Motion 2.0

Where movement meets the mind.


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More Than Movement, An Opportunity

The following was originally an article I wrote for an online magazine. It was supposed to be about the Pinnacle Parkour Academy but it mostly became a dive into the more ‘mystical’ aspects of parkour. Nothing especially new as far as framing or phrasing of the ideas but I kind of liked it overall so, here it is. Hope you like it.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things disclose themselves. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” –Bruce Lee

If Bruce Lee was alive today, he very well may have said these exact same words. But instead of referring to fists and martial arts, he might have been referring to jumps and parkour.

Originally developed in the late 1980’s by David Belle and a group of young friends in France, parkour has since exploded out of Europe and taken the world by storm. With the help of the internet and the love of thousands of dedicated practitioners, parkour can now be found in nearly every country and major city on Earth. It has been featured in blockbuster movies like Casino Royale, television shows like The Office, and hundreds of live events, workshops, and demonstrations. Search “parkour” on Youtube and you get more results than rock climbing, snowboarding, or even surfing.

But ask the average Joe or Jane on the street about parkour and you’ll still get one of two reactions: a blank stare or mild amusement, usually followed by the phrase that makes every practitioner’s inner kitten cry a little every time. “That’s that thing where kids jump off roof tops, right?”

“C’mon guys, it’s not just roof jumping…”

If you find yourself in one of these two categories, or you’re just interested in some non-media hyped information about parkour, here’s the rundown. Put in the simplest terms possible, parkour is the study and practice of human movement, or more directly described as a way of adapting to the environment around you. But there’s more to the movement than meets the eye, more than stunts and dreams of Spiderman. There are ideas beyond the mere physical at play. At its core, parkour is about strength and freedom; strength of body and freedom of mind.

In the same way that Bruce Lee taught to express the human body and mind through martial arts, so does parkour seek to help the practitioner reach a higher place, both literally and figuratively.

Picture it this way; there is a wall in front of you. Huge, imposing, and unyielding. You bravely attempt to climb up and over it but for all your efforts it remains impassable. But you don’t give up. You continue training, practice other skills, gain strength and endurance you couldn’t have ever imagined before.

You come back to the wall and suddenly it doesn’t seem so intimidating. You try climbing it again and, lo and behold, you’re now standing tall and proud on top. Before you know it you’re seeking out new walls and new challenges, gaining strength every day. Soon this mindset carries over into your everyday life. Obstacles, both physical and mental, no longer appear impossible.

Instead, the obstacles have become opportunities.

Obstacle…or Opportunity?

This is a hint, a peek behind the veil, into the spirit of parkour. As Belle himself so succinctly put it, “Obstacles are found everywhere, and in overcoming them we nourish ourselves.”

Parkour is a discipline, a state of mind, and a culture all rolled into one. This is why we opened the Pinnacle Parkour Academy and why it is named as such. We are training with a purpose. Our goal, as a gym and as a group, is to help people reach their pinnacles, to become complete, through the practice of parkour.

It is a lifelong study of the self, not a daredevil’s pastime. It is not limited by gender, age, ethnicity, or even skill level. Ultimately it is just a word used to express an idea – the desire to improve through movement.

Don’t be trapped by the world around you. Train, improve, exceed.

 

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6 (Legal) Jobs That Put Your Parkour Skills to the Test

1) National Park Search and Rescue

A hiker has been reported missing for two days. You have less than 24 hours to find him before he potentially dies of hypothermia. What do you do? If you’re a professional SAR team member, you hit the trails hard and be a real-life Superman man. Better have your tree climb-ups in order.

2) Firefighter

The profession of David Belle’s father, firefighters are the original Parkour athletes. Climbing through windows, leaping gaps in exposed floors, and battling face-melting heat. All in the name of saving others. Win.

3) US Air Force Pararescue

Take the park rescuer and add in a dash of skydiving. Drop behind enemy lines, find the pilot, make it home in one piece. Bonus points if you do it looking as bad ass as this guy.

4) Stunt Performer

Need I say more?

5) Professional Adventure Racer

Scramble across rock strewn paths, paddle down raging rivers, and haul ass on a mountain bike down a sheer slope? All in a day’s work for an adventure racer. Long distance nature Parkour for all!

6) Playground Designer

Didn’t see this one coming, huh? But if you’re going to build the best playgrounds around you should have an idea of what kids can (and will want) to do with your designs. What better way than a background in the study of movement?

Can you think of any others? Leave them in the comments!


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Will the Champion of Parkour Please Stand Up?

Champion (noun) – a person who fights for or defends any person or cause: a champion of the oppressed.

I feel that Parkour and Freerunning have been missing a champion. That for too long the disciplines have been missing the chance to appear to the public as more than a fad or an obscure sport. For example, bodybuilding was largely considered a vain, underground hobby through most of the 60s and 70s. Weight training in general was seen as a self-indulgent waste of time to many. Sports coaches even told their athletes not to lift weights because they feared they would become “musclebound” and “stiff”. That is, until along came an unknown Austrian named Arnold Schwarzenegger and a little movie called “Pumping Iron”. Practically overnight everyone caught the weight training bug. Hundreds of gyms popped up, thousands of kids took up the iron, and fitness as a business is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

As a closer example to Parkour, let’s look at martial arts, Kung-Fu in particular. Martial arts, especially Chinese martial arts, were largely untapped and little known to Americans. For Western audiences a fight scene consisted of a few quick hay-makers and John Wayne dusting off his cowboy hat.  Bruce Lee was instrumental in changing all that. Through his teaching, his demonstrations, and most importantly his movies, he showed that not only was martial arts entertaining, it had a deep philosophical side that could provide direction and meaning to even the most hardened soul. Now considered a father of MMA and the fight flick genre in general, Bruce Lee was without a doubt a champion of Kung-Fu and martial arts. His passion was infectious; he not only promoted the martial art lifestyle, he lived it.

