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Acrobatics is coordination of the body and awareness of one’s physical abilities and limitations. It is tumbling, running, jumping, balancing, and most important of all, reacting. The way a body meets an obstacle—be it an opponent in combat, a fall from an inopportune height, or the eyes of an expectant crowd—is defined by the extent of their training. Acrobats are flexible, patient, and strong... at least, their bodies are.

There are three main types of acrobats: performers, combatants, and freerunners. An acrobat can encompass any or all of these types.

  • Performers: Gymnastics, funambulism, contortion, and many other feats require deliberate training in acrobatics specifically, while arts like acting and dancing may use it secondarily.
  • Combatants: Whether in hand-to-hand or armed combat, acrobatics can help a person evade, confuse, or simply add their own unique style to any fight.
  • Freerunners: Using the landscape to get from A to B is not only a sport for creative athletics, but an important tool for messengers, thieves, and other stealth artists.


Prerequisites & Related Skills

As acrobatics is mostly a complementary skill, there are no pre-requisites. Depending on how a person uses the skill, however, the following may be useful:

  • Unarmed Combat is necessary for most martial arts.
  • Climbing up more challenging surfaces, or falling gracefully from them.
  • Stealth can help to reach unreachable hiding places, or fit in tight ones.
  • Body Building adds the required strength to good coordination.
  • Running and Brawling, because sometimes getting away requires some improvisation.
  • Dance, Acting, and Busking can complement a professional's purse.

The Five Acrobatic Disciplines

Flexibility is a familiarity with your own body and its limits. Bending and contorting can be used in performance, but it is just as important when attempting to navigate obstacles. While experienced acrobats tend to be flexible as per the nature of the skill, even a stiff-jointed individual can be an acrobat if they know how far their body can stretch.

Kinematics is an awareness of how your body moves. You must know whether your muscles and bones are capable of that cartwheel, jump, or fencer’s flourish, before you attempt it. This may also involve the detection of and reaction to others’ movements and habits, which is especially useful in combat.

Balance is the ability to stay on your feet, but in many cases it can be simply using gravity to your advantage. Keeping upright while treading the end of a tree branch requires the same mentality as leaning into a fast turn or shifting your weight in a fight.

Agility is reacting quickly and intelligently to the immediate environment. The faster you are moving, the faster you must react. With speed comes momentum, and a smart acrobat can use both to their advantage.

Grace is looking pretty while you move. Fluidity and poise can distract an enemy or earn you an extra coin in your hat. Some argue that grace is the combination of the other four disciplines, and the essence of a true acrobat.

On Training and Maintenance

Making use of an acrobat’s coordination requires more than practice and muscle memory. In order to maintain the skills learned, a person who seeks mastery of their body must also uphold an increasing level of fitness. In the short term, they must stretch their muscles and relax their mind before a show, fight, or run, if at all possible. Practice should include both old and new techniques, to both retain the body’s old training and push its limits. They must also remain healthy in terms of both nutrition and disease, as a body cannot otherwise reach its greatest acrobatic potential. A good acrobat goes through great lengths to stay fit and healthy; some even believe that meditation and spiritual health increase their bodies’ capabilities.

Concerning Flight

For flying races, such as Aerial Kelvic, Zith and Akvatari, orienting in the air presents its own obstacles. An aerial acrobat’s Kinematics is usually compromised by the momentum of flight, as well as the physical distraction of maintaining any height with the wing muscles. Balance becomes less of a problem, but those who ignore the position of the earth entirely will find themselves dizzy and prone to unwanted collisions. Nonetheless, these races often find it easier to discover their Flexibility and are capable of more complex acrobatic maneuvers, at least in the air. One must only keep in mind that acrobatics in flight and while earthbound require two relatively separate modes of thinking and training.

Concerning Symenestra

The Symenestra, with their light bones and lithe muscles, have some acrobatic advantages. Their delicate frames grant them superior Balance and Agility, allowing for a more immediate perception of their bodies. The hooks on their hands allow them to scale walls and ceilings, endowing a greater understanding of Balance as it is related to gravity, akin to that which winged creatures share. Innately light on their feet, they face the hardships of stumbling and clumsiness less often than other races and tend to be good performers. Still, they are not without their weaknesses. While lightweight bones allow the Symenestra to traverse the cords of Kalinor with great ease, they are also more susceptible to the stresses of impact and prolonged use. Bone fractures and dislocations can occur among even the most careful (See #On Training and Maintenance). Safety, awareness, and Grace can only be obtained with consistent practice.

