Most of us have seen clips of people flipping and twisting through the air. We’ve seen the commercials, movies, video clips on the internet. It’s fascinating to watch people fly. As if flying weren’t enough, they kick and spin, WHILE flying!! It’s amazing.
This art form is known as tricking, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to learn about it from someone who has been a part of it for a long time.
JayR DeGuzman is from San José, California. He has been tricking since 2005. He is a former member of Team Loopkicks, of which he was a part of from 2005-2012. He is a member of the dance team DS Players, and likes to combine tricking with his dancing.
When I first met JayR, I had seen him do a flip here, a flip there. I had no idea he was/is a well known person in the tricking community. Heck, I didn’t even know what tricking was. One day, he invited me to go to the gymnastics gym where he was practicing, to teach me a few moves. I agreed to give it a shot, not having any expectation of actually learning anything. The process of learning even just a little bit of tricking, was an eye opening experience. I ended up learning moves I never thought I would be able to do.
I realized I wanted to help give context to what so many people have seen, but may not understand.
FitMentality: What is tricking?
JayR: The definition has changed over the years. It started out only including Gymnastics, Bboying, and different forms of martial arts such as Wushu, Capoeira, and Tae Kwon Do. It has further progressed to include other forms of art.
FM: What is your understanding as to where tricking began?
JayR: The concept has existed for a long time, but didn’t have a name. In martial arts demonstrations, martial artists would do backflips and spin flips when they would showcase. To name those moves, in general, they started calling them “tricks.” Similar to “power moves” in breaking. This way you could differentiate between a punch, kick and then something that was more acrobatic; a “trick.” This is how it was named.
Roughly in the early 2000s, when tricking began to be called “tricking,” there were two kinds of trickers. People with martial art backgrounds, and “backyard” trickers. People who would just try and pick it up, without having the martial arts background.
The innovation of tricking started in San Jose, from a team called Loopkicks. In demonstrations/performances, you would see tricking. Loopkicks began to practice mainly those tricks. They would try to innovate those moves. More spins, a kick after a spin, a kick after a flip. Every time a new variation came up, they would name it. Loopkicks were one of the pioneers in naming the tricks. Billy Bilang, from Switzerland, had a website called Bilang.com. On his website, he would show footage of tournaments. He would make compilation videos of the tricks he saw. It [his complications] would feature just tricks. This was before YouTube. This is when tricking started to grow. This is when it became viral, because of these “samplers.” This is how the community really started to flourish.
Loopkicks would make samplers of themselves and Billy would post them on his website. There were other websites that did the same thing, either before or around the same time, but Bilang.com was the biggest.
FM: Where did you learn this art form?
I learned it San Jose, through Loopkicks. I was inspired by Rudy Reynon. He was the first person I saw do a trick. I didn’t know what it was called. I didn’t know what I was watching. I just saw the movement. This was when I was 14. I realized him and I had the same physical composition and were the same age. When I saw he was able to do this, I realized I didn’t have to be older or stronger. Since he resembled me, I figured I could do it. That was when I started to pursue tricking.
Back then, there was no one that would teach you. You just watched videos, and tried to emulate what you saw. We were just trying to teach ourselves. Now we have YouTube. We have people who have been doing it for years. Now, the bar is almost raised higher, because people have more access to these resources, as opposed to trying to learn on their own.
FM: What was the learning process like for you?
JayR: Back then, you weren’t sure what muscles you needed to train/incorporate in order to do moves. You didn’t know how flexible you needed to be. It started off by just experimenting. By repeating these moves over and over, you start to feel which muscles are used, by what (muscle groups) were the most sore. Whatever felt the most sore, that’s what you needed to work out, because that is what you used mostly.
I realized my core played a big role in tricking. I realized how important it was to be able to jump high and with power.
I started to condition my body until I was able to generate enough power to do full spins, etc.
FM: What kind of physicality does this art form require?
JayR: It is specific to the move. Generally, the core is a big part of it. That’s where your center is. When you do tricks, the idea is to get in the air and revolve around your core. If you’re twisting, you’re twisting from your center of gravity. If you’re flipping, you’re flipping around your center. You have to use that center to maneuver in the air. This is refers mostly to flipping and twisting.
