Choices

Written by Regina Spangler
Published on Sunday, 20 September 2009

Every second of every day we make choices. Your moods, your behavior, your words, your motions, your emotions, every move your body makes, every thought you have, etc…. all CHOICES

Getting out of bed or sleeping until noon…

Eating a healthy breakfast or grabbing a fat-filled donut…

Going to work/school or playing hooky…

Studying and trying your best or slacking off playing video games…

Following the rules or breaking them…

Swearing or using a vocabulary… Smiling or frowning…

Being open-minded or closed-minded… Being respectful or disrespectful…

Knowledge or ignorance…

Being selfish or practicing altruism…

Taking a risk or knowing your limits…

Making fun of the kid that everyone else is making fun of or be kind to him…

Homophobia or acceptance…

Being positive or being a grumpy Gus…

Working out or watching TV…

Dependent or independent…

Taking initiative or sitting back and watching others get the job done…

Honest or dishonest…

Working on the OAC or chatting on AIM…

Working towards your goals or complaining because you haven’t reached them…

CHOICES. CHOICES. CHOICES. Like I tell the children/teens that I work with, “You choose you.” You choose your behaviors. You do that for yourself. No one can tell you what to do or who to be. So I ask you: What kind of person are you? What kind of person are you CHOOSING to be?

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Quality and Efficiency

Written by Daniel Hines
Published on Saturday, 19 September 2009

“So what I’m saying, actually, you see, it’s a combination of both. I mean here is natural instinct and here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony. If you have one to the extreme, you’ll be very unscientific. If you have another to the extreme, you become, all of a sudden, a mechanical man, no longer a human being. So it is a successful combination of both, so therefore, it’s not pure naturalness or unnaturalness. The ideal is unnatural naturalness, or natural unnaturalness.” – Bruce Lee

How can I move quickly and efficiently? This is the question that makes up a traceurs training. Humans are especially designed for some movements, such as running. Running is the fastest and most efficient means of movement, so one might say that moving quickly and efficiently is limited to running, but we are capable of so much more. No single movement pattern ensured our survival as a species. Rather, it is our ability to adapt to our environment that allowed us to succeed. Thus, we have the ability to do an almost infinite variety of movements, including walking, climbing, swimming, jumping, even dancing. Even though we weren’t designed to do any of those movements, we can still do them with grace and efficiency (quality of movement). Even more amazing is our ability to improvise movements to meet a situation, allowing full adaptation to any situation. This brings us to the quote from the beginning. As a traceur, you could have “pure naturalness”, and run like hell away from something, doing whatever your instincts told you. Or you could have pure “unnaturalness,” doing only techniques you’ve practiced a thousand times, in the exact way you’ve practiced them. As usual in life, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The ultimate goal is integrate your instincts and your intellect, so when you want to do a movement, even if you’ve never done it before, nothing holds you back.

The realization of the integration of instincts and intellect (since when did I become so fluent in gibberish?) results in quality of movement and efficiency. Quality of movement is very different from efficiency, but I believe the two are intrinsically linked. Quality of movement is an unquantifiable effect of bringing greater knowledge to one’s movement. The result is beautiful, though quality of movement is more than looking pretty. Efficiency, on the other hand, is very quantifiable. I’ll even be so bold as to say that efficiency can be expressed in an equation: Speed/energy used. Simply put, A movement is more efficient if it increases your speed while maintaining your energy usage, or decreases your energy usage while maintaining your speed. Applying the principles of movement will, however, make your movements faster and use less energy, and thus, improving your quality of movement will make you more efficient, and vice versa.

