GPC winds down. (a bit.)

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As you may or may not have seen from the GPC website, as of this month I am minimising the education strand of the business.

Aside from our outdoor classes which will continue under Mick’s direction, the youth classes and other community groups will be passed to trusted partners and team members under other brands to ensure the students can continue their practice.

We’ve been having an ongoing discussion over the past year or so about how to change up GPC’s structure as I pursue other things and have found that it just doesn’t run the same with an absent manager as I now live in Shetland.

A number of new communities and companies have emerged around Scotland which are making ground in ways that GPC haven’t and I think it’s important for me to recognise that these people have the way forward. The GPC team have all developed their own way of working over the years, created their own practice and for the most part are finding a huge amount of their work and projects on their own. That’s why I’m confident at this stage that I can reduce GPC’s output without damaging the opportunities for the team and the access to Parkour for the students.

This is a big and poignant step for myself and I’m sure for the team as well. It falls almost exactly 7 years after GPC was formed and we met up on our first dark rainy night for Scotland’s first outdoor Parkour Classes. Personally over the past 7 years I’ve poured everything I can into GPC and had an absolutely incredible and chaotic time starting classes, meeting and developing a team of amazing coaches and growing a family around the brand. We’ve seen a few people come and go and everyone ever involved in GPC as a coach, student, advisor or anything else has made a lasting impact on the direction of the company and in my memory.

Through teaching Parkour I’ve have discovered a worldwide family, travelling to Europe, the US, the Caribbean and to every corner of Scotland. It’s been an absolute privilege to be able to do this as a career. What I’ve also discovered is a knack for collaboration with other organisations having worked with theatre companies, dance, architects, geologists, film makers and a whole host of other experts. I’ll be continuing to explore this and be staying open to teaching internationally and also drawing the team back in for bespoke creative and performance projects when they arise.

My other huge and unexpected passion which emerged through GPC is changing the lives of young people for the better. That’s how I’ve end up in Shetland, shaping a new job as Youth Worker within the high school. Without the work of GPC and the connections I’ve made, I wouldn’t have all of the good practice I now possess. I believe the best use of that is for me to try and transform and improve young people’s lives, setting them on a path and hopefully instilling some of our Parkour ‘philosophies’ along the way.

I’m extremely proud to have founded Glasgow Parkour Coaching and also Roots of Movement – I’m excited to see how their members, collaborators and followers can continue moving forward down their own paths, and hopefully I’ve been some small part of making that happen.

In the meantime I’m up here in the wilderness of a beautiful open place where I can channel my energy in a new direction, explore my own practice and still tap into the Parkour community with my ideas and projects when I can.

Keep training, Keep supporting your Parkour communities, and keep an eye out for me, I’ll never really go away……..

Chris

Respect the 10%

Working as a Parkour Practitioner is a curious thing.
tumblr_mb6cikRpP91rdshwro1_500‘Work – Life Balance’ has a completely different context since what I do for work has already engulfed my life and shaped me as a person. 90% of the time, it’s a beautiful thing. Travelling the world, sharing, making crazy connections with brands and companies and most importantly communicating something which I truly believe in, every day. Parkour brings positive change to every person it touches and I am extremely grateful to be part of the process and a ‘giver’ of that gift, as well as a humble student of the discipline and it’s founders.

There is another 10% however which involves a constantly changing career path which has no security, earning very little money and sometimes being in the path of keyboard warriors and people who think they have some ‘entitlement’ to make comment on how I live my life, even though they haven’t a clue what it involves.
There seems to be this ‘illusion’ that people within the Parkour Industry are swanning around like rockstars and making millions. I don’t think this has been intentionally created by most practitioners and I’m not disputing that a very small fraction of practitioners have found themselves with ‘good’ money in their pocket. I think that most traceurs/freerunners in the industry value a wealth of experiences over a wealthy bank account. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have bills to pay, but I don’t think that full pockets is a large factor in our motivation to share Parkour. (There’s always going to be someone out there looking to exploit the industry for $ but that’s for another conversation.)

