Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Just keep moving forward

Another historical post from my old parkour blog

March 11th 2009
While running a training for some students at my school, I made an important discovery/observation. Let me set the scene:

We have a covered in area at our school canteen with an upward curving roof overhead, two walls at either end with two rails in between about waist height for most students. I was running several drills to make use of these rails and to begin to work on flow (roughly speaking, flow is the linking of movements together to produce efficient, i.e. "flowing", movement).
  1. The first drill was to go from one wall to the other using different methods of passing the two obstacles (the rails). This is the experimental stage when traceurs are learning how to pass the obstacles in different ways and finding out what works best for them at their level of ability and according to their body type, etc.
  2. The second drill was to go there and back, doubling the number of linked movements and incorporating a change of direction at the far wall. More speed was expected also.
  3. The third drill was to go there and back and there again, adding a mild endurance factor so that beginners are getting a bit tired in their movements by the time they head back for the last time. At this point the traceurs are learning what they can do when they are tired or at least when they don't have time to think of the next move, i.e. the most efficient movement over/under the obstacles. More continuous movements can be linked as traceurs become fitter so that they are pushing out of their comfort zone into tiring territory.
What I discovered during this drill was that under pressure to keep moving (from myself, not others) rather than stalling at each obstacle to reset for the next move, I was pushing on and trying to keep as much of my body moving forward as I could. I found my moves losing form and regularity in the quest for continuous movement. I would compare the feeling to being warm water trying to move downward through the path of least resistance. I say warm water because cold water doesn't seem right for some reason.

This is where the links to various martial art philosophies would naturally fit in, but I'm more interested in describing the moment so that others can "look" for it and recognise it.

So what exactly happened? I had two out of the four moves prepared in my mind. First, a lazy vault with outside leg leading, second a monkey vault that made use of the momentum developed in my first move to send me flying over the rail, touch the wall then back and into improvisation mode. A sort of speed vault into a sideways underbar with my 120kg hurtling towards the concrete and a wild (but successful) hope of my arms on the rail saving me from blunt force trauma. Touch the wall again and turn for another speed/pop vault into a shambling roll under the final rail that felt a lot smoother than it looked. The last two moves were conducted with a kind of calculated desperation yet at the same time my mind had switched off and my body was on automatic.

There are other ways of developing this automatic movement. One is by drilling moves over and over and over so that you become highly fatigued and have to concentrate to perform every minor movement properly.  Or when you are running a circuit of some kind continuously so that as you tire your movement breaks down to the most energy saving and flowing form possible. The difference between these two methods and the school training described above is that a circuit or movement drill makes use of conscious methods of movement and the goal is not speed so much as perfecting technique or building endurance.

So how to find this type of movement where you get in the zone and just keep moving forward? One way is to focus on speed over short distances, and to have a good base of fitness and movement experience. Another could be to pick a near by destination without planning a path and just go there as quick as you can. You could also go exploring in a new place with no intention of passing an obstacle more than once (you can come back later if you find something cool). This idea of a journey or adventure will help keep your interest and motivation high also. One final way could be to just run at an obstacle and see how you instinctively get over it.

I believe this way of training is essential to a traceur's continued progression and motivation. It is useful to try this sort of drill every once in a while to see how your trained moves are impacting on useful, instinctive, and efficient movement.

Happy training!