Guest post: How to make a good tutorial

December 19, 2014 Other

What you’ll see in this video is actually not so different from what you would see in the vast majority of the tricking tutorials on youtube. (Close caption is available, click it!)

Online tutorials are a big deal in tricking. Despite the increasing number of tricking schools spreading around the world in recent years, it is still known that the vast majority of practitioners are self-taught. This peculiar nature of our activity has made us all develop a propensity to help each other by systematically sharing advice online… which is one of the most fascinating things we have in our community! Unfortunately, though, it often becomes a way of self-aggrandizement for people who have no business at teaching, who end up giving thoughtless advice. Ask any beginner who’s having trouble learning a basic trick about the 1000+ tutorials they’ve seen on the net, and they’ll tell you that most of them have been completely useless. (“To do a b-twist, use your b-kick takeoff, wrap your arms and twist!” – Duh! No shit, Sherlock!)

As a student, and as a teacher, this kind of advice drives me nuts! This compulsory drive for self-affirmation many have to teach others everything they learn, as soon as they learn it, regardless of their actual understanding of the move and explicative capabilities, can be as detrimental as it is sometimes useful. So, if you are thinking about filming a tutorial yourself, and you are getting all crazy and enthusiastic about the idea, let me give you some tips so that you don’t make yourself look ridiculous.

1. THE OBVIOUS

Ask yourself:

  • Can I do the move consistently?

Do not make a tutorial for a move you’re just learning yourself. This should be a no-brainer, yet so many people, especially teens, keep acting like they’re in a position to teach moves they can barely land. This has to stop. It is one thing to share your new move with your training pals and try to help them achieve it like you just did, but it’s another thing to do an instructional video for potentially thousands of trickers to watch. People get hurt following inexperienced advice. You may think you already know what you’re doing as soon as you do it, but trust me: you don’t. Have some modesty.

  • Do I know what’s making the move work?

Well, let’s say you do land the trick consistently. You’ve done it for years. Is it enough? No, unfortunately. It might very well not be enough. Are you really conscious about its mechanics? Have you ever tried it differently? Do others who can do the move feel the same way? It’s counter-intuitive, but sometimes the more easily you can do something, the less aware you become of how you are actually doing it. Do you still think about how you construct every single phrase while you talk? Of course not. This is why being able to speak fluently and being able to teach a language are two vastly different things. And this is actually the main reason elite tricksters often fail to give good advice on basic moves: those who are in the top tier are usually genetically gifted people, who’ve built the foundation of their movements at a very young age and now execute most of their tricks so naturally and instinctively that they’ve long lost their connection to what it feels like to start from scratch. Be mindful!

Sammy Vasqueze

“So you bring your leg up… and straight down… while doing a twist… and that’s it.”

YouTube video: Tutorial – Axe-AerialTwist – Sammy Vasquez

2. THE AVAILABLE MEANS

Ask yourself:

  • Which format should my tutorial have?

Should you film yourself talking about the trick? Should you make a slide-by-slide explanation? With voiceover or superimposed text? The best format for your tutorial depends on your preference, your technical means (camera/place/editing skills) and, most of all, your subjective capacity to convey your knowledge in the most effective and least annoying possible way. Nothing is more exasperating than watching a tutorial filmed in a crowded gym, with people screaming everywhere and background noise so loud you have to rewind the video every few seconds and try to lipread what the dude is saying. Or a videotext tutorial with 9 minutes of fading phrases you need to pause-play the video at an ischemic stroke pace to be able to read, while a 50-second videogame medley keeps looping in the background for the entire time. If you want more people to watch your tutorial, you gotta find a way to make it less disturbing!

Do not make a “live explanation” tutorial if:

  • You don’t have a decent camera
  • You don’t have a quiet place to film yourself
  • You stutter and/or can’t speak loud and clear
  • You are not fluent in the language you want your tutorial to have
  • You tend to get lost in your talk and forget what you wanted to say
  • You don’t appear the least bit charismatic

Do not make a “videotext” tutorial if:

  • You don’t have decent software
  • You don’t have the essential video editing skills
  • You need too many words at once to explain yourself
  • You can’t keep it within a couple minutes
  • You have questionable musical/graphical taste

The more you know yourself, the better your tutorial will be! Maybe you’re not very good with words, but have exceptional body language. Maybe you don’t have a quiet place to film yourself, but have enough editing skills to make a decent voiceover over a muted clip. Experiment! Show the video to a couple friends before publishing it and ask them if they have trouble following. It’s hard to resign yourself to redo the whole thing, but sometimes you’ll have to.