We have a duty as coaches, performers, professionals and role models to have a strong, confident ‘presence’ within our industry which often overlooks the sheer amount of hours, unpaid trips, training, emails, tax returns, meetings and conversations that go into this job.
A large number of ‘high profile’ practitioners are working in coffee shops, bars, banks and supermarkets on the side of their Parkour practice to make it all work. I think that’s brilliant. They do what needs to be done, they present themselves and their organisations in a professional manner and they get on with it. Over the years I know I’ve done my fair share of part-time jobs to support everything, sometimes even when the rest of my team aren’t working other jobs.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the 10% can be really heavy sometimes and hard to shake off. What I’ve realised though is that this ‘work’ takes all the values of an experienced Parkour practitioner and throws them back in a very different context. Coping with that 10% for the bigger picture takes conviction, determination, risk management, patience and a calm mind and there’s a real connection between direct Parkour training and applying those skills to the 10%.
‘Being Strong to be Useful’ really rings true here if you look at the ‘Strength’ part as a determination to see off the 10% and the Useful as the 90% positive that can be shared and enjoyed.

One of the other important values within Parkour which applies to this 10% is to be non-judgemental and respectful. The reality of it all is, you just don’t know what that 10% is like for each individual practitioner, coach, performer, whatever. We don’t even really know much about the 9 guys who started Parkour, and we probably never will. Parkour professionals are not obliged to share these private aspects of their life to their students and followers and it’s important to remember that while you can be inspired, outraged or motivated by watching someone’s youtube videos, coaching or performances you don’t have the right to assume how hard they work or how they conduct their lives.

Remaining humble, respectful and open is at the heart of what it means to be a Parkour practitioner, so the next time you see someone with a Redbull can, a seemingly ‘rich’ life-style or a style of training you don’t like – ask questions – don’t make assumptions and general statements – and remember that at the heart of it, they are all out to make good things happen.

For me, and I suspect for most within this industry, a simple handshake or thank you from a student far outweighs that 10% and I think that’s the main reason most of us do it.
I absolutely recognise the hard work of anyone who’s made their mark on the Parkour world in its small lifetime and I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to all of them and recognise the stress and hard work of the 10% that creates the 90 % Passion, love and happiness that Parkour brings.
My gratitude to those people and to be part of this community, is endless.

Chris

(Photo Courtesy of Zeno Watson  –  ZenoWatson.com

GPC’s Branching out

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So as you may or may not have noticed, GPC has been through some structural changes this past month.
I thought I’d take some time to explain what this is about for anyone who is interested.

The GPC family have been on a long journey over the last 7 years and have achieved so much and most importantly touched the lives of thousands of people all over Scotland, UK, Europe, US and even the Caribbean.
We quietly work away knowing that the real reward comes from watching the transformation of the people we work with, the travel opportunities that we create, and the effort, laughter and love we share in our training.
I am very proud of the brand and the ethic that the team has built up through GPC and I think that will continue for a long time.
As with Parkour, it’s important that things are always moving forward and this is one of the main reasons for the creation of two branches within Glasgow Parkour Coaching:

Glasgow Parkour Coaching Academy – Our Teaching branch
GPC Academy deals with all regular classes, community workshops and tasters across a number of locations.
At our current regular classes we see around 150-200 students per week, not including any school terms or community programmes. Mick McKeen will be the Coaching Manager for this branch and we’ve brought a few new coaches into the team to experiment with some new styles and cast the net a little wider in terms of our teaching styles, while still holding firmly to our core Parkour values.

Glasgow Parkour Creative – Our Artistic branch
My first ever job as a Parkour professional was with a major theatre company, and that trend has continued and taken myself and the team half way across the world working on community arts projects and performances. Out of these collaborations GPC has built a unique angle on how Parkour can be used for engagement, performance, devising, choreography, design, visual art and a lot more.
We’ve watched some of the team fashion their own performance work, styles and groups and we’ve developed a strong network of artists who want to work with us to explore Parkour’s potential as an artistic discipline.
I plan to bring my focus purely on to this side of GPC and will be taking the role of Creative Manager, as well as still overseeing Glasgow Parkour Coaching as a whole.

I’m really excited to see members of the team step up and take the lead on certain aspects of GPC and I’m excited that I’ll have the time and space to really see what Glasgow Parkour Creative can do, as well as just take a bit more time for my Parkour which any coach will tell you sometimes takes second priority when you are teaching full team and leading a team.

