How to Handle FIG Athletes

     In the modern world, sports entertainment and branding are nearly impossible to separate. For every baseball game, there's a sponsor. For every car race, you'll be hard-pressed to find a car that isn't plastered in some sort of branding. Moreso every day, we now see public figures, athletes, and pop stars building personal brands that tend to heavily interact with corporations, through sponsorship, promotions, and advertisement. For this reason, we have to treat all individual athletes as both people, and as personal brands. Some people have strong feelings towards athletes who decide to be sponsored by certain brands. We have all heard the term “sell out” at least once in our lives referring to singers, athletes, or actors choosing to work with a certain person or company. What is selling out though, and how does it affect people's perspective of you? The act of “Selling Out” is generally thought of as compromising one's morals, integrity, authenticity, or principals in exchange for personal gain, such as money, power, or popularity. When we feel like an athlete is selling out, how should we respond to that, especially if they are our personal friends?

     FIG, Otherwise known as Federation Internationale Gymnastique, is the international governing body of gymnastics. They are also currently attempting to be the international governing body of parkour, and have already succeeded in being the official organizer of Parkour in the Olympic committee. FIG has shown that their interest in parkour is simply to assimilate it with gymnastics, and they frequently claim that the two are akin, if not identical. Gymnastics has been steadily decreasing in popularity, and parkour continues to become more and more popular, especially with young people. They believe that by using the name parkour and applying it to their sport they will be able to cash in on the name while changing the actual sport to best fit their agenda. To do this they have set rules and regulations for parkour competitions by working with big-name athletes and a few parkour companies.

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     A popular comparison nowadays in parkour, is FIG and Red Bull. Red Bull has hosted ‘The Art of Motion’ for 10 years (2007 - 2017). Art of Motion is a freestyle freerunning competition, hosted by the energy drink giant, Red Bull. People have taken issue with this competition because the format fails to represent many aspects of the sport. Red Bull has made it clear that they are only interested in running a competition and in sponsoring a few select athletes, and that is where they greatly differ from FIG. While at this point FIG has been mainly focused on their competitions, they have made it clear that they plan to function as a governing body for parkour on an international level. As a governing body, FIG could decide what is, and what is not viewed as parkour on a large level of the general populous. FIG also could, and very likely will set standards for gym design, coaching standards, and international competition standards, that will only align with their skewed view of parkour. If that doesn't scare you enough, one of their early steps will very likely be to decide upon an international set of standardized obstacles, for gym and competition use.

     FIG has already held a couple of competitions, including the FISE World Cup, and the Hiroshima Cup. Several big-name athletes have already aligned themselves with FIG through competing at their events. Athletes that include Pasha ‘The Boss’ Petkuns, Pedro Salgado, Jesse Peveril, Kamil Tobiasz, Zen Shimada, Aleksandra ‘Sasha Sheva’ Shevchenko, and others. FIG has assembled some sort of board to make decisions regarding how their organization handles parkour, and they have included a couple of these top level athletes on that board, including Sasha Sheva and Kamil Tobiasz. A large part of the community has been very vocal when expressing their lack of support for FIG, and it has raised the controversial question of how to interact with these athletes who are now affiliated with an organization that we feel threatened by. Several community leaders have loudly stated that they do not agree with the political decisions made by these athletes, and will not support these athletes through social media, or even potentially in business deals. Others in the community have responded to this by saying that it simply propagates division in our community, and that FIG will take advantage of that division more than anything else.

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     While nearly everyone agrees that blacklisting athletes is a bad thing and that it creates unnecessary division within the community, how far is too far? The problem may come from the fact that we continue to talk about these athletes as people. They are our friends, our training mates, and our coaches. Politically these athletes aren't people though, they’re brands. Choosing to not buy their product, watch their video, or follow them on social media is a valid decision, just as it would be when boycotting any other brand. We cannot let our personal friendships dictate our political opinions. If you don’t believe in the actions a brand is taking, protesting their products, be they physical or digital, is an acceptable thing to do.

     Will FIG actually destroy our sport? Maybe, maybe not, but standing by idly, letting them do whatever they wish, is not only lazy, it’s actively siding with them by allowing them free reign over the sport that we love. We do know that FIG has every intention of profiting off of parkour to the maximum amount they possibly can, and they do not plan to involve the community in the majority of decisions they make. In the end, it's important to have your own convictions and to live by them. Do research and make sure you have your facts straight. Don’t allow people on social media dictate how you live your life.

Physical Education: Contrasting Schools with Parkour

   Picture this, It’s 9th grade gym class. Sweat drips down your forehead as you glance around the room, eyes darting between the other 20 children that look like they would give anything to be anywhere else.  You peel yourself off the gym floor for another set of suicide runs. You think to yourself ‘I hate P.E’. The ear piercing shriek of a gym whistle, and off you go. Is this really the the best form of Physical Education? Physical education is handled differently in every state, county, and school in the U.S, but some themes remain pertinent. For the sake of consistency, throughout this article, we will be specifically referencing PA state standards for HPE (Health and Physical Education). Pennsylvania divides their HPE standards into 5 categories, 3 of which are primarily based on traditional classroom learning about sexual, emotional, and overall health. The other 2 categories are “Physical Activity”, and “Concepts, Principles and Strategies of Movement”, when we refer to the text as a whole, we’re really only referring to the final two sections. You can view the PA “Academic Standards for Health, Safety, and Physical Education” available online here: http://static.pdesas.org/content/documents/Academic_Standards_for_Health_Safety_and_Physical_Education.pdf
The current P.E system in the U.S is ineffective, and could benefit considerably from the introduction of parkour as a base of it’s curriculum.

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   The most striking thing when looking across the PA HPE documents, is the overwhelming presence of verbs such as “Explain”, “Describe”, “Analyze”, and “Evaluate”, contrasted with the severe lack of “Demonstrate”, “Perform”, or anything actually involving physical movement. According to PA state law, children are required to complete 120 hours of health + PE, throughout high school. After running some quick numbers that brings us to about 10 MINUTES per school day, and only 2/5ths of the curriculum is actually focused on any sort of physical activity. The CDC recommends at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity for high school age children.. “Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance (e.g., memory), and classroom behaviors (e.g., on-task behavior).” (CDC, 2018).  Most experts would agree that our current system of P.E is thoroughly flawed, and does not effectively fight obesity, heart disease, and other issues related to lack of exercise.

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   Parkour is infamously known as a high-energy sport with an incredibly high physical skill ceiling, this skill ceiling is nearly unmatched, with the exception of a couple sports including rock climbing. But parkour isn’t just about the elite athletes who soar around on rooftops, far from it actually. Parkour is about creativity, expression, technique, and discipline. Parkour is practiced at ground level, and is only taken to heights after years of training. Basic parkour focuses on safe failing, basic proprioception, and simple athletic motions with little impact. With parkour being a relatively new sport, very few scientific studies have been conducted, but as for the data that has been gathered, most experts agree that parkour is safer than many mainstream sports, especially American Football. Because of the individual aspect of parkour, it is only as dangerous as you make it. With other team and contact sports, you’re often putting your wellbeing in the hands of strangers,. This is an intimidating idea for many people, and can immediately dissuade individuals from participating in traditional physical activity.

