The lache is an absolutely essential ninja technique. It is a necessary part of many, perhaps even the majority of upper body obstacles.
What is a Lache?
A lache (pronounced luh-shay) is a skill used in ninja and parkour in which the athlete swings by their hands, then releases, launching their body forward.
A lache can be performed on any surface that can be held, i.e. rings, trapeze, cliffhanger. For beginners, it’s best to learn on a stationary bar.
When most people talk about learning laches, they picture themselves swinging from one bar to another. To start, we’ll just practice lacheing onto a mat with good technique.
Check out this video of 15 year old Jay Lache (named for his skillful laches) send a 13 foot lache. Jay was one of the kid ninjas on American Ninja Warrior Junior last year.
Start by matting the area where you will be training. Use landing mats placed in the direction you are swinging, both forward and backward. It is all too possible to slip off the bar in either direction while you learn how to lache.
Have climbing chalk nearby. Chalk is used to absorb sweat on your hands, which will help to prevent you slipping off the bar.
While learning how to lache, it’s best to use a bar just high enough that when you hang from the bar, your pointed toes are at least a couple inches off the ground. Too low, and you’ll have to focus on keeping your legs from hitting the mat. Too high, and you’ll have to start from a dead hang.
Practice laches in progressions, starting small and working your way up.
Step by Step Learn how to Lache
- Jump to the bar. Ideally, you jump to the bar in such a way that you’ve already got a bit of a swing. Swings built from a dead hang to a small swing is much more difficult than building from a small swing to a big swing.
- Build a swing. This is done by driving your knees up into your chest when your body is fully extended and your body is perpendicular to the ground. As you approach the vertex of your swing, kick both legs straight out simultaneously, popping your hips up forcefully so that your body forms a straight line. Keep your body as long as possible as you fall back, then arch your back through the back swing. Elongate your body again as you fall forward. Once you return to the center, drive your knees upward again, repeating the entire process until you are ready to release. For a more in depth explanation on how to build a swing, read this article on Top 4 Ninja Fundamentals.
- Throw the bar. If you let go of the bar at the apex of your swing without throwing, you’ll land on your back or worse. To land safely with your chest in front of your feet, force your chest forward using the muscles in your shoulders just before releasing the bar.
- Catch the next bar. Once you’re confident in your swing and your ability to throw, you can try to catch. Aim to hit the bar with your chest. That way, when you catch, you can lower yourself slowly, dispersing the force through your elbows and shoulders. If you catch with arms fully extended, all the force is on your fingers. Catching like this is riskier, and can cause damage to your muscles and tendons over time.
12 Foot Lache Video
Watch this video of Blake Feero building his swing then throwing for a massive 12 foot lache. Like Jay, Blake was a competitor on American Ninja Warrior Junior last season.
- Driving the knees too early – This is one of the most common issues when learning to build a swing. Many beginners drive their knees while their body is all the way back, as soon as they start swinging forward. In actuality, you want to keep your body long until you return to a dead hang position. Driving too early will slow your swing.
- Building a bigger swing than you can throw – Many ninjas, including myself, can swing much bigger than they can throw. Often times, these athletes build a massive swing, but they know instinctively that if they try to release the will land on their back, so they give up. Work your way up, making each swing a little bigger than the last. Thoroughly warm up your shoulders before making large laches.
- Releasing too early – Sometimes when a ninja has a bigger swing than they can throw, they get into the habit of releasing too early. By releasing when you are perpendicular to the ground, you keep your feet beneath you at all times. On the other hand, you shoot straight forward. Without arching through the air, you won’t get very far and you’ll get almost no height.
- Taking too many swings – It only takes 1 or 2 swings to get your max height on a stationary bar. Anything more than that, and you’re just wearing down your grip.
How to Lache from Surfaces other than a Stationary Bar
A lache can be done off any surface that you can hang from. The general technique is the same. The main difference lies in whether or not what your hanging from swings, and whether or not it can swing in multiple directions.
For example, a trapeze bar swings back and forth, but because it’s suspended from 2 points, you would have to actively try to make it go in any direction other than back and forth. The technique on a trapeze is the same as described above, except each swing takes much longer. That means much more time to make a mistake. The most common mistake on a trapeze is driving your knees too early.
If you swing on something suspended from only one point, like a single ring or a rope, then you have to avoid circling out of control. This requires learning to swivel your hips and open or close you legs at the right times.
The wingnuts are a good example of an otherwise unique lache. Both the swing and the throw require new strategies, but the general body mechanics are always the same.
Other Lache Variations and Tricks
Once you’ve got laches down there are a number of other fun things you can try.
180 – Release on your back swing, swiveling your hips upon release. Rotate your body 180 degrees in the air, catching the bar.
Linking Laches – Connecting laches into one fluid movement is a difficult move to master but it comes in handy for ninjas that run courses for time. The general idea is to get your hips high enough and your legs behind you with each catch, so that you can swing directly through to the next bar without having to rebuild your swing.
Cast – This is a move where you start in a muscle up position on a bar that you plan to lache from. Bounce your hips off the bar, then when you’re ready to go, launch your body back and swing through. A proper cast allows you a massive swing.
Flyaway – A higher level gymnastics skill in which you tuck your legs to your chest while in the air immediately after lacheing. You rotate until you can see the ground, then open up and land on your feet. Just try not to over-rotate like I did.
The lache is a crucial skill for any competitive ninja to have. Any questions or comments regarding how to lache? What other skills would you like to read about? Let me know in the comment section below!