When I was a toddler I was taught to roll from a tripod (my two legs and head) into somersault but that was the extent of my tumbling instruction. I taught myself to cartwheel and did that well into adulthood whenever there was enough social space to whirl myself around in that way. I liked tumbling.
Then fifty years later I was in a martial arts class of men, women, and children with an instructor, who was the master and owner of that Taekwondo dojo, who decided to test the natural abilities of some of his students. He pulled out a large, red, soft plastic barrel, about waist-high, onto a matted area of the dojo. Then he chose the children whom he wanted to test, from some very small children hardly taller than the barrel to larger children about my size. He lined them up, and I felt a jolt of envy and thrill at what they were about to do. Abruptly the dojo master called my name and waved me over to the end of the line of children. I was middle-aged, what was I doing there? Did he intend that I spot them or assist in some way? The moment I was at the end of the line, he began sending the children, one right after the other, to run at the barrel and vault it, hands free. He stood back with intense pleasure watching his students perform, apparently feeling no need for instruction, spotting or any other sorts of assists. The line of fit, athletic children flowed over the barrel like water over a dam. Because the children had had no instruction it did not occur to any of them to do anything other than to follow the leader and fly over the barrel hands free into a somersault and leap up. Within seconds it was down to me, and instinctively I ran to the barrel and neatly vaulted over it hands free into a somersault and leapt up. He only had us vault the barrel once, but what a thrill! Reckless but thrilling.
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2019