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   With an intensely high skill cap, parkour is often times presented by mainstream media as an inherently dangerous discipline, so parkour can be a little intimidating to traditional education structures, such as schools. Luckily we already have some wonderful examples of how successful parkour can be in a school environment. The premiere example is Parkour Generations UK. In 2005 Parkour Generations introduced a program that brings parkour into London primary and secondary schools in a cost effective and safe program that maintains parkour values. The year after this program was introduced, a study was run in the area correlating the introduction of the program and a 39% drop in youth crimes. The year after, a follow up study was done and showed a 69% drop in youth crimes. Along with a drop in crime rate, children who participated in the program showed greatly increased grades, and school attendance. While this may not immediately make sense, giving kids who may not be inclined to traditional school, something to look forward to in their school day is a great incentive to participate in school.

   The U.S schools P.E system is thought of by many professionals as highly ineffective, and underwhelming. It needs a rework, and why not parkour? Parkour is a young sport, that's highly popular  among teenagers and children. Even as we speak FIG (Federation Internationale Gymnastique) is making a desperate, and ill-founded attempt at claiming parkour, because of its incredible popularity, contrasted with gymnastics exponentially decreasing enrollments. Parkour programs in school have been shown to decrease youth crime rates in the immediate area, and increase school attendance and grades. Parkour tends to be much safer than many traditional sports, when practiced properly, and what better way to guarantee safe training methods, then teaching it in schools!



 

Why Are Jams Important?

    Why are parkour jams even important? Parkour has been an outlier sport since its early days, with little to no formal governance (this is just starting to change), and with very little large scale organization. Jams have always been an essential aspect of parkour growth in every way. Jams provide a place for top tier athletes to demonstrate the newest moves and techniques they’ve been developing, for dialogue on movement philosophy, as well as a place for the exchange of miscellaneous parkour related information. Jams are a place where you can see your friend that lives far away, or where you can make a whole group of new friends. Parkour has always been a community driven discipline, and community led jams are an essential part of retaining the spirit of parkour. A fun focus on training, growth, and camaraderie, that in most instances, has nothing to do with competition.

    Meeting like minded people that do the same thing you do, and to some extent think the same as you do, help build a solid communal foundation. For proper development of the sport we need to always be looking at ways to improve parkour jams/events. It is during jams/events that the community goes from being an online presence to seeing each other face to face and socializing. That person to person interaction is vital to grow smaller communities into much bigger and more active ones. It is through actively training with one another and trying challenges that are both fun and scary that build long lasting memories and laughs with one another that will only lead to much happier and healthier communities as time goes on.

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    Jams can also be a place where the sport is pushed to its limit, and new moves or challenges are created and conquered. Naturally having a group of like minded individuals in the same place leads to the exchange of ideas and techniques that other people might have never been aware of before. Such as using a simple breathing pattern to calm yourself down before a scary challenge, or a cue to fix a particular technique that you might have never heard before. All of these are bits of information that people normally would never find out about if it wasn’t for a jam setting. Sometimes being in a new spot with new people helps you retain new information better

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    Jams have been a key element in the overall growth of Parkour. They help bring distant friends together, while also pushing the sport to new heights. Jams may come and go but the memories made, such as being super silly with your friends and sharing laughs together or conquering that sick challenge together, helps solidify its importance in furthering our sport. In the end, jams are what you make of them. Don’t get too caught up if you can’t land the biggest trick, or do the hardest challenge. Just try and make the best out of each experience that you make with old and new friends alike.

 

When the Coaching Gets Tough...

 

   Through parkour coaching we have encountered many different types of people. Some will learn much quicker than others, while some will put in more effort. A successful coach should encourage and motivate their students to want to better themselves in their parkour practice.  To be a good coach, you should be a good student. So learning how you can avoid the same issues yourself is super valuable. The first thing to mention is that every person has their own set of issues and motivations, whether conscious or unconscious, that they are dealing with. All too often a weak coach will blame a person's inability to take the time to learn the skill, instead of the coaches ability to relate to, and understand what their motivators are.

 

   Many things motivate people. Some want to be stronger for the sake of being stronger. Some may be passionate about the feeling they have when training parkour. Some may just want to get in shape. Identifying a person's motivator will help you understand what actions can be taken to move them towards their best parkour experience. A common motivator that some people have is they either consciously or unconsciously seek social acceptance. This can lead to them having a crippling fear of failure, which makes them more reluctant to try certain things. This could lead to the student not putting in effort in class because he/she is worried about looking foolish trying. What might help these students is reminding them that failure and looking a little silly is part of the process of learning. You aren't respected for rushing to learn a new move, or getting on the box. You are more popular for really trying your best.

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   A common issue people have whether they know it or not is being paralyzed by fear. The first step in these situation is for the instructor to identify whether the fear is Justified or Irrational. A justified fear is when there is a genuine physical inadequacy, there are people who have never properly exercised, or who may have some sort of disability, which inhibits them from attempting the same physical motions as other people. In this scenario, the coach could break down the movements into bite sized chunks, that they can approach in a safe manner. You still want to challenge these students, but perhaps differently than you would everyone else. In the case of an irrational fear, where they have all of the required abilities, including adequate strength, flexibility, and proprioception, a different approach is required.  Different coaches may be suited to work with different types of people you may encounter. You may encounter a student who takes his time and is very slow and methodical in his approach to learning. While another student might be very reckless and you may need to find ways to calm him/her down or channel that reckless energy in some way.

 

   You will encounter many different types of people whether you are coaching or just in your everyday life. Focusing on you faults is important, but helping someone that may need it might potentially help yourself out in some way. Training to be good athlete requires you to be a good student. If you coach, it may not be the most important thing to get someone to make that jump, it may be more valuable for the student to just get through the class while paying attention. The better you can learn from your issues/motivations and the motivations of others the more effective of a student you will be. Think about the type of person you are and what motivates you.

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Builds: Safety, Adaptability, and Inspiration

     One of the many intentions of parkour is to push one's own limits. All the limits. In just a few short years the sport has developed much faster than anyone could have anticipated. It has given kids a healthy outlet to push their own boundaries and to discover what their bodies and minds are capable of. With rapid growth and progress comes problems pertaining to parkour gyms and builds. A Build is any individual/group of obstacles designed for parkour and movement, including, but not limited to, parkour gyms, parkour parks, individually sold obstacles, or temporary build-outs. There are a few core concepts to take into account about parkour builds; safety, adaptability, and inspiration. 

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      Safety always comes first and is pretty straightforward, can you jump on the box and apply normal force without it breaking? Under normal circumstances is the obstacle going to break, shift, or lose structural integrity? Objects should be made out of high quality material, and any unsafe qualities such as excessively sharp objects (i.e. protruding screws and nails) should not be in a gym or any build. Bars should be welded together by a professional, and you should think very hard about the type of floor you want in your facility. For example, astro turf might seem like a great choice until you realize dust starts to build much more easily. Or if you wanted carpet bonded foam floor, be prepared to have your obstacles slide a fair amount. you should never use pallets or pressboard, and there are many other common sense safety guidelines that could be a mile long list but let’s not get into that unless you want to go into construction.

