Episode #39: Gymnastics and Acrobatics


Today’s episode is all about flipping!  Although it’s pretty common to see acrobatics on TV and in video games today, at the time The Thirteenth Hour was written (1998), the whole extreme martial arts tricking community was still in its infancy, and it hadn’t really permeated popular culture to quite the same degree yet.  There were a few exceptions – video games like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Tomb Raider (plus its many clones) that came out around then had flipping protagonists.  And there were Jackie Chan movies, plenty of older kung fu classics, and Gymkata showings on late night TBS.  But if you wanted to see traditional gymnastics, you generally had to wait four years for the Olympics.

I wanted Logan and the other Imperial Rangers from The Thirteenth Hour to learn acrobatics not only because of my own personal interest but because I thought it would make them more agile and help them push their limits.  In the book, they grumble about it a lot, but it’s hard to ignore the element of danger in learning movements that turn you upside down and occasionally have you landing on your rear, head, or neck if you’re not careful.  And although it’s totally anecdotal, I think finding your personal limits and working through the fear translates into better focus and confidence in yourself.

Here’s a representative excerpt from the novel:

“…That’s how we ended up in the tall, airy room that’d been built to train the Army’s special soldiers. The large room with mirrored walls was carpeted with thick, vaguely carpet–like mats. On those mats we were taught how to transfer the momentum of a fall to a roll without getting hurt, how to stand on our hands, and how to spring from our hands to our feet and back again. We were also taught how to flip in the air and how to run up a wall, flip backwards, and land on our feet. In the process, we were introduced to a new language, one born of bodies in motion.

So, it was awkward at first, but exhilarating in a way, and looking back, a lot of it had to do with conquering fear, so in that sense, it really was essential to our training. After several months of trying, I was able to fling myself over backwards and kind of land on all fours with all the grace of a drunken ape. And then one day, I succeeded in landing without putting my hands down on the floor …”

Logan flip

Sketched animation of one of the Imperial Rangers doing a front flip – note he gets plenty of air and does not bust his ass on the floor (that happens a lot, though).


Pixelart animation of Logan doing a backflip.  This was from The Thirteenth Hour game that didn’t get finished.

As always, thanks for listening!  Next week, part 2, focusing more on martial arts.


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