So you’ve got the aerial bug... You love it, you can't get enough of it and you think it’s the best thing ever since sliced bread. But one class a week is just not enough so you’re thinking hhhmmmm how can I turn my house into an aerial playground? Yep lets face it a hoop in the hallway would be so, so cool or how about some silks from the stairway so I can practice those sexy straddle ups... So is this possible I hear you ask?
First make an informed decision so you know what you are getting into...
Well the straight answer is definitely 'yes'. However I do need to stop you right there before you get too excited. I know it’s super inspiring to discover this new sport and I know you are just dying to practice it at home, but please remember we have to give it it’s due respect. It’s not that I want to put a damper on all this enthusiasm but please consider the following before you go about rigging in your living room. Here are four main points I want you to understand...
1.) Respect the discipline:
All aerial arts are potentially dangerous - yes you are going to be suspending your whole body weight in some pretty crazy positions and yes there is the potential of falling out of a move and breaking your neck. Scary, but true, so you must understand what you are dealing with here before you begin.
Train with a teacher first
That said aerial training is perfectly safe when done under the supervision of a professional teacher or coach. It is their responsibility to keep you safe and they will fully understand all potential risks and dangers and take all relevant steps to ensure safety.
Thinking you know what you are doing can have serious consequences
When training at home aerial can be a risky business, if not downright dangerous, with heavy consequences for messing up. You may be strong and under the impression that you know what you are doing, but it only takes one small thing to mess up and you could slip, fall, pull a muscle, tear a ligament, land on your head or, God forbid, break your neck.
Learning by yourself from U tube
Please realise that although there is a ton of cool stuff online that you may be thinking yeah I’m sure I could have a go at that. This is not the right way to go about learning because there is no one there to tell you if you are doing it right. It’s fine if you want to learn something floor based like yoga (although even this is not 100% safe) but you are talking about suspending yourself upside down in the air in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes from a bar or piece of fabric! Believe me not getting it right is going to have really tragic consequences.
Respect your art form
So give your aerial art it’s due respect, appreciate the fact that it is potentially a dangerous activity and something not to be taken lightly.
Here are the progressional steps to take before training at home by yourself:
1.) Take classes with a professional teacher or school first until you have developed your aerial body and aerial awareness.
2.) Start training in group practice sessions where safe practice is ensured at all times. Once you feel comfortable training without supervision, then consider training at home.
3.) Understand your Aerial Health and Safety and follow the safety ‘golden’ rules at all times. (See my blog on Aerial Safety for more info).
4.) When you do decide you are ready to train at home absolutely make sure you train with someone else who can spot you properly. NB. this is not your little sister who hasn’t got the slightest idea what you are up to and is more interested in texting her mates whilst not watching what you are doing at all! Train with someone who has also taken aerial class and knows exactly what you are trying to do.
5.) If there is a new move you want to try and figure out (that you’ve found on U tube for example) bring it to class and let your teacher help you with it before you try it at home. They will have a lot more experience and be able to guide you in the possible pitfalls and on what and what not to do.
2.) Safety always first:
There are some golden rules you absolutely must follow and providing you do these your aerial training will be safe, happy and productive (ideal scenario right?) I go into a lot more detail about this in a separate blog entitled 'Aerial Safety' so please check that out if you want more info. For now I will just list the main points.
1.) Always have a crash mat and always keep it directly under your apparatus.Always do rigging checks to make sure your equipment is safe before using it.
2.) Have a qualified rigger check the rig point every 6 months (required by law) and certify that it is safe. Never train on equipment that has been rigged by someone else unless they are a rigger or circus professional.
3.) Always train with a spotter who understands aerial and what you are trying to do.
4.) Never train when you are feeling unwell. Never train if you feel pain. Never train if you are injured.
So you have understood the previous points and you’ve decided that you are ready for a home training space. Here's what you will need to consider regards putting in a rig point at home:
What is a rig point? This is the place from which you will hang your piece of aerial equipment, ie the hook, clamp, sling, span set - whatever it is that you attach your hoop or silks to. It needs to be be able to bear a 1 tonne load capacity in order for it to be safe for you to hang off, and ideally been installed by a certified rigger who can make the point certifiable. (If you need a good rigger I can point you in the direction of some I know personally).