     Following that, adaptability is a little more subjective. Modular gyms designed with mobile obstacles in mind, are highly preferred in this genre because them being versatile makes it so that new life and possibilities can be brought to the space. In the same respect a boring plywood box is going to be less interesting then a carefully designed obstacle, like the Tetris Vault, which has multiple levels, and arrangements in which you can use it. Being able to use an obstacle in conjunction with other obstacles while being able to move through a gym fluidly without awkward obstacles blocking your way is a true blessing. It’s a long thought process to avoid adding poorly designed features which don’t add to the variations and movements in the space. Having specific spaces be adaptable for classes, workshops, and casual training is hard to keep versatile and requires a lot of foresight in the stages of planning a gym build. 

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     Inspiration is the most conceptual of these three topics, as well as the most often overlooked. Inspiration is the moment a person looks at an obstacle and is moved to try something on it. This happens while training outside all the time, you see a fascinating new architecture style, or just a weird shaped installation. You get excited, your inner child comes to life and you just need to jump on that particular object. That's inspiration. It’s hard to create new and exciting objects, that inspire people to play on them, and further their movement. People travel and take inspiration from other places in their own builds. Innovation is a hard concept to get right, because it requires lots of trial and error with designing the right “kind” of obstacle.

     Regardless of the points made, as with all large communities, there are people who disagree with the generally accepted standards. Why they disagree with these standards is what sets people apart. There are a few main reasons why someone wouldn’t follow the quality standards mentioned. Some people simply don’t understand the nuances of safely building a training facility. Some people may not do things the generally accepted way because they believe that they have a better idea of how things should be done. While others would rather just cut corners to do things cheaply. Either way the staff at PPK Philly will always strive to meet the highest quality of standards while pushing innovation forward.

Stunt Work and Parkour Training

     If someone is interested in doing stunt work and is curious about how parkour can help with their stunt career, or vice versa, then there are a few differences that one should look at. Becoming a stunt actor requires taking on the job title of a stunt actor, while parkour can be an activity that you perform every now and then. Stunt actors normally are trying to accomplish a specific fall, flip, or landing to look appealing to the camera or director. However, for parkour you have no one to appeal to, other than yourself. Granted, there are basic moves and forms you should know, however once you have the basics down it is up to you to be as creative as you want with them. This is not to take away from stunt actors because some of the stunts they perform requires a lot of skill and technique. However, if you plan on participating in both worlds with the intention of being great at both, then that is where you run into some trouble. To be great at stunts requires falls to be clean according to industry standards and to be great in parkour requires one to push to the edges of one's capabilities.

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     One of the common values of parkour is safe progression and being strong to be useful. Safe progression to being a parkour athlete means being able to work towards a difficult, sometimes dangerous skill/jump, with progressions that build towards the main challenge. Safe progressions are meant to allow us to train however long our bodies can let us. The idea behind the “be strong to be useful” philosophy is to learn skills, and gain mastery over your body to then help others when the need arises in any situation. This includes the mental strength that is gained from pushing through mental barriers in parkour, the agility from the movement, or the strength gained through training. Immersing yourself in training parkour can be very rewarding physically and mentally. However, it’s not very rewarding when it comes to obtaining money in your pocket.

     Parkour itself is not really in high demand for anything, which is why many people who are focussed on parkour as a lifestyle usually are coaches or have to find another similar avenue to make money through parkour. They may even need to go so far as to attain a completely unrelated career to support their lifestyle. Which leads some athletes towards pursuing a job working in the stunt industry. There is a vast majority of techniques that one can pull from parkour when thinking about stunt work.

     There are certain types and styles of movements from parkour which are especially invaluable to stunt performers. More specifically all of the basic vaults are used a lot in common fight/chase scenes. Most of the basic flips and twists will be utilized because everyone likes a flip on camera. What's mainly important for anyone who is interested in stunts is to be able to repeat the basics of parkour with control and technique. In stunts, the actual difficulty of the move is irrelevant, all that matters is how the audience perceives the movement, and if they feel it looks ‘realistic’ enough and having a solid foundation in parkour will help you achieve most if not all of the stunts you are asked to perform.

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     Stunts and Parkour overlap to some degree since they are both movement based, and may on occasion draw from one another for techniques or inspiration. But all in all, the requirements for Stunts means that Stunts will always be in a box of what is desired. This is in no way a bad thing. It is meant to be visually appealing, and is in a sense, movement-based acting, and has a very specific and specialized place. However, on the other end, Parkour has no lines to follow, and can, therefore, expand to become whatever the individual practitioner wants it to encompass. Creativity, technicality, power, the goals are all what you set for yourself, and training is not for an end goal, but for the joy of the movement itself. That being said, Parkour has such a great pool of creativity to draw from. It has an endless artillery that any practitioner can utilize to help step themselves into the stunt world, and then maybe just maybe onto the big screen.

Cross Training and Parkour

    All athletes can benefit from cross training. Whether it is a football player trying to get a longer range throw, an ice-skater trying to perfect that axel or an Olympic swimmer training for a marathon, for all of these people, cross training is extremely valuable, and this remains true across nearly every sport. Cross training is “The action or practice of engaging in two or more sports or types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in one's main sport.” Parkour is one of the very few exceptions. There really is no need to cross train for a parkour athlete, and the main reason for that is because of the inherently well-rounded aspect of parkour. Parkour being something that has already learned and taken so much from other sports.

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Why is cross training so (potentially) valuable?      

    One of the reasons parkour is such an intense sport is because it works out nearly every muscle group. We work out our legs with every jump, our forearms with every intense dyno, our back muscles with each lache. Most other sports don't have this aspect, most of them focus on just a few main muscle groups. If you are a cyclist, odds are pretty good your legs are significantly stronger than any muscle group above your waist. If you participate in a sport like Rock climbing you’re likely to have ‘strong’ upper back, shoulders, and arms. Basically, you aren't gonna be a top tier parkour athlete if you aren’t absurdly well rounded, in both your technique and skills, as well as your muscles. The main reason someone would cross train would be because you need to take the imbalances that you gain from your sport, and even your body out with training from a different sport to remain healthy and perform better.

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Why is it important to train multiple muscle groups?

    Training duration is essential to all athletes who want to improve themselves. Being able to train (effectively) for longer, generally means more training overall, and with that, more improvement. One of the best ways to increase your training duration is varying the type of training, and with that, the types of muscle groups you work out. Being able to shift your training to different muscle groups when you think you may be close to an injury is essential for longevity. Constant use of only a couple muscle groups can very easily lead to stress-based injuries in those groups. Variation is essential to maintaining a healthy training regimen. Another reason cross training is important for many sports is that training muscle groups that aren’t your primary group can help with healing, and injury prevention. For example, Achilles tendonitis, caused by overuse, can be greatly improved by the regular strengthening of the calf muscles. Using varied exercise techniques can not only give your body the chance to heal but can also very often strengthen and stretch parts of your body that were causing you pain.         

Can you have too much parkour?

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    Eh. Not really. Because of the immense variation between movements in parkour, you don’t run into the same roadblocks with only training parkour as you can in other sports. If your version of parkour is only ever strides, plyos, and other jumpy type things, then you can easily run into issues akin to other sports, but as long as you are training many aspects of parkour, then you’ll probably be fine. That being said, there are a few sports which we believe can help maximize your parkour abilities. The first is rock climbing. Absurd grip strength, top-tier mental and physical discipline, and dynamic movements a-plenty. If you’re looking to max out your laches, get that dyno that's just out of your reach, or maybe get a nasty cat leap with very little grip at the end, then maybe you should take up rock climbing to boost your training to a new level. The second (sport?) we recommend is Yoga. With great strength comes great responsibility, included in that responsibility is mobility, something that many parkour athletes tend to ‘forget’ about. Stretching and holding poses is not very fun, but it’s well worth it. In parkour there is a lot of muscle compression, so a natural partner with that is muscle extension, something yoga is king for.

