When I was 16 years old my dad built a new pond on our property and on this one he installed a diving board a crazy piece of cedar held down by a giant boulder. I had started gymnastics not long before and I was astonished when one day my dad who was 50 at the time, walked to the end of the board bounced a couple times and out of nowwhere executed a perfect one and half front flip into a dive. I had never seen my Dad flip before, and I don’t think he had done a flip in years but apparently he had grown up flipping off the docks and diving boards in our home town every summer and had spent so many hours doing it that the muscle memory lasted all those years.
Acrobatics are an expression of body that has developed it’s basics and is ready to explore further capacities, they provide a test of courage and train our capacity to orient ourselves in the air which is ultimately useful for movement in general. Acrobatics should not be the first thing that we focus on developing but it should be a goal to reach the level of physical practice where flips are an obvious and important extension of our practice.
Still even for a well developed mover learning flips on hard ground can be scary and the amount of repetitions we can get in are limited by the the impact of the take off and landing. Trampolines are like steroids for air awareness development because they remove those limitations to a great deal. The natural worlds answer to trampolines though is just a deep pool of water and something to jump off of. This play that is enjoyed across the world, everywhere people can find leisure deep water and something to jump off, they will explore being able to flip into water.
I was amazed when I first started exploring cliff diving how many people I met who had taught themselves to flip purely in this context, I could do a back flip on flat ground but was scared out of my mind to do one off of 10 feet while I met many people who would never think of trying there flips on the ground but could do crazy things of a cliff.
If you want to enjoy some really primal play find a place do do some basic dives and flips into water.
Be careful of course, effective cliff diving relies on being able to control the entry which takes practice, if are familar with cliff diving start low, your first few flips into water are likely to result in belly and back flops. These sting but are not a big deal when you just drop a few feet into water, but once you get above 10 feet you can knock yourself out, or bust your ear drum, higher jumps can severely injure or kill you if you land poorly, but if you have some flipping ability go play at doing some flips of a low drop into water and you will find it taps into some very basic play drives as human and is a ton of fun. If you can’t flip just work on diving and get comfortable with inversion this is one of the basic progression to being able to flip in fact.
For inspiration check out this video of my first training partner and the guy who introduced me to cliff diving Dane Vennewitz.