Coach Spotlight: Dan Perez, Tricking Innovator

This article covers insights from world-renowned tricker and full-time tricking coach, Dan Perez. Key takeaways for trickers at the bottom.

If you're a tricker, whether you know it or not, you’ve most likely been influenced by Dan Perez. Dan developed one of the most comprehensive tricking vocabularies, True Kicking Terminology (TKT), and created a wealth of concepts and terms such as “wrap,” "mega," "semi," & "vanish". Dan also created the Hyper Trick School Curriculum, Aeriform MAT, Cinematic Martial Arts, and Teach Me Tricking. Dan participated in a plethora of tricking's early events, contributing to its inception as a promoter and organizer. Dan traveled the world as a performer, judge, competitor, and teacher. He leveraged that experience and the connections he made to lead the tricking program at Joining All Movement in Los Angeles for the first 3 years after it opened. Teaching tricking has been Dan’s full-time and only job since 2009.

Did tricking come easy for you? How was that experience?

My first attempt at tricking was a disaster. I was the only kid out of a class of about 25 who didn't learn either of the two skills taught (tornado & cartwheel), and I cried when my mom picked me up, telling her "I never want to try that again." I always seemed to make things harder for myself than they appeared to everyone else, and it really was a challenge to get even basic tricks at first. What began as a major disadvantage for me as an athlete ended up being a major benefit as an instructor though since I ended up really digging down to the deepest layers to find the understanding which most of my peers never considered necessary. To this day I excel teaching students with whom other instructors struggle, often coming to me with referrals along the lines of "my coach said you'd be able to help me since you can help students who have the most trouble, and that's apparently me."

You are known as being "ambitrixtrous". What inspired you to become one of the only people to trick at a high level in both directions and what was that process like?

I learned by watching athletes who tricked to opposite sides from one another, initially without realizing my examples would conflict (e.g. Btwist left, cork right). I also had a ton of issues with consistency, so I would lose my Btwist on my left side, for example, then I would re-learn it on the right. Eventually, I became focused on retracing my steps multiple times to solve the consistency problem, and I was motivated to learn everything on both sides after a while (mostly out of compulsion at first, and later out of a curiosity to better understand the movement). Tricking on your other side is tedious because on the one hand you technically know how it should work based on whichever side you've already learned a given skill. On the other hand, you might lack coordination, or perhaps the understanding is not as solid as you thought. It was an arduous process of learning to let go of what I thought I knew and re-learn things I already re-learned again and again; I never count something unless I can do it 100% of the time, and for me, that means on both sides!

Did you have any influential coaches or people that inspired you?

I was inspired and influenced by the "first generation" of tricking athletes, mostly sport martial arts competitors who were incorporating tricks into their performances long before the term 'tricking' was conceived. The original Team Loopkicks was hugely inspirational to me. Everyone who had a sampler on the "trophy shelf of samplers" (Bilang) before the era of social media was inspirational and influential to me. I was and continue to be inspired by everyone who has tricked since then, since tricking as a practice is made of all of its practitioners. I see someone do something amazing online, and I'm inspired. Some of my personal favorites are Andy Le (I love his style & aesthetic) and Michael Guthrie (I consider him the model upon which tricking should be based). My karate instructor and one black belt from my school back when I started are perhaps my two most integral influences, without whom my life and journey in the martial arts would never have been.

Why did you decide to become a full-time tricking instructor and what do you enjoy most about coaching?

I have loved tricking since I started back in 1999, and I always wanted to do something with tricking as a profession. I was guided to become a teacher as I gradually realized that I had so much unique insight to share because of my journey. I am a communicator and a problem solver, and teaching is nothing if not effective communication applied to solve problems. I thoroughly enjoy the rewarding sense of satisfaction that comes from helping a student achieve tangible progress, especially when they run into a (metaphorical) wall and feel they must somehow be uniquely at fault; I am always happy to explain the commonalities of that situation and how simple it can be to get through it. I enjoy how easily I can provide explanations and solutions as if the answers were written down in front of me and my job is simply to read what's there. I most enjoy helping students learn tricking.

What can a client expect from private lessons with you?

