When in Doubt, Turn Vault!

Written by Nick Faircloth
Published on Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The turn vault is probably one of the most underused movements in parkour. When used effectively, it can make a sequence of movements involving a drop faster, smoother and safer. Yet for the myriad of drops I see on youtube and in other various places, I hardly ever see the turn vault used. There are probably two reasons for this. The first is: it’s not a very flashy movement. It’s not impressive to look at, whereas someone throwing himself bodily off a ledge is AWESOME!!!11! The other reason, and the one I think is honestly more likely in most cases is this: people don’t know how to use it! I wouldn’t be surprised if many newcomers to parkour were completely unaware of its existence. If people who have been training for a while don’t understand and use the turn vault, they aren’t likely to teach it to newbies. HIPK’s turn vault tutorial has only 45,761 views, less than half the views of their kong tutorial at 98,890. This is no coincidence.

There are a couple misconceptions about the turn vault that probably contribute to the stigma surrounding it:

1) I CAN’T TURN VAULT QUICKLY ENOUGH

For many people, the slowness of their turn vault makes it either a highly specialized movement, or one they neglect entirely. The way it’s usually presented (when taught at all) is from standing, at a waist high rail, with no drop on either side of the rail. This is fine… For about five minutes. Just as with other movements, you have to practice under a variety of circumstances: higher or lower railings, with drops, switching between dominant and non-dominant hands, and switching between split-foot and punch takeoff styles. Most turn vaults I see are still the basic stop, punch, throw yourself over, hastily turn, and drop into an awkward climb-down sequence that someone glossed over in a few minutes last summer. When was the last time you really drilled a turn vault? Actually, they can be performed as a slightly modified speed vault, with the planted hand grabbing the rail and whipping you around. If you play around with it, you’ll see that it is much faster, though a bit more specialized.

2) I CAN ONLY TURN VAULT RAILS OR THIN WALLS

WRONG! A wall, even one that’s thicker than your handspan can be turn vaulted as easily as a rail. It’s all about practice and application. If you have a wall with a drop on the other side, you can easily turn vault to lower yourself into a cat hang in ONE smooth motion! think about it: you go from ground level, to hanging on the OTHER SIDE of the wall in one movement. Why is this movement so neglected? maybe it’s because…

3) IM 12 WAT IS TURN VAULT

A turn vault on a rail

To turn vault a wall, many people approach it like a palm spin, and end up holding onto one edge with one hand, and the opposite edge with their other hand. This is alright, but makes the technique slower than it should be. Instead, I like approaching just like a monkey vault, then lifting my right hand to turn to the left. This has the benefit of keeping my left hand OFF the opposing edge, which makes it easier to transition to a cat hang, and also saves me quite a bit of skin on my wrist.

Hopefully this was helpful to someone. Next time you want to kong over the wall that has an 8 foot drop on the other side, consider this: don’t. When in doubt, turn vault 🙂

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