What is a shock load? You should also take into consideration shock loads. Wtf is that I hear you ask? It’s when sudden and rapid application of force is applied to your rig point. This happens every time you do a drop in aerial. Even if it is only a small drop it will still apply a shock load to your rigging and so you need to take this into account. This goes for hoop and silks alike. A simple formula is used as follows:
Shock load = [(Weight x Freefall Distance) / Stopping Distance] + Weight
Or in other words if we have a 220LB silks artist falling a distance of 9 feet and stops in a distance of 3 feet we get [(220 x 9) / 3] + 220 which gives us a minimum shock load of 880LB on our rigging.
A 1 tonne load capacity will therefore easily cover shock loads.
What makes a good rigging point? A very good question indeed! These are some common examples of rigging scenarios that I have come across:
Wooden beams such as those found in barns or in ceilings of old buildings make great rigging points and can be rigged by wrapping a span set directly around the beam. However most of us do not have barns or old buildings at our disposal so this is probably an unlikely proposition for the majority.
Steel beams or RSJ’s such as those found in commercial buildings also make great rigging points and can be rigged by wrapping a span set directly around the beam.
Concrete beams and ceilings. Reinforced concrete structures can be rigged by putting in a secure forged eye bolt to the concrete itself using an appropriately rated epoxy resin. This must be done by a rigger or someone trained and experienced in the use of these products. The epoxy must be designed for concrete and rated for the expected load. The concrete structure itself needs to be able to take this force and transfer the force to the ground without adversely affecting the structure.
Warehouse spaces also make ideal locations for rigging and I have now rigged three different warehouse spaces myself. The A frames can be rigged off directly, although this usually means that some of the A frame then gets in the way of your air space (not ideal). So to get round that you can rig steel scaffold bars (you need at least two of these otherwise it won’t be strong enough) or a piece of Trilite or Quadralite beam in between two A frames and then rig off these. Scaffold bars are probably your best bet since they are cheaper and more easily attainable. It is also possible to use ladder beams however these must be hung vertically otherwise they cannot carry loads.
Rigging in your own home is where it gets most tricky. You certainly can’t just put an eyebolt any old where and hope that this will (a) hold your weight, (b) not pull your whole ceiling down or even worse (c) weaken the structure of your building. You will need to find the main support beam inside the ceiling from which you can then attach an eyebolt to. Again get someone who knows what they are doing to do this job for you.
What about insurance? Please also consider insurance implications, as homeowners insurance does not typically cover aerial arts. As a rule of thumb if your policy prohibits trampolines (and most do) then it will not cover aerial. So you need to be aware that insurance could possible be cancelled due to having an aerial rigging point (which may also possibly cause you mortgage to default!). Good to know before you get stuck into rigging and find out the hard way. A possible way round this is to get a separate liability cover for the rig point itself and then notify your insurance company of this fact. I have not personally done this myself as I am not a home owner, all I am saying is please look into this before you start.
Now that you have considered the technical side of rigging your point you should also factor in the amount of space you have.
Minimum height for hoop is approx 4m and for silks approx 5m depending on the amount of drops you want to do. Obviously the more height you have the more you can do. But for all the basic drops 5m is good. As a bench mark the ceiling at Skylab is 4.5m.
You will also need about 2m unobstructed space in every direction around you from the rigging point. Rigging next to furniture / bannisters and such like is not a good idea! You may think you are miles away from it but what happens if you fall out the wrong way… it’s not going to be pretty I can assure you. Remember safety always, always comes first.
And the final point perhaps to possibly consider is where to store the crash mat as these things tend not to tuck neatly away into wardrobes. Although they can possibly be heavily disguised as sofas!
Know what you are getting into...
Hopefully I have not put you off too much regards installing your aerial playground at home. I'm a firm believer in knowing what you are getting into before you start, so I hope that this gives you all the info you should consider so you can now make a fully informed decision.
I have personally set up aerial spaces everywhere I have lived - including three warehouses, a self built 8m high wooden rig in the garden, a variety of trees and even make shift rigs between trees! I have also rigged two barns for use as aerial studios and advised various gyms for what they would need regards rigging.
So I am all for installing rig points (and I love to see students getting so into the discipline that they just have to have their own rigging set up). However I have been a circus performer for over a decade, have done a professional rigging course and rigged many a venue myself, so rigging comes sort of second nature. I am fully aware of all the potential risks involved and would never hang off anything I deemed to be unsafe.
For beginners it's easy to think that you can just stick a hoop or silks up anywhere and all is good. No, no, no my friend - hopefully now you realise that there is a little more to it than that. But all things considered - if you do things properly and safely, it can be the best fun ever and I would encourage anyone to do it.