    In the vast majority of popular sports/physical activities, there’s a primary focus on just a few types of movement, just a few of our many muscle groups, and there tends to be little to no importance placed on being well rounded. Because of this, cross training cannot just be useful, but completely essential. Parkour is quite the contrary when practiced properly. Being well rounded is praised in healthy communities, being extremely mobile is considered very important among every elite athlete, and the variety of movements leads to (relatively) equal workout distribution across muscle groups. Because of the extreme variety parkour brings in so many ways, cross-training is not essential but can be highly useful in some scenarios, specifically rock climbing for grip strength, upper body focus, and yoga for mobility and muscle elongation. Maybe you’ve been drifting away from your training, you’re injured or just need a break. Check out these two other sports for a healthy dose of extra variance. Also, on a side note,  if your main sport is anything other than parkour, then may we suggest parkour as your main go to for cross training?

Sincerely,
The PPK Philly Team

Positive V.S Detrimental Parkour Organizations

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Is Habitat for Humanities a good organization? They help people build houses while teaching them how to sustain and maintain a home. Is the organization's intention to help those in need and to educate them? If an organization is created, but it does not know what its goals or intentions are, then that may lead to some complications/frustration down the line. In the book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, venture capitalist Ben Horowitz writes about his experience launching and running various organizations. In his book, he writes how in a good organization, “people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally, … Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves.” In contrast, in a bad organization, “people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not.” For parkour, if an organization knows why they do what they do, then the employees will know what to do and have some form of direction. Whether that be to give back to the community, innovate the sport further, or improve upon what is currently there.

  • There are plenty of things that can make a parkour organization good, or bad, and many, many more things that fall into a middle grey area. We’re going to bring up some things that different organizations have done, and it will be up to you, the reader, to decide if its a good thing, a bad thing, or maybe neither. We’re gonna list off some things that could, or even have happened in the parkour community. Here goes:
     
  • One prolific early parkour group had dress code rules that dictated that its sponsored athletes could not wear brands, or logos, that were not from the organization they were sponsored by. This certainly feels like an encroachment upon the athlete's personal rights, but also it is one way to clearly delineate sponsorship and affiliation.
     
  • Another organization decided that it would be acceptable to put images and text indicating multiple unassociated athletes support for the company and after being asked by those athletes to take it down, simply ignored the request.
     
  • Sometimes it isn’t technically an organization but an individual, who owns or is strongly affiliated with a Parkour organization that does questionable stuff. How would you feel if when you went to set up a website using your name, someone from your sport who claims to be progressing the discipline has already bought many web addresses that are, or resemble your name, and when confronted simply tries to sell it back to you at a higher price. Another thing that we see often is low-quality obstacle design and build.
     
  • Have you gone to a parkour gym and not been able to train on the setup, because it’s too wobbly? You aren’t sure if it will break if you play on it? (that being what the obstacle was designed to do). Unsafe building practices as well as cranking up the prices of obstacles is something that certainly happens in the parkour community.
     
  • Forming a for-profit organization and then claiming to be recognized as the national representative of your sport, with very little support, and the board of directors is same people as the board of directors of your also for profit organization which has been operating as a distributor of parkour accessories for a while.
     
  • Building an organization designed around spreading the concept of play, and through that safe movement, and providing free structures built to make people move outside of their comfort zones and to enjoy play.
     
  • Forming a gym as a nonprofit and then running progression based classes, all while spending all of their remaining budget to build and design parks and public play spaces.
     
  • Slowly advancing your business, and methodically making sure you aren't growing too fast to keep the message/heart of your sport clear and true to your beliefs.
     
  • Building on current parkour competition formats, and developing new formats which run true to the way we train and create legitimate opportunities for the sport to grow and for professional athletes to be able to sustain themselves without compromising their morals.
     
  • Creating an international organization through total transparency, electing a board which does not have a stake in the commercial shifts in parkour, and gaining support from many local organizations.

A notable organization (which we do not mind naming) that is known in the parkour community for being poorly run is FIG (Federation Internationale de Gymanstique). FIG is considered a parkour organization because they have essentially decided to make themselves the main governing body of parkour and its athletes.  They are poorly running the parkour portion of their organization by trying to take it upon themselves to create and dictate what they believe the rules and regulations of parkour should be. FIG has not asked for community input and has set up rules for their competitions which go against the spirit of parkour.

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There were some examples of primary things that current parkour organizations have done, for the better or worse of the growth of our sport. We hope to be an example of a transparent, and above board organization that promotes the positive growth of parkour and fosters growth in anyone who walks through our doors. If anyone notices something we are doing that seems shady or unacceptable, just bring it to our attention, our ears are open and we would love to hear your input.

Best,

PPK Philly Team

Video, Media, & Parkour

If you are one of the many people that have discovered the sport of Parkour through a random YouTube video, congratulations! Perhaps you have come across a lovely Storror travel video, or a really action packed GUP video, or maybe even a really old school video such as Olegs, Out of Time. In some way, video and media have played a role in how you discovered the sport, how you view the sport, and how you train because of it. The current trends of today’s world revolve around media, mainly social media, in ways that people a few years ago did not have access to. The speed at which information can be passed along makes ideas now more than ever easier to share. This speed and almost immediate feedback, in the form of video comments, or social media debates, shape the way we move forward in our parkour journey.

For starters without the cell phone cameras attached to our smart phones we would not receive the immediate feedback to further develop and progress our training. Immediate feedback is vital to any aspired student who wants to make progress towards his or her training goals. In an article written by the Center for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) in Singapore says, “An important dimension of feedback is its immediacy. The longer the time gap between the completion of the work and it’s feedback the less effective it's feedback becomes. Ideally, feedback should be provided within minutes after the completion of the task.” Now anyone can set their phone down and get a quick clip of their movement so that they can then view and analyze it. The athlete can almost seamlessly shape and improve upon their skills right after the skill has been performed.

          The aspiring athletes who also seek a creative outlet through the sport can now post a video one day and get views and some attention the very next day. With today's current social media platforms an athlete or creative can promote themselves more easily than before. Part of being an athlete and a creative is the need to create content for others to share and enjoy. Before the boom of social media it would take weeks for a video or an athlete to be discovered. Now it is as simple and easy as putting up the right clip on Instagram, or a well time YouTube video upload. Internet virality and current social media platforms make it so almost anyone can have a voice in today’s age of internet memes.

          Whatever is currently trending on social media is unfortunately what most people are looking at. In return this shapes what our media consumption looks like, and also shapes the current image of what parkour might be to someone discovering the sport for the first time. Someone might think parkour is all about jumping on skyscrapers in Asia if they watch any of Storror’s new videos lately. Someone can also think that parkour is all about performing the hardest, most difficult move to win a freestyle competition if they were introduced to parkour by watching the most recent Red Bull Art of Motion. The bottom line is parkour is whatever you want it to be, and that personal definition needs to be created on your own. If certain videos inspire you to travel, then go travel. If the movements are what inspire you then learn as many as you can. Train safely, make cool content, and always find ways to improve upon your training and your mindset. Parkour is for everyone, but it doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone.