I appreciate that so much of our work and our progress has relied on the support,dedication and sheer strength of the students – thank you from all of the GPC family for your support on our journey so far.
I can assure that the GPC team are very much alive and well(!) and ready to embrace the change.
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Record and Reflect

At the beginning of April Last year I bought a little notebook. My original intention was to keep a thorough training diary, write goals, set targets and essentially document my own personal training in Parkour. If I’m honest, that lasted about a month………
But I always kept that notebook with me. I used it for training notes, reflection, class plans, meetings, recipes and lots of various things that needed to be remembered or looked back on. What I’ve ended up a year on is this really insightful record of various goings on in my training and my career. I’ve kind of accidentally created this series of snapshots that documents my year fairly accurately even though I wasn’t too strict with my note taking.
A bit like my year, the frequency of the content varies massively – there’s days and days of training plans, then maybe a gap of a few weeks, or just a blank page or an email address. I think this is a true reflection of what those times were like.
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I’ve got class plans from all the major events I taught in the last year which stirs excellent memories. This is a great thing to have, it inspires smiles. It reminds you to keep in touch with the people you connected with, and it also feeds back into classes and training.
I was training for my ADAPT assessment in April last year, and I’ve got notes/scores of the 3 times I ran through the physical. This is a very very thorough physical record of where I was a year ago, and there’s no better way to see progression or regression than looking back at a record like this.
I’ve got lots of notes from meetings, projects that fell by the wayside and plans that never happened. This serves as a way for me to look at where GPC is going, where it falls down and where it works.
There’s choreography plans, notes from assessments and pages with text going in every direction, and what’s interesting about it is that one page brings out a wealth of detailed memory that I don’t think I’d be able to access otherwise.
There’s also some random pages, like one that just says TOILET. I’m not really sure why, but I had fun trying to figure it out!
I’m really glad that notebook stayed with me, as anytime I’ve hit a plateau, or had a class to plan and been blank, some of the memories in that book have helped me to keep going. I’m also surprised at the progress ive made in some areas of my training that I thought were a bit stagnant – when I look at my notes from April about the jumps I wanted to break, I realise they are effortless now. It’s very easy to focus on future challenges, and forget about the future challenges you had in the past. Being able to reflect on that and give myself a pat on the back has helped me to face my next targets.
I can also expose what I haven’t been focused on – things I’ve written down and never done – and use that to inform my training.
So give it a try. Just put a notebook in your bag. Don’t worry about how much you use it. Just keep it there, occasionally make an effort to write in it, and see what it gives you in a year.

Run Free – Jamaica

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After the success of Parkour and Theatre project JUMP in 2012, the culmination of 5 years of fusing Parkour and Theatre through various projects, I knew that what we had created was the beginning of a very powerful idea. I have worked with Simon Sharkey, Associate Director at National Theatre of Scotland for a number of years to refine the process of fusing Parkour with Theatre. Taking the common ideas of togetherness, open-ness and playfulness which are inherent in Parkour and in physical theatre we have engaged with thousands of young people and adults to create opportunities, open doors, make performances and ultimately transform lives through the power of movement, expression and art.

It’s these ideas that have brought me all the way to Jamaica, where I am currently spending a week as a facilitator for NTS and working with Manifesto J:A – a local theatre company. We are at the beginning of ‘Run Free’ – a project based in Kingston which follows the same lines as JUMP. I’ve met a whole host of amazing individuals from the local Parkour community, the Jamaican Constabulary Force, the Jamaican Defence Force and young people from some of the downtown communities and areas of Kingston. We are extremely lucky to have support from the British Council here in Jamaica who have been fundamental in getting this project moving.

