Margins of Error
German Wheel is an especially interesting circus skill to learn for many reasons. Today’s blog will focus on one of particular interest: it’s blend of manipulation and gymnastics. When I describe German wheel, I will often use the work gymnastic. I have even called it a Gym(nastic) Wheel. There are many Gymnastic skills that directly translate into German wheel: i.e. a walking handstand is clearly a variation of a front walkover. The less immediately obvious element is that German wheel is a prop that must be manipulated, like a juggler. A German wheeler is not only responsible for contorting themselves inside the wheel, they also are responsible for moving the Wheel in the direction and speed that they desire. This duality not only makes for an exciting to watch apparatus, but for some unique training challenges as well.
With German Wheel, consistency is a skill unto itself. Anytime you are learning a new German Wheel trick, you are actually learning a set of tricks. First, you have to learn the skill in perfect conditions: The wheel is at the perfect height, the perfect speed, your body is in the perfect position, etc. But because you’re never coming to a trick under identical circumstances, you’re never doing identical tricks. There’s always going to be something that changes, so you learn how to make a trick work under a wide variety of circumstances. Sometimes you may need to push harder, twist faster/longer, or roll later. Every problem has at least 10 fixes, the key is finding the fix that works for you and to know what lock it fits into. The more comfortable you are using these keys, the more success you’ll have consistently executing the trick. Any trick you’re working on, especially in the early stages, is going to feel slightly different every time you do it. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll feel with all the different variables at play in the element.
Jugglers are very familiar with this issue. When you’re first learning to pass clubs with a partner, you have a very narrow range of acceptable passes that you can catch while still maintaining your own juggling pattern. As you get more and more comfortable with juggling/passing, your range of acceptable catches becomes much wider, until it no longer matters. Eventually, you’ll be able to catch a club upside down, inside out, and still put it back into your own juggling pattern without skipping a beat. This takes time; there will be lots of drops and times when you mess up a pattern that you know you can do, because of something unfamiliar. This applies directly to German wheel. Suddenly because one little factor has changed, the trick you’ve done hundreds of times successfully, will feel foreign and become inconsistent all over again.
Story time 🙂 I was doing a show in Colorado, a four month run. At about month 3, in the middle of the week for no apparent reason, my knee hangs were just not working. I did ten before the show as a warm up, falling out of every single one of them. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t working or what was going wrong, so I replaced the trick for the show that day, came back the next, and it was as if nothing had ever been wrong. They worked fine. So yeah, sometimes that happens too 🙂
Try not to let it throw you off your game and just accept that some days are gonna be shit. Enjoy the good times when they’re here, work hard in the tough times, but don’t be afraid to leave a trick for a day if it’s just feeling weird. You might just come back tomorrow and find everything working all over again.