Air Wipp Challenge

 

Air Wipp

 

Competitions are a staple for many sports, and in nearly all of them men and women compete separately. There are serious, and unarguable differences in men’s, and women’s bodies, so to a certain extent this does make sense. Surrounding this separation of the sexes is a stigma that women simply cannot perform to the same standard as men can. This year’s Air Wipp competition, with some of the young women throwing as difficult, or even more difficult moves then the men's comp, was a huge step forward as proof that women can perform to an incredibly high standard, and no   one should assume anything different.

It seems there aren’t many parkour competitions that have showed constant improvement. However the Air Wipp Challenge is making progressive moves forward. If you aren’t familiar with the name Air Wipp, the history of the brand started with the founders, Marcus Gustafsson and Filip Ljungberg. Before having a space of their own, Marcus and Filip decided to host their own parkour competition in 2012, sponsored by Betsafe called the Air Wipp Challenge. This gave athletes another platform to perform at the highest level possible. The competition went on for another consecutive year in 2013, followed by a year long hiatus. It returned with the current format and venue you see today called Helsingborg Arena.
The format of the competition is a 90 second freestyle run throughout the course, where the athletes run throughs are scored based on four criteria: flow, difficulty, execution and creativity. Flow is how efficient and smoothly an athlete can link their movements together during a run. Difficulty is how hard the movements are that they are performing. Execution is how clean and aesthetically pleasing the athletes movements are within their run, and finally creativity is how original the athlete is, in the moves they choose to use and where along the course they execute those movements. This years athletes that podiumed go as followed: 1st place Dimitris Kyrsanidis, 2nd place Joey Adrian, and 3rd place Erik Mukhametshin. However, the real surprise came from the winner of the women’s division. 3rd place finisher Lilou Ruel, 2nd place finisher Sydney Olson, and the youngest competitor there, 13 year old Elise Bickley taking home the 1st place podium.

Who is Elise Bickley? Aside from being a 13 year old who can throwdown bigger than most adults…  She is a member of Team Katalyst, which is a sports facility located in the UK. In her run, she executed 2 fairly difficult tricks that any seasoned practitioner would have trouble performing. One of the moves was a double flyaway, which is a double backflip dismount performed while swinging on a bar, releasing right as you approach the highest point of the front of the swing. The second move is called a roll bomb, which is a front flip that is performed immediately after rolling off of a ledge that is tall enough for one to perform a full rotation. Although her big trick execution was on point, her run was very much lackluster on her flow and creativity. Elise successfully proved what the women in our community have been fighting for. Woman just want to be seen for the athletes they are, and their actual accomplishments, not just portrayed as a trope. All the competitors in the women's division did an amazing job and definitely set a high bar, but Elise, and the other podium athletes went out, and threw moves that were equal to the men’s skill levels that are attempted in these competitions. By doing this she not only pushed the women to be better athletes, but also showed the world how much potential women really have.

The line ‘That’s great for a woman!’ is heard way too often, and it promotes a sexist view of how women can perform compared to men. Since parkour is a male dominated sport, men tend to “mansplain”, or speak in an overtly condescending fashion towards women in regard to parkour movements. Women are often held back by coaches or community members that hold them to a lower standard than men in the same movements. In competitions, or world showings, like Air Wipp, we can see that despite this disadvantage women still perform as amazing athletes. Elise Bickley was the youngest competitor in Air Wipp, and took gold in an all ages division.

If you haven’t seen any of the videos from the event I highly recommend going on Youtube and watching it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvZeB8KO3sA&t=3537s ), especially the women's competition. The women at Air Wipp this year brought some seriously amazing movement, and this was (in our opinion) the best showing from women at a competition. Next time you see a woman jumping, before you speak, think about whether what you’re about to say is helpful to the growth of the mixed gender Parkour community as a whole.


Best, PPK Philly

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Etiquette of Working at a Gym

Working at a parkour gym can be one of the most fun and rewarding jobs out there. You spend every day encouraging people to play and be creative while making them more active and healthy individuals. You get to play and jump on the equipment, and you meet some pretty awesome people along the way. However, working at a gym comes with a big workload and has to be treated the same way you’d treat any other job. Even though you get to wear athletic clothing and jump on things when you are working, like any job, you have a dress code, a code of conduct, a job description, and rules and regulations to follow. You have to wear clean clothes, get shifts covered, clean the gym, do your desk work, and provide customer service and coaching to customers. If you don't follow your gym's guidelines and rules and only have fun and play when you are working then your gym will have a hard time functioning to maximum potential.  

 

 Don't look like this guy.

Don't look like this guy.

A big problem that comes up when working in a gym is knowing the difference between working attire and training attire. When training outside you probably don't wear your nicest, cleanest, most expensive clothing. You more likely wear clothing you wouldn’t mind getting dirty or scuffed up. Psychology of appearance, how someone is dressed affects how seriously someone interacts with them. Subconsciously we automatically judge people based on the immediate visual impression we get of them, if customers are constantly seeing coaches and staff dress in non-culturally appropriate clothes, then you will drive off many customers, as they will be uncomfortable. You can still wear comfortable clothing while looking work appropriate. Wear clean, non hole-y sweat pants and shirts. If you wear a hat make sure it doesn't cover your face so that you can look customers in the eye while talking to them. Keep yourself clean shaven, well groomed, and please don't forget to bathe. No parent wants to talk to you about their child's progress when you smell like you've been running around a sewer for a week. Lastly, keep your shirts on! When you're outside training and it's miserably hot, then it's understandable that you may want to train with your shirt off. However, when you're in a gym working and taking care of children and you take your shirt off it's just weird and unprofessional. Every gym has a different dress code, some are more strict and some are more lenient. No matter what the case, there's a reason for your gym's rules.

 

Working time is not training time! This is something most people have a hard time differentiating between. It is likely that while walking across the gym you see a group of your friends trying this really cool challenge that you have yet to seriously try and can’t resist the urge to jump in and join them. Especially in a gym where it is designed for people to look around and be curious and find challenges for themselves, sometimes you can’t help your wandering eyes, however, that does not mean you need to slack off of your work responsibilities. If you are working and really do see it as your job then there are some standards that need to be met before playtime even crosses your mind. First and foremost, if you can’t get to work on time consistently and work the entirety of your shift then you are hardly deserving of any playtime. If you need to miss a day or two of work it is imperative that you call out of work with either someone to take over your shift for the day or with enough of a notice for the gym to find someone to cover for you. Most importantly if this is a place you believe in and what it offers to its customers then why would you not want to do your best as consistently as you can? There was a reason for you wanting to work at a parkour gym, remind yourself of that reason and let that guide and motivate you to consistently improve yourself and the business where applicable. Playtime is good to break up the monotony of the day to day tasks but keeping yourself focused as to what role you play in the company and how you can improve it whenever you can be what guides you and motivates you forward.

 

 Look more like this guy!

Look more like this guy!

