I once heard a story about a very unusual workshop being held by a very famous Poler at that time.
This was way back in 2015 and the story goes that this person (a Bendy Kate/Heidi Coker/Dan Rosen level poler) held a workshop filled with really advanced people and they spent a good chunk of the session going through improving their Step Arounds and Pirouettes.
Did I mention that all of these people could *easily* bang out an Ayesha?
The reasoning goes that they went into such great detail because the instructor wanted them to realise that there is always room to improve even these really basic moves
I can’t remember who it was that was leading the workshop, and I, for one, certainly was not there to say if it was true or not, but the story stuck with me and I thought about it once again when I had to reshuffle my pole schedule.
It was after I had achieved my Invert and had been consistently attending two Intermediate classes a week, I was put in a position where I couldn’t make one of the days. Now, I could have dropped one Intermediate class and just go once a week, but that would have been a sensible decision, which is rather unlike me.
Instead I chose to replace it with a Beginner’s Class.
It can sometimes seem like in Pole that, much like in Pokemon, your whole focus is to collect moves and to level up. You bang out a move a couple of times and call it done, and don’t revisit it again until showcase or pole competition time comes around and you start looking to perfect it and make it look pretty.
I want to divert a moment, and tell you about my Beginner Pole Instructors Rachael and Anna R – both teachers are fantastic and can execute beautifully elegant beginners moves with such grace that you just want to die.
Reader, how many of you can say that you can execute a very graceful Fan Kick landing perfectly on your tippy toes, just like that?
Honestly, I’m genuinely asking here, because I wondering if it’s just me who lands it like I’m wearing hobnail boots.
Don’t get me wrong, I can do a fan kick, I’ve got the strength down and I understand how to execute the technique, it’s just not that graceful and my legs aren’t always as straight as they could be.
It was watching these teachers that I decided that, along with leveling up and getting into Advance class, I wanted to work on my basics and make them look very pretty.
I decided to add Beginner’s class in place of my other Intermediate class and have been doing the two for the last couple of months.
As I have been attending the Intermediate and Beginner classes I have become confident in my Deadlift Invert, Gemini, Invert into Scorpio, Aerial Invert, Butterfly, Aerial Superman, Drop D, and Deadlift Shoulder Mount.
I am now in a position to take the Advance class and I want to share what I have learnt by attending beginners class and some guidelines if you want to go back and revisit your baby Poler days
- Talk to the Instructor
Every instructor loves to have a class *full* of highly motivated students, keen to learn; and while you might be highly motivated, you might just raise some eyebrows if the Instructor of the Beginner’s class sees you finish off one class practicing your Shoulder Mount and then stick around for their class – especially when they are planning to teach Chair Spins.
Explain to them that you want to go back and revisit some of the stuff you have learnt to make it look nice and ask would it be okay if you join in, they may not be too keen (see following tips as to why they may be hesitant), but if you express a sincere desire to learn and improve they will certainly consider it!
Even better, they can also start to plan and offer you progressions on the basics they teach (I see you Pike Chair).
- Throw Yourself into the Lesson
I’ve been very fortunate in the studio I attend that I have never seen this, but I have read stories of advanced students turning up to beginners lessons and treating it like a Pole Play session.
First of all that is not fair on the students or the Instructor; if you attend a class, follow along and have a positive attitude and give your all to everything the Instructor throws at you, you’ll get a lot more out of the lesson and you will be a nice Polemate to your class.
Even if the Instructor is explaining something really simple that you can do in your sleep, if you start goofing off on your phone it sends out the wrong message to the rest of the class that it’s okay to ignore the instructor when they are teaching.
If your instructor gives you an opportunity to practice whatever you want at the end, go for it!
Speaking of giving your all….
- Start Looking at Small Details
Look, you know you when you can do a lot of fancy tricks upside down, the Beginner’s class will not always pose a challenge to you, especially strength wise.
But what’s your back foot doing in your climbs?
What about your bad side? Do you Deadlift Invert on your good side, but still have to kick up on your bad side?
Is there that one move that you didn’t quite get in beginners class and came back to bite you in butt in Intermediate class (I’m looking at you Side Climb!)
Just like in that workshop, it’s not enough to have the strength to do these moves, but you need to refine your technique and make them look better.
Resist the urge to be a diva and rest on your laurels and look at what you can learn and improve on
Speaking of Divas…
- Be Humble, But Honest with your pole mates
There is a line between being the big I am and being a liar.
You look like an utter dick if you go in to class and act like a Queen Bee just because you happen to be in the Intermediate class. If you have been poling for more than a minute, you know how humbling the journey is – wherever you currently are there’s always one more step ahead of you.
Inverting, good – can you Deadlift Invert? Aerial Invert? Straight legged Straddle Aerial Invert? Pike Legged Invert? Shoulder Mount? Aerial Shoulder Mount? Fonji?
Yeah, it’s exhausting and humbling.
On the other hand, you don’t do anyone any favours if you pretend that you are a complete newbie.
Think back to when you were a couple of lessons in to your pole journey; imagine if you went into a class and happened to be sharing a pole with someone who you assume is as new as you are, you’re there working on your front hook, figuring out the hand magic involved in a pirouette and trying not to get too despondent that you can’t hold yourself up in a basic crucifix*, but your fellow pole mate, who just told you they can barely do anything, is busting out a competition climb all the way up the 16 ft pole with perfect pointy toes.
You would feel so disheartened and so discouraged that you might not want to come back at all!
