Objectivity is often thought of as a bad word in tricking. The basic premise being that anything goes, and any attempt to create a standard of “right” and “wrong” turns the sport into gymnastics 2.0, or something.. This is idea is understandable, but doesn’t actually help to progress the sport, like many believe. If anything, this ideal that anything goes, and that objectivity is for elitist assholes actually holds the sport back. To be clear, anything does go.. to a point. You can add in ballet-inspired leg lifts and twirls, you can incorporate hip hop style floor work.. Hell, you can do the little tea pot in a combo if you feel like it, but when you do a movement that is rooted in another discipline, it gains a degree of objectivity. That hook kick you threw has objective boundaries that define it as right and wrong. There is still room for style in this, as different martial arts utilize different subtleties in technique, but the gross movements are pretty much standardized from one to the other. Another example might be a degree of inversion in the vert kick.. Simply put, if your “vert” kick reaches a more-or-less parallel plane to the floor, and carries flatspin or flip, you didn’t do a vert kick, you twisted. Very few 1080-hooks (bs14’s) are actually 1080-hooks. More often than not, they hit that horizontal plane, and are full variations. This distinction is important because the technique and inherent difficulty in each is different, and that objective standard needs to be applied. It’s no different than differentiating a full and a full-up… they’re different moves. It is those broad standards that should be applied, without copping out to an argument like “it’s all subjective”, or “this is my style, i can do it however i want” ideology.
So why does this really matter?
As i see it, the next step in tricking’s evolution is a competitive league, and competition really needs a degree of objectivity.. i know, i said another bad word, for most of you. You dont have to participate, but the option is already available to those who want to, and is only going to grow in time. Accept it. A competitive league, like the UTL, is important because it can give tricking a degree of credibility or establishment that does, or can, benefit all trickers in a number of ways. First and foremost, an established ‘governing’ body for competition and/or certification can potentially be used as an example, and/or a negotiator or figure head, for insurance purposes. Boring, i know, but once the insurance is taken care of, more gyms may be able or willing to host tricking classes/events. Beyond that, competitive leagues create greater commerce and economics within the community. I realize that many people hate the idea of monetizing this thing we do, but frankly, it’s happening, and bitching isn’t going to help. The best thing to do is help guide it in the right direction by supporting the right people and events. At the very least, realize that a competitive league can potentially allow us the opportunity to make a career out of this thing we destroy our bodies doing. The potential to be a professional athlete is there, and with it, comes a whole slew of infrastructure behind it. Event organization, league employment, coaching gigs, and even entire gyms dedicated to just tricking (rather than “tricking” gyms that actually survive thanks to parkour, cheer, and gymnastics programs). There’s no reason someone like Michael should be faced with the choice of having a career that eats all of his time, and being able to really see where he can go as a professional athlete. Even the less skilled should have the opportunity to coach tricking (not rec gymnastics for 9yr olds with occasional tricking classes) as a viable career, if they so choose, but this hinges largely on a functional tricking economy. T-shirt sales aren’t enough, sadly. There has to be more, and i believe that competition is an important step forward.
Objectivity vs Subjectivity in competition
In short, our sport needs both. There needs to be a simple set of standards that dictates quality vs garbage, but does not get so specific as to create a standard of perfection that destroys personality. Likewise, the subjectivity of showmanship, creativity, and ‘style’ is an important facet of tricking, and needs to be acknowledged without being stifled by rigid standards of perfection. We dont want to create a situation where competitors always favor lower tier skills that are perfect because the risk to reward ratio is skewed in favor of perfect technique, rather than innovation and upward expansion. It’s difficult, i know. I’m working to create a system of judging that attempts to do foster both. I dont know yet if it will be effective in the way i hope, but that’s the goal. I believe we can create a system of competition, for those who’re interested, that rewards technical difficulty, precise technique, showmanship, and innovation or limit pushing equally. I hope to create a standard that in some way levels the playing field for highly technical trickers who do less flashy tricks, to the dubdubdubber who puts on a show, to the perfect technique NASKA drop-out who wows with their precision. There’s a way to balance these aspects without stifling them, but it requires a degree of objectivity to do so. I’m interested in finding it.
In short, i urge the community to quit with the knee-jerk reaction of rejecting any thought of objectivity in tricking, as well as the uncompromising rejection of money and/or competition in our community. Instead, i’d argue the constructive move would be for the ambitious few to openly share their ideas with the community, once they’ve reached a certain point, and for the community to discuss and assess the ideas presented, and offer constructive feedback. The seeds have been planted and are going to grow.. it is inevitable. All we can do is help them to grow in the direction we think is best. We have the potential to create something different, something better, but it takes courage, and it takes ambition, and it takes a lot of trust in the community.