After coming accross this fantastic video, I got in contact with Martin Wan (MW) Lawrence Nicklin (LN) to find out more about their action movie adventures and the inspiration behind CHEER BATUDO!
Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got involved with cheer?
MW. It all started for us about 3 years ago really. We had both been training for many years as martial artists and wanted to add to our training but learning how to flip and tumble. We looked around the area for gymnastics classes etc but at the time these were very limited. We heard about a new cheerleading gym in the area opened by Aviator Allstars and we started going to their tumble and open gym sessions. They had some great coaches and taught us lots of cool stuff!
LN. We never really intended to start cheerleading to be honest but as you know it’s just one of those things! Everyone who trained at the gym was so friendly and welcoming and as time went by we sort of morphed into cheerleaders, trying out more and more cheer related activities at the open gym sessions getting hooked, throwing baskets, partner stunting and finally taking the leap and trying out for the program! We had great fun over two seasons competing with the elite, senior, and university teams all over the UK. Unfortunately we don’t compete now, we are just far too busy in other areas, but we still have strong links and great friendships in the cheer community.
What gave you the inspiration to mix martial arts and cheerleading?
MW. That’s a hard question! Doesn’t it seem obvious!? Actually this is something that I don’t think people have ever considered before, and for obvious reasons. On the face of it they are like chalk and cheese. The whole process was very fluid though. At the time we were just immersed in both disciplines pretty much 24/7. We lived in a house where everyone was both cheerleading and practicing martial arts, pretty much alternating daily between the two sports. We knew that our martial arts training was helping massively with our cheer and vice versa, and we found ourselves talking to our friends from both worlds who only trained in that one area, and trying to convince them the virtues of the other activity and how it would help them with their individual training.
LN. Over time we met many people in the community at competitions and camps etc, especially the elusive male cheerleaders that had similar stories to us, having been martial artists before starting cheerleading. In fact two of our coaches had backgrounds in traditional martial arts before moving into cheerleading. We saw that this wasn’t just something that happened to us, and that it seemed to be a trend, so we decided to see if we could develop the idea further and create actual links between the two areas. And of course, we are film makers, so why not try and film the process!
Are there any similarities in both types of training? Martial Arts VS Cheerleading
MW. You would think that martial arts is more dangerous, but as we found that that’s completely not the case! I think we’ve had just as many bruises and cuts from cheer than we’ve had from years of contact sparring!
LN. You wouldn’t think it, but when you look closer similarities do occur. In our style of martial arts, Shaolin 5 Animal, flexibility is really important. It’s funny because all the jumps that you see in cheerleading are basically kicks that feature in martial arts. A herkie is a jumping front kick, striking an opponent on the chin, a toe touch is a split kick, countering two attackers at once. We regularly get compliments on the height of our jumps, that’s because we spend hours practicing jump kicks!
MW. I think the main similarity you can see between the two arts is power generation. Especially with the more impressive moves you see in cheer such as the baskets and stunts. In Martial Arts, leg strength is so important. We spend so much time developing leg strength with a combination of stance work and drills. There is a fundamental stance in martial arts called a horse stance, which is basically a low squat. We train this constantly to increase power and stamina in the legs, that kind of training was so helpful for us when we started throwing baskets and stunts, which is all about generating power through the legs and up through the body in a very explosive way.
LN. A lot has to be said for attitude and personal development as well. The will to succeed and to be the best at what you do. There are many more similarities to explore and this is what these videos are about for us. It’s a question of finding out just how interchangeable cheer athletes and martial artists can be.
Do you think there are areas in which cheer training in general fails to prepare the athletes for the physicality of stunts / tumbling? Could this be a reason why Cheerleaders experience unnecessary injuries?
MW. Unfortunately I would have to agree with this statement. In my opinion this is the major difference really in the training ethos between the two disciplines. In the cheer world, there is so much pressure to advance quickly, especially in the smaller teams or university teams where you have to take a large group of new athletes and train them up very quickly to be ready for competition season. There is an immense pressure to do well for your team. Cheer is a team sport, which is fantastic as you are one big family, sharing success but also failure. This has never happened to me personally, as my coaches always had the safety of the athlete on the forefront, but I’ve heard of stories and witnessed firsthand at competitions cheerleaders performing tumbles or stunts which they are just not ready for or capable of, and that’s when injuries happen. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.
LN. You have to look at the smaller programs and university squads as well which may not have the proper facilities to train the harder moves, which is just an unfortunate reality. Martial arts is on the whole very much an individual pursuit. Not in terms of training, we train with large groups of people and compete as a team, but in terms of ability and development. Martial artists are encouraged to develop at their own pace, only learning a new technique when the instructor is satisfied that the student has mastered it, as there is no pressure to ‘keep up’ or maintain majority scores.
What tips could you give cheerleaders to improve their performance, by taking some techniques from Martial Arts training?
MW. Well for one martial arts has definitely prepared us for taking hits! In martial arts we put a lot of emphasis on conditioning the body and making it stronger so it can deal with the rigors of combat. There are lots of conditioning drills that would make throwing and catching baskets much safer for bases for example. The number of bases I’ve seen on some teams that can barely do ten push-ups! In my mind that just isn’t acceptable! Your body is the tool by which you perform cheer, so you need to make sure that tool is strong and sharp. Perhaps for a video down the line, we should perform some adapted martial arts drills that we think would be of benefit to cheerleaders.
What are you hoping to achieve with the video?
LN. This is a just the first video in our exploration. To be honest we don’t really know where this is heading, but it’ll be fun finding out! We just love cheer and martial arts, so raising the awareness of both is something we want to be positively part of. We actually have the next episode ready to go soon, where we see Martin actually attempt to use cheerleading moves in a real semi contact open sparring competition! It’s actually a very funny video so make sure you check it out!
What has the response been so far to the video? Has it done what you expected it to do?
MW. Most people we showed the video to thought we were crazy. They couldn’t see that there could be any similarities, and it was just not something they would have considered before, both people from the cheer and martial arts worlds. We hope that people just enjoy the video and have fun thinking about the links between the two. Maybe some other cheerleaders out there who are also martial artists may have been thinking the same. We have loads more content coming over the next few months, some challenges, interviews with teams etc, especially when comp season starts to hot up, so you never know, we could be knocking on your team’s door sooner than you think with a pair of hand wraps, a gum shield and a sparkly bow!