Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pommel Horse Primer: What the H is a Li Ning?

Well, kiddos, I tried to put together a few lists for the new year. I got as far as "Best On-Air Nose Pick,"

"Most likely to use Snapchat in 2013,"

and "Best Gymnastics Fans Ever"

before I got bored. So, I decided to continue the pommel horse primer series. (Parallel bars will be next!) Last time we checked in with the pig, we were discussing scissors. Today, we'll continue talking about scissors by discussing what the heck a Li Ning is.

As we all know, with the current Code of Points, if a skill doesn't up your difficulty value, it is not worth doing--even if it looks cool. So, truth be told, you won't see too many plain, old scissors in international competitions. But what you will see are scissors to handstands. They look like this:

This one is specifically called a Li Ning. Basically, the gymnast does a leg cut forward, and then, he swings both legs up to handstand performed on one pommel. As his feet are flying over his head, he does a scissors, switching his front leg to the back and his back leg to the front. On the way down from his handstand, he straddles his legs again and finishes in a support.

A note on execution: When the gymnast is swinging up to handstand, he should not pause and muscle his way up. It needs to be fluid. His arms should remain straight. Oh, and his hands cannot come off the pommel like Danell did at last year's Winter Cup. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong last February. 

(By the time Olympic Trials came around, that sequence was much, much better.)

A Li Ning, by the way, is a D.

Before we move on to the exam portion of this post, I should mention that there's another D skill that looks similar to the Li Ning. Both Danell and Louis Smith do it in their routines. It looks like this:

Unfortunately, this skill does not have an eponymous name. The Code refers to it as a "Swing backward with 1/4 turn through handstand on 1 pommel, lower to support with straddle legs." 

'Cause that's not a mouthful.

I can just hear Yin Alvarez saying...

Personally, I've always called this skill a reverse scissors to handstand, even though it is a total misnomer. As the gif shows, the gymnast's legs do not scissor on the way up. They simply swing up to handstand, and on the way down, he straddles his legs. It goes without saying that this skill needs a new name. Please submit your suggestions in the comments box below. 

The Exam

All right, it's time to test your knowledge. Watch Berki's routine and see if you spot a Li Ning or a "swing backward with 1/4 turn to handstand..."

Did you see it? At the 0:12 mark, he does a Li Ning. 

Now watch Alex Naddour's routine from 2011:
Did you see it? It was his very first skill. He did the "Swing backward with 1/4 turn through handstand on 1 pommel, lower to support with straddle legs."

Anyway, you'll see a fair number of Li Nings and "Swing backward with 1/4 turns through handstand..."s in international competitions. Unfortunately, we have to wait until March 2 for the American Cup, the first FIG-sanctioned event of the year. That's only, like,

59 days!

away. By then, you'll be pommel horse experts, I promise!


  1. Uncle Tim, explain me about flops and stocklis, please!

  2. How about we call the skill a Ning Li, since it seems like it's a "backwards" Li Ning? :p

  3. Hey, keep up the tutorials. I loved men's gymnastics for a long time then got lost. P horse has been very confusing for me in the last few codes!

  4. I agree. Appreciate these very much. I've never been able to understand when trying to look at diagrams. Your explanations really enable me to understand.