As rewarding and playful working at a gym can be, that is also a cause for concern as to how everyone chooses to interact with customers. A family walking into the facility and hearing the inappropriate language, or being greeted by a “Sup brah.” should not be the first encounters they have upon entering the gym. Keeping the topic of conversation towards something appropriate shouldn’t be too difficult of a task.  If speaking with a new customer, talk to them about the gym and the classes that we offer, or ask them questions like, “How did you hear about us?” or what their movement background consists of? Keep the topics relevant to the facility or the sport. When talking about the products and classes you offer it is also important that you speak to the customer in a way that conveys the belief you yourself have in the class or product you are talking about. An important thing to also stress to any family that seems curious about the sport is how encouraging and close-knit the community is because of how early the sport still is in its development.

 

If you can’t follow these simple rules while also working at a place whose purpose is to instill play and creativity, while also keeping its community active and healthy, then you should strongly reconsider your goals in life. Maybe working at a parkour gym isn’t for you. Nobody wants their business to fail and everybody wants to be successful in their dreams. It takes a strong committed team to really make a business successful. If you aren’t committed to doing what’s best for the gym customer, every single day, then that will show in the growth of the business. This is not only your job but hopefully a place that you and your team create to help make your goals and dreams a reality.

The Low Down on Sponsorship

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When you hear the word “sponsor” in regards to sports what is the first thing you think of? NASCAR cars covered in hundreds of stickers? Football teams only wearing Nike, Adidas, or Under Armor? What about Parkour athletes being sponsored by Redbull and getting to travel all over the world to train for competitions or Runners being sponsored by Powerbar and given a partial livable salary? Sponsorship, as a professional athlete whether it be as an individual, or a group, has the potential to greatly enhance one's athletic career. Being able to practice one's sport as a career is something most people only dream of and very few have the determination to achieve. Through sponsorships, you can gain free gear, advertising, and the freedom to travel and practice your craft and be paid to do so. What does it mean to be sponsored by another company? The meaning depends on the company you work for, what they want from their sponsors and what the athletes want from the relationship themselves. In this article, we are going to cover a lot of facts and steer away from sharing our opinions on particular sponsorships programs (that will come later!). 


With Joanna Thompson for instance, a residential elite athlete of ZAP Fitness and Reebok, whose goal for the athletes that live and train with them is to help the company make World Championship and Olympic teams. ZAP Fitness currently has a primary sponsor where most of an athlete's annual support fees can come from. As well as two secondary sponsors, which means the athlete may be provided with products and gear in exchange for representation of the company. Their secondary sponsors are Generation UCan and Soleus. Soleus is a watch production company, that ships the athletes watches to wear; while Generation UCan is a sports nutrition company that gives the athletes protein powders, carbohydrate powders, nutrition bars, and electrolyte mixes in bulk. Their primary sponsor is Reebok, they provide the team with gear, travel compensation, and a basic monetary package that funds the entire club. If an athlete, such as Joanna Thompson, has the goal in mind of being a world-class athlete in her sport then it is an easy choice to choose to be sponsored by ZAP, a company whose objective is to cultivate and assist collegiate athletes on their journey to becoming a world-class athlete. With every sponsorship though there is always a give and take. For example, Zap has a monthly social media/marketing quota built into their contracts. Athletes may also be asked to speak at events, write for vlogs and websites, or even host webinars. So when taking on a sponsorship, one must also schedule the time to do some ground work. The most important obligation an athlete has towards their sponsor though is to perform well in their sport and to represent the ideals of the company and the team appropriately.

Following that, skateboarding has a very similar sponsorship variation depending on the seriousness of the athlete. An important point that was brought up in a sponsorship article by MUV Mag, written by Andrew Obenreder, is the idea of “Know Thyself”. This idea refers to knowing what you, as an athlete, have to offer the company, how it can benefit them and how much time and dedication you are willing to give forth. It needs to be noted that not all athletes; skateboarders, runners, swimmers, and traceurs included, need to constantly be pushing the boundaries to be the best in their sport. With most sponsorships, it simply starts by building a relationship with them and letting that grow and develop with time. For instance, two sponsorship types for skaters that one could casually venture into to start building relationships with a business is a shop sponsorship and a flow sponsorship. Both sponsorships usually don’t require a contract of any sort however, you will be promoting the company by wearing their gear and logo when skating. With a shop sponsorship, the skater simply receives a discount on merchandise with no time commitment put towards the company, whereas the flow sponsorship offers free merchandise in exchange for the time put into repping and showing off the merchandise through maybe a few social media channels and contests. The farther down the list of skate sponsorships offered the more serious the commitment becomes and the more thought and time that needs to be put into what and who the skater is representing. 

 The Venture Co. and Compadres - By Elias Sell

The Venture Co. and Compadres - By Elias Sell

The Art of Retreat through the Eyes of Andy Taylor

Craig Constantine giving an overview talk at Art of Retreat

Since 2015, for those who do not know, the Parkour Leadership and Education Retreat or The Art of Retreat, is a weekend event held every year that includes content and activities co-created by those attending. The content and activities that occur throughout the weekend are interactive talks and discussions, movement sessions, project brainstorming and problem-solving, as well as brainstorming for early-stage ideas. AOR leaves lots of room for building of private and professional connections. This year's talks ranged from creating good coaches to event organization to gym building and design. There was also a governance session with Parkour Earth, Int’l Parkour Federation to discuss the history, and a talk on the future of the parkour governance. I had the privilege to be invited as a speaker, this being my second year invited.

 

There were a lot of important talks and discussions that came out of this weekend. I thought one of the most significant conversations came out of the Governance Panels. Currently, in the world of parkour, there has been an ongoing topic about if our sport should be governed, how our sport should be governed, and if so, the best way to accomplish making an American governing body. So far, it seems that any conversations that have happened about it has all been backroom talk. Ending with no real push towards a concrete goal. I may be wrong, but I haven’t seen anything to tell me otherwise. After a talk with Eugene, I felt like there were an actual end goal and a solid plan to make it happen. Ideally, there will be a group of 6-8 organizations, the organizations with the largest parkour community support, that get together and talk about the basic format a parkour governing body would look like. Once that system is in place then that group will be disbanded with the people/organizations coming together to follow that group. For those want to know everything that went on in this talk there will be a video/Audio and transcription released mid-October. In my opinion, this will be the first concrete step forward in making a solid working American governance. I’m so thankful that something like the Art of Retreat happens to get stuff like this going.

 

Andy Taylor giving a talk about gym design.

The retreat gave everyone a chance to talk freely about the things they do well in their trade and to learn from others who may do things better than them. I found this thought-provoking and inspiring because in my experience there is a lot of ego in the American parkour community. Though the way the retreat is set up, everyone was encouraged to leave their ego behind and really listen to one another. It gave leaders a chance to show others what they are doing and show us how they are building their practice with their specific plan. That their approach is working even if it is 100% different than the person who is sitting next to them, who is also running a successful practice. For example, I am pretty experienced in the build and coaching side of owning a gym; while Nancy Lorentz has been doing amazing work on senior citizen parkour programming. People with similar skills were also able to discuss and argue what work for them and how to do things better. All the building people can sit down and figure out how best to design obstacles, while all the organizational people can discuss how to better plan events. It also gave people who are newer to community leadership, the opportunity to sit, listen, and ask questions of those who have been in the business for a long time. Having a place to freely discuss all of these ideas will hopefully lead to more development in our sport and in our overall community.