Efficiency and quality of movement branch into every part of parkour. David Belle and I could do the same vault, over the same obstacle, and I guarantee his will faster use less energy, and be far more beautiful. Why is that? From a physiological perspective, I think it comes down to two specific adaptations: changes in the muscles and joints, but more importantly, localization. Perhaps you remember from my previous post, but localization (which is basically a synonym for coordination) is when the right neurons fire at the right time. Localization means that there’s no excess muscle tension, he only uses enough power to just barely make it over the obstacle, and the timing is perfect. Because less neurons are firing and less muscles are contracting, less energy is used, and, naturally, without all the excess tension, Belle can move faster. Localization is a huge factor in quality of movement, but it is not the only one (some speculate there are an infinite number of factors). Quality of movement is much more subtle, but I think in the end is a much more worthy goal than pure speed or endurance.

How does one improve their quality of movement/efficiency? This is a very difficult question, as the answer will be very different for different people, but I believe the key is observation and attention. Observing one’s own movement and the movement of others, as well just being aware of yourself and the world around you is essential. This is almost crossing the border into philosophy, but I have noticed that generally, focusing on the movements themselves will bring greater results than focusing solely on the goal. For example, I could make the observation that keeping your center of gravity closer to the ground improves efficiency. This kind of observation focuses on the external (which is very typical of the western world. However, I could also make the broader, more internal observation that one should never try to resist force, and from this, we could infer that one should not resist gravity any more than they have to (by keeping their center low), but there are also many other implications, such as the proper way to land is not to resist the force of impact but to let it flow through you.

As talked about in a thread on the forum, the principles of movement are universal, and, thus, if you learn something in one discipline, you can probably apply it to parkour. Physics, biomechanics, physiology, psychology, economics, etc. all can teach us something about ourselves and our movement. We can learn from each of these fields, and our parkour will be that much better because of it.

This just scratches the surface, but I hope it gets you thinking about you can improve your movement. If your interested in quality of movement, I recommend reading this thread (http://forum.idoportal.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=36).

Good training guys, and never forget to be aware.

A Traceur’s Fast

Written by Anthony Nguyen
Published on Monday, 14 September 2009

Whenever people ask me if I do parkour, I’m not really sure what to tell them. Not because of the fact that they used the word wrong, but because I don’t do movement. When people ask me how long I’ve been doing parkour, instead of saying I’ve trained it for nearly two years, I say I’ve been on the scene for nearly two years. Silly right? Actually, it’s dumb. How can I even try to accept someone else calling me a traceur, when I can’t honestly do it myself?

I never move because I’m afraid. Afraid of being hurt, afraid of making a fool out of myself, afraid of being sloppy, afraid of being wrong, afraid of overshooting, afraid of slipping, falling, failing. And this same mindset continued to plague my training for nearly two years. As a result, most of my training was restricted to conditioning. Pushes, Pulls, Pistols, Dips, these were movements I could safely turn to train without ever having to risk anything. I saw myself progress alongside those around me in terms of conditioning, but in regards to movement, everyone surpassed me.

I turned to essays, videos, pictures, articles; hoping that it would convince me that there was nothing to be afraid of. I heard countless tales about how people overcame things, or how they put fear aside. Using visualization, imagining something on the other side, countdowns, and more. Still, nothing happened.

I talked to others, everyone seemed to have answers and explanations, but I still couldn’t bring myself to do anything. For everyone 1000 words, and 10 videos, I still only did one or two movements, generally they were movements I had already done. Everyone had a solution, but each solution I heard was specifically melded for their own specific problems, and as such, it was inapplicable to my own.

My problem was that I didn’t want it enough. Movement was seen as a subcategory of conditioning, when in truth, it’s closer to the opposite. I wanted to train parkour, and the movements were something I wanted to be able to do and learn. My will to overcome each challenge was weaker than the fear that came with them. And while this was something I realized for quite some time, I was unable to face it, constantly convinced of my physical inadequacy.

Yesterday, during the beautiful weather, I went out and took a rare initiative towards movement. It happened because my want to move overpowered my fear of it. None of the movements were big, some dynos, some strides, rail balance, vaults. It’s the movement and attempt that matters though. Most of it was a laughable distance easily done by others, but I suppose I have to start somewhere. I’m in no way implying that I have found the solution to all my fears and will be able to take on any challenge in the future. I’m quite slow to change. Change is the key though, and hopefully this is where it starts.

