This is an unpaid review of Shannon McKenna's newest E-manual (featuring Dr Jennifer Crane of Cirque Physio) "One Arm Positions for Aerialists - A Practical Manual for Hanging Upside Down on One Arm", and if you think the title is a mouthful then get ready for a three course FEAST for your inner aerial-geek. Not only is this manual chock-full of gems about the technical aspects of Inverted one arm positions, it is easily digestible, practical and a riot to read along to.
Shannon has a fantastic way of breaking things down into simple cues, instructions and drills, whilst incorporating the necessary anatomical knowledge. This balanced approached has wide appeal to both teachers and students who are ready to apply themselves comprehensively to the art of aerial. As a physiotherapist when I'm teaching it can be difficult at times not to get swept up in anatomical detail in an attempt to arm (oh yeah, I made that pun) the student with as much knowledge as they need but it's not always the best way of educating movement. What Shannon has done perfectly is present in a concise way, only the pertinent information, building on the knowledge of the first manual "The Fundamentals of Aerial Alignment" which covered the all-important "Shelf", the group of muscles supporting us when hanging upside down. This time the main focus is the one arm nemesis Meathook and the ever-allusive Flag Positions. Shannon also describes One arm Neutral, Reverse Neutral and a drill called the Conveyor Belt, as foundational to achieving these advanced positions.
What I LOVE about this manual is the layout - yes she's hilarious which makes for easy reading - but the way each skill is broken down into three main focus points makes for very easy progress in both studying the information presented, and planning your next session to train. Each new skill has a "How to" section, Tips for Spotters (which as a teacher is a brilliant addition and an area not widely covered) as well as Troubleshooting pointers along with video demonstrations of each.
NEW things I learned..
1. The term 'extension energy' - the idea of elongating a limb towards the periphery with active tension in order to balance/support the overall body shape. Although I know this concept from my ballet days, having something accurately termed is a powerful way to improve the language we use to instruct and learn.
2. Using weights (or the weight of the free arm) to progress towards a static one arm hold. Again, although not a brand new concept, Shannon explains the benefits of training using a small weight for both positions and how each technique differs.
3. The importance of Pectorals Minor - in general, becoming aware of common mistakes and things that can "sabotage" your progress is GOLDEN information, particularly for instructors. Dr Crane's insights here are invaluable. Too often we focus on the steps, the strength required etc, but we miss out on what I call the "Peripheral knowledge" every trick contains. Knowing what doesn't help is JUST as useful as what does. And it increases your "aerial IQ", which makes potential troubleshooting easier to navigate or foresee.
OTHER stuff I LOVED...
1. The emphasis on longevity is something that is hardly every voiced and goes hand in hand with injury prevention - a cause loudly espoused by both Jennifer and Shannon.
2. The way Shannon writes comes from a perspective that supports the necessity of solid foundations to serve performance and inform creativity. . If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times...CREATIVITY is not a lack of structure, although it may be a departure... it demands STRUCTURE. As in medicine, if you want to diagnose abnormalities, you first have to know whats normal. Creativity and exploring your own style is no different - you have to have a solid base to build off. As a Physio, performer, instructor AND student - this manual inspired me to have a more comprehensive understanding of the tools I need to do these harder positions (and I'm not giving up on that flag! #goals)
At $69.99 The price point is well...on point; accessible and worth every penny. I believe as students we should be investing well into our training not just blindly training and attending classes in the hopes of somehow metamophosing into our idols. I cannot recommend this manual enough - it makes sense, its progressional and safe, and I can't wait to start the journey towards achieving these positions myself!