Archive for March 3rd, 2006

Fun and Fear

March 3rd, 2006

I learned another lesson about fear in my flying trapeze class last night. I’ve been doing flying trapeze for about 5 years now, and a lot of it is overcoming fear. Last night’s lesson was small, but struck me.

To do anything on the flying trapeze, you first climb up to the platform (about 22 feet off the ground in the gym I go to), grab hold of the trapeze bar with one hand, jump off the platform and put your other hand on the trapeze bar. Then you kick backward as hard as you can, so the body is in a giant arch. (Here’s a video of a nice warm-up swing). I kick back late. I’ve been told repeatedly, but something kept me from fixing the timing. That something was a fear of bashing my feet into the platform. Not the biggest thing I’ve been afraid of with the flying trapeze, but it’s been enough fear to stop me from fixing this problem. I’ve worked on plenty of other things to make the swing stronger and higher but conveniently ignored this.

Last night the timing got so bad it started messing up all the things that come afterward. So I had to address it. Sometimes the best approach is to be absolutely determined and force one’s body to react despite the fear as an act of willpower. Sometimes the alternative approach of relaxing and trying to “let go” of the fear is best. Often nothing works for a while 🙂

Last night the results of not fixing the problem were too clear to ignore, and after a false start or two I finally managed to push aside the hesitation and put all the energy into the kickback when I was told to. The result was instantaneous — power. More power in the swing, more height, more time. And unexpectedly, the moment of full extension brought not only power but also an moment of lightness, of complete freedom. And with it, an instant of exhilaration. I’ve known for a while that when my actual position lines up with what the physics of a good swing call for, a moment of “float-i-ness” or seeming lack of gravity appears. At these times it feels like one has all the time in the world.

Last night I learned again how a small amount of fear, seemingly too small to matter much, has far greater impact than one might imagine. That’s what I love about trapeze — these lessons are combined with a level of fun that seems too good to be true.

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