Just Say No to Competition

Written by Nick Faircloth
Published on Thursday, 10 September 2009

Parkour is a discipline which esteems a high degree of personal responsibility. When it comes down to the jump, only the individual can conquer his fears and go for it. Only the individual can decide on his own success or failure. In this sense, parkour is a highly pragmatic discipline, in which an individual’s beliefs directly influence his performance. If you believe you cannot succeed, you have already failed.

So?

Parkour is directly applicable to life. In effect, being more pragmatic with regard to parkour makes one more responsible for his own actions in everyday life. If every person felt more personal responsibility, perhaps our society wouldn’t be what it is today in terms of issues of legality. This is why it is so vital to our discipline for it to expand, and to expand in a proper way. If it expands improperly and becomes filled with those who are interested only in showing off and do not take the discipline (and themselves) seriously, we as a community will be doomed to a bad reputation and a lack of freedom to better ourselves through parkour.

Originally, this was supposed to be a post about competition, but I felt it necessary to explain exactly why competition is detrimental to the practice of parkour. Competition is dangerous enough on a personal level- we know that it can lead to specialization in only the skills necessary to win, resulting in injury. We know that it places emphasis on arbitrary goals that matter for nothing. I would like to emphasize this: if you are training parkour for a medal or for recognition, you should not be training parkour at all.

However, what is often forgotten is the effect competition is likely to have on our community as a whole. It glamorizes the discipline, emphasizing only the flashy “tricks,” and none of the discipline that goes into them. Yeah, and? The point is, competition will attract those individuals looking for a quick thrill. And, as Ben has stated, it takes no skill whatsoever to simply jump off a building. Someone WILL be injured. When that happens, will it be easy to defend parkour as a non-competitive discipline which doesn’t condone such crazy stunts? No. Not when the winner of the 2007 Red Bull freerunning competition, Ryan Doyle, broke his leg while competing. Not when American Parkour just signed a deal to create a televised parkour and freerunning competition league*. No. In the eyes of the public, parkour and its practitioners will be seen as supportive of competition, and that support will be translated into irresponsibility with regard to the boy who jumped off the roof of his apartment complex and died.

Is this our fault as practitioners? 8Yes and no. To an extent, we are responsible for how we are perceived by the public. It is our duty to spread awareness of our ideals so that we are not persecuted by the public at large, which is distrustful of what it does no understand. However, we are not responsible for the actions of American Parkour or other organizations that exist for profit. 8Would you like to know what really makes me angry about this? I assume you would, since you’re still reading.

It is the fact that APK has completely ignored and disrespected the opinions of every traceur who is against competition, but then asks for our help so they can “do it right.” There is no way to do it right. We have already offered our advice as to the proper way to handle competition, and they have ignored it. Why do they need our help now? I say we remain silent and offer them nothing to show them that we do not support their decision. If we make an example of them, perhaps they will understand what is wrong with competition after it blows up in their faces. Please understand that I have nothing against the individual members of the tribe or APK. It is only that the organization as a whole is driven solely for profit and not by respect for the disciplines, contrary to what they claim.

With that said, I am boycotting American Parkour. I no longer visit the site, and I have vowed never again to purchase their products, to show that I do not support their organization and what it stands for. I cannot describe to you how upset and even betrayed I feel that APK would so blatantly disregard the philosophy of a discipline which it has claimed to defend. I feel that the promise of money and fame has corrupted what was previously a wholly respectable community. 8I apologize if I have struck any nerves. I wouldn’t ask anyone to blindly agree with what I have to say. As always, I welcome your opinions and questions, as I certainly don’t know everything. This is how I feel. I set out to write a blog post, and this is what came out. To tell the truth, this has been on my mind for weeks, and I’m glad I have finally been able to get it off my chest. Thank you for listening. I appreciate all of you for who you are and what you mean to this community. Peace and Love.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Written by Ben Webster
Published on Tuesday, 08 September 2009

It is with increasing frequency that we get newcomers to the forum who have questions about only one thing, drops. We frequently hear from beginners, “Well I was training this 13 foot drop and afterward I felt this sharp pain in my (insert body part here). It went away afterwards, so I went back to training drops.” So after hearing this story over and over again with generally the same outcomes, I have decided to put an organized response to drops.