Nishidas GymnasticsDays 1 and 2 of the project were about introducing a group of young adults to the ideas of Parkour, Physical Theatre and the JUMP project with the intention of these participants becoming facilitators in Run Free – either through direct delivery of workshops with young people teaching Parkour or whatever their skill might be, or by helping to support the relationships between the communities and the project leaders. The group consisted of local Parkour groups RUNNURS UTD and Joeka and a strong presence from the Jamaican Constabulary Force who are more than aware of the issues facing young people in Kingston.
We had a very physically tough Parkour workshop on the first morning which every single person gave 100% to regardless of background, physique and age! The group were quick to arrive at the bigger concepts of Parkour and quite quickly became advocates of the Parkour ethos of ‘Start together, Finish together’ – a united and supportive unit, overcoming all the challenges of the day with conviction and determination. We ended the day with a long discussion exploring the philosophy of Parkour, the many facets to the practice and what the benefits might be for the young people involved in ‘Run Free.’ I was impressed, but not surprised that all of the participants arrived at the notion that Parkour is an idea, a way to learn life skills and a way to overcome challenges.
Days 3,4 and 5 were spent at Breezy Castle in downtown Kingston working outdoors with young people from the local community. This was the main part of the project – to make connections with the local community and introduce them to the longer term goals of the project. We delivered a mix of Parkour workshops, Physical Theatre and group exercises and engaged in a lot of dialogue with the young people living in the community.
Initially the participants were a little unsure of what to expect, but within about 20 minutes of starting we had a large number of youths gathered around watching the workshops and trying to decide if they wanted to take part. They all did eventually!

Breezy Castle By the end of the first day we had around 50 participants over a wide age range from the local community. This first day was a real challenge, with the attention and behaviour of the group varying massively. When presented with the right amount of challenge, humour and authority the group focused and got down to some hard training. The Parkour practitioners from the training earlier in the week were on hand to assist, learn and support throughout.
Arriving at Breezy Castle on the second day, the young people emerged quickly and gathered in a circle with focus and attention, ready to start the second day. This in itself was a great achievement – to have the whole group ready and open to the workshops. We started again with some physical and Parkour training to get the group working together and then rested to try and start a dialogue with the group about their lives. This can be tricky to breach, particularly with young men who struggle to open up and express themselves around their peers. Simon led the discussion with some provocative questions about what the youths strive for, what makes them angry and what makes them motivated. Gaining the trust of the young people so that they could talk freely with us was no mean feat and I was impressed by their willingness to discuss these issues.

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They feel there are a lack of opportunities and support from the government and are striving for education and work. They feel like the wealth in Kingston in being spent in the wrong places. There is a real sense of the value of support from the older generations, and a responsibility to create something for the younger generations.
A lot of their community values echo the values in Parkour and this is one of the reasons I believe it is such an engaging discipline. Parkour creates a physical way to express and experience these feelings.
So then comes the question – how do this become a piece of theatre? What’s the connection?
One of the end goals of Run Free, as it was with JUMP, is to give young people a voice and a way to express themselves that they can be proud of. A show that comes from their stories, their experiences and their lives. We want to give these young people the confidence and the opportunity to be heard. The act of expressing their frustration and feelings in a public forum can raise self esteem and allow them to speak to people who will listen. Through Parkour and physical theatre they have a way to speak up.
And this isn’t simply about impressing an audience with a show, but about taking a community through an experience which teaches them discipline, commitment, patience and a variety of life skills. We want to equip these young people to take the leap into adulthood and become strong role models and contributors.
Parkour is all about making a journey. What most ‘outsiders’ or those new to Parkour don’t realise that the physical part of the journey is almost just a bi-product or a reflection of the bigger journey – constantly overcoming challenges, problem solving, critical thinking, exposure to risk, failure, success, pain, progress and accomplishment.
These journeys are inherent in the lives of every single person and I think for young people, they are at the stage where they are beginning to face these journeys and maybe haven’t yet figured out the tools and attributes needed to go on these journeys and come out of each one with a life lesson. Run Free is a way to channel their energy into these journeys, improve them as individuals and strengthen their community.

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Change

So, first off – open a new window in your browser, get onto youtube, and find an old Parkour video that you are in, which you feel is from a good time. It might be a sampler, a jam video, an event, whatever.
How was it? Things are different now, right? It’s not like it used to be then. I miss that.
I hear these sorts of remarks a lot from traceurs of all kinds, including a lot who are now training less, or not at all.

I want to talk about this idea of striving to keep going, keep training.???????????????

Our community as a whole, and your individual smaller communities are always changing. People come and go, jams grow and disappear, your training goes up and down. You change. And at the end of all that, there’s a much smaller number of people still out doing Parkour years later compared to the number of people that have been a part of it, or connected with it along the way.
This change really seperates people. It’s not going to be like it used to be. You can’t ‘go back to training’ as you once did. That one Jam that you remember is a small part of your whole experience that you remember fondly. It’s one highlight in a long journey, which isn’t just highlights. What’s the constant in these memories?

