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.

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