Everyone in the aerial community should be very concerned about safety and about incidents when they happen. That is why we are always educating ourselves, our instructors, and our students to recognize and uphold safe standards in training and performing.
We recently (August 2019) heard about a fall that occurred during an aerial competition, where a 14 year old competitor fell 18 feet out of a dangerous skill that has already been banned from most reputable aerial studios including Aerial Fit. In addition, there was no mat to break her fall. She was very lucky to not have broken her neck, but she did fracture her skull, jaw, and injure her shoulder. Although accidents can happen, this incident should have been prevented and we feel now is a great time to remind everyone about the policies we uphold at our studio, and why.
THE NATIONAL AERIAL COMMUNITY
It is important to keep in mind that there is no official regulating body that manages aerial schools and competitions. Anyone can start a school or a competition. Anyone can call themselves an aerial instructor. Just because someone is good at marketing themselves it does not necessarily mean they are as good at teaching.
The competition that this recent incident occurred in had the word Olympics in it’s name. While it may imply a global or national regulating group or a group of the worlds most experienced aerialists, that is not the case. This is just a fun, flashy word that’s good for marketing.
There are excellent schools out there. There are excellent aerial instructors out there. Not only can aerial be safe, it can also be physically and mentally beneficial. But it requires schools with a safety first culture, a curriculum that progresses students wisely, and instructors that are well educated on safety.
Most Important Safety Tool
While the lack of safety mats is appalling in this incident, the bigger problem is the lack of quality instruction that led to the fall in the first place. Safety mats are a secondary safety device. Quality instruction should always be the primary safety tool.
SKILL PROGRESSIONS AND BEST PRACTICES AT AERIAL FIT
We only teach skills and variations of skills that are widely recognized as safe within the senior aerial instructors community. While there is a whole world of aerial skills out there, and more being developed constantly, when adding new skills to our curriculum we only do so after thorough research.
If we learn that a skill has a history of injuries then we will either remove it from our curriculum, or only introduce it at an advanced level with enough progressions and prerequisites to mitigate the risk of injury. If there is a flashy skill that is risky we always work to find a safer alternative that can produce the same effect. We feel that the risk of injury in aerial can be easily mitigated by our instructors doing their own research, with their peers and on the apparatus, before adding it to the curriculum.
When learning new skills, students should always be taught what makes the skill work and how it could go wrong. This means that when learning skills such as drops, there are many steps to master including walking it out first to understand both the supports and the body directions. We teach our students to ask questions and to truly understand the supports in each skill, not simply “go for it” and hope for the best.
TRAINING SAFELY AT AERIAL FIT
Our curriculum is fun and challenging and safe. We will only progress students when they have met our prerequisites which we have developed over our 10 years of teaching aerial. Students may be able to learn risky skills sooner or more quickly at other schools, but we have reasons for our thorough progressions. The #1 reason is keeping you safe.
There is a big difference between practicing in class, under the watchful eye of one of our instructors, and trying it on your own. Before practicing anything on your own, either in Member Training Time, Choreography Class or even in class while the instructor is with another student, students need to understand the skill and be able to perform it on their own. In aerial practice gravity is unforgiving and things can quickly go wrong with one small error. We teach our students to be mindful, ask questions, and exercise caution at all times.
It is great to take classes with a variety of good coaches. However, it is sometimes hard as a student to know if you have learned from a qualified and experienced instructor with a safety first mentality. Therefore, any of our students wishing to practice moves they’ve learned someplace else must get our explicit approval before training the skill at Aerial Fit.
To gain this approval, we will want to see that they fully understand the skill, we’ll want to see that it was taught safely and with best practices in mind, and we’ll want to make sure it’s not a skill that we have decided is too risky for our curriculum or for the student’s current level. This policy is in place for everyone’s safety and continued progression as an aerial artist.
Tip for students learning skills in other schools.
We recommend that you get video of yourself doing the skill when you learn skills at new spaces. Skills rarely have the same names and sometimes talking about the skills can be confusing. A video can be a great help, but not a guarantee that we will approve the skill.
When we create a safe atmosphere it allows aerialists the freedom to develop both their fitness and their artistry. Remember that aerial is a journey, and the senior aerialists in our community have a wealth of experience that needs to be respected.
Thanks for reading, and we look forward to seeing you master your skills and thrive!
– Clayton, Jordan and all the staff at Aerial Fit