I Have a Question…

Something I’ve noticed about myself which is probably really annoying to my coaches and fellow students is that when I’m learning a new skill, I ask a lot of questions. I mean a lot of questions. I want to understand what my body parts are supposed to do as well as the macro-level physics of a trick or move before I’m willing to try it.

As annoying as I’m sure this is, I’m not going to stop because knowing all of those things is how I keep myself from injury. Maybe I can figure out a different way to do it (ask to the side? but then I distract them from watching others… wait? but then I won’t do the move… I’m open to other possibilities), but asking those questions is especially important to someone–like me–with Ehlers-Danlos.

I’ve talked before about proprioception (knowing what your body parts are doing and how to make them do specific things) and the fact that people with EDS have far worse proprioception (and often also have nerve damage and weaker muscles) than “normal” people. Well, if you don’t really know what your feet are doing, it’s much harder to get them to do the right thing.

And when your muscles are weaker and your connective tissue doesn’t actually hold your body together, it’s extra important for you to know what’s supposed to happen in a trick or move. Coaches who say “just try it, it will work out” drive me crazy. I promise you, if it is possible for me to find another way to do something (backwards, sideways, or just plain wrong), I will. “You’ll have to roll the right way” is a famous last-phrase when said to me. I will almost certainly roll the wrong way because my body doesn’t usually feel “right way” from “wrong way.”

“It’ll be obvious.” It might be, but at least 75% of the time, if experience is any teacher, it won’t be obvious to me. The last time I was told that, I used the wrong leg. The time before that, I turned the wrong way through a trick and tied myself quite securely into the silks. The time before that, I rolled up the wrong arm (somehow) and ended up with my arm stuck backwards in a really odd position.

Sure, things can (and do) still go horribly wrong when I do everything with the right limbs because I’m still not sure which muscles to fire in what order, but if I know what it’s supposed to look like and something of what it’s supposed to feel like, I can usually at least keep some level of control, which is why I ask questions. I need to know where my body parts go, what the objective is, and what I’m supposed to be thinking about (up and over or up and through?) in order to try to construct the most accurate possible picture in my head before I try something new.

I will also try to figure out the move by asking “can I do X from there?” Those I tend to wait with, until after everyone has tried, or at least until everyone is in the process of trying. While less pressing, these questions also help me to understand where a move is stable and where I need to be exerting strength (and with what) in order to keep it stable.

So if you’re a coach, and you have a student who asks a million questions, maybe they’re not stupid (I promise you, while I have issues communicating with my body parts, stupid is one thing I am definitely not) or not paying attention–maybe they’re trying to be safe. Most of my coaches (and definitely my regular coaches) tolerate and do their best to answer my questions, probably because they’re used to me and know that the more information I have, the less likely I will be to fall on my face. But it’s sometimes extra frustrating to have a visiting instructor or to go to a new place and have a coach say “Just do it.”

And if I do, nine times out of ten, I end up on my butt or my face (often because bailing is the best choice to avoid injury). Yes, my questions may be annoying, but because my body fails to understand, I have to use my brain instead. So while I’m sorry for being annoying, I ask because I want to be safe, because I want to keep my body together and in as close to working order as I can keep it–and because I can only learn from you if I can do those things.


Image by Will Fitzhugh Photography

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