It’s Parkour.

Parkour is still there, its still something that you can go and do. What you have to ask yourself is – is it the true idea of training Parkour, really living it, that attracts you? Or is it the memories of your initial achievements, trips with friends, conversations on a rooftop after a late night training session? These things are really important – they inform your experience of Parkour and they form part of the discipline for each person. But they change.

The most accomplished traceurs in my eyes are the ones who always find time for training. Regardless of their circumstances, commitments or priorities – there will always be Parkour in their lives. That is extremely hard to achieve I think and is one of Parkour’s greatest and most constant challenges. It’s an honest and brutal discipline, and not everyone can rise to the challenge of doing Parkour for a lifetime.
At the real essence of it, is the challenge. It’s always there, if you want it.
Maybe the challenge is to just go out and train for the first time in a while. Maybe it’s to stop training the same stuff and be honest about where your comfort zone lies and ask yourself if you stay in it.
Whatever the challenge don’t go looking to the past – look forward. Move forward. Find what Parkour truly is for you, and just you, in each moment and then in the next – because that’s the one relationship you know can always be there:
You, and Parkour.

Crossing Boundaries

DISCLAIMER – I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but very quickly – Parkour/Freerunning/Art Du Duplacement etc for me are not distinguished by certain movements. This isn’t an article about flips, because it’s not 2004.

I’m just coming down from a mad summer of trips, experiences and Roots of Movement 4 and I’ve found myself in a new place in terms of my view of the Parkour world as a whole. I guess I have arrived at a place I might not have seen myself at before, and I’d like to present how I feel as I think it’s relevant for everyone, particularly those with a ‘voice’ in the wider PK community. tattoo

I’m going to be very honest here – when the idea was first put forward of bringing Ryan Doyle and Airborn Academy to ROM this year I totally scoffed at the idea. (bear with me Airborn guys, if you are reading this….) Not because of the movements that they are teaching – we have had tricking and acro at ROM for a number of years, but because Ryan in particular is associated with a particular ‘camp’ or ‘community’ which at times appals me. Personally, I think it’s terrible that freerunners with such important voices and who are potential role models could align themselves with brands that encourage showmanship, poor diet and online gambling to name but a few. I’m not shy about these opinions, but there’s a bigger picture that I didn’t see before, which I’ll get to later.

With ROM being an open committee- what the community wants, the community gets – so I apprehensively agreed for the ROM4 organisers to contact Ryan and Airborn about attending the event. This was a big step for ROM, and proved that we are more aligned with meeting the demands of our communities than letting our personal opinions wade in. This was the beginning of my epiphany.

So the more that Airborn etc. got mentioned, the more feathers it ruffled. This actually encouraged me to bring the guys. I had the realisation that stepping back from this type of group does nothing to solve it. I was actually quite stunned by how offended some people were at the thought of bringing more acrobatics, tricking and commercial groups to ROM. In the same way that I had with certain groups, these people had formed an opinion about what ROM was, and fit it into a certain ‘camp.’ It felt like they had separated themselves from lots of groups, and firmly closed the doors on any chance of conversation.

I came to the realisation that ROM had an opportunity to make positive changes to the way that the more ‘commercial’ groups operate – expose them to how we do things, and allow them to take things away from watching us coach in an environment that promotes the spirit of Parkour, and not the spectacle. We don’t all need to share the same opinions, but we should be sharing the same spaces.

The Airborn guys did a brilliant job, were top guys, and were open to talking about their art. They could see the distinction in what they do and what we do, and I hope were encouraged to ‘step across’ that line, which I think has actually been created by the ‘core’ Parkour community, not by the Red Bull Athletes(for example). I’m actually quite embarrassed about how I originally felt about these guys coming to ROM. It’s shameful, and it’s a symptom of the old-school Parkour community to just completely exclude these groups, and also breed this attitude in their students. I have done it.

Now I am very much of the belief that the Spirit of Parkour is lost in a lot of the modern day incarnations of it. I have always felt like that and been fairly outspoken about it in the past. I’m not saying that doesn’t matter now, and I still don’t understand someone doing a run which executes tricks mostly finishing in a fall or poor landing can be given any credit or merit.

