Cartwheel

Video exampler: coming soon…

Video tutorial: coming soon…

Recommended prerequisites: none

Description: The cartwheel is a fundamental acrobatic maneuver that leads into aerial (no handed cartwheel) tricks. Don't be fooled by the name. Not only is there no cart involved (total bummer), but you also don't actually want to think wheel all the way. (Weird, I know.)

The cartwheel might not be all that “serious” of a trick, but as with anything in the Wonderland of skill training: what you do now = what you become later. If you have sloppy habits now, you'll have sloppy habits later. What you do in prerequisites will embed themselves in higher tricks. Do good things now so you can do better things later. (In other words: don't be me. Because I have a tendency to bend my legs during aerials, likely by not caring all that much during cartwheels.)

Slide by slide breakdown

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

Start with the hands high. This is a good habit to get into for future aerial tricks, where low hands often mean death on a platter. From this position, you have you choice of how to step into the move. You can take one giant step , or you can do a little faerie hop.

When controlled, the faerie hop gives you more momentum, and that's what I usually use if I'm doing something more aggressive like a roundoff. I'm more of a strength dominant jumper though, so I find a slower take off to be easier to control at times.

In the slide above, my momentum is back so that it can go forwards. Momentum is funny like that; what comes up must come down — what goes back must come forth.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

In the slide above, I'm lazily transitioning my weight forward. Notice my feet are also pointed relatively forward. With the cartwheel, this is fine. You don't need a bunch of momentum for the cartwheel.

Hands are still high. The important part about this is that I'm moving forward. Yes, you move forward in a cartwheel. You take forward momentum and translate it into that whole wheel business.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

I did the tiniest of faerie hops to adjust my body position. My lead leg still hasn't touched the ground. Hands are even higher yet, preparing for the damage that awaits. It might seem silly to take so many slides to look at a takeoff, but as anyone can tell you: takeoffs are often the difference between landing a trick and slaughtering your face on the grass.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

And here we go! Reach forward for the ground with your lead hand. (Lead arm = the hand going to touch the ground first.) Imagine a white painted line on the ground. You want to be reaching for that line. All the while, your trailing arm comes over the top of your head.

Notice my right arm is beginning to open up my shoulders and is by my ear rather than on par with my lead arm. In other words, I'm not diving into the ground with square shoulders. We'll refer to this as the “slink,” because that's what I've heard Jujimufu call it before.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

As the lead arm reaches for the imaginary white line and the trailing arm comes over the top, the leg kicks in the air. Once your lead hand makes contact, start opening up the shoulders by reaching for a spot on the same line further down than your second hand. The degree at which slink your arm over the top depends on your comfort level, but this helps bunches when you're learning the aerial.

Lift your back leg straight up in the air with some vigor. Notice that I'm losing my balance forward. Reach. My trailing leg (the one still on the ground) is bent because it's going to push off at the right time to give me more momentum.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

Lots has happened, but this is the first slide that shows my trailing arm planting on the ground. My first leg is well on its way to giving my body the momentum it needs. Usually you don't need to jump during the cartwheel, and you can be lazy with your trailing leg. It's a cartwheel not a cartjump. You'll have to give a little push, but, for the most part, cartwheel completion depends on everything that goes down before your trailing leg leaves the ground.

By reaching for a spot further down on the line with the trailing arm and slinking it over the top, the torso starts to open up. That's a good thing. Also look at my head…if you can make out the mayhem. Compared to last slide, my eyeballs went from looking at the grass to now looking in the direction I'm traveling. I'll say this a billion times: where the head goes the body follows. 

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

Yup. The quintessential wheel of the cart. The hard part is over. My momentum is simply carrying out programmed orders at this point. This is why the takeoff is important. The more momentum and oomph you give there (as long as it's controlled), the less effort the back end has.

Legs often bend here, and that's alright for now. Bent legs tend to iron themselves out in the middle of the cartwheel with practice and conscious thought. If you're a gymnast, bent leg will get you crucified. Good thing I'm not a gymnast.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

We started with shoulder square and forwards. In the middle of the cartwheel, the shoulders are totally open. Now, the shoulders are starting to close. You can track this by looking at what direction the lead foot's toes are pointing.

In the slide above, my toes are pointing towards the ground. If that lead leg continued forward, it'd swoop right in between both of my arms. That's what you want. 

And notice how I've been talking about the shoulders a lot, not so much the legs. The legs are more important in the aerial, but for my money the shoulders are the focal point of both tricks. The shoulders drive the rotation of the hips. With the legs, think about throwing the first leg up hard and high, and think about pushing off the ground violently with the second leg.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

Just as mentioned before, try to have your shoulders square when your lead leg lands. If you cartwheel down to your left side, this means that when you land you want your left arm on the left side of the landing leg; you want your right arm on the right side of the landing leg. Seems obvious and trivial, but it's easy to fidget a ton of directions (especially with one-handed variations) and end up with your arms crossed and mangled all sorts of directions.

Cartwheel by Anthony Mychal

See how I'm facing the direction I came from?  This means my hips rotated in the air like they were supposed to.

Recap cues:

  • For the lifting leg, think about lifting hard and high.
  • Touch both of your hands on a white line. (Better yet, get a white line and do it on the line.)
  • Slink your trailing arm over the top by your ear.

Troubleshooting:

Legs bent? That's alright. Bent legs fix themselves with familiarity. When you get comfortable with the move you can consciously think about keeping them straight assuming you have the flexibility. If your static or dynamic flexibility sucks, maybe you should start there though. Do the move consistently and then worry about cleaning it up.

Landing low? Put more into the takeoff. Lift the first leg high and really push off the ground with the second leg. You might find a more aggressive takeoff to help give you more momentum.

Afraid? Maybe you should start off with some rolls. Front rolls, back rolls — anything that gets your brain used to the inverted environment

Advanced variations:

Related tricks:

  • Roundoff (coming soon…)
  • Aerial (coming soon…)