By Julaine Hall
If you are reading this article, you probably have some circus background or you are interested in circus and/or acrobatics of some sort. My guess is that you probably know what a Chinese Pole is. In case you don’t know, the Chinese Pole is a tall rubberized (but sometimes powder coated) pole that is in the ground acrobatics family. It hurts, it gives you bruises, it eats your clothing, but in my opinion, it is one of the coolest disciplines circus has to offer.
As an example, here is my performance from the SANCA Annual Spring Showcase: https://youtu.be/PE1zssvuA1o
STEP 1: PROPER ATTIRE
So…. leotard, leggings, and/or a tank top, sweatpants, and I’m good, right? *BUZZER* WRONG! That will hurt a lot! In pole there is a lot of friction on your knee pits, inner thighs, arm pits, shoulders, and stomach. What I usually wear is a pair of leggings under a pair of super high-wasted shorts under a pair of Jeans that I am okay with ripping, A tank top that is long enough for me to tuck in, a thick sweater or long sleeve over top of that, then a pair of “Bushidos” with the soles sanded down until there is no traction on the bottom. Another accessory that is nice to have is shoulder pads. I have a shirt with some neoprene sheets sewn on the shoulders for a bit more protection for things like shoulder hops and Fungees. This is just what I wear. I’ve seen many people wear shorts, rain boots, crop-tops, but as a beginner, I think something along the lines of what I wear will cause you the least amount of pain.
STEP 2: GETTING UP THE POLE
To do anything cool we have to learn to get up the pole, so the very first thing you’ll learn is how to climb.
The most common used climb is “Monkey Climb.” As you can see, it looks pretty natural in comparison to other kinds of climbs. It is reminiscent of a toe climb on the rope with a lot less pain in the toes.
Climbing is difficult when it is your first time or when you have bad form, however, as you get better and you climb with your shoulders back and core tight… you should be able to whiz right up the pole! Like any discipline, pole takes a lot of….. you guessed it! PRACTICE. *whispers: and conditioning but shhhhhhhhh*
STEP 3: NEW SKILLS
The three next skills are arguably the most important skills for a beginner to learn: Sit, Fish, and 1st Position
This is sit. This is where things get pinchy. Sit is a very traditional trick and look nice when done in synchronicity with others on the pole. Here you are pressing both feet into the pole with toes pointed at the ground. You take your shoulder around to either side of the pole and present both arms straight out. After this, you may take off the same side foot as the shouler that is in front of the pole. Great job! You have your first trick!
This is fish. I think this is sort of like your first test in strength and form. Without good form it is terribly hard to have enough strength, and without the strength, it is terribly hard to find good from. Quite a spiral! Start from sit. When you get there, put your foot back on the pole, put your same hand as shoulder that is in front of the pole under that same armpit. Now, with your free hand, brace the pole and put your feet straight behind you like superman. After this, you can take off your bracing arm and just hold with one hand.
This is 1st position. This is your home now. Your bottom foot should be pressing into the pole and the pole should be caressed in the arch of your foot. Your top leg should be squeezing the pole and pressing down so that you can stand more comfortably. Your legs should be straight, toes pointed, and mouth smiling! Look how far you’ve made it! 1st Position is a safe zone where you can gather yourself and take a bit of a break without looking like you’re taking a break. It is one skill you should do every single time you get on the pole. I haven’t seen every single pole act on the planet but, I have never seen an act where someone didn’t at least pass through 1st position.
STEP 4: CONDITIONING
This is a handstand. This will get you ripped arms. To get into the handstand, place one hand at forehead height in a cup shape with no thumb wrapping and place one hand at the bottom right below your belly button. Kick the same leg as hand on top and drive that heal back as you pull with your top arm and push with your bottom arm. This should be enough to get you up to handstand.
This is a shoulder hold. This will get you ripped abs. Lean back on the pole and place your shoulder on the pole. Your head should be to one side. Next place both hands on the pole with the same side hand that has shoulder lower. Now engage your abs and lift your legs to a tuck. You did it!
These are HIGH-KEY crucial to becoming strong in the correct places for pole. It’s conditioning day my dudes. Conditioning is the most important part.
Are you intrigued by Chinese Pole? Does it sound more awesome than painful? Chinese pole has a very human element to it. It’s fascinating to watch and a joy to learn. I’m pretty sure my good life meter reading increased by 200% after I started Chinese Pole. I urge you to give it a try! I must thank my Coaches: Nick Lowery and Domitil Aillot for teaching me some of the coolest stuff ever and giving me some amazing opportunities!