The article below is republished with permission from the author from its original post in the Safety in Acro Facebook group. Read more from Dao at his blog here or on his Youtube here.

Work in Progress, “The Essential Flyer Skills for Beginners”

Many of my aspiring students have written to me asking the same thing. “What skills do I need to be good at acro?” Actually, NOBODY asks this. Self assessment seems natural only to a select few, namely to those who have been previously injured. Among the many tools for safety in acro: quality spotting, informed instruction, safety mats, etc., I think self-spotting and self assessment need more attention.

I recommend that folks brand new to acro first master these basic skills. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have all the skills listed here, but rather use this list as a starting point for what you need to improve and master on the ground before leveling up (on someone’s feet). In my opinion, your primary partner is not your base, it’s the ground—and lucky for us flyers, she’s infinitely more stable.

Ed: Dao goes into strength, flexibility and balance tips in the full article, which you can find here.

Self Awareness

It’s true that anyone good at acro is persistent—how could it be otherwise? But it’s also true that many people keep going after they should have stopped and reassessed. Some hurt themselves pursuing a goal they weren’t really ready for (Cick here for an article about self assessment and safety in acro). In the excitement of wanting to try something new, it’s tempting “jump right into it” rather than admit to your partner that you don’t yet have the strength or flexibility, especially if you fear you will lose love or respect.

“But there’s also a danger to quitting every time you experience fear or uncertainty or anxiety or trepidation. If you do that, you miss out on adventure and excitement. You don’t expand your world. The key is knowing what’s at stake.”
– Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

The Self Responsibility Mindset

My approach to acro is similar to reverse engineering. When looking to learn/build something new, I ask myself three questions:

(C)rash: What are some possible falls? Do I feel confident in my ability to exit safely should that occur?
(B)reak it Down: What does this position/transition look like on the ground? Is there a similar shape/progression I can practice at a lower height to assess my ability?
(A)sess your Ability: Can I comfortably hold/execute that position/transition?

Let’s take jumping into “star” for example:

(C)rash: What are some possible falls?
– Straight on the flyers head if the base’s legs collapse (happened to me as a flyer)
– Flat on your back if the balance goes away from the front (while basing my friend Noah)
– To either side and kicking your spotter in the face coming down (happened to my friend Rudy. we weren’t aware that could happen. now we certainly do)
– Do I feel confident in my ability to exit safely should any of these scenarios occur? No? Then…

(B)reak it Down: What does this position/transition look like on the ground?
– Star pose is essentially a tripod headstand on the ground. Jumping into star is akin to jumping into a tripod headstand on a platform ELEVATED a few feet from the ground –

(A)ssess: Can the base hold my weight? See how steady they are basing something safer such as cross or folded leaf.
– Can the base comfortably hold folded leaf? No? Then practice balance skills first.
– Can the flyer comfortably jump into an elevated tripod headstand? No? Then practice it on the ground first. If the flyer cannot comfortably hold a tripod headstand at all they need to first learn that skill  –

You can reduce any complex problem such as star into something that’s within your ability.

Problem-Solving Skills

An acrobat is always coming up against seemingly unsolvable problems. This requires that you be accustomed to thinking analytically and solving problems. This often demands that you diagnose accurately what is wrong and then break the problem down into separate components. This is one of those abilities that comes with many hours of practice.

So…You Want to be an Acrobat? (

I hope this gives you some awareness of the skills that you will need and more importantly, a mindset to help you navigate safely as you explore the world of acro. And if you ever find yourself doubting your abilities, remember every winner was first a beginner. So go out, have fun, and begin.