What has changed, is that I am NOT of the belief that these incarnations should be scoffed at, ignored and mocked. Ignoring events like the Art of Motion, and not engaging with it’s participants does not make it go away. It’s narrow minded on the part of Parkour groups who try to promote openness, helpfulness, equality and community to ignore these groups. What it actually creates is an insular community where you have to think a certain way about Parkour if you want to be accepted. There’s not a lot of room for dialogue, and I’m not up for that.

Our job as voices in the community should be to open dialogues, try to make these groups who are distorting the core values of Parkour think and talk about how we can move forward together. Yes, some people won’t care, and their own selfish motivations will win out. But I think that some of the real advocates of Parkour’s original values are in danger of doing the same thing.

Parkour is bigger than one person. It’s bigger than one group’s beliefs. It’s not everything it was in the beginning. If we want to hold onto these core values, we ALL need to have open minds, and try to accommodate conversations, positive changes and break down barriers.

We don’t need to agree with what everyone does, but we also don’t need to actively separate ourselves from other groups, dismissing all chance of change and becoming more and more divided and insular.

Chris

Flying Solo

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A good friend and incidentally a very skilled traceur said something to me the other day that made me chuckle. It also made me think…..

“It’s easy to not go training because someone else is resting”

Funny, and if most of us are honest with ourselves, very true. As with all the funniest things, it’s humorous because we have all done it.

It got me to thinking about training alone. What do we get out of training alone that we don’t get in groups? How many of us actually do it?

I moved to a new community in a new place miles away from all my training spots and buddies about 6 months ago. The guys that I train with here mostly work on different schedules from me, so I had the choice of training alone, or not training. Once I got over that initial hump of getting myself up and out every day, I really started discovering a lot of things about myself, and my training.

Here’s a couple things I’ve learned:

Social Acceptance: I have no doubt that I get more stares and suspicious looks when I am standing on a high wall on my own. There’s something about that image that seems to fill the public with apprehension, frustration or maybe just fun curiosity. It’s very liberating to feel completely on your own not caring about the opinions of the people around you who aren’t sure what you are doing. It takes a bit of practice to really get there – try it.

Fear: Things are definitely scarier training alone. I know that in my own training I like bouncing off other people, it can be a good way to push my level, and sometimes the people you train with know your capabilities better than you do. When training solo, you really need to get to know your limits and truly learn to overcome your fear. There is no-one to push you, no reason to do the jump other than to do it.

Honesty: When I train alone I have no-one to give me a pat on the back, no-one to share my achievements, no-one to suffer beside me during some monstrous conditioning. We have all been in that place where you only finish something difficult because you have someone to push you, or because you feel the need to ‘keep up’ with your peers. Can you explore this and take yourself to the same level on your own? Do you need to tweet about it during training or do it because you need to tell your peers afterwards?

I watched a great TED lecture recently about how people that share/talk about their goals are less likely to actually reach them. It’s something to do with the satisfaction and feeling that comes with sharing your goals being a similar feeling to actually reaching them – I think to truly leave this behind it’s good to go out and train on your own, with your own goals, and only YOU to answer to. Again, it takes a bit of work and discipline to really do it but we can all get there.

Since I’ve really started solo training I feel like I’ve progressed a massive amount in terms of my willingness to push myself physically and to be able to stay calm and focused when faced with a scary technique. Parkour gives you the opportunity to truly know yourself, and I guess you can’t get a clear picture of that until it is just you.

So stick on your trainers, get out training on your own and reach your goals. Oh and don’t tell anyone.

Chris

What Can I Do Today?

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‘Can you lift this rock?’
‘Can you move this tree?’
‘Can you walk on all fours for miles?’
‘Can we run to Paris and back?’
‘Can you do the KongPre at Southbank?’
‘Can you film this for me?’
‘Did you get my t-shirt in the shot?’
‘Are you sponsored?’

 
Parkour/Freerunning/FootSkating/whatever. It’s all about the movement right?
I welcome the evolution of our discipline. I think so many people are pushing it in so many directions and it’s amazing to watch. The Russians with their crazy rolls and flips, the Storror boys who just do EVERYTHING huge, Livewire with his Parkour Handbalancing. I love it all. But my question is this.

Who is pushing the boundaries of the principals Parkour was started on?

