Jon Oliver – Daegu’s Expat Aerial Silks Performer

Sometimes, when we consider the health and fitness industry in South Korea, we tend to focus on popular trends such as bodybuilding, yoga, or pilates. However, at Get Fit Korea, we like to shift our focus to the occasionally obscure forms of how Koreans and non-Koreans alike maintain their fitness here.

Enter Jon Oliver, a 33 year-old expat from the UK who proudly admits to having run away to join the circus before settling in Daegu, South Korea. Once casually striding into a spot in the UK’s only traveling circus school, Jon admits that the training was rather intense. He recalls thinking: “Oh, I workout. I can probably do stuff like this.” However, come the first day of work, he realized performing in the circus would mean something very different. “Thus began 5 months of probably the hardest training I’d ever gone through.”


Fast forward to his arrival in Daegu, where Jon was feeling the urge to maintain his training and keep up his skills. Finding a gym that would allow him to hang his silks and practice was quite a hurdle. “When I first came to Daegu, there was nothing. There are few performing arts like this in Korea. It was difficult trying to find anyone who could even understand what I was trying to do,” he says. Oliver started campaigning to various neighborhood gyms, saying: “Can I rig this strange thing in your gym?” Most responses came in the form of: “No, it’s too dangerous and we don’t know what it is,” Jon explains.

Eventually, I came across this pole dancing school. It’s closed now, which is a shame, but the owner spoke really good English. She wanted to have an aerial course,” Jon laughs. It was his golden ticket. His way in. Finally, he could gather his silks and maintain his skills. After the pole dancing school closed down, he found his current Crossfit gym, explaining: “They had a high ceiling I could train real drops on. That’s when things really started to change.”

Jon Oliver Quote

To gather the silks necessary for his training and possible public performances, Oliver paid a visit to Daegu’s infamous Seomun Market, one of Korea’s largest public markets. Visiting a host of fabric shops with his friend, Oliver claims: “We were poking holes in all the fabric, trying to destroy them. The ones that survived were the ones that we used.” He eventually settled on a 4-way stretch lycra which has lasted for the past two years.

Jon Oliver Korean Fitness

Warm-up Stretching Routine

Before training with his silks in the gym, Oliver spends a solid 20 minutes on stretching. Being such a mobility-based exercise, stretching is key to warming up his joints. He recommends the following stretch routine:

  1. Deep lunge – 1 minute
  2. Knee lunge – 1 minute
  3. Runner’s lunge – 1 minute
  4. Front split – 3 minutes
  5. Stretch kicks – 10 reps
  6. Frog stretch – 1 minute
  7. Center split – 3 minutes
  8. Forearm stretching – 1 minute
  9. Tricep stretching – 1 minute
  10. Trunk twists – 50 per side
  11. Cobra stretch – 30 seconds
  12. Dog stretch – 30 seconds
  13. Cat stretch – 30 seconds
  14. Cow stretch – 30 seconds
  15. Downward dog stretch – 30 seconds
  16. Leg over – 1 minute
  17. Bridge – 1 minute

Training as an aerial silks performer involves mostly work on one’s core. Oliver himself admits that: “I’m not that strong. You don’t have to be that strong to do this. Most of it’s coming from core and flexibility.” These core exercises needn’t be performed in a gym of course. In fact, Oliver admits that he usually zips up to his workplace’s rooftop to hammer out some exercises during his free time.

For his silks training sessions, Oliver warms up with some simple stretching for about 10 minutes, trains on the silks, and then ends his workout with a 10 minute series of core exercises. Think you can train like an aerial silks performer? We’ve asked Oliver to demonstrate his workout for Get Fit Korea. Let’s see if you can keep up.

Jon Oliver Korean Fitness

Train Like an Aerial Silks Performer

Follow Jon Oliver’s intense acrobatic training to get your core performance ready:

50 reps of each exercise (or between 30-50 reps for beginners), 3 sets. Oliver spreads out the push-ups between exercises to ensure proper form.

  1. Push ups
  2. Leg overs
  3. Squats
  4. Points
  5. Sit ups
  6. V-sits
  7. Hollow Rocks (front and back)
  8. Partner pikes
  9. 1-minute plank



Jon Oliver has some advice for others living in Korea. “When you come to Korea, you have to find a hobby. You have to find a discipline. Otherwise, you’re going to go crazy.” He says it’s too easy and too cheap to spend all your time drinking and partying here. “You need to find something that’s going to keep you occupied,” he says, “something positive that’s going to help you make yourself into a better person. That’s pretty much all training is ever about. Training is about helping yourself to become better.”

We applaud Oliver’s efforts to integrate his physical fitness interests into his life here in South Korea. We’d like to hear from our readers too. What kind of physical fitness do you want to see more of in Korea? Have you ever experienced resistance to exercises from gyms here as well? Let us know in the comments below!


~~ Get Fit Korea