them, but so that you can be reminded of what you have learned in a classroom setting. For example, I myself tend to forget what drop is what when it comes to all the variations of drops you can do from crochet crossback. There are so many, and all so similar, that I often forget what I know! I use my own video library all the time!

Also, watching moves that you don’t know is great, but resist the urge to jump right up and try it. You can learn about new ways of moving, even if it just in your mind’s eye before you go to your next fabric class. Spend some “soak time” with the new move, and put it in your mind long before you put it in your body. You will find your practice growing with much more understanding and clarity. I am a huge proponent of more education in fabric theory. This teaches a student the “whys to the hows” and this is going to prevent injuries across the board.

For example, there was a report recently of an accident happening at a local studio. A student was learning the scorpion move on fabric. This is where you wrap the legs, and rotate over. The legs go on the outside of the fabric and you end up with your feet over your head. Well, the student let the legs go through the middle of the fabric, and down she fell. She landed on her neck, thankfully not paralyzed.

This really got me thinking. I have this move in my video library and presented in my intermediate fabric book. What if someone thinks its okay to learn from online videos, and goes and does this move and falls? That thought terrifies me. But, then I realized that this can happen even if someone goes to learn from a live instructor. The underlying problem is the same. The student did not gain a full understanding of why the rotation works the way it does, and how exactly it would keep her safe. Or, if she knew, the body awareness was lacking to translate head knowledge into body knowledge.

These issues are present whether people are learning live or analyzing moves from the internet. Aerialists need to reach for a deeper understanding of why something is working, to be able to understand why it won’t work when you do certain things. My recommendation is to pick apart online videos in the way that this video presents the analysis with fabric on the floor. Don’t go trying something new in the air. Analyze it. Pick it apart. And if it is something new to you, go find someone with experience who can pick it apart for you. Then, try it on for size only when you understand exactly what you are doing, and have done all the research to have that guaranteed. For most, this is going to mean getting your butt into a live class often with an experienced instructor.

Being inspired is the key. Do not learn brand new moves in uncharted territory from online videos. Let them inspired you. Let them remind you of the things you know, but have forgotten. Let them give you ideas on how to build on what you already know. They can give you ideas on how to tweak that, change this, add a new style, choose a new exit to a move that is perhaps obvious but you hadn’t thought of before. Use it as a springboard into a creating, not a learning process.