Motion 2.0

Where movement meets the mind.


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Rites of Passage in Parkour

Rite of passage: a ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another. Milestones include transitions from puberty, year 7 to high school, coming of age, marriage, and death.

Rites of passage have a long history in human culture. From tribal communities to the Roman Empire and beyond, we have used these tests of courage, strength, or will as a way to separate the “men from the boys,” the full members of the group from those still on the upward path. Often these practices were the center piece of a young man or woman’s life, the culmination of years of study and training under the watchful eyes of their elders or peers. Failure to complete a ritual could lead to great public and personal shame on the individual or family but completion was a mark of great honor and the privilege of full adulthood or full inclusion in the group.

But how many rites of passage do we have in our modern world? Outside of specific religious obligations, there are very few. Getting a driver’s license could count, but many people have no need or no desire for one, and the test can be done as many times as needed to pass. The military has bootcamp and specialized training programs with usually include a final test but military service isn’t mandatory so not everyone will experience that kind of test.

Turning 21 isn’t exactly a good rite of passage either…

This lack of rites of passage is argued as a major shortcoming of the modern era. Without a clear distinction between childhood and adulthood many people drift through their teens and 20’s with a sense of displacement and uncertainty. “Am I really an adult? What do I do now, what counts as adult things? A full-time job, a family, more money?” Objects and material milestones take the place of mental milestones. We become lost in the fog, watching as we slowly get older but still feeling like we haven’t entered anything new.

Call me old-fashioned or an unnecessary worrier, but I’m seeing this type of malaise more and more in the Parkour and Freerunning community. As the number of practitioners grows so does the desire to know when one has “made it,” when one is no longer a newbie but a full-fledged practitioner, even master. What do I have to do to show that I understand and I’m good at this PK/FR thing? Is it when I can kong vault? Maybe a level 3 climb-up and a 10ft precision? I can define a difference between Freerunning & Parkour and I can name all the founders from memory, am I there now?

Pensive Parkour

I can remember specifically when I went through a transformative process like a rite of passage. It was at a jam, the New York City national jam, which took place I believe in 2008. It was my first truly big jam where there would be people from around the country, including heroes of mine like Levi Meeuwenberg. I made the trip north and after meeting up and training with everyone at the host, Jesse’s, house we crashed for the night. I slept behind the TV in his room because there was no room anywhere else.

By 8am the next morning we were all up and raring to go. A short train ride into NYC and we were training on anything and everything we could find. From Central Park to underneath the bridges and across the waterfronts, we spent the entire day moving. I spent the day trying to hit the biggest things I could, wanting to show I hadn’t been training for nothing. After hours in the city we made our way back to Jesse’s house, just as the sun was setting. I was hungry, covered in half-dry sweat, and ready to sleep.

It was then that Jesse and a few others invited us to come with them on a conditioning session. “It wouldn’t be long,” they said, “just an hour or two.” Feeling rundown but not wanting to skip an opportunity to hang with them more, I accepted. And it was there that the rite of passage began.

What ensued was nearly six hours of non-stop exercise. It started with several miles of balancing along railroad tracks, interspersed with squats and push-ups. Then it was hundreds of yards of crawling, lunging, and wall traversing. As midnight approached we made it to a local football stadium where we were told the conditioning session would actually begin. My soul has rarely been crushed as hard as when I realized we weren’t even halfway done the night.

S-s-soul Crush!

Backwards QM up steep stadium steps. Hand railing pull-ups. Barefoot running. Partner lifting and dragging. We pushed and punished ourselves through at least another hour and a half of work. I cramped up twice in each leg and was probably dehydrated, way past the point of overtraining. Even when we had finally finished the conditioning we had to walk back to Jesse’s house. We didn’t get to sleep till almost 3am. I have never slept harder in my life; I literally passed out.

When I left for home the next day I was annihilated. Soreness was the least of my problems. My feet dragged, my movements were sluggish, I was just utterly spent. The next week would see me slowly recover from the ordeal but with a new mindset and focus. I hadn’t done as well as others at the session (Levi was deadlifting my entire body at one point and I outweighed him by 25 pounds) but I had finished. I had survived. I felt like I had passed through an invisible wall, one that separated me from my training before and my training to come. I was now a Traceur, a true practitioner, baptized in fire, whatever you wanted to call it. I had made it.

How many reading this now can relate to it? Have you ever experienced a shift in your training after a rite of passage? Or what do you consider a rite of passage in Parkour? Personally I think we need to encourage more conditioning or drilling sessions like the one I experienced, not because it helps physically, but because it helps mentally. It creates a line in the sand, a definitive point, not to create elites, but to create an individual, internal mile-marker.

