Three months ago I started going to an adult gymnastics class once a week. I figured that it would be a good way to increase my strength, coordination, and balance. One of the first things that I learned was standing back-tucks (flips), and round-off back-tucks. I have a good vertical jump, so these were not terriblly difficult for me. However, I quickly learned that my ankles were not ready for the impact forces generated by landing these flips. I landed a few of them poorly and experienced severe pain down in the joint on the top of both ankles. For the last 8 weeks or so, both ankles have still been quite tender if I push on the tendons running down the top of the ankle joint.
Today things felt healed enough to attempt some more high impact stuff, so I decided to try learning back flips off the wall. I have read a bunch of pointers on the web and watched several video clips, so I figured I had the general idea down.
First I practiced running 2 steps up the wall and pushing off hard trying to get the most height possible.
Next I pulled a big crash mat over near the wall and practiced pushing off and landing on my back on the mat. After doing about 20 of those, I was getting very comfortable and getting good height coming off the wall (horizontal 5-6' in the air) before landing on my back.
The gymnastics instructor came over to spot the first attempt. I ran up, pushed off, and flipped over! He ended up just barely putting a hand on my back as I rotated. He immediately stepped back and told me to just "go for it".
I was a little freaked out, and just decided to pretend I had done a ton of them and just go do another one. Turned out that it was much easier than I thought it would be. I ended up doing 18 of them before my ankles started hurting bad enough that I had to stop.
With standing back tucks on the floor, I find that I have to concentrate hard on both getting a high jump on the take-off, and also on tucking hard for rotation. With the wall flips, the rotation feels almost automatic. The extra height from the run up the wall combined with the fact that I am already leaning back horizontal make the rotation a no-brainer. I noticed that the best flips were the ones when I just focused on getting UP the wall.
Doing these has been "on my list" for a long time (since I was in high school). I still need a lot of practice, but it feels really good to have done a few of them.