To the unfamiliar eye, Martial Arts Tricking appears similar to gymnastics, but watch carefully and you’ll see kicks, twists and punches belonging to long-standing traditional Martial Arts forms including Kung Fu, Taekwondo, and Capoeira, among others.
Tricking cannot be classified as any other individual sport. However, it draws some inspiration from urban-born formats including break dancing, parkour and free running as well as numerous ancient theatrical traditions. Influenced by hip hop culture and music, it’s a fun, still-evolving practice that is completely unique unto itself.
It’s been around since the 1990’s and is an outcropping of many early martial arts practitioners’ efforts, including people like Ernie Reyes Jr, Hosung Pak, John Valera, and Chris Cella and Marco and Willie “The Bam” Johnson’s “Kung Fu Hip Hop” aka “The Martial Fusion.” Newer names on the scene like Brandon McCuien, Phill Gibbs and Thomas Mariman have helped to elevate the sport to new heights with increasingly difficult tricks.
“Tricksters” or “Trickers” gather in gyms, parks and even back yards to participate in informal sessions to show off their skills. Increasingly, tricking competitions or battles have been popping up, and in 2012, Red Bull hosted the first World Championship in Las Vegas. Upcoming events include Loopkicks 2013, a California summer camp which will be held in July, and Epic Gathering 2014.
Popular teams like Lexma, Loopkicks, Pinoy Trix Stylz and NTBS participate in tricking battles and the spectacular results can be viewed on YouTube, with their most athletic members combining a mind twisting number of kicks and spins in midair.
With a loose structure and no “official” rules, tricking is a perfect choice for those seeking a safe, fun, exciting martial arts experience that requires a significant level of fitness and raw athletic ability but few, if any, set requirements. Its changing and fluid nature appeals to athletes who wish to incorporate creativity, self-expression and their own interpretation into the art form.
Tricking has grown so fast that elements of it can be widely seen in many music videos, live stage shows and films. Celebrities from Miley Cyrus to Madonna have included trickers in their group of background dancers, and mainstream movies from Jackie Chan films to the recent film Tron feature tricking prominently.
As a spectator, you’ll find this art form exhilarating, impressive, and even a little bit scary, as participants achieve tremendous momentum and combine multiple flips, kicks and spins while seeming to completely defy gravity.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to experience Martial Arts tricking for yourself, now is the perfect time to check out a local competition or maybe even join a team yourself!
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