Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I could do a standing back flip. Well kind of. You see, I learned how to do it in about 2 minutes one day with my dad spotting me to make sure I didn’t land on my head. I learned how to jump, reach, extend, and tuck, but I never really learned how to land. I did several hundred back flips in the years to come (and I bet I could still do one), but I could never spot the ground while airborne to make a graceful landing.
In short, I landed every single attempt by accident. I would jump, reach, extend, tuck, and then open my eyes to see if I survived. So far, my survival rate is 100%.
Armed with that piece of Tai Trivia, I had a conversation with a friend of mine a month or so ago about double-unders. She is a CrossFitter in Atlanta who was having some issues with them and was asking for my help. I watched a brief video of her doing some double-unders in her dining room (!) and could see that she was rushing them quite a bit.
Here is a paraphrased transcript of what I told her:
Me: Ok, I see what you’re doing and what needs to happen. In a nutshell, you’re rushing.
Her: Oh? Isn’t that the point of double-unders?
Me: Not really. Let me see if I can explain a bit better. You were a gymnast right?
Me: Could you do a full?
Her: Yessir. I could do a double, actually.
Me: Awesome. At my best I could only do a standing back tuck. Would you advise me, a guy who could do a standing back tuck *most* of the time (I never learned to spot the ground on the landing) to attempt a double full?
Her: No way.
Me: Why not?
Her: Not even into a pool or a pit.
Me: But I saw that OTHER guy do it and it looked easy.
Her: You have no spatial awareness of your own body. You might “understand” the concept, but you have to build up to it. “Understanding” it isn’t enough. Your BODY has to understand it too. It’s not just your brain that needs to “get” the concept.
Me: Well I don’t have the patience for all that, so I’m just going to flip like a motherfucker until it works.
Her: Hmm. Ok, I see your point.
The moral of this story is that you can’t learn something complex by starting with the complex movement. Your body has more to learn than your head does when it comes to movements. My job is not to teach you what these movements look like, it’s to teach your body how to do them.
Your job is to learn it the right way, and stop trying to skip steps.