Make it work for you
One really interesting thing about German wheel is how size-dependent the apparatus is. This can be a pain in the butt if you are a little too small or big for the wheels you have access to, but it also means tricks have some natural flexibility in the way they function. For example, one of my students is working in a wheel that is just a little too small for her. We have been struggling for months to find a way to keep her knee straight during one trick. It was a long uphill battle with lots of tears 😉 but one day that all changed. We were at Wheel weekend and someone recommended that we try the trick with her foot on the hoop instead of the handle. First time we tried it the rocking was a bit weird but BAM the knee was straight. I remember so clearly the look of joy and awe on the student’s face. Suddenly it was easy; this thing we had been going to WAR against every week, and one little perspective shift and suddenly there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
It is easy to become rigid in our thinking: this trick goes this way, use this progression and this grip. Now especially if you have been taught well, these rules are a good thing because they give you structure and more often than not, they are set up that way because that is how they work best. It is supremely important that you understand why the rule is there. Another example, I was working with one student I hadn’t seen in a few years and he was showing me his new act. He started prepping for one trick (standing on top of the wheel) but his hands were in a place I was not familiar with. I stopped the student and said “I don’t think this is where your hands are supposed to be.” He told me that no, this is where he put them, and I foolishly backed down thinking he had some fancy new variation. Well lo and behold, when he jumped up to get on top of the wheel, his hand placement sent his head directly into the bar handle. Next came the bleeding, then the hospital, then the stitches. Now he is fine, but if I had taken a minute to walk slowly with him through the trick he may not have gotten hurt. So remember rules are often there to keep you safe. But don’t let them bind you. With this student, walking through the rules could’ve prevented an injury, but in the first instance, I was so stuck on “the foot goes here for this trick” I couldn’t see that by simply shifting the foot over to the hoop, the student would have the space the keep her knee straight.
So play by the rules, 🙂 but don’t let the rules play you. Think and test through any variations thoroughly before you make them (I made sure I did the trick with my foot on the hoop before I asked the student to try it), but don’t be too afraid to experiment. That’s how we make things better.