 

Art of retreat is an extremely beneficial event not only for our community but also for individual leaders and athletes. It gives everyone a rare opportunity to come together in one place, put egos away, listen, and learn from each other's experiences. It’s a chance to play on one another’s strengths and weakness’ and help better each other in ways that we may not necessarily get to on our own. What was discussed above is only a fraction of the things discussed, learned, argued, and developed from this year's Art of Retreat. Every year we get more and more out of this event. I look forward to seeing how everyone uses what they have learned at the retreat to grow and excel as humans, gym leaders, athletes, and coaches.

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What a Community Leader Needs and Why

         What a Community Leader Needs and Why
 

The world of parkour is a great, wide one. Many of us have been in the position where we’re the only people that train in an area, or we’ve lived in an area where the groups that do train are wildly disorganized. In these environments, something that’s important is having a solid government; whether that’s a group, a club, a gym, or a single leader to help organize and rally the troops. In this article, we’ll cover what we believe to be the most important qualities that a parkour community leader must have in order to be successful.

 

Outspoken and Well Spoken

 

As with any leader, it’s very important to be able to communicate clearly and effectively to a wide audience. This includes being accepting of all people regardless of age, color, orientation, gender, skill level, and anything in between. A good leader can communicate across all platforms with all kinds of people and in doing so, maintains the group by being personable and engaging.

 Talking about leadership at Beast Coast 2017 - Photo by Elias Sell

Talking about leadership at Beast Coast 2017 - Photo by Elias Sell

 

Sell Parkour and Themselves

 

A good parkour community leader can sell parkour and get their audience hyped about training, be it with the community, in classes, or by themselves. They also need to be able to effectively advertise and organize events, because otherwise the community gets stale and uninterested in meeting. Leaders also try to expand their community, be it through event planning, travelling, or performing. Parkour opens tons of doors, and leading our communities through those doors will absolutely create lifelong athletes and give everybody the opportunity to grow.

 

Demonstrate Movement Knowledge and Wisdom

 

Ryan Ford, co-founder of Apex Movement and Parkour EDU, brings up an interesting point regarding movement knowledge versus movement wisdom; “...Movement Knowledge vs. Movement Wisdom, an analogy I use to describe a common training problem I see. All that physical preparation (movement knowledge) is of little use unless it can be skillfully applied to a sport-specific or real world scenario (movement wisdom).” Be it by coaching or example, a community leader should know the ins and outs of parkour. Being an athlete is important, but not as important as knowing how to identify problems in a person’s physical or mental approach to parkour movements. An effective leader can sort through the imperfections in movements and help their communities continue to progress through their training.

 

Show Respect For Authority

 

Be it your students’ parents or a police officer, a good leader promotes healthy relationships with authoritative figures. This includes talking to parents after class and giving feedback for them to know what their child needs to work on, respectfully approaching security and police and promoting a healthy image of parkour. If leaders present themselves negatively to figures of authority, it’s a backpedal for the worldwide community. We don’t want parkour to follow in the shoes of “Skate and destroy”, so we need to keep parkour pure in the eyes of the public.

 Andy Taylor talks with a cop - Photo By Elias Sell

Andy Taylor talks with a cop - Photo By Elias Sell

 

Organized and Reliable


People need structure to feel comfortable. So having regularly scheduled meetups, and replying to emails/voicemails quickly is important for a community's growth. People have to know that their leader is going to follow through on their word, and be on time about it. This seems obvious when stated, but this is one of the most lacking areas for many communities.
 

These are not all of the qualities a good community leader needs, but these are some of the ones that we believe are essential. While all of these qualities can be found in one person, it is quite rare, and so often a better approach is a group, or team of leaders that can be the necessary change.

 

 A team of community leaders - Photo by Elias Sell

A team of community leaders - Photo by Elias Sell

Sexism in Parkour

Storror Jam Group Picture - By Elias Sell

     I want to start off by saying this essay is not an attack on all male athletes or all females athletes in the parkour community. This essay is specifically written on the experiences I had at the Storror Jam in Philadelphia and Beast Coast in D.C. I am writing this essay in an attempt to open up an honest conversation that can help us, the parkour community, recognize its sexism problem and in turn become an even closer and more supportive community than we already are.

     When I first started parkour training in March I was excited, but also a little wary of the sexism that I assumed would exist based on my experience in other sports. My introduction to sexism in sports started about 16 years ago when I began martial arts training. From there I found out how prominent sexism was not only in sports, but also in my job as a stage manager and my volunteer work as build leader for Habitat for Humanity. So you can imagine my shock when I went to my first class and walked into a gym that had obviously made an effort to eliminate any type of discrimination. In this gym I experience a world where the kids are treated the same as the adults and vice versa; and women are treated the same as the men and vice versa. Even the beginners are treated the same as the athletes that have been training for years. It was an amazing experience that made me fall in love with not only the sport, but also the community.

     Having had the experience I have had so far at my gym imagine my surprise when I got to my first jam and realized how prominent sexism was in the parkour community outside of the gym. My first taste of sexism in parkour started at the Storror Jam. I pride myself on going out of my way to get to know everyone and try to learn a little from everyone around me and that was no exception for this event. I realized very quickly however that when I was training and talking to other athletes about how they train or do certain moves, that a lot of the guys treated me in a much different way than they treated other male athletes. For example, when I was training they would ask  me if I wanted advice or help and then they would just hang out and watch me work on things. They would just shoot the bull when they talked and then maybe give me little words of encouragement, for example “don’t worry, some times things are just hard to get” or “maybe we should work on something easier, like kongs.” I would have loved to work with any number of these athletes on any skills beginner to advanced, as long as they had been willing to give me advice on how to become better or give me tricks to do moves better. Instead I felt extremely condescended to, which was frustrating because not only did I really want to learn from these athletes but  I also felt like they really were oblivious to what they were doing and how they were treating me.  

     Another thing that happened multiple times throughout the jam that really bothered me was the assumption that I was not there as an athlete, but as a spectator. Multiple times while talking to athletes I was stopped mid-sentence and I asked why I was there or who I was there to see or if I was dating one of the other athletes. At this point not only was I irritated because every time I tried to train I was being talked down to; but now as a female the assumption was also that I was not even there as an athlete, but as a girlfriend or a spectator.

     Having had that experience throughout the jam I was a little upset with most of the guys at the jam, so I was more than excited when two girls came in to the gym that evening. I realized very quickly, however, that the sexism in parkour doesn’t just stem from the males, but also from the females. The girls that came in grabbed me pretty quickly and started talking to me about life and parkour and my experience so far in the community. It was so much fun talking to them and hearing their experiences and how they got started in this sport. After talking for a while they started asking about the community at the gym and in Philadelphia in general. We talked a for some time about the gym philosophies and my experiences in the gym and how I’ve been working to get more females in the gym and encouraging them to stick with and showing them that parkour isn't just a male sport. They were very encouraging of everything I was trying to do, but then they started telling me about other areas that had more concrete female parkour communities and how I should come spend more time with them at the all female parkour jams and meet ups. For clarification up to this point I never realized that there was even such things as all female parkour jams and meet ups, and honestly the idea of them completely baffled me. The idea of going to jams and retreats that were just for girls was not only confusing to me, but also really bothered me.  For me, the points of jams are to train with all of the best athletes, men and women, and to push each other to be the best we can be. So having gained the knowledge that some of the women in the parkour community were very much separating themselves from the men and the men in the parkour community were struggling with how to interact with women athletes, I went on to Beast Coast, where I realized just how segregated our community actually was.

