Carnegie Mellon University
March 09, 2020

CMU's Tricking Club Flips, Kicks and Twists for Fun

By Felicia Lucot

Julie Mattera
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-2902
Evan Zhang takes two fast, powerful steps and hurdles forward onto his hands. He'll rotate upside down three times before completing a roundoff back handspring back tuck on the opposite side of the spring floor. Cheering breaks out among his friends, louder than the music blaring through the speakers at Steel City Parkour.

Every Sunday, a group of Carnegie Mellon University students meet in this warehouse that holds trampolines, foam pits and crash mats. They're here to test the limits of gravity as members of CMU's Tricking Club.

Born out of martial arts, tricking is where gymnastics, breakdancing and parkour meet. Participants of this emerging sport, commonly referred to as trickers, perform acrobatic combinations of flips, kicks, spins and twists that wow audiences.

Tricking is relatively new to CMU — the club was founded four years ago. What started as informal practice sessions with a few friends on the Cut has developed into a recognized CMU student organization, committed to learning new skills and teaching others.

Interest in the club grew organically as passing students saw members practicing.

"I saw them out on the Cut throwing really cool flips, and that's something I've always wanted to learn," said Grace Lao, a sophomore in computer science and club president. "I just walked over and asked if I could join."

Lao has a few tricks up her sleeve these days. She can throw an aerial, a back handspring and a back flip. She's also learning a gainer (a back flip performed while moving forward) and a webster (a front flip performed by jumping off of one leg).
When a skill can be landed safely, trickers work to perfect the technique and perform it in more difficult combinations with other skills.

"Whatever skill level you are, there is always something to strive for to continue improving," Lao said.

Experienced trickers make flying through the air look easy, but learning to flip upside down and land feet first is built on small progressions. Trickers overcome both physical and mental barriers to master new skills, and falling is a natural part of the process.

"I've crashed tricks over and over again," said Bo Tembunkiart, a senior information systems and linguistics double major and co-founder of the club. "The important part is that I know how to fall, learn from it and keep trying safely until I get it."

Students who are inexperienced but intrigued by back flips and butterfly kicks should not be intimidated. The CMU tricking club doesn't compete with outside groups — or among each other.

"You come because you want to learn," said Evan Zhang, a senior biology major. "There is no winning, losing or being better than anyone. Everyone has their own strengths and picks their own direction of skills to work towards."

Cultivating a supportive, non-judgmental environment for members is a point of pride for Tembunkiart.

"This community that we've built is a place where everyone can feel at home and be as weird as they want to be," Tembunkiart said. "Whenever we come to train everyone is cheering each other on to get better. It's an environment that I love about tricking and I'm really happy to have brought it to CMU."