Monday, December 17, 2007


I was going to write a day-to-day report of my trip to Tours but that would be quite boring to read and would only make sense if you could see the places I was describing. Instead I'm just going to mention a few important things and keep it short.

I had high expectations of the trip but the reality far surpassed those hopes. In short it was the most progressive week in my training so far and I really pushed myself, especially mentally. I've come home with a greater understanding of what I should be focusing on, how to deal with fears, how to let my body adapt to new obstacles, how to trust my instincts and how to teach others. The most important thing I did during the week was to bring my mental level in tune with my technical and physical capacities. I feel much more comfortable knowing exactly what I can do and what I can't yet.

A great deal was learnt from training and spending time with Thomas and I thank him for everything he said and showed me but also for everything he didn't say - to allow me work certain things out for myself. He found a great way of communicating with me when I was thinking too much about a new jump, sometimes using encouragement and sometimes helping me to become angry at the obstacle. He said just enough and just the right things to help change my mindset and 'flick the switch to green'.

I wish to also thank his mother for the incredible hospitality, I can't begin to describe how appreciated it was (Hi to Nemo and Nissy too!).

The highlight of the week for me, and perhaps both of us, was a jump to a tree that was rooted in a wide and fast-flowing river. The conditions were very difficult with no way to test the landing surfaces, the stability or grip of the tree. The take off was less than great too, with wet leaves and an unstable ground that threatened to fall in to the river at any moment. We made a decision to go for it and after a lot of mental battling we both made it to the tree and back without falling in. To face a jump in such difficult conditions with a real incentive for not messing up was refreshing to me and I felt so alive when I caught the branch I aimed for. The jump was not particularly big and the video really does not do it justice, but it will forever hold a special place in my mind for being the greatest obstacle I overcame during my trip to Tours.

Other notable moments worth a mention included a long and arduous off-ground challenge that truly tested a wide range of technical and physical elements (kudos to Thomas who did the vast majority of it with 4 litres of water and a camera in a backpack!) and a really tough finger shimmy on a tough rounded ledge that had my forearms in spasms and my heart racing!

We only filmed a small portion of what we got up to and even then it was mainly single techniques and small technical movements. Although it is not at all a fair representation of the excellent week, I've put together 7 minutes of the best footage to share with people, hope you enjoy it.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Back to the Parkour

Tomorrow morning I am travelling to Tours to spend some time with my friend Thomas. As many of you will already know, Thomas is a very experienced traceur, a really nice guy and an inspiration to many. I feel privileged to have an opportunity to spend time with him in his home environment and I'm going there with a large 'empty cup' to fill it with as much as knowledge as possible. I'm sure it will be a greatly positive experience and will affect me in many ways - but I most look forward to just getting to know the man and forging a solid friendship with a very like-minded individual.

I'll be home on Saturday with a few stories.


Rendezvous II

On Saturday evening I attended the second major Parkour gathering held by Parkour Generations. In my opinion it far surpassed the first in terms of organisation, structure, intensity and value. Not that the first rendezvous was lacking in any of those areas but it seems the guys over there have greatly honed their teaching abilities during the few months between each meeting and they managed to squeeze so much more in to only three and a half hours.

The seminar started with a 30 minute warm up consisting of lots of jogging, running up and down stairs, running outdoors, running indoors and then a fair few circuits of skipping, running sideways and running backwards. Next we were exposed to a healthy dose of bouncing on the spot on our toes, on one leg and side to side which really got the blood pumping and the calves burning. Finally we did lots of quadrupedal crawling variations, weighted squats with a partner on our back, joint preparation and general loosening off.

Now the real work began. There were a total of five different stations; four in the gym and one outside. We were split in to groups of around 10-15 people and spent 25 minutes at each station where a whole host of interesting challenges awaited us. We were presented with a series of obstacles and shown a possible route through them then encouraged to find a way past them that suited us. With each lap of the station we were encouraged by the veteran French traceurs present to try something new and more challenging. All the time they were constantly giving us personal feedback and advice with each lap of the station. This format worked very well and although there were a lot of people present, I never felt like it was too crowded due to the space management and station system.

The time flew past and before we all knew it we had been training for three hours without rest and without realising how we had been moving past physical obstacles that both challenged and inspired us, as well as mental barriers of fatigue. I was pleased that the intensity of this session was nothing new to me as I have long become used to the feeling of 3-4 hour training sessions without rest.

