By JJ Battell
The gyms maybe be closed right now, but we’ll get through this. A lot of the best trickers in the world started out like that, simply with an open space. Although the craziest tricking clips you see tend to be in places with a gymnastics floor, tricking didn’t start like that, all tricking needs is an open space –a patch of grass, concrete, puzzle mats or even a living room with furniture moved to the side. Given the current situation around the world, learning online and training at home or outside is a great way to stay on top of your tricking, especially with online training platforms offering thousands of videos from the best trickers in the world. Tricking has moved into gyms because it’s safer and easier to test boundaries on a floor that gives bounce and if you mess up on a gym floor it’s a bit more forgiving on your body, thus reducing injuries. Having access to a gym floor is a huge luxury and will allow you to progress a lot faster, but if you don’t have access to one right now don’t worry. Anywhere that you can move about with no obstructions, you can trick. Tricking doesn’t just consist of insane power combos that could easily take up a whole floor, there are so many elements - some require a lot of space and some require barely any. There is always something you can practice no matter how much or how little space you have. Most kick tricks can be done almost on the spot e.g. Spin Hook, tornado, 540, cheat 720, cheat 900 etc., and you can do a lot of flip tricks too with minimal space if you’re brave enough e.g. backflip, webster, flash kick, gainer, cork etc.
Motivation is key. That includes motivation to go to the session, land the next trick, land a combo, win a battle - if you want to progress to the next level you need motivation. For newcomers, the best motivation comes from the experienced and elite trickers. You can take inspiration from the tricks they do, how they execute them, their style, their flow, and all you have to do is watch them and something will inspire you - guaranteed. For experienced trickers it’s a little bit more complicated, especially when you go through plateaus. If you lack motivation some things that you can do to try and help are: look to the people who are killing it right now for inspiration, watch back all your best tricking achievements, watch old tricking videos of people who inspired you when you started out, explore new tricks, get creative, have no expectations. If you change your focus and take the pressure off of yourself you will find tricks more enjoyable. Before you know it, you will be training at a high level again because when you’re enjoying a session and you do something easy all it takes is an “oh, I’m going to do this after” or “let me try this”. A few of those comments and you’re already back to where you want to be with ideas flowing.
It’s important for ALL trickers to have a training focus or a goal. Focus can change but having something to work towards helps maintain motivation. Beginners should focus on building broad foundations, learning various flips (front, back, cheat gainer aerial), kicks (round, hook, spin hook, tornado, 540, cheat 720 etc.) and set ups (cartwheel, scoot, jstep etc.). It’s extremely important for beginners to drill basics in order to build whole body coordination, as well as, an understanding of techniques which you will need to progress throughout tricking. Higher difficulty tricks often stem from basics, so understanding how to execute those basics will speed up the learning process and will help you later on in your tricking journey as you will often find yourself revisiting lower level tricks to change how they look or to make them more efficient.
Naturally, as you progress through tricking, you will favour certain tricks over others and that’s fine because that’s where you start to find your style and what works best for you – if it feels good for you, run with it. Find your niche in tricking, and focus on that area. Of course work on your weaknesses, but it can be a mistake spending all your time on tricks that just don’t seem to click with you, you will lose motivation quickly and feel like you’re not progressing. The best advice that I’ve had, is to do the tricks that you enjoy. If you like the challenge of learning new tricks in an area that you don’t normally train, then do that, but if not, don’t stress about it. Do what you’re good at, that’s what you get known for, don’t try play everyone else’s game.
If you’re not training, you need to be conditioning, you and your tricks will feel so much better. There are so many ways to condition. Personally, I have found stretching and bodyweight conditioning to be the most effective for my training – when I was hitting my best tricks and combos, I wasn’t necessarily going to the gym every day, I was just stretching everyday (splits, t-splits, cobra etc.) and doing lots of core exercises (plank, side plank, leg raises, sit-ups) at home and I would just rep until I started to hurt and then count. I felt so much more flexible whilst tricking, and my body felt more powerful, I found that a little bit of achiness was perfect. Conditioning helps you progress with tricks because you will be stronger, mentally you feel powerful and it also helps to makes injuries will be less frequent. There has been several occasions that I’ve landed a trick awkwardly which could have easily injured me, but I got up and walked away from them largely due to the fact that I was conditioning regularly. If you condition you’re not guaranteed to walk away from everything injury free but there is a higher chance of you being okay, or the severity of the injury reduced. With conditioning, you have nothing to lose and all to gain, it’s beneficial, no matter which way you look at it.
Recovery and rest between sessions is vital. If you’re body isn’t 100% then you won’t be able to trick at 100%. The aim is to keep your body as close to 100% as possible for as long as possible, because then you can train consistently with no setbacks and ultimately improve faster. Like conditioning, there is a lot of options and it really depends on how good or bad your body feels. Methods that I regularly used are – Massage, sauna, steam room, hot and cold baths as well as getting good sleep and eating healthy. Sometimes taking a break from tricking for a few days or a week can really help your training as well. It lets your body fully recover but also it can act as a reset, allowing you to think about and reflect on your training - what direction you want to go, which can change your approach and often sparks new ideas. The only downside to time off in my experience is the loss of your aerial awareness but you can try to reduce it by actively resting. For example, on a garden trampoline where you can do tricks with a much lower physical demand whilst maintaining your awareness. Having time off can also recreate that hunger which you sometimes lose along with your motivation. If you are someone who trains regularly and you stop for a bit you start to miss it and are eager to get back on the floor and throw down with a fresh set of legs and potentially new focuses and approaches. Just remember if you’re body isn’t holding up; rest, rethink and get back on it.