There’s a certain “essence” that I'm going for when I instruct, and I'm very happy to hear that it's showing. Big thanks to my new student Beck Anstee for inspiring this post, through a message she sent to me via Facebook. Beck found my classes through our Ninja Warrior Games (http://www.UrbanNinjaProject.com) event that she attended with her daughters and has since attended 3 classes and brought her 2 daughters to a class as well.
In her message, Beck had inquired about the philosophy of parkour and was unsure if she was making "more of it than there is". In fact, I believe she has come to a better understanding of the discipline than most at their beginner stage in training. She went on to compliment my methods of instruction and the classes as a whole, and I was extremely satisfied by her message. Enough to write back a rather large response.
Here was my response to Beck’s message:
“You are not making more of it than there is. On my website I mention that I don't just teach a catalog of movements. If that was all there was to parkour, I probably wouldn't still be doing it after these years. It is definitely part of the philosophy to tune in with your environment and other people. Parkour is about a few simple points, but those points branch deeper to so many levels it's almost impossible to understand without getting into the discipline yourself:
Knowing Your Self - No matter what we do, we are always doing it alone. I don't mean that in a negative way. Everything we do is a decision of our own; every choice we make is made by us. When you're training, even with 100 people by your side, your training is still up to you. Nobody can really know what you're feeling inside at any given moment, the challenges you're facing or the thoughts running through your mind while you're staring down a jump.
Becoming Stronger - I think many (if not all) of the people who stick to training parkour have at least one thing in common: we always want to do/be better. When I say becoming strong, I don't just mean being able to lift 100lbs instead of 80lbs, or being able to do 100 pushups versus 50. The strength you find and build in parkour is in the mind as well. We use the skills we've developed through movement and apply them to all sorts of situations: problem solving, fear management, teamwork, leadership, compassion, confidence, self-expression, imagination and creativity. Yes, the physical strength of course can be carried into other goals and objectives or situations in life. But every bit of parkour should include the mind. If you're not using your mind, you're simply not training parkour.
Use That Knowledge and Strength for Good - "Be strong to be useful." This is one of the phrases that have been carried down from the founders and others that have followed in their footsteps. The word "Yamakasi", the name the founders gave their group, is an African Lingala word that means "strong man, strong spirit." To them it meant "strong body, strong mind, strong spirit." It was all about strength when they developed the discipline and their name. "We start together, we finish together!" is another phrase you will hear around the Parkour Generations team and the Yamakasi at their events. We want to be strong for a reason. Not just to lift heavier things, not just to impress others or to be "cool" - but to show others what they, what WE as human beings, are capable of. Especially nowadays with technology taking over everyone's lives; we've lost the ability to use our bodies and the will or respect to take care of them. There is a spirit in parkour that is just too difficult to explain. That spirit is about taking care of others and our environments just as much as it is about taking care of your own self.
Make It Last - "To be and to last." This is another phrase common to the founders, Parkour Generations, and those who have followed them. Parkour is an ongoing discipline. It is not a fad, it is not meant to be a workout or diet that you commit to for 6 months only to fall back into your "regular" life. There are those who train to go the biggest and hardest that they can, trying to pull off the biggest, flashiest tricks or movements. Despite anything that television, movies, any other media or anybody ever tells you - it is NOT an extreme sport, it is NOT about competition... and it never will be.
There are a limitless number of other branches to the discipline. Parkour is a never-ending and always-changing lifestyle - a journey without a destination. It is unique to each individual, just as our bodies and minds are.
Thank you for that message. It was really great to get confirmation that my instruction carries those core values! I'm going to share this on the Parkour Ways blog.”
I really like where Beck is headed, and I want to give her recognition for being incredibly involved in my classes in such a short amount of time. She continues to seek knowledge of the discipline on what seems to be a daily basis, sharing what she learns with others (including her nephew, Nick, whom she brought with her to a class last weekend!).
For the first time ever last weekend, I “assigned” some of my students a bit of homework. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t paperwork or an essay! All I asked of the students in that class was that they go out and work on their balance somewhere, at some point during the week. That was all.
Just a few hours later, I saw that Beck had posted a few videos on Facebook showing that she not only did the balance assignment, but also tried a few other new things! Absolutely awesome.
Beck has discovered a love for parkour. “I love it. It's a very natural progression for me. It's almost permission to be myself”, she says. ""Parkour is for everyone and contagious. I am seeing a variety of age and skill levels come into Parkour Ways and couldn't be more pleased."
Now, I have homework for my readers. If you haven't already, watch this video:
Additionally, I want you to poke around the Parkour Generations site (www.ParkourGenerations.com) and read some of the articles they have up. Not any one in particular. Just poke around at what catches your eye.
Lastly, I want you to read this recent blog on the topic of the way parkour is being spread and misconstrued, written by Parkour Generations coach Chris "Blane" Rowat:
Thanks for reading. Keep training everyone!