Aerial Silks Theory: Thigh Hitch

Before I dive into the theory of thigh hitch, a short story and reflection on theory.

When I first started aerial silks I thought, “Well, I probably won’t ever get REALLY good at this, because all this wrapping is really confusing. It’s not how my brain works. I mean, I’m a writer, not a mathematician.” If a teacher told me to do something, I’d stand there feeling guilty for forgetting it instantly. Often, my body figured it out, but always to my brain’s bewilderment.

Spatial reasoning confuses me. Physics is not my bread and butter. Algebra makes me cry (complete the square?!??!?!). Calculus and geometry were better, but math was never my thing. But the salvation for non-math type aerialists is that we repeat the same things over and over and over. We become literate by way of this repetition, and we have the opportunity again and again and again to look at what we are doing. The concreteness makes the analytical side much less menacing. You can touch the physics and the geometry–you don’t have to imagine it. And, what may at first seem hopelessly complicated may seem utterly simple 100 repetitions later. 

I encourage aerialists to inquire into the wraps that hold us up in the air for several reasons:

  • Safety. If you understand how wraps work, you can make calculated movements when exploring new pathways.
  • Holism. Aerial is multi-faceted. We see a fuller picture when we experience aerial in many different ways. It deepens our understandings of and our relationships with our art/work/play.
  • Exploration. If you understand how wraps work, you can come up with genius ways to create new shapes, drops, and sequences.
  • Fun. It’s a pretty interesting and engaging endeavor, to break down what makes aerial work. 

If you read these posts, you WILL become more knowledgeable in aerial silks theory. Even if the concept of theory intimidates you or you think it’s too difficult. I promise, reading about theory helps you connect the dots. I also make an effort to not completely bog you down in with tedious details. I try to keep it straightforward and in plain speak. 

This week’s exploration of aerial silks theory is the thigh hitch. I’ve also heard this called a tourniquet. 

But what is a hitch in the first place? One definition is that a hitch is used to connect a rope to an object. I understand it better as one or more loops whose form and function depend on an object. Unlike a knot, which holds its own shape, a hitch loses its shape when the object is removed. In the case of thigh hitch, it’s pretty self-explanatory: the thing holding your hitch together is your thigh. There are many types of hitches, with this example being considered a “single hitch.” 

So what makes hitches so useful to aerialists? Are we not exploring the art of tying ourselves up in knots? 

Actually no! Knots are not particularly useful to us because the nature of our discipline requires ongoing change of positions. It wouldn’t be practical to take 30 seconds to tie a knot and 30 seconds to untie a knot. Plus, your body weight would make them hard to untie. Instead, we use hitches, tension, friction, and other forces to secure and remove the fabric from itself and our bodies. Hitches are perfect because they are easy-on easy-off. They allow us to be fluid and free. 

The thigh hitch structure:

  • Fabric descends from ceiling
  • Wraps from outer thigh around inner thigh with tail proximal to the hip socket (meaning the tail is closer to your pelvis than the pole is).
  • Fabric drapes from inner thigh to floor. 
  • The hitch is most secure when the wrap is in your upper inner thigh, you are folded in half, and legs are squeezing together and in opposite directions. 

A thigh hitch can be thought of a same side knee hook that has been moved to your upper thigh. Holding tension downward on the tail in thigh hitch helps prevent slipping, but you should be able to fully stop movement without the aid of the hands (scroll down for tips). In our traditional thigh hitch, keeping your body in a horizontal position is important for making the hitch function. Going vertical and upside down pulls the loop apart, opening and destroying the hitch.

​Theoretically, if the tail were on the other side of the pole, it would still be a hitch, but we don’t traditionally call it a thigh hitch in that case in aerial silks. 

A thigh hitch is commonly entered by climbing above a same side knee hook or by passing the tail overhead in a hip key

Yes, you could stick a pencil in there and it would be the same thing! The pattern of the wrap is what matters. The object in it could be anything. 

A thigh hitch can lead you to swing seat, catcher’s wrap, thigh hitch rollup, and other shapes. It can be built on one fabric or with poles together.


Common mistakes:

  • Fabric is not quite in upper thigh, causing it to be less supportive
  • Legs are not squeezing together sufficiently, allowing the hitch to slip
  • Legs are not scissoring, allowing the hitch to slip (MOST important is that the bottom leg neds to be in extension, pushing backward)
  • Body is not folded, thereby allowing the hitch to slip

Additional tips and discussion available on Aerial Silks Online

Congrats you reached the end! That was some heavy lifting.