The Three Knows of Wheel
A bit of a meandering post tonight. I had quite the adventuresome weekend, one of those times where the universe just keeps trying to tell you something. From dodge ball on trampolines to car breakdowns, foam pits to late night conversations; this weekend was all about risk management. It sounds too benign and corporate when put that way, but it is the greater part of what we do. I was trying to explain to a non-circus person how you decide to move from walking a 1.5-foot tight wire to a 6 ft wire. How do you know when your ready, how do you know when someone else is? I started rationally quoting percentages and spotting techniques, remaining calm under pressure and emergency procedures. He called me on it, saying he couldn’t believe I would sit there and count failures vs. success. Was he right? As a mortal, and very fallible human, how do we continue to do the crazy things we do? This brings me to the three knows of German wheel
Know your Systems. We are pattern-based creatures and we are so very trainable. Pavlov taught us all about bells and dogs, so make sure the training patterns you are using are reinforcing the kinds of behaviors you want to see more of. That said, a lot of training is discovering, learning, memorizing, and finally embodying physical/mechanical systems. My hip makes contact with the bar then as the wheel rolls forwards my weight shifts to my hands and feet leave the boards etc. An element on German wheel is a very complex system of physical vocabulary. German Wheel is overwhelming at times because its style of movement is so foreign (unless you spent your free time rock climbing inside of washing machines). Take your time, do it slowly/break it apart, these things take time to settle in your bones, but once it’s there, it lasts. J
Know what to do. What can go wrong will go wrong. If you plan on having any longevity as a performer that means you are not doing an action once or twice or even a few hundred times. If you are working a single long-term contract for 1 year and you are doing 3 show a day 6 days a week, (that’s a totally normal contract). That means you have to be able to the hardest trick in your routine just shy of 1,000 times. Even if you only mess up .001% of the times you do that trick you will fail the element in at least 1 show. So know what to do when things don’t work, it makes you look professional and it keeps you safe. There are ways to get out of almost any situation; take the time to troubleshoot! This is one of the main differences between people who get hurt and people who don’t.
Know why you do it. In the end of the day we barely sane creatures doing ridiculous things. As the great Ipad in the sky records our lives I love to imagine it propped up there, simply stumped by the odd things we chose to do to ourselves. Swallowing swords, dressing up in silly costumes, falling from the sky only to catch ourselves inches from the floor, opening our hands milliseconds before they should be crushed. It doesn’t really make much logical sense. So if you don’t love it, or some rather large parts about it, what are you doing? We do lots of really odd things in our lifetimes some make more sense than others. Take the time to ask yourself: why do I wheel? For me there was never really any other option, I just loved it, German wheel makes me feel alive. Forgive my paraphrasing but I was once told that ‘a person is alive in direct relation to how close they are to death’. That is not a rally advising dangerous behavior, but sometimes in order to feel the breeze you have to walk along the cliff.