Learning to Backflip

I wanted to learn how to do a backflip. Basically do a “backflip experiment.”

I’ve tried them before but like most people I had an extremely strong anti-backwards response like a cat which forces you to turn sideways when you’re upside down in mid-air.

So whilst at my rock climbing gym I decided to give these a try because they have thick crash pads I could fall on. The pads help remove the hesitation of flipping backwards (and busting your ass on the ground).

Just to see what I was doing wrong I decided to videotape myself doing these….which kind of turned into a mini-documentary on my backflip progress.

So I got comfortable with flipping backwards, and felt like I almost got the hang of it, but my flips weren’t consistent or correct. I knew there was something wrong with my flips. My head always got very close to the ground, unlike a proper backflip.

So I enlisted the help of John who knows how to do them correctly. We went with a few friends to the park and tried them on the extremely hard ground…it was a step softer than concrete.

With his help, after 3 or 4 tries I actually did a PROPER BACKFLIP!! I was very excited and eager to try another….and therefore forgetting to concentrate on the task at hand. The next flip I landed directly on my FACE.

I’m not exactly sure how I didn’t break my nose after that impact…but I did get a scar between my brow and nose….

…so after that I decided I should perhaps first learn proper technique with proper padding (FYI the scar is gone now).

Finding a place with trampolines, foam pit and other gymnastics equiqment wasn’t hard, but the max age for all these places was around 13 to 16. I’m 26 so that would be odd….kind of like that Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes a Karate class with kids. Fortunately a friend found out about a place that holds night classes for adults, so I enrolled in that.

There I had some proper instruction and equipment which was more forgiving than the park grounds.

By the second lesson I could do the backflips much better, sometimes landing them correctly. By the 3rd time I was doing them pretty consistently! Not only that but I’m now learning those roundoff-to-back-tuck flip sequences which are even more fun.

Of course my backflips still need some perfecting. I’m still jumping back quite a bit, whereas a perfect backflip starts and ends in the exact same location.

So here are all the backflip attempts I videotaped, including my face-plant!

What I learned:

  • Look straight forward
  • Jump nearly straight up, not back (it’s scary the first few times)
  • Don’t tuck right away
  • Wait till jump gets height, tuck with force, hold momentarily, release.
  • Don’t land on face.

UPDATE: 3-6-2009

In a comment, Aman said:
Good lesson in persistence and perseverance there Nev. For those that don’t see anything more than a few back flips really need to get out of the business world. Lessons are everywhere and not always directly put out there.

I especially like his last sentence. Couldn’t have said it better. It’s frustrating to get comments (most of which I reject) and emails that say, “What does this have to do with business?”

I personally thought it was a great life lesson (or business) video:

  1. First few shaky attempts are a little scary, amateurish and don’t look good at all.
  2. After some tries, start getting the hang of it and might even have a decent success.
  3. Even though I executed a perfect one early on, the next one I landed directly on my face (literally).
  4. A little mentoring and research goes a LONG way.
  5. After a few bumps, bruises, scrapes and a lot of mundane practice you slowly start to get the hang of it.
  6. The more you practice, the better you get.
  7. Once I got the backflip, I could start doing more complicated maneuvers.

“Lessons are everywhere and not always directly put out there.”