Stephen_tutorial

I wasn’t sure Stephen Renney wasn’t talking about microwaved eggplants in his cartwheel_fronflip tutorial until I finally saw him do the trick.

YouTube video: Stephen Renney’s Cartwheel to Front Flip Tutorial

3. THE EXPLANATION

Ask yourself:

  • Can I teach a PROGRESSION to the move, rather than just the move itself?

This is the most underrated factor for 99% of the tutorials on the net, and it’s actually the main point of this whole writeup.

You can’t possibly expect someone who wants to learn the fulltwist to just try to rotate his backflip 360 degrees after listening to an explanation on how to do it, much like you wouldn’t expect him to start juggling knives. This grab-the-balls “do or die trying” approach is not an efficient strategy. It’s not how learning new, scary (and potentially dangerous) stuff works. Well, it can work for some gifted people and some mindless kids who’re not afraid because they’re unaware of the danger, but it’s not how it works for the general population.

Providing a ladder to climb up is extremely important both from a safety and from a motivational standpoint: having multiple steps not only makes the learning process safer and less scary, but also less frustrating! Surpassing intermediate goals makes it easier to stay motivated, not only because they make you better visualize your improvement, but also because they make you better realize what you’re doing wrong. (How many times have you wondered in despair “What the hell am I missing!?” while struggling for a new trick?)

There’s a common misconception that understanding clearly what you have to do implies having the necessary degree of control over your body to do it correctly. If that was the case, why would you bother learning high dive-rolls before frontflips? Because even if you perfectly know you have to jump up before you tuck forward in a frontflip, your body still doesn’t! And the higher the fear factor of the trick, the harder it is to make your body follow exactly your commands, so it’s nice to have a safer and easier way to teach it to comply in the right way before you actually attempt the trick… for the frontflip, the high dive-roll fits a good deal. This applies to every single trick, but beginner/intermediate tricks especially: always, ALWAYS provide a gradual progression whenever you can! The more you can split the learning process into small steps, the better!

  • Can I simplify the move as much as possible before going over the details?

There are two colliding needs that have to be met when trying to learn a new trick: first, as you skim through tutorials on youtube, you feel the need to eviscerate every cognizable crap out of it so you can feel safe and in control once you decide to try it… but then, when you finally get in the gym, that same excess of information you were craving for ends up freezing you! It’s the same thing that happens in a lot of dating situations: ever spent so much time wondering how to ask a girl out, that you ended up screwing your chances with her? Yep, it’s called “paralysis by analysis” and it’s a common psychological anti-pattern: it consists in over-thinking a situation to the point of never taking efficient action.

When you think too much, it doesn’t leave room for aggressiveness. And aggressiveness is the ultimate key to land new tricks, (and to pick up girls… but we’ll come back to that one some other time, ahah!) so being able to find the right compromise of information for your tutorial will be the greatest gauge for your success as a teacher. My suggestion? When in doubt, split the explanation in 2 parts! First, provide just the bare essential to try the trick safely for the first time without having too much to think about, and only then start explaining how to make it perfect, one detail at a time. We’re not gymnasts; it’s better for us to land an ugly trick as soon as possible and perfect it overtime, than wussing out for months hoping someday to do it perfectly on the first try.

  • Should I really dive into the mechanics of the move?

Personally, I think this whole thing of explaining the physics at work during a trick is a tad over rated. Leave it to sports physiology students to perpetrate this self-pleasing mental masturbation. You can science me all over the place, but you’ll never convince me that talking about balance points and angular momentum in a b-twist tutorial will help someone land it. That said, whether and how you decide to include such things in your tutorial is up to you… just please, please, for f**k’s sake, don’t go overboard with lines, diagrams, and formulae. I’ve seen some tutorials that look like topology demonstrations! Yes, an arrow to show the direction of a movement could be a useful no-brainer, but keep your theory of relativistic mechanics for yourself! We’re trying to learn tricks, not to graduate in physics. ‘Nuff said!

AlexD_tutorial

Damn, AlexD! I love you, but… are you f**king serious with this!?

YouTube video: “Tricking Tutorials by AlexD” – J-step Cork

4. THE DETAILS

Ask yourself:

  • Who is my tutorial addressed to?