If your goal is to do kicking moves, you need strong leg. You work on jumping higher. Plyometric training helps a lot. Fast twitch muscles are a big part of this training. Flexibility is huge, as well. Range or motion is very important.
FM: How big is the mental aspect of this activity?
JayR: The mental aspect is probably 80% or more of tricking. My personal opinion is that, a lot of people are capable of doing tricks like backflips, horizontal twists. Most people are capable of it, they just have to get passed the fear of doing the moves. People are scared of going in the air. People are scared of going upside down. When you get over that fear, tricks start to happen quicker. You begin to understand where you are in the air. You become aware of your body. Body awareness is huge.
The mental aspect is probably the toughest part. You have to build that confidence.
FM: What kind of training do you go through, to maintain/advance your ability to do this?
JayR: If you want to get better at tricking, you have to trick. But you also need to condition your body. It will get to a point where your body needs to be capable of doing what you want to do. To do something like, three kicks in the middle of a backflip, you would need to work on your legs in order to be able to kick three times in the air. It requires a lot of conditioning.
Stretching is really important. We start with dynamic stretching to prepare the body to have the range of motion we need. After the session, we do static stretches to maintain/increase flexibility. There are different types of stretching you can do. It depends on what you’re trying to get out of it.
FM: How is tricking different from other activities/sports/art forms?
JayR: Tricking is often confused with gymnastics and breaking (breakdancing). It combines all of that together, into one art form. The misconception is that it’s confused as JUST martial arts, JUST breaking, or JUST gymnastics. Tricking portrays someone’s individuality, as they add their own style. One can include whatever other form of art they would like to their tricking.
FM: How is it similar?
JayR: We take moves from gymnastics (such as back flips, front clips), techniques from martial arts (such as 540 kick, or butterfly twist). Moves from bboying, coin drops, flares (power moves). Similar to how a bboy/bgirl might incorporate a move from gymnastics.
FM: What is your approach to teaching tricking to beginners?
JayR: I like to tell my students that you may not learn a certain move in one day. Some people might. It really depends on your individual capabilities and what you excel at. I tell them to not be discouraged if you they don’t get it right away, or if someone learns quicker than they do.
I like to gauge what the physical capability is of who I am working with. If they have trouble jumping or spinning, ill focus on drills that teach them how to jump higher, or spin more efficiently.
When it comes to actually teaching tricks, I break it down by sections of a move. I try to break it down so that students understand what movements they will need to learn. I’ll explain what steps you have to take, what parts of your body should be doing what, and then how it all comes together.
When I hear people say “look at me, I can’t do that,” I’ll pull up a video on YouTube of a heavier guy doing a butterfly twist and a flashkick.
FM: What would be your advice as to what to expect, physically, for someone who would like to learn tricking?
JayR: You will be sore in places you haven’t been sore before. You don’t fully understand the muscles you use for a certain trick, until you try it.
When I was learning breaking, I would use my legs to rotate me. When I first started tricking, I thought it would be the same concept. But when I tried to do twists in the air, using just my legs, it wasn’t working. I had to try different ways to make it work. I realized that I need to use more of my torso/arms.
You have to realize that different methods work different for different people. One person might do a move one way and he could tell you how he does it. That method may not work for someone else. Maybe you realize that you need a different approach. Depends on your specific body. Some people have longer legs/arms than others. Maybe some people have a stronger upper body. Ideally, you want to be well rounded. You want to be able to apply power from both your legs and arms equally.
Anyone can do it, no matter what body type they have. It’s just a matter of perseverance. It’s a matter of mentality. If you do want to learn harder moves/techniques, then you need to condition your body to be able to do them. Multiple flips/spins, for example.
You have to train smart. If you’re feeling fatigued, rest. If you’re tired and you keep pushing, you will be more likely to hurt yourself. People who are hungry to learn, want to do something 100 times. Make sure to listen to your body. Work hard, but listen to your body.
Here is an example of JayR tricking. Notice the subtle spins, kicks, and rotations that go into different moves. What may look like the same move, can actually be very different, based off of how one takes off, lands, spins, kicks, rotates, which direction they face.
Fitness is beautiful. It comes in all types of activities, lifestyles and interests. This is an example of a fun way to get active.
Of course, as a disclaimer, if you were to try anything like this, be smart. Learn in a safe environment. Always check with your doctor as to what type of activity is appropriate for you.