Parkour in its infancy was about 9 guys challenging each other physically. It was about questioning the nature of strength and overcoming their perception of human endurance. It was about setting a target and reaching it no matter what. There’s been a few. Running from John ‘o’ Groats to Paris. 1000 muscle-ups. Quadrupedie on a busy street for ten hours. A marathon on stilts.
In my opinion the people who do these sort of challenges keep another aspect of the discipline evolving which is so important. They may get remarks like ‘whats the point’ or ‘that won’t give you a bigger jump’. Not all strength exercises need to be goal led. I totally understand that not everyone wants to do loads of conditioning, and I’m not going to tell people how to train.

Sometimes we should just do something to see if we can. That is after all, where our discipline started and I believe as traceurs we have a responsibility to keep that alive.

Chris

Height, Fear and Respect

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I’ve been training for about 6-7 years now and I’d say I’m becoming pretty comfortable at height. I’ve heard many people make the comment that they ‘don’t really see it anymore’ and I’ve said similar things myself. A huge part of Parkour once your experience grows is looking at whether you can execute your well practiced techniques in a place which has more of a fear factor, for example a comfortable sized jump, but up high. When I started practicing on things like this I was extremely aware of the height and I found it really hindered my ability to push myself into a technique and also hindered the quality of the technique itself. With time and practice the height becomes much less of a factor, often to the point where it’s not a factor at all. I think it’s around this point that a traceur can go from being confident to almost reckless and it’s a transition, if I’m honest, that I had made myself recently. I want to share with you what happened to me when I didn’t see the height anymore.

It’s an average Wednesday evening and myself and Scott are driving back from a class. I’d spotted a potential car park/ rooftop training spot on the train one day and we were close by, so I suggest we check it out. Scott drives to the top of the car park and we jump out and peer over the edge onto the back of a shopping centre which has a big flat roof with some nice level changes. The space and height from the car park varies but it is very very close, with only a 6ft lane between the two buildings. The shopping centre roof is about 12-15ft high. The shops are closed and we figure we won’t bother anyone by checking it out.

We discuss some potential movement opportunities on the roof top, and Scott pops up on the car park wall and jumps across comfortably. I look from the stairwell I am standing in where the roof is literally 2ft away. I peer at the roof edge which is solid, give the rail a shake for stability and vault over to the roof. On my landing my foot just hits thin air. I miss the edge of the roof and fall into the lane, landing on my feet in stairwell and falling onto my back. It happens in a complete blur, like the opposite of when you finally break a big jump and everything slows down. I think I stuck my arms out and caught the edge of the roof for a brief moment which slowed my fall significantly, but I’m not really sure.

I sit up immediately and start checking my body for injury as I don’t feel any pain, my heart is pounding and I’m convinced something in my legs must be broken as I fell about 13/14ft. Short of a few deep gashes on my leg from the step, and some grazes on my arms from the roof/wall edge everything seems to be intact and I pick myself up. By this point Scott has leaned over to check I’m alive (!) and has climbed down to help me up. We return to the car with a bit of a nervous laugh and I’m in a bit of a daze.
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In the days after this accident I felt extremely disappointed in myself for making such a stupid mistake and thought a lot about why this had happened, along with thinking how lucky I was to escape with a few scratches from a pretty big fall. I was grateful that something instinctive in my body kicked in and saved my fall and I know that’s from years of training and conditioning to protect myself from such falls.

But something else in my training had been missed.

I will openly admit it was completely my own disregard for where I was that caused that accident. I wasn’t focused in the way that I should have been, and just didn’t ‘see’ the height in the way that I should have. I won’t be making that mistake again. That’s not to say I’m going to suddenly stop testing my fear, just that I will let myself be a little more aware of it.

Fear is there for a reason and while we strive as traceurs to tame and suppress those feelings of fear, I think it’s important that we never lose respect for fear or forget that the body has inbuilt reactions such as fear for a reason, even if they aren’t as strong as they were when we started practicing.

As experienced Parkour practitioners we put ourselves in situations that have an inherent danger. Yes, we have trained extensively to eliminate a huge amount of the risk, but that risk still exists and should never be taken lightly. If you do train at height, it’s important to remember it’s not the big jump that you spend 20 minutes prepping for and focusing on that will make you fall. It’s the moment that you are not focused on and you make a silly mistake that would be hilarious at ground level, but not so much when you pop over a rail with a 12ft drop underneath.

Chris