The Importance of Training Outside

      Within the walls of the parkour gym, athletes have become more capable than ever. They’re allowed to progress quickly with a relative level of safety, able to throw double backflips into the foam pit for as long as they like before landing them on trampolines, then mats, then spring floors, then hard floors. It’s undeniable that many of our famous athletes and popular tricks wouldn’t exist for a very long time, or at all if we didn’t have access to these facilities. The value in a place where you can drill individual steps onto soft surfaces and progress as slowly or as quickly as you need to is obvious, but where does the value lie in the outside world? Why would you ever train outside when you have a readily available gym?

      There are innumerable reasons to train outside. They range from the highest of heights to the smallest specks of dust, so we’ll try our best to cover the five most important.

1.Expanding Your Comfort Zone

      The first of these reasons is one of the most intimidating for athletes that start in gyms. Training outside takes away the padding and guarantee of consistency and familiarity with the obstacles athletes encounter. There is uncertainty, there are observers, there’s a completely different headspace that comes with doing something outside of the norm in public space. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of your anxieties when you’re the odd one out, but this also can and should be empowering. Parkour is about overcoming obstacles both physical and mental, and one of the most effective ways to push your mentality is by doing things that make you uncomfortable in environments that can’t be completely controlled. The one thing you always have control of is your body, and training outdoors forces us to know what’s doable and what’s out of our range, which gives us more motivation to get stronger in order to increase our capabilities.

2. (Un)Limited Options

      The cityscape has lots to offer in terms of nightlife, gourmet cuisine, and entertainment, but training spots can be few and far between. Sometimes it seems like the spots that we do find offer us a very limited variety of moves, however it’s more often than not a lack of creativity that holds us back in these situations. Many athletes are characterized by their ability to create intricate lines in mundane areas, popularized by videos such as “Parkour, imaginatively.”(1) This style of training forces you to practice movements that aren’t used anywhere else, which stimulates the creative parts of your brain while also training you to move in positions you wouldn’t normally try. “You should regularly challenge both your body and mind by keeping the exercises spontaneous and interesting. If you can, train and spend time in new environments and you will begin to notice new technical possibilities too, all things to keep your mind busy and your routine fresh...Do something new this week, surprise yourself with improvisation and as long as you work hard, this is a positive and productive way to train.”(2) On top of these advantages, some of the spots outside are so good that gyms can’t even replicate them, such as the massive “Dame du Lac” of Lisses(3) and the dense complexity that is Freeway Park in Seattle (pictured below).

 

3.Tangible Feedback

      Outside of the gym, it is very apparent how comfortable you are with your movement. You can’t move the walls around or have mats readily available just in case you bail. The ability to scale down and progress towards movements that are at the edge of your range is often heavily reduced, however it’s still possible with some know-how and creativity. This pressure testing is very good for direct assessment of how diverse your movement library is, along with demonstrating your competence and versatility within your library. Having to adapt your body to the environment instead of the environment to your body can significantly improve your parkour mastery. You can also take note of challenges you find outside and work up to them by practicing the same moves in the gym!

4.Sharpening Focus and Mindfulness

      Within our gyms, there are very few things we cannot control. We control the obstacles’ positions, their surfaces, their integrity, and almost every other buildable factor. We also control the weather, the volume, the wind, the toughness of the ground, and the people themselves, who’ve agreed upon rules and regulations within the facility. Outside, however, these factors are often hard, if not impossible, to control. Walls can be dusty and slippery or break if left unchecked, rain can start without warning, a car could honk, squirrels and bugs and people can get in the way, and security can kick us out at any moment.  All of these things require us to be focused on our training and feedback from our bodies while also being mindful of our surroundings. This teaches us how to listen to our bodies more intuitively and block out the unimportant stimuli, which is incredibly important in situations where we have to move quickly or with urgency, when one wrong move spells disaster.

5.Community

      One of the factors we don’t consider as much when we think about parkour is the people we train with. Training solo is fun and should be part of your training routine, but training with your friends creates a bond unlike any other. Parkour, by nature, is inherently cooperative. This more often than not creates a positive atmosphere in which all athletes are encouraged to push themselves and come up with challenges for the team to attempt. Outdoor training brings attention to parkour, be it from passers-by, media, or kids at the park. This brings more athletes into the parkour world and increases the awareness of the discipline, and if we nurture a positive image and good training ethics when we’re outside, we can turn parkour into an instrument for change. Community is ultimately what will make or break parkour when it comes to issues like the encroachment of the FIG, and we need a strong community now more than ever.

 

      The list of advantages of training outdoors could go on for ages, but eventually, we have to stop thinking about it and just do it! What do you think about training outdoors? Let us know in the comments below, and come by a Philadelphia Parkour outdoor meetup! Why are you still here? Go train!!!

 


1. “Parkour, imaginatively.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VafIjR4o-J0)

2. “When Worlds Collide” (http://parkourgenerations.com/when-worlds-collide/)

3. Parkour Tour - Dame du Lac Climb (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4guGHYHdzk)


 

Creative Environments for Creative Minds...

The Periodic Table

The Periodic Table

      What does it mean to design a great gym?  What does a great gym need to have in order to cultivate the students and people it wants to put back out into the world?  To start off with, it needs to be structurally designed with multiple different routes or “parkour lines” in mind.  It must also be appealing to look at and must have the possibility to make someone stop and think or to affect their thoughts in some way, shape, or form.  In return, those same thoughts should positively affect a person in some way and perhaps make them see an idea that they have never noticed before.  A great gym needs to be designed so that it designs the people that walk through it.