I would say I teach control more than tricks; that ends up being less action and a lot more discussion. You can expect real answers. Sometimes unforgiving realities, but everything pointed in a positive direction. I offer my students a chance to look behind the curtain and truly learn why something does or doesn't work; my answers are based on physics, anatomy, kinesiology, and sports psychology much more than they are on the technical know-how of the discipline itself. "Spot your landing," "wrap your arms," "kick/jump hard," and "throw your arms" are not things you will hear me say, because they simply don't cover all the necessary information. To go a step further, if you can learn tricks based on simple tips you probably don't need my help (seriously!) My approach is not for everyone. It is measured, cautious (no crashing), disciplined, tedious, and relies heavily on the work put in by the student.

During the session you will learn the physics that makes the moves work, how psychology affects one's ability to do them, the anatomy and kinematics behind the technique... these things contain complex subject matter. I talk a lot and the discussion is all about making sure my students understand what they should be doing to make progress. I don't need it all to take place while I'm watching; in fact, a lot of the results come to me in the form of footage after the fact. That's great and I always take the time to write detailed replies and provide feedback about what was shared with me. I ask only of my students that they try, and beyond that everything else is my responsibility. If I give an instruction and the student fails, I will give a simpler instruction. You will not hear me blame my student for a mistake, as in "I told you to land on your left leg but you landed on your right," or "You didn't commit to the twist" for example. I will walk you through why those mistakes were made in the first place, and how they can be prevented in the future. You will never hear me say "you're overthinking it," and I love questions because they offer me a window into the understanding my student has in that moment. My teaching style is very low-pressure, as calm & casual as one can be while performing ninja moves. Safety is the #1 priority, followed by fun & progression (after all, who doesn't have fun while making progress?) Train with me and build tricks for life.

What's one piece of advice you would give a new tricking athlete who wants to level up their skills?

Work on consistency and building more control over the skills you already have, especially when you feel like you might be reaching a plateau. Take into account how your health outside of tricking affects your tricking. The food you eat, the rest you get, the mental state you're in can all greatly influence your progress. Consider your athletic potential, and whether you're limited by that or your actual abilities (are you lacking the power to perform a skill, or awareness of technique?) Train accordingly. Learn a little about anatomy, recovery, & conditioning. As a 'backyard sport,' tricking can leave unprepared practitioners at risk of injury due to high usage (compared to gymnastics for example, where strength & conditioning can be as much as 50% of the training). Take care of your body, and don't be in a rush to become Shosei or Zen.

Anything else you would like to add or questions you would like to answer?

I would add that I don't consider myself a master of tricking; I would say I'm more a master of learning. I teach my students (and myself) how to learn skills that are otherwise unavailable, and it is ultimately upon each individual to then take on the challenge of 'perfecting' their skills to become a master. I have been practicing tricking for over two decades now, and I'm still learning (it's much harder in my mid-30s with a family than in my early 20s to be sure!) I am genuinely excited by the learning process, and I am excited to help you learn too. Thanks for reading!

Anything else you would like to add?

I want to help people find something about themselves and spark their growth in their life through movement. I feel like I can help anyone no matter what division they focus on.

Takeaways for Trickers

#1 It’s ok if you don’t have innate tricking abilities

Dan started his tricking journey being the only kid in his martial arts class to not land the tricking moves taught. Now, he’s a world-renowned tricking athlete and coach. Dan’s adversities allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanics of tricking than most will ever have.

#2 Work on consistency and building more control over the skills you already have

Especially when you feel like you might be reaching a plateau, take the time to really get your current moves down consistently. This will serve you better than rushing and potentially injuring yourself.

#3 Your overall health and athletic potential play a big role in your tricking.

We often believe that the only thing we have to do to become a better tricker is trick more. While upping your tricking frequency may help, Dan suggests taking a holistic approach by analyzing your strength and weaknesses from an overall health and athletic standpoint as well.

#4 Don’t just know what works, but WHY it works

Be a student of the game. By taking the time to learn a little about anatomy, recovery, conditioning, and psychology, you will gain a much better understanding of how to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

Want to book a 1 on 1 tricking lesson with Dan? Find Dan Perez on KickLink by clicking here!

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