Hoop, There It Is

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Inspired by the new year, Grace seized the opportunity to learn the most unique sport she could think of. She learnt to hoop.

I was going to learn to hoop.

It’s the new year and most of us are feeling motivated to learn something new or improve on a skill we already have. I decided this year called for a big one. I had to do something I’ve never done before. I was going to learn to hoop.

Why hooping? I wanted to do something that could combine getting fit so this was my idea of perfection. Most of the things I do are mentally challenging, including studying the flute for 11 years. Although the technique was hard, most of the battles I faced were in my mind. After spending 2–3 hours of each day in a windowless basement room practicing, I can persevere through most things. Physically, I’m not there yet, so it was time I put my body on the line to see if it could match up.

Credit: Paul Cardoso

Credit: Paul Cardoso

Hooping isn’t as foreign of a concept as it sounds.

Hooping isn’t as foreign of a concept as it sounds. Everyone has had some contact with one. It may have been years ago in primary school, but we’ve all twirled a hoop around our waist or swivelled one around our ankle. Outside of the playground, its links with circus skills and gymnastics make it look impossible in comparison to mainstream activities (football, swimming, running, and the gym), but if they can do it, surely I can too?

My journey began where most things do – on YouTube. It’s the invaluable source that means never having to ask for help or needing to pay for anything ever again. I expected to find few tutorials and some low quality videos, but I stumbled into the fantastical world of hooping that boasts dedicated channels, choreography to every genre and its very own YouTube stars. Marawa The Amazing (you may remember her from Britain’s Got Talent) and Deanne Love are two Australian queens of the hooping world (is it something in the water?) and from them I learned everything I needed to know.

Surprisingly, Bristol has its own well-established hooping community. It was voted best hooping community in the world and classes run across the city. We even have our own hooping celebrity in Bristolian, Nick Broyd, who travels internationally and has performed on ITV

Finding the resources was easy, but the application was more complicated.

Finding the resources was easy, but the application was more complicated. It’s an intricate sport because it requires isolating small parts of your body and working them constantly. Before getting to anything impressive, learning to hoop around my waist in both directions for longer than five minutes was the first task. Unless you’re a natural or your muscle memory is infallible, keeping it going is a challenge. With practise it became easier, but practise was the problem. Hooping was shiny, new and exciting at first. A week in, motivation was sparse. The only way to combat learning fatigue is to have someone you’re accountable to. Whether it’s a teacher, instructor or a friend, having someone checking up on you is essential. In my case, I had my family peering through the conservatory window. Shame is a very good motivator.

Another motivator is goal setting.

Another motivator is goal setting. I know this sounds very obvious, but it’s the only way to get through. I quickly learned that hooping doesn’t get really interesting until tricks are involved, so I set my sights on the ‘Escalator’ – a move that requires you to swing the hoop from around your body and hope it appears in the opposite hand above your head. Sounds confusing? It was. As I tried to learn an entire piece of choreography, this was the sparkling move I knew would impress everyone. As the video shows, much pain and struggle went into learning this, but once I got it the only problem I had was resisting performing it at every opportunity.

A few weeks later, and I’ve transformed from below average to a reasonably good hooper. The feeling of accomplishing something I spent time learning is great but the fear of forgetting it after all that work is what will keep me going. Beyond that, it’s been nice to learn for learning’s sake, rather than a skill that I need to pay off in some way. I recommend that everyone should try something new. Be it gardening, coding or skateboarding, do something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone or that takes you out of your evening scrolling stupor and connects with people outside of your house.

If I can do it, you definitely can.

Have you started learning anything new this year? Tweet us what it is – @rifemag

Like what you see? Try your hand at circus skills