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Jade Kindar-Martin: Balance Tips From a World Class Wire Walker

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(Image credit: Unknown)

We want to be friends with Jade Kindar-Martin. This American-born circus performer lives on a farm in the south of France, where he spear-hunts boars for dinner and hones his balance skills across his own valley. Yes, he owns a canyon. These skills have earned him a joint world record with high wire partner Didier Pasquette – as well as landing him in jail for performing illegal, and frankly terrifying, unaided high-rise wire walks.

Still, this pig-hunting, record-breaking bad boy is so damn good at balancing, he was hired to help Joseph Gordon-Levitt prepare for the lead role as real-life daredevil Philippe Petit in the wire-walking thriller The Walk, out on Blu-ray and DVD today.

You’ve got a world record for traversing the Thames without safety equipment. How do you defy human survival instinct like that?

interviews

(Image credit: Unknown)

By building up slowly. You start at six feet then add another few feet as you progress. Before you know it, you’re suddenly doing the big heights. Anyway, it’s not like my mind is blank up there – I’m actually focusing on all the things I can control like foot positioning, posture and how much I’m moving the wire instead of just recklessly ignoring the danger!

So assuming being insane is part of it… what’s the secret to great balance?

Keeping your hips still, which is achieved by having a strong core. There are five other joint areas which also need to be kept still: your neck, shoulders, arms, knees and ankles, which are are also held in place through the core. You’ll struggle to balance if different parts of your body are bending and moving in different directions. This applies for balance in any context.

And how do you personally develop your core?

I absolutely smash the plank and medicine ball work. I also started taking boxing classes to obtain the physique and strength of a boxer, they have the ideal body type for balancing. Don’t overlook the mental aspect of things, though. Balance is as much in your head as it is in your body.

What do you mean?

You need mental clarity to balance. The more you practise balancing, the more peace you obtain and the easier it becomes. Working on your balance can be extremely therapeutic. Try it. After a day’s work, stand in your living room on one foot for 30 seconds. If that’s too easy, raise yourself on your toes. Progress that by closing your eyes. Still too easy? Fold your arms. Now start adding more time. It’s like active meditation – you’re clearing your mind while also developing an athletic skill.

What’s the most transferrable skill you’ve gained from wire walking?

Wire walking has proven that with the right frame of mind we are truly capable of anything. Nothing puts this into a more literal context than the plot of The Walk. While Philippe’s stunt was nothing short of mind-blowing [in 1974 he walked between New York’s World Trade Center Twin Towers with no safety equipment], it goes to show that with the right attitude, we are capable of far more than we realise.

Before we get your tips on improving balance, can you quickly tell us the story of how you got arrested? Pretty please?

[Laughs] Well, I was a 23-year-old living in Paris. I snuck up an 80m-tall church in the dead of night, even taping blue plastic over the lens of my torch because I was in full ninja mode, and spent five hours attaching a wire to the building opposite. It was as I walked across the wire at sunrise that I realised the building opposite was a police station because this policeman walked out, took one look at me, then returned two minutes later with about 30 of his colleagues. They even brought out the suicide prevention negotiator to talk me down!

Amazing. Right, what are your three tips someone can use to improve their balance any time, any place?

  1. Focus on a point ten feet [3m] away to ensure your head remains straight. Make sure the point isn’t too close otherwise you’ll lose balance trying to focus on it. Similarly, ensure it’s not too far so you’re not straining to see it.
  2. Tense the shit out of your glutes. Obviously not literally, but make sure they are engaged as tightly as possible. You want your legs as active as possible to ensure the ankle, knee and hip joints aren’t moving in different directions.
  3. Lower your centre of gravity. The lower you are to the floor, the easier it is to balance.

Balancing Tools: Kindar-Martin’s Recommendations

Macaco 16 Metre Slackline Set Simply attach between a pair of trees and you’re good to go. Start low, mind. £34, buy on Amazon (opens in new tab)

Togu Senso Hedgehog Balance Disc You can use these pretty much anywhere. Just hop on and try not to fall off. Progress by changing your centre of gravity and contorting your body into different positions. And if you’re Superman, do it with your eyes closed. £21, buy on Amazon (opens in new tab)

BOSU Pro Balance Trainer Basically an upgrade of the Hedgehog with a bigger variety of exercises available. £120, buy on Amazon (opens in new tab)

The Walk is out on Blu-ray and DVD now. Buy on Amazon (opens in new tab)

Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.