Motion 2.0

Where movement meets the mind.

Old -vs- New: Are We Slower Than Ever?

3 Comments

While watching a new training video this morning I realized something: Parkour and Freerunning are slower. Literally, practitioners are moving slower.

For reference, here is the video I watched, the newest one from Storror Blog.

Maybe it’s just me but I was struck by how…lazy the movements seemed. Lazy might be a strong term as the movements were still well-controlled and of decent size and amplitude, but it all looked nonchalant, almost kind of sluggish. The run-ups didn’t have much speed, the set-ups and finishes were flowing yet slow.

Compare that to this mid-1990’s video of the Lisses practitioners training for the camera.

The movements are definitely rough (some of the rolls made me look away and cringe) but they all have an edge of urgency. They look like they want to get somewhere, get over the obstacle as fast as possible and just keep moving. Sometimes it comes across as almost jerky and stilted but you can sense the aggression in each step.

Over the years the idea of flow and fluidity – the aesthetic look of the movement – has taken greater hold in practitioners’ minds. It’s gotten to the point, I would argue, that the flow is not a by-product of controlled, FAST movement, but instead the desired goal from the beginning, necessitating a slowdown of all movements in order to accomplish the visual look.

In short, many of us (me included) have lost our sense of URGENCY, of moving fast and reacting on instinct. In wanting to look effortless we’ve toned down the speed and increased the size of singular or short combination runs. Honestly, how many practitioners do you see nowadays that legitimately sprint between obstacles? Mostly I see that weird, half-speed, long stride with straight, swinging arms, which is good for a rapid series of walls or rails but over any length of flat ground looks like a Minecraft character running.

Prepare to Kong!

This shift is not a bad thing, just different. The emphasis has changed. I think it’d be worthwhile though to take note of your training style next time you’re out. Do you train in a relaxed, “cool” way, or in a rapid, “urgent” way?

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Author: Gabe Arnold

A student of Movement in all its forms, I have a particular love of Parkour and Freerunning. Trained as a fitness professional and currently pursuing a masters degree in Human Movement, my goal in life is to find the connections between movement, emotion, and soul.

3 thoughts on “Old -vs- New: Are We Slower Than Ever?

  1. This is sortof an unfair comparison. You’re comparing parkour ‘training’ to the notion of actually ‘doing’ parkour. Anyone in storror I know would absolutely blitz in a speed situation, I’ve seen it firsthand during games of manhunt at Imax. You’re basing your views off of what is shown in a parkour video, not whats practiced. Another point is, the complexity of the obstacles in the storror video is far higher than the old school traceurs trained on. It just depends on who’s youtube videos you’re watching, I’d say some people definitely look fast even with much more complex spaces than the lisses staircase – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55GnWh4TqY4

  2. I agree it depends on who you watch and also what kind of videos you watch. Naim in France always moves at a good pace as do several other people I know personally. I’m not arguing that everyone is slowing down, I’m saying taken as a global community the emphasis seems like it has shifted for most videos published and most training sessions.

    Instead of emphasizing the rapidity of clearing the obstacles it’s more about the complexity of the obstacles used or the “look” of the movement. This isn’t to say that someone can’t do both, but that what is publicly seen (Youtube, etc.) looks like it’s slower than earlier videos. More controlled and more complex, but visually more “laid-back”. Like the difference between a longboard and a short board in surfing; one’s aggressive and shows sharp turns, the other rolls and moves smoother. They’re both still surfing, just differing styles.

  3. Honestly, going by your point of what’s intentionally released to the public to view, I feel it’s the influence of freerunning. I like watching free runners, and I think every traceur needs to practice some free running and tricking to get a sense of how their bodies react to being in air, but the shear number of “parkour” (as in, ones that just say parkour in the title, not “parkour/freerunning”) videos featuring dozens of unnecessary flips and tricks makes me want to tear my hair out. That lazy, effortless style is a very Hollywood-ish influence, that I think stems from the same source as the unnecessary flips. Parkour, as I first heard it, is about getting from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. That loping antelope gait isn’t as fast as just sprinting or even running normally.

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