Let’s face it. There is so much information out there. The worldwide web has everything you ever wanted to know stored one mouse click away. The problem with that is that we only have a limited amount of time. We can’t partake in everything out there.
Many folks create great content and teach well what they’ve learned on their journey, others might not cling to us. Our job then is to actively choose which information to digest, whom to listen to and vice versa to whom not. Our goals will strongly narrow down which influencer we follow, but nonetheless, even in the niche world of calisthenics (or if you want to narrow it down even more to handstands), there are many great teachers out there with good advice.
Within this post, I want to show you the 5 persons I listened to a lot while learning about calisthenics, flexibility, and handstands. Feel free to check them out, they’re true encyclopedias of their respective crafts and don’t promote bullshit like some black sheep out there are trying to. Simply great, in my opinion, the best mentors within the realm of bodyweight sports.
The Student’s Mindset
What Skills do you want to Learn?
As briefly stated, your goals will determine whom you listen to. It will probably be someone who can do what you want to do. And most of the time this is a good metric – although there are sometimes great coaches out there who can’t perform everything but still excel at coaching. Some folks just have a feeling for how to get you to internalize what they’re trying to purvey.
So look for masters in the niche of the skill you want to learn. That’s more often than not a great step. Because with the help of a mentor, you will most likely be faster than without. Therefore, you have to do some research and dive into the community.
Dive into the Community
Around each subset of skills, there is a community. Calisthenics? Hell yeah. Streetworkout? For sure. Handbalance? Check. We, humans, are tribal creatures, forming groups with like-minded individuals only comes naturally to us. It gives us a lot of room to connect, engage with and learn from each other. On the other hand, diving too deep into a tribe can radicalize and corrupt a tribe, but that’s a topic for another day.
My tip would be to use Google, Reddit, or Instagram and look for recurring figures out there. There are always a few big figures in each community. More often than not they get attention because they know what they teach. See what they put out there, if it makes common sense to you, and can help you towards your overarching goal.
Actively choose your Mentors
Last but not least choose a few sympathetic ones to be your mentors. Follow them for a while and see what they’re like to get an expression. Plus, its for free to silently connect with people all over the place:
- Do they put out wisdom for free?
- Do they actually practice what they teach?
- Do they actually teach what they practice?
- Are they trying to market you hardly? Aggressive sales? Over-the-top promises?
The answers to these questions can, besides your gut-feeling, be great indicators for whom to follow, learn from and eventually even invest money in their products or services. I’d personally never buy from someone I despise or take a service from whom I don’t know, and I reckon many other folks think like that, too.
Everybody is a Teacher
Teaching teaches you how to explain
Besides learning from someone and being in a lifelong students’ mindset I find the mindset helpful that everybody is a teacher. I bet you know something others would love to learn – and you probably take that skill for granted. For that happens quite often when talking about medicine – only to learn that stuff I take for granted isn’t necessarily for others.
Everybody likes to learn new stuff. So try to teach. Teaching puts you in a position where you must purvey the knowledge you internalized in the first place to someone else in a well-structured and orderly framework of thoughts. That’s not easy at all but teaches you how to structure your thought process. That’s what many people mean when they talk about refining their teaching process. Creating a better framework that makes it easier for others to understand the epiphany they’ve undergone before them.
Teaching shows you where you might be wrong
Additionally to learning how to explain complex processes and order your thinking, teaching shows you where you might be wrong. You could be wrong in assuming that there is only one way to master a handstand. While that way worked for you and 5 other people, the 6th could run into issues with that approach. That makes you scientifically refine your first hypothesis to come up with a solution for this 6th person.
We all can’t know everything and we all make mistakes. Period. That’s only human. Even experts do mistakes in their field of expertise and in my opinion realizing how little you truly know even in your area of expertise is the real beginning of wisdom as the quote goes.
There is no One Way
There is no one way to teach. That’s why I recommended looking for a few mentors and see which clings with you. Some methods might naturally come to you while others don’t work as they should. That might not necessarily be a point for the ineffectiveness of that mentor’s method but simply the approach and you, not fitting together.
Only a few really try to hard-sell you bullshit.
The 5 Best Mentors I came across
Tom Merrick, aka The Bodyweight Warrior on his channels, is a Calisthenics/Flexibility/Handstand coach and puts out a lot of free knowledge on those topics. You can find many follow-along workouts and practical tips for certain exercises, especially on his YouTube.
Over the years I learned a lot by following this dude’s advice, and he was the one responsible for me getting in contact with handbalancing and mobility training. I really like his realistic and simple approach to programming. Check him out if you’re into calisthenics!
Emmet Louis is an Irish coach who teaches mostly handstands and flexibility. He does so with ‘unconventional’ methods like ballistic stretching which many modern coaches frown upon or even regard as dangerous.
Nonetheless, I really like his method and first discovered his blackboard series back in the days. He’s also involved in the HandstandFactory, a company making awesome handstands programs I can only wholeheartedly recommend. For everything mobility and handstands, influenced by eastern arts and ballistic stretching, take a look around at his.
Mikeal Kristansen is a Norwegian handbalancer, that teamed up with Emmet Louis and others to found the former mentioned company HandstandFactory. He is a very fun guy and insightful in his teaching process.
I actually made a lot of progress with their push program – not only is the approach really great, but the accompanying content is also very accessible and well-structured. Check HandstandFactory and Mikael out for everything handstands!
Yuri Marmerstein is another self-taught handbalancer from Las Vegas. He is one of the most thoughtful teachers I came across so far. Not to say that others are careless, but he is especially thoughtful of how to purvey his message into his students. Nope, that into wasn’t a typo.
Teaching is really an art, an art about how to lead others through the same process you went through to internalize the important cues that are all over the place. Visit him and his many courses on Vimeo for a lot of content around handbalacing and movement in general.
Dan van Zandt
Dan van Zandt teaches flexibility for decades and digs really deep into the science in a world that is intertwined and sometimes misty. I stumbled across his podcast by accident, because he was featured on another one, and I am really glad that happened.
He looks deeply at the data and teaches with that data in the background – a thing that is foreign to many modern mobility gurus. Check his Instagram out for more information, mostly for free on this topic.
There are many more…
…because this is by no means an extensive list. But in restriction often lies wisdom. There is only so much time you have a day – so make sure you spend it wisely.
In the beginning, I found myself listening to a few mainstream dudes who put out a lot of nonsense just to hard-sell their products. That was my initial motivation for this post – to give everybody a few bright beacons to learn from and not waste time following the black sheep. I always ask myself how they can attract these huge audiences just by trying to sell shortcuts, fixes, and nonsense. Probably because it sounds easy.
Fortunately, the calisthenics community is very well off and if you’d ask me right now on the spot I could hardly come up with one of those. That stands in stark contrast to the general fitness community – or even all the nutritional idiots out there.
Anyways, these were my top 5 mentors within the realms of calisthenics, flexibility, and handbalance. I learned a lot from these and purchased their products. I can recommend everything they make and don’t make any profit by recommending them. It’s just my honest opinion for you folks.
Outside the realm of sports there are of course many other great figures putting out awesome knowledge. But that’s a topic for another post. Write me a comment if you’re interested in the people I like to follow and learn from, then I can write a post on those!
I hope this short, but insightful post could lead you to a few, great sources!
Keep learning and stay radical,