What do you think? Is Parkour and Freerunning in need of some kinds of rites of passage? They don’t have to be uniform and could be unique from one region or group to another, but I think they’d do wonders towards helping the community as a whole move forward.

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Product Review – Yurbuds Ironman Inspire Pro Headphones

Yurbuds Sports – Ironman Inspire Pro Headphones
Look at these things! Are they not the creepiest looking headphones you’ve ever seen? They’re like two stiff, deflated balloons getting shoved in your ears. But man, do they work!

Yurbuds is a company that produces headphones for the active individual, especially the kind that gets sick of his music falling out of his ear every five minutes. To overcome the tendency of regular headphones to slip and slide, Yurbands developed a new type of piece that literally screws into your ear. You place the “horn” piece into your ear canal while twisting the tacky rubber edges to sit firmly on the inside edges of your ear lobes. What results is a nearly unbreakable bond. For the jumpy/twisty/runny Parkour and Freerunning practitioner, this should definitely perk up your ears (pun intended).

Fit – 4.5/5
Once these suckers are in tight they aren’t going anywhere. I turned upside down, ran and cut as fast as I could, and did everything short tugging directly on the earpiece. They didn’t move an inch, which is especially good considering there’s no over-the-ear clip, a style which drives me crazy. On a personal level the pieces do dig into my ear lobes a but I have unusually small ear canals so this happens on practically any pair of headphones.

The one caveat that keeps this category from being a perfect score is that the fit is sometimes too good. If you catch the cord on your thumb or a rail and keep moving you’ll be quickly introduced to what an Eskimo Ear Pull Contest is like. However the cord is on the shorter side at 4ft, so it can be tucked away relatively easily and keep this problem to a minimum.

Sound Quality – 3.5/5
You’re not going to win over an audiophile’s heart but they will get the job done. The seal is not noise-isolating, meaning ambient sounds will leak in and interfere with some tracks. This is good and bad; bad in that quieter songs will sound a little muted and the bass doesn’t feel as heavy, but good in that you won’t be blind-sided by someone yelling at you to look where you’re going. All things being equal, I’ll take some loss of sound quality for a solid, tough rig. I’ll save the perfectly balanced wavelengths for listening at home.

Durability – 4/5 (So Far)
I’ve only had them for a week so long-term durability is still unknown, but so far, so good. I’ve read other reviewers stating the rubber outer casing tends to fall apart after a while but unless you’re using these every single day for multiple hours a day I don’t see how that would happen. The rubber casing is thankfully washable, which you’ll need to do periodically as the, ahem, waxy build-up from your ears can become a minor issue.

Looks – 5/5 (in-use), 2/5 (non-use)
When they’re in your ears they look like any other headphones, and the Ironman edition’s red and black color scheme is pretty cool. But like I stated at the start, these things just look freaky sitting on a table.

Features – 4/5
The Ironman edition features a nifty solid plastic ‘Y’ cord junction which also functions as a volume, play/pause, and incoming-call control if you happen to be using them with your phone. These are handy features for when you need to quickly hear someone without having to dig out your music player. The only thing I wish I could also control is skipping tracks.

Price – 4/5
At around $60, they’re more expensive than Skull Candies, less expensive than Beats by Dr. Dre. These are basically middle-of-the-road for pricing. A bit more than I would have liked but for the unique construction I’m willing to invest some dough.

Overall – 4.25/5
I can honestly say these are the best training headphones I’ve had to date, the key term there being “training.” If you want a pair of quality sounding, every day headphones these probably aren’t for you. If you’re looking for some hardcore training headphones though, these are an excellent choice if you can get over the weird sensation at first of wearing them. Recommended!


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Breaking the Jump – Tips for Conquering Mental Blocks and Embracing the Fear

Parkour and Freerunning are dangerous. When you get down to the basest physical levels of what the disciplines entail, there’s no way to logically argue it any other way. We run along thin metal rails, climb up sharp-edged walls, and hurl our bodies across gaps of thin air, often without any safety equipment or recovery apparatus. When you go  for a precision jump or gap leap, there are dozens – if not hundreds – of things that could go wrong.

And every single one of those bad outcomes are screaming at you right now, slamming the brakes on your muscles, pleading with you to reconsider. It’s too far, too high, the landing is too sketchy, the take off too small. Back away you idiot! Do you want to die?!

But you can’t walk away now. You’ve been putting in your training hours and sizing up this jump for weeks, months even. You’ve psyched yourself up before but always turned back at the last second. No, not this time. You will take the jump, you will make the jump! Seize the jump! Carpe exilient!

Easy to say, right? Then you make the mistake of looking down and you’re back to square zero, kicking pebbles. Few things are as frustrating as walking away from a move, knowing in your heart you had the physical ability but not the mental fortitude. I’ve run into this scenario so many times I’ve lost count. But I’ve worked out a few brain hacks that helped me embrace the fear. Everyone is different so these may not work for you, but if nothing else it might give you ideas on how to circumvent your own flight response.

Don’t Ignore the Fear

Pretending you’re not scared stiff works when you’re asking out a pretty girl. Turning a deaf ear to your brain misfiring works during a hard exam. But ignoring that pit in your stomach as you line up for a big jump can be deadly. By not acknowledging that what you’re facing is a dangerous situation you can quickly underestimate it and not give it the proper attention. Over-thinking a move is frustrating but walking away keeps you alive. Under-thinking and simply throwing yourself to the mercy of gravity is just reckless. Figure out why the fear is there, understand it, dissect it, and give it just the right amount of leeway to get the job done.

Pace It Out

Inspect everything possible. Check the surfaces of the take off and landing zones. Double check the structural integrity of the obstacles. Pace out the distances and get a feel for the power you’ll need to apply. Practice similar jumps or moves nearby. Hang from the target wall or hop up and down on the target rail. Just like learning to understand the fear, the more you immerse yourself in the physical aspect of the problem the less daunting it will become. It can also highlight previously hidden problems, such as realizing there’s broken glass on the spot where he planned to bail out if you missed. Which brings up the next point…

Bailout Bro!

Even if the move leaves no room for error, have an escape plan, no matter how ludicrous it seems. Hands slip on a cat leap to a wall across a ten foot gap, three stories up? No problem, I’ll bounce off the side and back to the fire escape. This is a mental shortcut to provide the leeway in the fear that I mentioned earlier. It’s a tough one to pull off because it can veer too close to ignoring the fear, but used in proper proportion it can open up a window in the fear long enough to get your feet moving. If you have a plan in place for a bad-case scenario you’ll feel more prepared and more capable of action. This bailout idea can also be put into physical action – if the move permits – by actively practicing a few bailout scenarios before going for the whole enchilada, such as trying a few cat leap aborts and seeing how it feels to fall to the ground if you miss.

Visualize

Probably my favorite mental trick, this involves pretending you’ve already done the movement. You imagine how the air will feel as it passes by, how the ground will feel as you land, even what you’ll look like from a third-person perspective. Similar in a way to how Leonardo DiCaprio can plant an idea in your head and make it a reality, you literally watch yourself perform the movement in your mind. Top athletes of all sports swear by this method, as do many martial artists and meditation experts.

I have a slight variation that has always worked exceptionally well for me. If I find myself stuck on the edge of a jump I will close my eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine that I’ve never seen or been in this spot before. When I open eyes I will be seeing the space for the first time and will act on instinct, going right into the movement. I let out the breath I took, open my eyes, and go. I’ve broken quite a few jumps using this technique, as have several others I’ve trained. A small note though; this only works if you’ve taken the time to scope out the area first. It’s one thing to imagine you’ve never seen the gap before, it’s another to have truly never looked at it and could be launching right onto a cracked wall or wet metal.

Scream of the Gods

Sometimes calm thoughts and puppy dogs are not enough. Sometimes you just need a kick in the ass. Sometimes you have to call down the gods and grant yourself the power to kill titans and destroy nations with a single blow. Let that scream bellow forth and eradicate the demons of doubt and fear. Tear down the walls and make the world tremble! ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!! (Then jump and land softly and quietly, cause if you keep screaming at that point it’s just weird…)

Walk Away

Didn’t think you’d see this one, huh? Every so often there’s just nothing else you can do but walk away and fight another day. Learning where the moment of decreasing returns happens is one of the greatest and hardest things a practitioner can master. Any fool can be a daredevil. Any coward can retreat without trying. A true warrior knows when to put his body on the line in the pursuit of something greater. How you’ll know when you hit the point of needing to walk away is personal; only you can know. For me it’s when my legs and chest shake even when I’m trying to be still or when my breathing starts to feel “numb”. There’s no shortcut to it unfortunately, no other way but to expose yourself to the fear. Embrace it, dissect it, understand how you respond to it, and learn.

That’s all I’ve got for now, I might come back and edit more tricks in as I think of them. If you have some tips and tricks of your own you’d like to share, leave them in the comments!