Today is the first part of a two part blog where we’re going to take a look at what I think are the unique responsibilities of being a base, and what it means to be a base in a partnership.
This is going to be centered around traditional ‘Mixed Pair’ partnerships, partnerships where the base is a guy and the flyer is a girl. There will, I’m sure, be moments of epiphany for anyone who works as a men’s pair, or a women’s pair, or as a mixed pairs where there is a female base, and male flyer. It’s written with Mixed Pair (male base, female flyer) partnerships in mind as they’re the most common and where I have the most experience.
Bases, consider this a manual on what I think underpins what it means to not only be a base, but to be a great base.
Flyers, consider this is a gauge in your toolbox to help you ascertain if you should work with someone new.
Sit down somewhere comfy and settle in. This is an extensive article about what I think it means to be a base. Get hype.
The Floor Is Lava
As a base, your job essentially boils down to ‘keep yourself between the flyer and the floor’. You as a base have a responsibility to keep the flyer off the floor. At its most fundamental level, you’re a piece of furniture in a convoluted and acrobatic game of ‘the floor is lava’. If you picture (nearly) any acrobatic trick you’ll see that they’re all a layer cake that goes Floor – Base – Flyer.
I want you to extend this delicious-cakey-concept to when tricks go wrong, if a trick falls down you need to put yourself in-between the flyer and the floor. I’ve seen some people refer to or talk about this as ‘base spotting’, where I think it should just be called ‘basing’.
This idea, to catch or break the fall of a falling flyer, I don’t think should be given its own umbrella. It’s not an accessory skill. It’s as fundamental as it gets. It’s as ‘put-yourself-between-the-flyer-and-the-floor’ as it gets.
Flyers are special, and flyers are sacred. Look at them how the Egyptians looked at cats. Flyers are ultimately the ones who are taking the risk when they choose to work with you or with anyone, they are the ones in danger and you need to respect that, and never lose sight of that.
You need to own that responsibility.
That is not something to be taken lightly, another person has entrusted you with their safety and, essentially, their lives.. You need to cultivate, create, and maintain a mentality whereby keeping the flyer safe is your number one priority and instinct. Spiderman has ‘Spidey-sense’? You have ‘Basey-sense’.
For me, this means constantly being aware of things like:
- Do we have enough space?
- Is there anything I’m going to trip on?
- Should we use mats?
- Do we need a spot?
- Do I trust the spotter?
- Have we prepped this well enough?
There is of course more you could add to that list, but it’s a good baseline. No pun intended.
As for honing your basing instinct, it will come. But it will only come if you have it as a priority in your head, if you keep it ‘I won’t let the flyer touch the ground’ as a mantra before every trick. It will come. It’s one of the reasons why I think it’s so important to work on and solidify the fundamental skills first, as that’s where you’ll hone this instinct. If you jump miles ahead of what you realistically should be working on, your basing instincts won’t match the level of what you’re doing.
I don’t think it’s possible to ‘train’ this necessarily, because every fall and every situation is so unique and typically so chaotic that it’s hard to replicate the environment or demands. We did try, and we created this exercise to help bases hone their reflexes and their ability to keep the flyer off the floor. I know other coaches have developed other exercises to try and train this as well.
I’m not fully confident of its effectiveness, because I don’t think a couple of exercises is going to make up for time spent working at a level appropriate for you or your partnership. I’m not saying to not do it, or I think it’s a waste of time but I do believe that You cannot fast track instinct.
To Dick? Or Not To Dick?
Acrobatic partnerships are basically relationships with added danger. As in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, you have a responsibility to be a good person to your partner as well as a responsibility to not be a dick.
‘Not being a dick’ is the slightly simpler of the two, and I’d hope you know how not to be a dick from your time spent as a functioning member of society. So, I won’t cover that in great depth. Just, don’t be a dick.
To complicate matters, sometimes the problem with dicks, is that they don’t realize they’re being dicks because they’re dicks 24/7 and so ‘dick’ is just their ‘normal’.
Sometimes nice people, who are nice 99% of the time, don’t realize they’re being dicks that 1% of time either.
With either version of dick, you’re completely within your rights to say ‘Please can you stop being a dick’ to someone who is suffering from ‘dick-blindness’.
As far as ‘Being a good person’ goes, that is a pretty broad responsibility, but for me it comes down to two things: