Parkour as a Martial Art

Written by Nick Faircloth
Published on Monday, 23 November 2009

I have heard parkour compared to martial arts, and I often make the comparison myself because I see several parallels. Both are physical disciplines that promote a different way of thinking. Both are geared toward becoming an abler person. You even drill certain movements repeatedly to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances in both disciplines. However, there is one very distinct difference between the two. The martial arts are inherently about interpersonal interaction: they were created for self-defense against other people. Alternatively, parkour is about self-sufficiency. It requires nobody but yourself to practice and learn. You are your own teacher, and there is no other way to gain experience than through hard work and practice.
For quite a while, I couldn’t roll on concrete without pain, and I didn’t understand why the bone in my hip kept hitting the ground. Everyone I asked to take a look at my roll said the same thing: twist your hips more. I tried that and it didn’t work. Finally, I can roll on concrete. The solution? I wasn’t twisting my hips enough. Go figure. No matter how many times I had heard that before, it took me really thinking about the problem and working out my own solution to be able to fix it. My point is this: that no matter how good someone else is at assessing what is wrong with your technique, there is not one person who can really help you fix it. You have to do it yourself, through trial and error. I can sit here and look at your kong vault and tell you to tuck your head more or plant further out all day, but until you do it once, you won’t understand why it works, even if I explain it. You have to feel it for yourself. This is in contrast to martial arts, where it is easy to isolate individual movements for ease of learning; it is easier to demonstrate a punch step-by-step than a dash vault, because you can’t really do a dash vault in slow motion. Still, there is one major advantage to parkour that is not so for most martial arts: it is still a new discipline, and the movements themselves are straightforward rather than interpretive. There aren’t that many movements, and while there is more than one “right” way to do them, there can only be one fastest way; speed is a measurable thing. This is in contrast to some of the older martial arts in which the movements themselves and the ideas behind each of them are preserved in forms. If something is lost in the passage from generation to generation, it can be very hard to retrieve because a miniscule movement of the hand in a form can be interpreted a dozen different ways. With parkour, if you do something wrong it simply isn’t going to feel right. We don’t really have to worry about movements being lost- they’ve already been around for thousands of years anyway. This eliminates most of the demand for teachers, which the martial arts still do and always will rely on.

Lastly, you can’t learn to fight without someone to fight. You need a sparring partner to really understand the application of anything you learn about combat. In contrast, you can train parkour completely alone for years and still have the same level of experience as others who train in groups. So parkour is very similar to a martial art, but is easier to understand and practice in my opinion. There are NO secrets in parkour, just things you aren’t prepared for yet. In martial arts, if someone teaches you, it is possible to learn a very complex aerial kick before you have a good form sidekick. But you can’t learn 12 foot wall runs until you can do them on a shorter wall. There’s no way around it. To me, that’s why I get such a feeling of accomplishment whenever I do something new in parkour- I know I could not have done it without all the training that has built up to it. I don’t get exactly the same feeling in martial arts; sometimes you get lucky with your sparring partner- they’re tired, or they trip or something. People are unreliable so it’s harder to test your skills against them than against solid inanimate objects.

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Just Do It

Written by Alan Tran
Published on Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Knowing is half the battle. Have you ever stumbled upon a great precision, cat, or vault that you decided to pass on because of the sheer fact that it’s up so high? Now if the particular movement had been five, twelve, twenty feet lower, you could have done it at that very moment. Over the past few months, I’ve worked on an easy technique in overcoming obstacles that I’ve found hard mentally and it can be applied to all similar obstacles. The secret is if you know, you can do. It is a very simple method that has helped me overcome particular movement but it’s difficult with the beginning process.

First, this method involves understanding what you can and cannot physically do. The range that you practice in is comfortable but you know whether or not if a particular movement can be accomplished. That same range, at high heights, intimidates you and often leaves you questioning whether or not it can be achieved. So you test it out by doing some run ups, looking at what is to be performed, and it clicks, you know you can do it. But then you see the consequences of failing; slipping from a hold, jumping too far, not running fast enough, etc. STOP. You’ve found the button.

Now this button, it’s not easy to push. It is concealed in places that you are, and I myself am, sometimes too scared to investigate. It’s hidden in places too high, too wet, too low, and too uncomfortable, etc for you to want to explore. If you understand why the button is concealed, you can understand how to find the button and push it. The more you DO investigate, the easier the button becomes to push in the future. Exploration of the button becomes nothing when you do.

Why is it so hard? Because knowing is half the battle. The other half of the battle comes down to your choice, your decision on whether or not you push that button, push yourself. Height is not an issue, it is only a factor for an obstacle; but like any other obstacle, you can go through, over under, or around it. You know what needs to be done and how it should be done, pushing yourself is the only way to find out what will happen – positive or negative. It becomes a huge movement when you cut and strip it for the factors that intimidate you. Instead, cut and strip the movement for the movement while only accounting different factors for different approaches. Remember, you are performing for the movement, not for the scary height, slippery step up, etc – once you do overcome your fear and accomplish your goal, these factors are now under your belt and should no longer bother you unconsciously. This of course only applies to that particular obstacle as no two are the same. Now I’m not promoting the idea to move on high, slippery walls; I’m promoting the idea to do when you know rather than to question your knowledge about yourself and your abilities.

That knowledge is something only you can understand and takes time to develop. Only you have the choice. Doing is such an easy process if you have the motivation to push yourself, if you put in the work, if you take time to understand yourself. The factors that scare you should not be taken light-heartedly but should not hold you back. Fear is a reminder of the dangers we are aware of, fear is a reminder that we can easily lose years worth of work in one moment, fear is a reminder that we are human.

Today Was A Good Day

Written by Anthony Nguyen
Published on Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Today Was A Good Day

Faced with the above statement, people tend to generalize: today must have been eventful, he must have had beautiful weather in his area, it must have been a stress free day, or smerhaps he had good vibrations with someone.

Nah, although these do contribute most of the time, I’ve had many great days devoid of any of these. Simply, the matter lies in perception. If you wake up and decide that today is a bad day, it’s pretty likely to be a bad day. However, if you go into a day, truly believing that it’s a wonderful day, it’s unlikely that most things will be able to bring you down. In present day, thanks to social networking, we hear all the time about how people have crummy days on a daily basis. Fact is, that most of the stuff that these people get bummed over are only slight mishaps and most of the time is nothing to cry over.

Most of the circumstances, I’ve found, are simply inconveniences that arose out of the person’s lack of planning, foresight, or ability. Losing a paper, car breaking down, being sick, things breaking or getting lost in general; these are the plagues which have been the common cause of those of this to utter the letters: FML. Such instances only put people a few moments back and give the gift of a lesson given adequate reflection. We can’t always get things right, but by observing and learning from our failures we marginally decrease the probability of something going wrong. As humans, we learn to adapt and move on, or we suffer; don’t suffer, take the opportunity to reflect on yourself and how you can do better.

Obligations, everyone has them, and as a result, everyone has stress to a certain extent. It’s clear that some individuals have different loads, and different levels of sensitivity. Some b.a.’s work two fulltime jobs, do a lot of pet sitting, and the workload itself will barely phase them, while others can freak out and have a heart attack in the face of some worksheets. Whatever the case, everyone has their own things that they have to deal with, and with most people, the stress has an obvious role in their life as a negative influence. Obligations are only as numerous as we allow them to be, and each one is a chance to test ourselves and our abilities. It’s a cliché, but obligations are just more opportunities.

The little things; there’s a lot of them, and they aren’t in my pants. Sorry, bad joke. One friend from the West likes to say fick shut, to all the little shut we get trouble from. This can be related to any of the aforementioned but more specifically it’s letting little things like words, atmosphere, or grades get to us. They aren’t very little, but they are small enough in the grand scheme of things that they shouldn’t cause total breakdowns. “Words” is referring to things other people say to/about us, or any related topic we feel emotionally bound to; or in other words, drama. Drama though, isn’t a problem for most traceurs most of the time, because most of them are anti-social [citation needed]. Atmosphere: I use this mainly as a reference to weather. Most people let weather throw off their moods. I find that I’m just in love with every kind of weather, so long as there is variety. Clear cast, warm and breezy days need no explanation. Foggy mornings are among my favorites as they usually are serene and private mornings. I don’t mind rain, dirty/wet clothes don’t bother me, the rain offers a physically and spiritually cleansing experience, on these days, most people don’t go outside much, so more outside and clean air for you. Thunder and lightning aren’t problems because they gives me an excuse to withdraw from electrostress and back to enjoying simple things. Tornadoes aren’t common here, but when they happen, they’re like free train rides waiting to happen. Don’t let things on the surface of your challenge take away your opportunities.

One favorite author of mine had once said that the ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity. This is most certainly a task that requires good attitude. Keep your head up, know that at the end of the storm is the calm and that most things in the world can only break you if you let it.

Today was definitely a good day, get out, train, make it a better day.