To finish the session we warmed down with Laurent who led us through a series of very relaxing stretches and I felt my core temperature gradually return to normal resting rate using the breathing exercises. Finally we spent five minutes lying flat on our backs with our eyes closed focusing on our breathing and letting the blood flow through our bodies. I nearly fell asleep as a wave of comfort just washed over me.

Sadly the day was coming to a close but before leaving there was a 'question and answer' opportunity with the Yamakasi, Forrest and Stephane really expressing their opinions and giving everyone some valuable advice and encouragement for the future.

I wish to thank everyone who made this day possible - everyone at Parkour Generations, the additional French traceurs who travelled over for the event, everyone who attended and worked hard and in particular Laurent - who I feel left everyone going home with a new sense of personal purpose and a deep spirited question resounding through our minds: 'why do you practice?'. Indeed every action must have a purpose, or it is simply a wasted effort.

Five Weeks

I promised I would return with some reactions and results to my recent changes in training methodology and I can happily confirm the outcome of using more technically relevant exercises to improve my Parkour has been nothing but positive.

In five weeks I've added 4 inches to my horizontal standing jump distance, which may not sound like a lot but I feel it is considering I also 'felt' this progression bit by bit in my mind. My legs feel stronger than they have ever been, not only in their ability to propel my body forwards and upwards, but in their ability to resist impacts and landings.

My upper body feels so much more coordinated and less like a series of individually functioning parts. My grip strength and endurance have improved and although it's hard to measure these I feel a lot more comfortable traversing with just my arms.

Perhaps the most important development has been in my mental state. Not that physical training and conditioning has ever been considered a burden but it is so much more rewarding to know I'm not only building strength and endurance, but I'm fine tuning technical aspects and keeping the work rate high to also benefit my cardiovascular system. The other refreshing aspect is being able to vary my surroundings a lot more and work with a different set of obstacles each time I train.


There are some important issues that I need to highlight with this method of training.

1) I feel you must have a very solid foundation level of fitness before you consider trying this. I know if I had not devoted so much time to gradual leg development in the past then these past five weeks could have given me a severe case of shin splints and other overtraining symptoms. The same can be said for the upper body training. It has been so much more intense and demanding that I feel I would have done some damage to my shoulders or elbows if I had jumped in to this training before I was ready. Some people might disagree but I would not recommend this method of training to anyone with less than a year or two of experience in more traditional strength training methods.

2) You need to learn how to rest. I recommend you work really hard during your training sessions, give 100% effort then rest sufficiently to allow the muscles, joints and tendons to repair and recover. This might take two days, it might even take three. This is fine. Your old routine might demand you train legs Monday and Wednesday but your body does not understand 'days', it sometimes takes longer to heal from a very intense session. Drink plenty of water and stretch regularly.

3) Be disciplined and well-rounded. Don't let this type of training break your overall focus and don't give in to temptation. It would be easy to fall in to the trap of only training the traditional muscle groups and in the same way each time because you enjoy a certain exercise. But you must remember that Parkour is simultaneously all-inclusive and all-exclusive in its demands for fitness. In principal it's a perfect method of training the body. There are no limits or constraints to the possible dimensions of an obstacle so we need to train every muscle and fibre in our bodies equally and in proportion to avoid muscular imbalances, neurological weaknesses and general weak-links in the overall chain.
We are not training our bodies for arm jumps, precisions and passes - we are training our bodies for every conceivable obstacle and those techniques are merely potential solutions, not the solutions, so remember to vary your training for every eventuality.

I am aware that some people have criticised both myself and this method recently, stating it is dangerous and non-complete and will lead to weaknesses and overtraining symptoms. I urge these people to be even more scientific in their responses and judge this method by the results, not by the theories. Look at the long-term results of this method not by studying me or by comparing it to other activities, but by studying the guys who have been using it for over 10 years and are the best in the world at what they do. It is unfair to begin to judge this method if you do not first understand what Parkour is - to understand it takes a considerable amount of time practicing it.

It is obvious that the most effective way to build raw strength is by putting the muscle under gradually greater tension and this is more easily achievable and manageable by lifting weights... but this is irrelevant in a discipline that requires at least as much mental development and strengthening as it does physical. Most competitive sports focus entirely on physical performance but Parkour is easily and often misunderstood as just an activity where being able to jump the furthest and run the fastest is the goal.