Relaxing at Storror Jam - By Elias Sell

Some jumps at Beast Coast - By Elias Sell

     My main goals at Beast Coast was to meet as many athletes as possible and go to as many seminars as I could. The first seminar I went to was female led, which I thought was cool because I really hadn’t had a chance to train with a lot of females. The first thing I noticed, however, was that the only people that went to this seminar were women. It was an amazing seminar that I think would have benefited everyone, yet only females were there. I found this super weird until I started listening to all the conversations happening around me; they were all very much along the same lines as the conversation I had the night before at the Storror Jam. Everyone was talking about these all-women jams and retreats and honestly if I was a guy and had come to that seminar or overheard any of the conversations happening within the group, I would have been very uncomfortable. After that seminar I’m not exactly sure where all the female athletes went. I broke off into a really awesome group of people, that consisted of athletes from all over the place and all skill levels, and went to train in the city. It was an amazing experience,because the farther into the city we went the bigger our group became and every time we stopped to train it was this awesome mix of incredibly supportive and encouraging athletes. At some point while talking to some of the guys, who were still being weird towards me, I realized that once again I was the only female in my group and wondered why none of the girls I had just been in seminar with had come along with us. I had planned on talking to the girls that night and seeing why they didn’t go out and train with us, but none of them stayed the night at the gym with us, either. It was another disheartening moment where I realized just how real the segregation of male and female athletes really is at these big “community” events.

My introduction to the parkour community was at a gym that works hard and goes out of it’s way to make sure that everyone that walks in the door feels equal: male or female, but based on my experience at these jams in the community it does not feel like this is something we all seem to strive for. I wish I had a magic solution to fixing this problem, but I think it's going to take all of us to solve the sexism issue in our community. I truly believe that both sides are at fault for pushing this issue to the point where it is and my hope is that by opening up an honest conversation between the groups I can help spur us along to work together to be better and fix this. As a community we should want everyone to be the best athlete possible. We should want our female athletes to be as amazing as our male athletes and our male athletes to be as phenomenal as our female athletes. We have so much we can learn from each other and that will never happen if we keep segregating ourselves at events and putting up barriers based on sex.

Parkour, Freerunning, and the Nature of Competition

     As we near the end of summer and beginning of fall, we also enter the season of the some of the biggest competitions in our sport. Two of the most well known competitions are the North American Parkour Championships(1)(NAPC) and the Red Bull Art of Motion(2) (AoM).

     NAPC, hosted in Vancouver at Origins Parkour, pits competitors against one another in three separate events: the point based skill competition in which athletes attempt to perform the cleanest runs with predefined requirements, the time based speed competition in which athletes clear a number of checkpoints in the lowest amount of time possible, the point based freestyle competition in which athletes create their own runs in a specified area, ending in a biggest trick showdown between the top three athletes. AoM is a purely freestyle competition hosted by Red Bull that takes place in Santorini, Greece. The goal is to descend from the top of the course across various rooftops to a designated finish line at the bottom of the course in a limited amount of time. Competitors are judged on creativity, flow, difficulty, execution, and overall performance.

 

     Art of Motion has been running for a decade and has become the most popular freerunning event in the world by far. Many athletes participate in the event, be it in person, creating a video for the online qualifier(3), voting in said qualifier, or by watching the stream online. However, there is a large population of athletes that is absolutely opposed to competition in parkour in any form, adopting the mantra “Run Without Rivals”. These athletes actively boycott these events, believing that parkour is based upon intrinsic motivation, not rivalry, and that competition undermines the cooperative and familial aspects that are so fundamental to parkour philosophy, specifically that “... [competition] stands against the philosophy of parkour to compete to win or earn anything that is not part of parkour values, such as medals, prizes, trophies, money, fame, recognition, or glory.”(4) While these views have merit, they reflect an overly optimistic view of parkour and an overly pessimistic view of competition. Both are simply unrealistic extremes that reflect the outdated and in some ways dishonest ideals of an undeveloped discipline with a very small community.
 

     Try to imagine a world with no Olympic games, no national sport leagues, or general competitive leagues in any sport/game/discipline. Would the world have ever seen the 3:43 mile(5), the 1102 pound deadlift(6), or the 12’3” broad jump(7)? Would there be any professional athletes? The answer is not certain, but there is certainly a strong indication that athletes that compete are more motivated to reach beyond what was once thought to be impossible.  “When people push their own limits, they inspire the people around them and ultimately, they end up pushing the limits of the sport as a whole. This is not only true for sport, but also for intellectual and artistic domains such as chess, academics, business, dance, music, and the list goes on.”(8) The phrase “A rising tide lifts all ships” comes to mind; the competition between athletes creates a higher standard for their sport which fellow athletes strive to attain thusly.  Why, then, should parkour be any different? Maybe the real issue lies within the competitions’ formats themselves rather than the concept of competition.

 

     Maybe the parkour community should consider creating a new format that pushes people to be the best they can be while preventing people from being alienated and encouraging athletes to work together while maintaining a strong sense of community. A good format achieves objective judging, pits the athlete versus the course, and offers a variety of movements. The issue with speed courses is that though they are very objective and excellent pressure testing, they create situations where there’s a best move and the tallest guy that can stride the biggest just wins, which makes it difficult to incorporate the varied styles of parkour. Style competitions like AoM encourage individual style but suffer from the subjectivity of judges. Gymnastics excels in strict and objective judging, but doesn’t offer the same freedom as style competitions. Maybe parkour could benefit from formats akin to rock climbing and bouldering. These formats offer greater freedom where athletes have the option to choose routes that are more similar to their skillsets which encourages participants to pursue their individual style. This can put athletes with completely different styles in exactly the same league as one another.

 

     The currently popular formats are not inherently bad, however they do not appropriately represent the whole of parkour by any measure. They encapsulate exactly what they are and do so very well, however as a whole, parkour is so much more than just skill, speed, or style. What do you think about the current formats? If you could create your own, what would your competition format be?


 

  1. NAPC 2017 (https://www.sportparkourleague.com/napc2017)

  2. Red Bull Art of Motion (http://www.redbull.com/en/events/1331591841166/red-bull-art-of-motion)

  3. AoM Online Qualifier (http://www.redbull.com/en/events/1331591841166/red-bull-art-of-motion)

  4. Why there are no Parkour competitions (http://parkourpedia.com/other/why-there-are-no-parkour-competitions/)

  5. 1 Mile World Record 3:43:13 Hicham el Guerouj (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji0yK7fV5Rk)

  6. Eddie Hall Deadlift 500kg (1102.31 lbs) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9Y4o_BqC0A)

  7. Byron Jones 12’3” Broad Jump Sets World Record | 2015 NFL Combine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0UeHxglMJ4)

  8. Pro Parkour, Pro Competition (http://learn.originsparkour.com/pro-parkour-pro-competition/)

 

The Parkour Roadmap

Max Henry has spent years compiling information for the 180+ page book The Parkour Roadmap with thousands of hours of side routes and linked information to go along with it, this book is the ultimate guide to parkour from any perspective.

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