The intangible thing that made each person and discipline special seemed to be that each was presented as more than a simple spectacle. The portrayal of the disciplines had a deeper, more philosophical tone, reaching past the superficial feeling of, “Oh ain’t this cool? Whatever, next!” The champions were quotable, larger-than-life, yet still imitable.

Where is this champion in Parkour? Early on Parkour and Freerunning had a shot in the arm with the Yamakasi movies, the Jump London/Britain documentaries, and the Youtube incredible-ness of David Belle. But what major things have come since then? The only time you see Parkour in a major movie anymore is as a part of a chase scene, not as a main focus or anything more than a novelty. It is always used an action device in a movie instead of as the driving force FOR the movie. Anything that digs deeper than the surface though is usually small, online documentaries that never reach more than a few thousand people, most of whom already like Parkour anyway. Ninja Warrior and its American counterpart are a little better, but again the focus isn’t on Parkour itself but Parkour as a means to an end. Final victory and the crazy obstacles are the highlight, Parkour is just that thing some of the contestants do.

This is not to say there aren’t any champions of Parkour. There are dozens of individuals, community groups, gyms, and organizations who are working hard to get the message out there. But there isn’t a global champion, a charismatic individual whose personality and presence make everyone pay attention. It cannot be not an outside champion, like a businessman or a promoter, but a solid practitioner with the personal gravitational pull and iconicism to reach thousands. Without such a cultural champion I think Parkour will continue to be seen as a novelty by the general public, on par with skateboarding. Right now, for better or worse, whether we like it or not, Parkour and Freerunning still often comes off as that dumb thing teenagers and potential criminals do. “What’s the point in jumping around and getting hurt all day? I don’t have time for that.”

“Duuddeee, you should totally try Parkour!”

Of course, some may argue that we shouldn’t have a champion, that enormous exposure of Parkour will lead to a bastardization of the discipline. Better to keep things close-knit, to ensure it evolves how we want. I argue that we’ve already lost control in that sense. The proliferation of internet videos and information has already made Parkour evolve in directions none of us could have foreseen. At least with a relatable face the public could start to see that Parkour is something more. The discipline needs a champion…but who?


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Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. (And I’ll Rob You Too)

A short instructional/news video came out a few days ago on Yahoo starring Jesse Danger, a friend of mine from NYC. In it he takes the reporter through a warm-up and teaches a couple basic skills, the main feature being a climb-up. It was a good crash course in Parkour-related movements and didn’t glamorize any of the training, using a low wall to show the climb-up. Knowing through personal experience that Jesse is capable of some mind-bendingly awesome stuff, I was happy that he took the time to break down the simpler, often forgotten aspects of training.

Then I made the mistake of looking at the comments. 322 of them at the time of this posting.

The Horror…the Horror…

“That’s it, give would be burglars more advice!”
“I came here to learn how to climb a wall. I know how to jump idiots!”
“I have no idea why I clicked on this…..it is beyond dumb.”
“In other words, how to run away from a crime and get away?”
“This article should be named “How to waste another 5 minutes of your life on a useless yahoo video”
“What? this article was so stupid it left me speechless!”

And the highest up-voted comment to date – with 176 thumbs up – was, “Wow, I clicked on ‘How to climb a brick wall like a superhero,’ not ‘How to jump over a low wall that anyone could do.'”

I would estimate that 3/4 of the comments mirror the statements above with only slight variations. Now I know that the internet is notorious for its trolling and angry/irrational behavior. Anonymity and free speech make for some weird bed partners. But do people really expect to learn how to climb a sheer brick wall like Spider-Man? It’s Parkour, not House of Flying Daggers!

I guess my biggest ‘Seriously?’ thoughts about this are…why the hatred? Why the underlying tone of “This crap is easy, how lame!” Are we that jaded and quick to dismiss? Where are the comments saying, “The police could really benefit from this training, firemen too!” Or why aren’t there more statements like, “This seems like it could be fun, I remember playing on the playground like this as a kid.”

This is just one example of the two extreme viewpoints I see so often in Parkour but also in just about every walk of life. Those that scoff at something different or new and those that think it’s waayyy out of their league. Where is the wonder, the excitement of possibilities, and the approach to things with a blank slate? Do these same people look at the training video of Jon Jones and think, “I came here to learn how to do a jump-spinning armbar, not a few wussy punch combos! I bet he’s great at mugging people too!” Come to think of it there probably are people like that, though I’m sure they wouldn’t say it to Bones’ face. (Note to self: practice kong vault to dropkick combo…)

The point is, whether it’s Parkour, martial arts, politics, religion, or anything in between…don’t be like an internet comment. Don’t automatically mock something cause it seems simple or silly. Cause 99 out of a 100 times, it’s not. And 100 out of a 100 times you’ll still look like an ass.


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Back in the Saddle Again

Credit to Benjamin Jellis

It’s been almost two three years since I last updated this blog or posted anything. I think that’s a long enough time away. I don’t know how quickly I’ll get things up and running again, or how frequent content will be. But this will happen, in one form or another.

Expect a slightly more philosophical tone to future posts with some news commentary, fitness science, and other random bits thrown in for equal measure. For now, keep your feet light and your eyes on the horizon…something good this way comes.