Basic Acrobatic Maneuvers


A careful combination of muscular strength and gravitational awareness is key for performing flips and tumbles, whether for evading an attack or making a living. An acrobat need not avoid disorientation or conquer dizziness, but learn to adapt and control the body while the mind is thrown. While studying the Kinematics of any particular trick will make the moves come naturally to an acrobat, mastering the Balance of the flip and its landing is imperative to its execution. Many acrobats will train in water or over stretched nets and padding for a long time before they even begin to practice on hard ground.

Jumping or running at the start of a flip is not required, but both can be used to build extra momentum for long or more complicated maneuvers. Both the arms and legs should be straight enough to push off the ground but fluid enough to withstand an impact. Some acrobats will focus on a distant point in order to maintain a straight line, but eventually can train enough that the line becomes habit.

The most important (and arguably most impressive) part of a flip is the landing. An acrobat knows to bend their legs and ankles to recoil comfortably from the force of the impact and quickly regain their center of gravity on firm ground. Aerial stunts more often require ‘landing’ with the hands and arms by catching hold of a beam or fellow acrobat, but the same principles remain. Ultimately the subtleties of one’s own Balance are unique to each flip as well as each individual, and can only be discovered through practice.

Types of Flips:

  • Cartwheel: Hands touch the ground and legs move in sideward over the body in an arch.
  • Handspring: Hands touch the ground after the body is airborne and the legs move forwards or backwards over the head.
  • Front flip: Legs jump at a forward angle against the ground and knees tuck to the body as it moves in a circle.
  • Back flip: Legs jump straight upward as the back arches and arms swing back, knees tuck to the body as it moves in a circle.


The simplest way to move from one point to another is in a straight line, and many acrobats will choose to go over an obstacle instead of around it. A successful vault begins with a running start; without any speed, it is difficult to clear higher obstacles, but with too much, Agility may be compromised. At the approach, the acrobat’s hands touch the higher surface without slapping or sliding against it. Their feet lift in a subsequent jump and their hands push against the obstacle to maintain momentum. If there is enough starting speed, the acrobat should be able to continue running on the other side.

Observations of the surroundings must be made at every step. It is always possible that the obstacle is not stable enough to withstand the force of the vault or that the surface on the other side of the obstacle is at an unexpected depth. (See Falling) And not only careful Kinematics can guarantee a successful vault. As most of the vault is in the arms, considerable upper body strength is necessary for most maneuvers.

Types of Vaults:

  • Basic: Hands push off and legs cross over the same space in a crouch.
  • Dash: At high speeds, the legs jump first with hands free, hands only touch down to stabilize.
  • Lazy: One hand pushes off to propel forward while the other touches down after the jump for stability.
  • Reverse: Jump at the obstacle backwards and after hands make contact, spin around and land facing forward.


Most acrobats train to stretch their joints and increase their Flexibility, but the art of contortion takes those practices of habit to a new level. Usually, an acrobat chooses between frontbending and backbending when they first begin training, and the shapes they practice for the rest of their lives are based on either hyperextending or hyperflexing the spine, respectively. Most acrobats compliment this with abdominal twists, leg bends and splits, and even arm dislocations.

Dislocations must be done carefully and only by highly skilled acrobats and/or under the supervision of one. The arm should be lifted vertically and the joint twisted manually out of place (clockwise for the left arm, counterclockwise for the right). If the joint remains in the socket, it may retain enough strength to move with the surrounding muscle on its own, but if it is removed entirely, it must be carefully supported lest the muscle begin to spasm in a sort of reflexive panic.

Training usually starts at an early age, around 11 years in humans, and involves daily stretching. Each session does not necessarily have to challenge the boundaries of current Flexibility and Balance, but without a constant reminder, the joints and muscles will easily lose the elasticity they have already accomplished. Enterology, or the ability to contort oneself into a small box, is the result of years of training and is often the mark of a truly accomplished contortionist.


Most acrobats have at least suspected that, while standing on hard ground, their center of mass is in the lower abdomen and most unintentional swaying occurs in the sagittal (forward and backward) direction. With one foot in front of the other, as on a tight rope, the body faces three novel obstacles: sway becomes lateral (side to side), the center of mass is compromised, and the body becomes more sensitive to the pull of gravity. These problems are solved by lowering one’s center of mass and therefore decreasing rotational inertia around the wire. Amateurs can accomplish this by holding an umbrella or long pole that dips downward at its ends. More experienced practitioners can not only walk without aid, but can walk while juggling, dancing, or even cooking a meal.