      The idea of Ontological Design is one that is very interesting and somewhat overlooked in certain facilities.  The architecture and look of the space itself will not only affect how a student learns but also the quality of the learning itself.  In a paper written by Anne-Marie Willis, theory of Ontological Design, she claims three important things:

  1. Design is something far more pervasive and profound than is generally recognised by designers, cultural theorists, philosophers or lay persons;

  2. That designing is fundamental to being human — we design, that is to say, we deliberate, plan and scheme in ways which prefigure our actions and makings — in turn we are designed by our designing and by that which we have designed (i.e., through our interactions with the structural and material specificities of our environments)

  3. That this adds up to a double movement — we design our world, while our world acts back on us and designs us.

Here at PPK Philly we try to create a place where our students shape the way we use and train in our space, as well as how our space shapes our students.  However, a well designed facility is only one of two ways in which we want our gym to passively or actively affect our students.  We believe that the utilization of art has the ability to influence people simply by active or passive observation.    

     For example, one of our art pieces is The Periodic Table, it is a great example of passively stimulating the mind in a scientifically educational way. People can be in a cat hang on the wall while unintentionally staring at the elements on the table. In contrast to the periodic table we have a new piece in the works by another community artist. It depicts two hands reaching from opposite sides of each other seeming to touch, but are just out of reach. This piece is being placed strategically over the top of the mirrors that are near the dance floor so that when someone looks at the mirrors their eyes and attention are drawn to the hands floating above them. The artist wants the hands to be an inspirational piece, and have a feeling of helping others, and pay homage to one of Philadelphia’s nicknames, “The city of Brotherly Love.”. She hopes that by having the piece on display at the gym it will inspire other students to help one another in their journey of being a parkour athlete. These pieces along with our current and many future pieces will decorate our facility and provide thought provoking images, as well as creating a mentally and emotionally nurturing space for students to be in. While simultaneously providing new energy and an ever changing feel to our gym.  

Summer Camp - Ukemi at PPK Philly

       Failure is an essential element of any learning process and the movement art of failure is known as Ukemi. Ukemi is a Japanese word that means “breaking one's fall” and is used to describe a method of falling without getting injured. The method originated in martial art styles including judo, aikido, jujitsu, and wushu and has since been translated over to other sports including parkour. Ukemi was designed to study falling techniques related to specific scenarios of a specific sport. In aikido, Ukemi is used to practice falling out of “uncontrolled” throws safely. A similar example in parkour Ukemi, would be failing a front flip and instead of landing on your head, you turn it into a dive roll. Failing is a part of every sport and learning how to fail safely is one of the most important skills that we can learn as athletes.

       Our style of efficient motion, known as parkour, has been around for decades. Throughout those years there have been controversial philosophies about the best way to approach teaching and learning parkour. There are many different schools of thought. Here at PPK Philly, Ukemi is a large part of the way that we teach. We teach people how to fail, not how to succeed. Success comes after. Ukemi (the art of “taking it”) is defined as the ability to fall, roll, or be forcefully thrown to the ground and get up unscathed. Since parkour already focuses on how to fail, Ukemi is a match made in heaven. This art of falling in its modern form originated from Jujitsu over 1000 years ago, and more famously has been modernized with the martial art of Judo. It would be foolish not to study this art. Learning Ukemi just adds another aspect of safety to an athlete’s training. It helps them deal with the fear, uncertainty, and hesitation that comes with committing to big movements. As well as, adding a boost in confidence in training time, which in turn makes training more beneficial. It keeps athletes injury free which keeps their training more consistent and helps them become stronger. Which in turn provides more fun in training because practitioners aren’t as worried about what may happen when they fall.

       Following this, knowing Parkour Ukemi makes you into a much safer athlete, every gym in the world should have some form of Parkour Ukemi in their curriculum. Imagine you’re jumping on the couch and all of a sudden a 200 pound wolf-dog comes dashing out of nowhere, and in a split second collides with you sending your tiny frail body spiraling towards a paralyzing injury on your tile floor. How do you recover from that with taking minimal physical damage? The answer? Your newly learned Ukemi. One of the focuses of our summer camp here at PPK Philly is for our students to be exposed to the various falling techniques that are used in the world of Parkour Ukemi.  We showed our students all the teachable positions of the front flip falling continuum, side flip falling continuum, and the backflip falling continuum.  The front flip falling continuum, explained in simple terms, is taking every landing/falling position an athlete may end up in, while attempting a front flip and practicing the falling techniques needed to come out of the bail with little to no injury.  The same breakdown would happen when going over the side flip and back flip falling continuums.  

       We believe that by simply exposing our students to the various falling techniques that this will make them well equipped and potentially safer when exposed to any falling scenario. The average person, if equipped with even the slightest amount of Ukemi knowledge and experience might save his or herself from a fall that would otherwise lead to an injury. Almost everyone has slipped before, whether it be on ice, wet floors, or a bump on the sidewalk. If you know basic Ukemi, and utilize it, you can go through these potentially dangerous experiences, and exit on the other side with little to no injury. Utilizing this skill ensures that our students are progressing at a much safer and steady pace giving them the potential to be smarter and better athletes than the generation prior. Our goal here at PPK Philly is to create a community full of strong and well equipped athletes so that a new generation can take what techniques we already know and build on top of them, and perhaps even create something the parkour community, or the world, has yet to witness.      

Baily Cypress is a Philadelphia mosaic artist. Also shes a freakin awesome woman. Work has started on the birds, (in the back near the bathrooms and water fountain) the whole hallway will eventually be arted in a Japanese inspired mixed media (primarly painting and mosaic) piece. This is just one of multiple art projects that are on the way for Pinnacle Parkour Academy Philadelphia. If you, or someone you know is a local artist interested in working with us, shoot us a message here . New art is always very exciting.