STOP. Let’s think about this for a few moments. Why do you want to train drops so badly? You will most likely get several different responses to this question, but in 99% of cases the psychology of it is, “Wow I just saw the new Danny Ilabaca video. He did so many things that I can’t possibly do in my current condition. Oh wait, I can take that fall, since that requires no skill what so ever, and that way I will look as cool as Danny since I can do one of his moves.” First of all, after flow drops are one of the most technical movements in parkour. There is literally no room for error. So why do people seem to think that one of the most technical moves can be safely done by someone who has just started? It baffles the guys who have been around for a while. So first, let’s set some ground rules:

  1. If you are under the age of 16, then you should never do drops over shoulder height. This is because you are still an adolescent, and thus since your tibia and growth plate have not completely fused, any high amount of shock can very easily cause permanent injury, causing arthritis and other knee problems resulting in partial or full loss of mobility later on in life (we are talking 30 to 40 here). Do you want to need a cane or wheelchair when you are in your mid-thirties?
  2. If you have been training for less than a year, you should never do drops above head height. This is for many different reasons. Firstly, NO ONE in their first year has good enough technique to successfully handle drops consistently with little to no error on the landing. This comes from muscle memory, not from watching a five minute video and a roll tutorial. Secondly, most people coming in to parkour do not have the muscular strength of David Belle or Danny Ilabaca. Since absorbing shock takes much more strength than any other activity in parkour, why would you attempt it if you aren’t strong enough to do, let’s say 15 pistols on each leg? Finally (for this list, the list goes on and on), beginners have NO SKELETAL STRENGTH. This is the most important point of all. Every time you do a jump, you get small hairline fractures in the joints and bones affected. These then heal, with the bone replacing it being stronger than it was before. Over several years, bones can become much more dense, leading to less general wear and tear to the joints permitting people to deal with higher impact forces. If you have been training less than a year, then you have not received anywhere near the amount of training to do drops over your head height.
  3. Roll on every drop that is over head height, and if you can’t roll then you can’t drop. Again by roll we don’t mean that you watched a couple of roll tutorials and kind of have the basics down. The roll should be the first movement learned and will most likely take at least a year to master. If you think that your roll is perfect and you have only been working on it for a couple of weeks, I would suggest that you either reevaluate your definition of perfect or find another activity to participate in. Questions that you need to ask yourself are, “Can I roll on both sides?” “Can I perform a back and side roll?” “Can I roll with absolutely no pain aside from skin damage on concrete?” “Can I roll after a running jump from waist height at max running speed effectively?” “Can I roll without the use of my arms in case there is something that I need to carry?” “Can I dive roll over something that is waist high?” Again the list goes on and if you answered no to any of these questions then you still have a lot of work to do on your rolls. Get to it.
  4. If you haven’t been conditioning your legs on a regular basis, then you shouldn’t do drops over shoulder height. What can I say about conditioning…. Oh wait, you don’t do it enough, get to training. Again 15 pistols in one set should be a minimum before you do drops over head height, as well as sets of over 100 shin raises and 50 single-leg full weight calf raises. If you can’t do that then I guess you are going to have to lower yourself down until you can.
  5. Warm up. Everything is pointless if your body has not gone over short term preparation before doing drops. Stretching, light jogging, and small to medium size jumps work well for warm ups. This goes under the category of injury prevention, and while you may think that it isn’t important now, when you have that knee or ankle injury you will wish that you did it.

So I have laid out some basic guidelines here for drops. Follow them carefully. Drops can and should be trained, but certain steps need to be taken before you take the fall.