A funambulist’s strength is in their ankles, both in terms of muscle and mentality. They are the first line of recovery from an imperfection in Balance and they are the lowest a person can put their center of mass. Training the ankles may involve simply walking the wire, but also includes balancing the wire on one foot or intentionally and continuously compromising their balance with weights. For funambulists who walk with their hands, similar practice may be applied to the wrists. Some prefer to use thick leather soles (or gloves) while training and performing, while others swear by the natural grip of bare digits.


A mistake in any of techniques listed, as well as in countless other non-acrobatic maneuvers, may require some skill in the recovery. A fall from standing (or any short height) can result in injury if the acrobat cannot adjust properly in such a short time. Valuable and fragile joints such as the knees, wrists, and neck should be protected from collision by tucking and reorienting the body, while the broad sides of the thighs and arms are the best choice for impact with the ground. Some may even know enough about Kinematics to turn the momentum of the fall into a roll or tumble. The higher the fall, the less likely an untrained acrobat will know how to recover, but careful awareness and Agility training can rescue a training acrobat from increasing heights. Of course, no amount of skill can protect a person from a 70-foot fall.

The roll, or break fall, is the simplest way to recover. It dissipates the shock of the impact over parts of the body that can withstand it while protecting those that cannot. When falling from a height, the feet should impact the ground first, but only momentarily. As the first to absorb the impact, the legs remain loose and the knees flex accordingly. The head should tuck to one side and the chin should touch the chest. Should the body should follow its natural progression forward, shoulder opposite the tucked head is the second to impact the ground: it is crucial that the spine and shoulder blade make contact, instead of the ball of the shoulder. If the momentum of the fall is not enough to send the body rolling, the leg muscles should be ready to provide the added boost. From there, an acrobat rolls from that shoulder to the opposite hip and, by the time the feet touch ground again, he will come to a stop. Should the fall move a person backwards, the body should orient so that the fat of the thigh impacts the ground first. The backwards roll is opposite the forwards roll, in that it guides contact to the ground from one hip to the opposite shoulder. Again, momentum or leg strength should toss the legs over the body and allow for the acrobat to stop and stand.

Skill Progression

Novice (1-25)
Persons of this skill do not necessarily consider themselves acrobats. They are just beginning to grasp how unfamiliar with their bodies they really are, and therefore training at this stage is somewhat dangerous and will more often than not lead to bruises and frustration. Flexibility is slight or nonexistent, and Balance is often compromised by the slightest mistake. Still, they can usually successfully recover from a short fall and tend to have an innate but amateur sense of Agility. Performers are not usually successful at this level, but are capable of handstands, juggling, and other dexterity-based techniques. Combatants tend to only use it for evasion or small flourishes. Freerunners can use vaults to traverse a single plane, but have trouble using walls and heights to their advantage.
Competent (26-50)
As an acrobat becomes more comfortable in their own skin, reflexes become more precise and use of the skill becomes habit in everyday life. Agility and Kinematics combine in a body smoothly but not perfectly; flips and aerial stunts can be achieved to some degree. Front and side splits are possible, as are the beginning stages of front and backbending. An acrobat’s Balance at this level makes them comfortable with heights, but a smart one still will not attempt more daring maneuvers. Misjudgments are still not uncommon. Performers can usually busk adequately or become a member of a chorus, while Combatants and Freerunners find themselves more comfortable with using levels and developing acrobatic tricks that define their style.
Expert (51-75)
While acrobats have always been capable of some level of Grace, this stage is where it truly defines their movement. Confidence in one’s abilities is great enough that the acrobat can safely begin to experiment with truly dangerous moves that toy with the boundaries of Flexibility and Kinematics. Dislocations are possible, as are complicated combinations of flips. As well as developing a superb Agility and reaction time, expert acrobats can begin to determine the acrobatic abilities of others: Performers complement each other on stage and Combatants identify the habits of their counterparts. Most expensive messengers Freerun at this level, using complex vaults and precision rolls.
Master (76-100)
As this skill is inherently conspicuous, acrobats of great prowess tend to become celebrities in their respective fields. Their bodies are so perfectly trained that it is said they will never again commit an acrobatic mistake. They seem almost inhumanly Graceful and Flexible. Performers star in extraordinary and beautiful shows, capable of tying themselves in knots and completing dangerous stunts. Combatants are hard to follow and harder to hit. Freerunners have been known to fall from great heights and traverse long distances without consequence.