As counterintuitive as this might seem, a snapuswipe tutorial hardly needs to be as long and detailed as a 540 kick tutorial. Why? It’s a matter of audience: a snapuswipe tutorial is supposed to be directed towards really advanced trickers, people with several years of experience both at kicking and at twisting, whereas a 540 kick is directed towards beginners. Another thing that influences the level of detail a tutorial should have is whether it’s supposed to be a complete tutorial for people that never attempted the move or just a series of “fixing tips” for people who have already tried it and are very close or want to perfect it. Different people at different levels could have different needs even for the same trick! The most masochistic thing you could do would be trying to appeal to everyone. Don’t be afraid of being specific! Say out loud who your tutorial is addressed to and for what purpose. Want two opposite examples of good specificity? Here you go:

Anthony Mychal’s tutorials page on his blog,

Anthony Mychal tricking

http://anthonymychal.com/tricks/

And Jeremy Marinas’ -3Amigos Tricking- playlist on the 87Eleven Action Design youtube page.

Jeremy holds a small series called “Tuesday trick tip of the week”, where he gives his view on some semi-advanced moves. His tutorials would seem pretty scarce to the general audience, but he states pretty clearly that they’re not meant to be step-by-step guides. They’re just tips for people who already have some experience. They’re fine because they’re not ambiguous.

On the same, but opposite principle, Anthony spends hundreds of words even to describe the simplest movement. I was skeptical about his page, until he pointed out to me that most of his viewers are people who still aren’t in a sufficient physical and mental shape to just throw themselves on the ground. And yes, those people may need a detailed kneeling forward roll tutorial, even if such things would make most active tricksters laugh. Both Anthony and Jeremy aren’t worried about appealing to everyone. They do a better job by being specific. Be like them!

5. A FINAL WORD

  • “Guess what I have in my pants? A bandana!”

Up above I’ve recommended not to film yourself talking about the trick if you aren’t at least a little bit charismatic. It might sound superficial, but trust me: it’s not! Look again at my Nontutorials video embedded at the top of the page and think: you’ve probably watched it all the way to the end just because of its inherent joke. Had I been completely serious, would you really have listened to me talking in that tone for the whole 4 minutes? This is the final small piece of advice I want to give you with this article: strive to make your video original or funny in some way. It’s the cherry on top! As valuable as your explanation could be, it serves nothing if people get bored listening to you. Don’t underestimate the power of trivial things. A good joke alone may very well be what will leave your video impressed on people’s memory.

– Andrea Rodolfo Nadia

13 comments

  1. Jon Call says:

    Hi everyone. So what were the best and worst tricking tutorials you’ve seen on the internet? How about my own tutorials? I’ve made quite a few bad tutorials in the past myself, what tutorials of mine did you find most unhelpful and annoying?

  2. Jon Call says:

    Also, in my opinion, the most important sentence in this entire write up is this one: “There’s a common misconception that understanding clearly what you have to do implies having the necessary degree of control over your body to do it correctly.” As Andrea points out, just because YOU know how to do it, doesn’t mean your BODY knows how to do it… This is why prerequisite and supplementary skill learning is… essential. 🙂

  3. Josiah says:

    In my opinion, the best tutorials are the one’s that don’t give you unrealistic expectations, and say that it takes a long time. Then you don’t feel stupid for not getting; let’s say a triple-quadruple b-twist in “just a few weeks”. That’s exaggerated, but you’ve probably seen tutorials that say it only takes a few days or a few weeks to get really good at it.

  4. STEVE YEAH! says:

    Good read!

    I once read a tutorial/article on “How to gain weight.” One page it read “multiply your bodyweight times 12 for calorie intake.” Then a few chapters in another page read “multiply your bodyweight times 16 for calorie intake.” When I questioned the author on it he said to me “I’m surprised nobody ever mentioned that to me before.”

    So i’d say proof read.. or if you’re going to make something up, at least be consist with your lie.

    Also like I said before.. you always put a little Juji humor in your articles.. Gives me a laugh while i’m reading. Informative and funny. That’s a good mix. Sometimes when something is too straight forward my ADD kicks in and I trail off.

  5. STEVE YEAH! says:

    My comment was obviously more for articles. But as for videos. Good audio or caption what you’re saying for soft spoken parts. Good editing is always a bonus but not always needed. Some videos are just one shot and i’ve never lost interest, but that only works if the person is interesting or passionate about what they’re talking about. Most people are going to look for short tutorial videos to get to the point. Unless you have a following and then people will watch whatever put out.. but the general person looking to learn a trick quick.. they’ll go on youtube.. search “How to do a back flip”.. and will mostly likely pick the 2 min video over the 15 min one. That’s just my take on it though.

  6. STEVE YEAH! says:

    Also.. consistent* .. i should proof read my own shit lol.