*see the first four months of my original pole journey
If you happen to be sharing a pole with a newbie, it might be an idea to let them know that you’ve been poling for a while, just to reassure them.
If you know of non-awkward way to do this, please let me know, because at the moment I tend to blurt out that I’ve been poling for a long time in an awkward, self effacing way.
I may be early advanced level poler, but I’m still beginner level social skills wise
Speaking of humility…
- Be Humble *and* Honest with Your Instructor
Even with all your dedication to attending class to refine your technique, there may be beginner moves that you still struggle with and you might feel like you can’t ask for help because you’re supposed to be the advanced student. You don’t get pole points for silently struggling along.
Let me tell you the sad story about my Side Climb.
I managed to level up my way into the Intermediate class without learning how to properly side climb.
So when it came to side climbing up the pole as part of our warm up in Intermediate class, I felt like a right wally and I didn’t ask for help because I felt like I should know it.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a vague idea how to do it and I made an attempt, but I would sooner skip straight into the Gemini climb overs.
It was only last week that I actually asked the instructor if we could go over side climbs again, and she happily went over it and now I know how to side climb with correct form, not just a mish-mash of memories of side climbs gone by.
Also, by asking, you are probably helping your pole mates out, you are unlikely to be the only one who struggles with a particular move.
Speaking of helping out the newbies…
- Encourage the Newbies
People may start attending pole classes to improve their physical health, but they stay for many reasons – one of the main reasons being that a good pole class feels like a small community all there to encourage each other on. I know attending pole classes has resulted a marked improvement in my mental health and my social skills. A pole class filled with people who had a positive attitude is a blessing to everyone.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from pole class bursting with pride and announced to all who would listen “one of the girls in class said I had really pointy toes!”
Encouraging newbies can easily come across as condescending, forced and insincere – the trick is to sincere and specific. I remember last week one of the newer girls executed a fantastic Fan Kick, one that I certainly couldn’t have done in my first three classes and I made a point to tell her, and she was happy and it’s nice being in an environment like that.
Speaking of encouraging…
- Don’t Teach the Class
Look, I have this overwhelming urge to be helpful at all times and I hate to see people struggling – so this something I really have to watch in myself because
I don’t want to injure someone because I’ve given them the wrong advice
I’m not insured if anything goes wrong
It’s not my class to teach – it’s disrespectful to the instructor!
So, if I am paired up with someone and they are having issues and the instructor happens to be the other side of the room helping out someone else I tend to stick to either repeating a particular pointer the instructor gave (I think your top hand goes has to be level with your head) or relating it back to something I’ve experienced (you want to make sure you have a micro bend in your bottom elbow in split grip, I got a nasty case of tennis elbow the first time I tried this because I kept allowing my bottom arm to hyper extend).
BUT YOU HAVE TO BE CONFIDENT THAT WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS CORRECT.
Seriously, any doubt, even the littlest of doubts, call over the instructor when they’ve finished with the other student- they aren’t expecting you to have all the teaching points memorized and they would appreciate the heads up.
Speaking of helping the teacher…
- Be The Teaching Dummy
There is one thing that is almost as important as learning pole moves and that is learning to spot someone who is executing a move for the first time. The Instructor is always going to be outnumbered in a group class, so learning the basics of spotting a move, such as the cross knee release, will mean that everyone can spot each other and learn safely.
The paradox often is that the Instructor has to try and demonstrate the move and demonstrate how to spot the move, and honestly you can’t do that effectively without another person.
This is where you have a chance to help give back to the class.
The Instructor may ask for volunteers, but more often than not, they might just call on you to do the move whilst they talk through how to spot it. One of the things to keep in mind, especially in beginners, is that people don’t want to be shown up in the middle of class – especially when it is doing a move they may have done once or twice before – if you are comfortable with the move, and your ego has been weathered by the sands of time, take the time to volunteer your services, especially if the class is looking uncomfortable.
Speaking of giving back…
- Be the camera person
Another extension of my desire to help will manifest itself in one of my most frequent phrases – would you like a picture of that?
I wish that I could go back in time to my first pole journey and take photos of my progress – the good and bad stuff, just to see how far I’ve come
I think, through apps like Instagram we’ve become far too aware of what’s out there and I think that we compare ourselves to photos on Instagram, and often find ourselves coming up short. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the gram, but we often tend to skip the opportunity to take photos that we consider that aren’t Instagram ready. I think that’s multiplied by a thousand fold when you are starting your pole journey and your Instagram feed is full of people executing beautiful and advanced moves.
Not every photo has to be for the world, you might think you look horrible now, but a bit of time and perspective does wonders, and as a more advanced student – it’s important for you to gently encourage that mindset.
- Seeing Moves from a Bigger Perspective
This one isn’t a tip for attending beginner’s class, but is a bonus that you gain from going often enough.
It’s only from going back to beginner’s class that I have gained an appreciation for the basics and see how they set the foundations for the more advanced moves. The amount of time you spend training split grip Boomerang holds helps build up your strength for the Butterfly-Ayesha family of moves; the amount of time you spend training your Twisted Crucifxes and Peter Pan seats helps build up your strength for Yogini and Invert Pikes.
No matter how many hours I’ve spent in the beginner’s class, I have always come away with an appreciation for the foundations we build there and something I can improve on.
Look, I’ve been guilty of having off days and not being perfect with all of these, but if you turn up with a sincere desire to learn and a positive attitude, you will find your time in beginner’s classes a really enjoyable, positive experience.
No matter what your level is.
You can check out Rachael at @dancingdragonsuk and check out the Momentum Studio @momentum.pole.aerial