Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parkour History: 3 Key Principles of My Parkour

This is the final post from my old parkour blog.  That means you will no longer be able to find that blog.  Have no fear though, everything that was there is now here.  Enjoy this last one!

October 2009

Through reading and watching interviews with some of the founders of modern movement disciplines, and in watching them move, I have arrived at a sort of philosophy or approach to my training that hangs on three concepts. I will begin by explaining my understanding of these three ideas, including their benefits to the individual who pursues them, and then I will show how they link together in my training and wider life.

It is important to be clear about something at the beginning. I believe these concepts are a part of my wider life and existed before I began training. I am certain that if I didn't do parkour these ideas would manifest themselves in some other way. However, parkour has given me a context to form these ideas together and develop them. Other movement activities and non-movement activities may also be legitimate forms of developing the same ideas, but I think parkour is one of the better ones because of the need to incorporate both body and mind into training at the more advanced stages of development.

The bible says that man is made in the image of God. Creativity in man is considered to be one way that man shows similarity between himself and his maker. One way to describe creativity is by giving an example of a creative person. Someone who is creative is able to come up with something new out of something old or something considered as waste. As mortals, we cannot create anything physical out of nothing. So here I am considering creative use of pre-existing materials. John Britten was a creative genius who most people associate with the creation of the Britten motorcycle. Many do not know that he also built a home out of recycled materials, being creative with what he had, to reduce costs and to produce something totally unique. This was not the only amazing thing he produced with his creativity. That's another story though.

Some people think that creativity needs to have a useful purpose for it to be real. I don't think it is possible for creativity to be useless because the mind is developing its ability to think in different ways no matter what the use. Creative thinking can be applied to anything.

Parkour is a context for movement creativity. It doesn't even matter that much of the movement is discovered for the first time on a regular basis by every new practitioner that tries something they've never done before. There is almost nothing that beats the feeling of joy and elation that rises from within and fills our limbs with something wonderful as we move. This is the joy of creation in movement and can be experienced in a number of other contexts, e.g. writing, singing, playing music. It is creativity that gives energy to our training to keep it up and to push the boundaries. It is the desire to share something wonderful and new that leads to positive and fulfilling interactions with the rest of mankind. Creativity is the doorway to so much more.

Discipline is also easier to explain with some examples. Someone who is disciplined will train regularly in a controlled and thoughtful manner. Distractions and excuses are not something that the disciplined person allows. They train hard and strive to do the best they can at whatever they apply themselves to.

Without discipline our creativity would stagnate and the boundaries of movement would come crashing in. High repetition of movement gives us the technical mastery that becomes instinctive movement as well as the physical fitness to move where, when, and how we want.

Except for a few geniuses, we must train regularly to grow and widen the boundaries of what we can do. This is a lesson that parkour teaches beginners very quickly.

Another side of discipline is developing the mental toughness to be able to push on through the discomfort of training to find the limits of our bodies. Very few people in the world will know what it means to strive against themselves and overcome, beating their body into submission. There is also the discipline of knowing when to rest so as not to over-train, which can result in injury or slow recovery and progression.

Roughly speaking, altruism is helping others at your own expense. This expense could be in the form of time, money, even life.

In the field of parkour, traceurs often devote some time to coach and support beginners. Going beyond this, many will also look for opportunities to assist the wider community with their strength. This might be jumping at the chance to help push start a car with a flat battery, chasing down a purse snatcher, or assisting with community programs for holidays/camps/after school events.

Without the creativity and discipline that shapes a traceur, they are in much less of a position to assist others. The stronger we are, the more strength we can bring to bear on a difficult scenario. The more creative we are, the greater our range of options for applying ourselves to a problem.

Even the lowliest beginner can be altruistic by having a "give it a go" attitude that will inspire others, or by not making excuses for their weakness and instead seeking to improve from where they're currently at in their abilities.

Why are these things so important to parkour?
Lets imagine what parkour would be like without any one of these individual aspects.

First, without creativity we would not have the ability to become strong in a wide range of movements. Our "vision" would be dark and we could not see over the hill and far away to the furthest boundaries of our potential. Many people walk through life trying to fill up their day with shallow pursuits. We would be one of those, without creative insight into our own lives.

Second, without discipline we would lack the ability to fulfil our creative potential. With grandoise goals and no drive to reach them we would settle for an easy and shallow life once more. However, we would be incredibly frustrated with our lot because we would be able to see what we could've been, if only we had the discipline to make it happen.

Third, with no drive to help others we would be left to pursue our limits in total selfishness. People would only come to dislike us since we would never do anything for them. We would be reckless with other peoples' property and would likely leave a trail of destuction behind us at local training spots. Beginners would get no assistance and would be left to their own devices which would prove destructive all over again. Without the time and effort of experienced traceurs we would not have constructive communities online, and in the physical world, that build a positive and healthy segment of society, which in turn feeds this altruism into the world as a whole.

Each one of these three ideas builds into my life (and my parkour) in a necessary way. Without any one of them I would not be who I am. While they don't describe the complete me, i.e. I am more than just these three things, they are one framework to hang ideas on that would build a picture of my life. I would even go so far as to say that these three things should be a large focus in the lives of everyone in the world. Parkour is a great way for young people to approach these key concepts, and as such it should be something offered to children everywhere while they are young enough to latch on in a natural way.

Finally, these three ideas are where the simple joy in movement comes from. Expanding ourselves, growing into our ideas, sharing with others, and forming valuable relationships with communities. In all of this there is much happiness to be had!

Now its time for you to go away and think about how these ideas apply to your life.

Think hard, train hard,