I have been walking on stilts for over a decade. I have performed all over the world at different venues and events. From TV commercials and casino stages to Indy parades and music festivals. After successfully teaching many people to walk on stilts as opposed to falls, I can confidently say that my technique works. This is a quicker and easier way to become a more confident stilt walker than most.
How do I learn to walk on stilts?
The best and most obvious way to learn to walk on stilts is with a tutor. However, this is not always possible, in which case here are some suggestions.
What stilts do I use
There are 3 main types of stilts used by stilt walkers today. The most commonly used stilts are the “unipolar” stilts. These stilts have been used in circuses for centuries. Most people are familiar with these. Another type of stilt in common use is the “drywall” stilt. These stilts are hinged with a wide base that makes them more stable. These were developed primarily for use by plasterers. Third, “more powerful” stilts are often used. These allow the stilt walker to jump, jump, and run.
What is the best
The best type of stilt to use depends on the type of activity you want to do. Things to consider are:
o The type of character / job you are playing / doing; me
o design / weight of your costume; me
o suit height; me
o type of movement you plan to make; me
or environment in which they will be used.
Drywall stilts are the easiest to use and the easiest to learn. Using them is the closest thing to walking on your own legs! However, these also have disadvantages. They can be expensive, especially to repair. They have large feet, which makes them less versatile for wardrobe. They can also be loud and often sound like Dr. Strangelove’s arm. These are really designed to be used by beginners. However, a professional stilt walker will use them in limited circumstances for certain performances. They are excellent for stationary costumes such as statues, jugglers, and large, heavy costumes.
Pole stilts are the stilts most used by performers. They are much more difficult to learn. However, pole stilts allow for a more graceful movement once you get the hang of them. There are many variations of post stilts, from homemade wooden stilts to aluminum stilts. Some have the brace on their back and others on the side. Some stilts use velcro straps and others screw on the shoes. I prefer aluminum stilts with a side gusset and my bolt-on shoes for my performances. Bolt-on shoes are more secure as the velcro allows more movement on the foot, which is generally undesirable. Lateral braces can often feel safer for advanced movements.
Lastly, there are the motorized jumping stilts. These have a spring loaded curved post that uses the downward force of your weight to provide lift, like having a trampoline tied to your foot. These are so much fun and you can get some air and great speed with them. The locker room is sometimes restricted with motorized jumping stilts. These certainly take some practice. These are more difficult to advance further due to the acrobatic nature of the exercises they make possible!
There are some additional equipment that I would recommend. First of all (and most importantly), knee pads are required even when you are at a professional level. These can save you from serious injury. Second, shin guards are great for making your stilts more comfortable. All types of stilts must be securely attached. Shin guards will protect your legs from the straps as they can become quite painful after long periods of walking / performing. Also for absolute beginners, wrist straps and a helmet will help protect you from most falls. Plus, these will help you feel a little more confident when starting out.
Now that I have stilts, how do I get started?
This is the best way to learn stilts that I have found so far. Remember that when you fall always get on your knees first !!!!!
First, find a friend who is willing to help and who can support your weight. Second, find an area where you can attach a rope between two points like two trees or two utility poles, telegraph poles, or even goalposts. To start walking on stilts, it is easier to walk on firm ground, as this provides greater stability. The rope should be between the waist and the armpit while on stilts. You should also have something to sit on and put your stilts on. In general, the roof of a car is quite good to sit on. Although anything a little taller than stilts makes it easy to transition from a sitting position to a standing position. Your friend can help guide you from your seat to the rope by providing support similar to a walker.
Your feet should be about shoulder width apart. Remember to keep your feet straight and your toes facing forward as if you were walking on your heels. Begin by standing up and looking along the rope safely under one arm. This is for you to grip in case you lose your balance. First, practice “marking the time”, this is the name for walking in the place. Each leg is lifted so that the stilt leg is approximately 6 inches above the ground and then returned to place. This is repeated with the other leg, shifting the weight from one to the other. You can’t stand still until you are a teacher !!! Think of it like riding a bike. When learning to ride a bike, it is difficult to learn to stand without falling to the side. Walking on stilts is the same, but you could fall in either direction!
Once you’ve gotten used to the weight of stilts and are able to control them, you can try taking a few small steps. This is the same as before, except that your foot is placed a little further forward. Now you are moving! When you reach the end of the rope, turn by turning on one foot. This is usually a good time to ask your friend to be vigilant. I tend to find that after about 20 minutes you go through a pain barrier. These are your muscles that are getting used to a different way of walking. It gets easier to walk once you get past this pain barrier, I promise.
Once you have gained confidence, ask your friend to step away from the rope and walk towards him. Have them ready to catch you if you fall. Do this every day for a week (or as often as you can). At the end of this time, you will be a confident stilt walker. Once you are comfortable walking, try some new things like running, jumping, doing pirouettes, and riding slopes.
To walk on stilts it is necessary to fall forward, just as we do to walk normally. However, if you lean too far, you will fall, especially if you do not move forward.
When falling he always falls to his knees. That’s what knee pads are for. If you are falling backward, turn your body to drop to your knees. If you extend your hands, you will most likely break your arm. Also, you don’t want to fall backwards; this is when the most serious injuries occur.
Learn to do pirouettes and get out of it, as this will help you recover from falls. Also, you can usually avoid falling if you go a little further; However, if you take a step too far, you could end up doing the splits or worse, throwing a kneecap!