  7. Kiwee says:

    I’m not gonna diss any of your tutorials, so instead I share a positive experience. And that is the Aerial tutorial, which was the first tutorial I’ve ever seen, back in 2007. The prerequisites are very well building up to the final move (the cart, first-handed, second-handed), and it worked quite well for me. The best thing about the progression was that the steps were digestable. No real tricking experience is needed for the cartwheel, and the one-handeds are quite natural after that. Although there’s a small chasm before the real Aerial, training the hell out of the prerequisites makes it a lot easier – not only the learning, but also the keeping of the trick. So the small steps with little increase in difficulty are the best, and I think it’s true for all tricks.

  8. Austin says:

    I’ve been learning to teach martial arts since I was ten. We’re very serious about building real instructors at my school.

    Basically, I just want to say I agree with this.

    1. The Obvious
    I learn new moves all the time. The way I was taught to learn and teach them was to copy, then play, then improvise. For instance: My instructor teaches me a tornado kick. I copy it as exactly as I can, always checking to see if there’s something I can do more like the example. Once satisfied with this, I try it at funny angles and such. It fails and I learn why, so that I can realize more information than was initially presented to me about the moves. Then, I can address any concerns a student might have.

    2. The Available Means
    A teaching exercise I like to perform is to teach part of a day of camp or something without talking at all while still keeping the class engaged. I lose if I have to say anything to get the class to go perfectly, and I always play until I lose.
    Videos are not interactive enough for this, so we settle for what we’ve got. What I like about Juji’s tutorials is that they tend to have a video and a companion text with key details. Having something small to print out is a great idea, especially if it has mostly just pictures.

    3. The Explanation
    I don’t give much information to beginners. When they learn a move, it goes like this:
    “Here’s an Americana armlock.” *does armlock on someone* “You do it from a mounted position like I am here” *does armlock* “The ending bit looks like this; you just pull up on their elbow.” *does armlock* etc.
    They’d see about three more details and three more examples for that particular technique, then they’d be trying it. The details are then earned in a few ways: They ask questions, they do it wrong, or they start to get really good at what I’ve already given them. If they can learn just enough to do it right but no more, they feel better about learning it and I can teach them better.

    I want to write about this topic foreeever, but I’ll spare everyone for now. It’s not best explained through writing.

    4. The Details
    When you think about it, everyone is some kind of beginner. Maybe they’ve never done a round kick, and maybe they don’t know what it means to pump on a kicking move. Treat them like beginners in their respective topics. It makes a person teach equally well across the board.

    I really am writing too much, and it’s too unorganized. Maybe when it’s not practically 1 AM on the last day of finals week I’ll be ready for real discussion on this, haha.

    Finally, for Andrea, how did you come to these conclusions? Did you just figure them out? If so, I’m WAY impressed, man. You have serious talent, in that case.
    Otherwise, it still warms my heart to know that someone cares about and knows about this. You’re awesome.

  9. Claire says:

    I always wished somebody made skateboarding trick tips as detailed as yours. Eventually I found somebody who does that, and it’s helped me. Taegashi made fun tutorials for the aerial and the wall flip, but both of them oozed with homophobia. What was the one… I think it was the axe to aerial, or the aerial switch leg. You’re filming on a football field. Half way through the video, Antoine comes out from behind the goal post doing mini squats, taking big breaths, hooting and hollering, and you never once acknowledge him. I laughed my ass off!

  10. Rachid says:

    Juji: Hands down your advanced backflip tutorial was of GREAT help for me! Thanks man!

  11. Valvolt Nova says:

    Totally agree with this thing about the mind and the body.
    The mind must be attuned with the body in order to perform flawlessly in sports. When the body is still not proficient at performing a new or a not-yet-mastered technique, you force the improvement with the mind: being mindful and trying to follow a technique’s cue points. But eventually the body takes over in the process of learning, and as you get better your body performs the technique almost on its own. Then, at the end of the process, the move is completely automatic… to the point that overthinking it impairs its execution (as Juji said, this final step happens only if the body learned it correctly… thanks to prerequisites and supplementary skills).

  12. francesco caban says:

    I immediately thought of the alexd tut when you talked about to much science. At first I loved that tutorial, then I was like none of this helped me at all and I learned more from the comments below it then the skill itself. I tend to like to go deep into progressions because I expect my audience to be very new to tricks and always expect they start from zero, but if it is a harder move I usually recommend prerequisites that I don’t go into detail about. Good stuff jujij

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