”When you fall and you’re disoriented, you need to have enough air awareness to identify where the ground is relative to your body. With pole fitness you have the added benefit of a pole almost always nearby to grab in order to adjust for a more desirable landing position.” Amos Rendao, professional parkour athlete
I am an amateur pole dancer with a passion for safety. As I begin to learn tricks like meathook and fonji and start focusing on table top drops, castaway front flips and back flips I’ve started looking for a way to fill the gap between my pole dancing talents and the potential risk for injury. Every pole dancing student has thought about this question at some point, “How am I going to keep myself safe from falling and minimize injury?” Safety doesn’t have to be an unknown variable. If you know how to approach safety it can mean the difference between a potentially crippling head or neck injury versus a wrist injury. I have gone outside the pole dancing community to a parkour gym to find the best safety tips and learn more about body awareness as it relates to minimizing injury.
I am at Apex Movement in Boulder, CO with Amos Rendao. He is internationally recognized in the parkour community for his talents in teaching safe falling methods and minimizing injury in movement arts like pole dancing, tricking, and freerunning. Amos has an extensive background in martial arts, which is the origin of his proven safety techniques. He simply adapted these falling techniques for the real world of hard surfaces and people who don’t have a background in martial arts. He states that there is a lot of cross over between parkour and pole dancing. One of the most obvious is the high impact nature of both sports including hardwood floors, inversions and the fact that falling is an inevitable part of the learning process. In order to prioritize safety you have to understand air awareness and be able to identify where the ground is in relation to your body. Falling is all about reaction which is why air awareness and a repertoire of different falling techniques is so important. “You’re never thinking. You’re reacting.” If you think you’re more likely to hesitate and that’s when you become more vulnerable to injury. The key is to not hesitate if you ever find yourself in a compromising position on or off the pole.
There are several components to minimizing injury. While it may not seem intuitively obvious to start safety training for the pole on the floor the goal is to get you to focus on major points of contact that could minimize injury before taking your skills higher up on the pole. When we worked on parkour back rolls my first lesson was to learn how to slow down momentum by using a forward split in my fall. The back roll exercise is a safety drill and a starting point for being able to take my safety skills higher on the pole and simulate a fall in real time.
Five years of pole dance muscle memory proved to be an extremely challenging hurdle and seemed more like a comedy of errors at times. The first mistake I made was in my split position. I was immediately going into a sexy back rollover using the standard middle split position, which increased momentum instead of slowing it down. After this error was fixed we were back to another issue with my forward split. I was extending my back leg out diagonally, which doesn’t slow down momentum in a fall and also puts your body in a more compromised landing position. I was mentally thinking about not going into a middle split position but my body was functioning purely out of muscle memory. After I mastered keeping my back leg straight I was having problems keeping my front leg straight. I was going into a passe lever position. After numerous attempts I was able to simulate a forward split and follow the line of my fall; it was much easier to gain body awareness and understand how I am minimizing injury through slowing down momentum.
Let’s face it. None of us are perfect. We are very fallible creatures by nature. The best of the best can slip unexpectedly and fall. The value of learning safe falling methods is not limited to pole dancing. It’s a life skill that can prove to be very valuable and possibly save your life. I am willing to accept that my approach to safety training might seem a bit unorthodox to many people in the pole community. The idea of safety drills in preparation for an accidental fall don’t exist in the pole community; I’m going to change that. Amos has agreed to work with me and create a safety training program that is tailored to my safety needs as a pole dancer. Instead of focusing on just understanding body awareness in relation to the pole I’m learning about body awareness that will teach me to understand where my body is in relation to the pole and the floor. I am learning how to slow down momentum and use major points of contact on the body that can minimize injury from a fall that originates from an inverted position. Safe falling may not be the best approach to prioritizing safety for every pole dancer out there but my safety tip for the day is to prioritize your safety and find what works for you.