“WHAT’S THE TRICK TO DOING A HANDSTAND?”
This is a question I have been asked a thousand times in one variation or another. I have even been asked, “How many push-ups do you have to be able to do before you can do that?”, referencing the one-arm handstand they just witnessed.
Let me put this another way.
Have you ever asked someone, “What’s the trick to playing the piano?” or, “How many cucumbers must you peel before you can paint a portrait”?
Of course not. Why? Because it is well understood that playing the piano is a skill developed over years if not decades, and that, in the case of the cucumbers and portrait painting, one has nothing to do with the other.
So why is it we feel the need to diminish the determination, time, and physical conditioning required to develop a Handstand by reducing it to a mere “trick”? In to a combination of things that, if we were just told them, would suddenly unlock our ability to handstand with no need for all that pesky hard work?
Perhaps it is our aversion to hard work. Perhaps it’s that we tell ourselves anyone who is good at something now was always good at it, or it came to them naturally, or they learned it as a kid and that must have been easier.
Mostly, I believe, it’s that when confronted with a person who learned it as an adult, without natural ability, and who can remember a time when they couldn’t do it, we believe they must know the “trick” because otherwise it just sounds difficult, time-consuming, and entirely unappealing.
LEARNING “THE TRICK”
Well, as someone who learned Hand-balancing as an adult, I can tell you the “trick”. But you’re not going to like it…
It took me 5 months of self-teaching (this was in an age before the mighty YouTube (yes I am that old), so literal self-teaching) to go from Never-having-done-a-handstand to Balance-a-banana-shape-for-60-seconds.
Cue me going off to the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) where I wanted to Major in Hand-balancing, and they started to correct my shape. So, wipe out those 5 months and put me back at square one. I had to build the strength, balance, and proprioception from the ground up once more.
This is why those of you who know me understand that I never bother letting anyone under my instruction do a banana-shaped handstand “just to get their balance” first. My banana-shaped-handstand-of-60-seconds turned into a shaky-barely-10-seconds-of-unbalanced mess.
INVEST IN THE PROCESS
I spent 3 years training my Hand-balancing with a coach – 1 hour a day, 5 days a week (not including self-training time outside of this). By the end of that, I resembled someone who could Press, One-arm, and Handstand when called upon.
This was 12 years ago, and let me tell you “that guy” had NO idea what he was talking about. Yes, I was stronger then, fitter then, and could probably do things that would throw my back out for a week if I tried them now but knowledge, technique, actual understanding? He was an infant, learning to walk and thinking he could sprint.
So where am I going with all of this??
Firstly, stop asking everyone you see on Instagram that can do a handstand, “What’s the trick?”.
Then find yourself a Coach. And I don’t mean that same someone on Instagram who can just do the tricks you want to be able to do. I mean a Coach. I was taught by coaches whose best days were 30 years ago. Find someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience – experience as a teacher as well as a practitioner – because they are not one and the same.
As with anything that is a truly worthwhile and fulfilling vocation, be prepared to work hard and be frustrated for a while before you reap the rewards because Handstands are an entire skill-set, not a trick.