Friday, January 30, 2009

The Law of Averages

(Originally posted on the Parkour Generations blog).

300 level cat-pass precisions. That'll do! It sounded like a fair challenge for later that day. It had been a while since I'd focused on this technique so I felt I should pay it a little more attention tonight.

Throughout the day, the thought of the upcoming training session often crossed my mind but my attention was more often found wandering to what someone had said to me earlier in the week, as I had landed a precision. "You're going to fall and hurt yourself one of these days!" she had said with a smile, and I couldn't help wondering... was she right? Was I a victim to a law of averages that stated some day, somewhere, I was going to mess up a basic technique and seriously hurt myself? Was this an inevitability that was beyond my control? It wasn't a pleasant thought.

It's often told that the most dangerous moments in your training occur whilst you are executing the simplest of techniques and just not paying enough attention. I've rarely heard of anyone being badly injured or missing a big jump where they were fully focused and concentrating, so what could I do to prove to myself that I was not a victim? That I was in fact in control of this situation? The answer came quickly, tonight I would not miss!

So 300, became 300 in a row. If I missed the landing wall, if I overshot, undershot, missed with my hands or if both feet did not land on the second wall and remain there, I would start again from the beginning. Call it quality control or madness - it was probably a bit of both.

When I arrived at the spot where I planned to begin this experiment, I wasn't too happy to find the walls were soaked. Wet, dark and slippery with moss sprouting from between the cracks, the sharp-edged walls greeted me with a slick shine and were menacing to the touch. Great.

30 minutes later, after loosening off and warming up, an inner pressure I couldn't quite locate began to grow inside of me with each successful repetition. 3 became 20, 20 became 50, and the thought of having to start all over again began to haunt me, making each repetition a little more daunting than the last.
The only way to counter this building distraction was to force myself to treat each jump as if it was the first of the evening.
I would focus my full attention on connecting with the first wall cleanly, push just enough and land on the second, and remain there. For a while I felt things were going well, but as my confidence grew, so did my chances of complacency.

If there was indeed some unwritten law of averages, then how many times should I fall in 300 attempts at this, given wet and dark conditions?

Two hours had passed as I reached the half-way point. It was 9:30pm and I had managed 150 level cat-pass precisions and my forearms felt like lead. I hadn't even considered the physical toll this challenge would take. Shaking them off, I thought about the technique and realised it was like being in the pushup position and rocking on to your fingers with enough force to leave the ground temporarily, over and over again. I was tired, I was sore and I knew that although I might be able to reach the elusive 300, it would be a royal pain in the backside to have to start again any time soon.

Ten minutes later I restarted the process and the 151st repetition loomed. I wasn't sure how much I had recovered during the brief rest and the technique itself seemed suddenly unfamiliar in my head. Stop over thinking, this is just another simple technique.

I. can. not. miss. now.

200 reps. At this rate I should be finished by 11pm... 3 and a half hours after I started. If I miss now then I may well be watching the sunrise over my shoulder later today. I managed a quick smile as I thought that might dry the walls a little, if nothing else.

280 reps. My brain had switched off. There was no longer any pressure. The process was automatic and although my forearms begged for relief from the constant punishment, I had fallen in to a rhythm. I would pass over the first wall, land on the second, turn around, hop back, drop down to the floor and line myself up for another, repeating the phrase, "stay straight, medium power." in my head each time. That had become my curse, it had started twenty minutes earlier and I couldn't stop now, what if that was my lucky charm, my key to finishing this?

I honestly don't know if I would have started again had I missed then. Physically, I don't think I could have managed another 300. I'd learned my lesson already though...

There is no law that states one day we will miss. With enough concentration, enough focus, due care and attention, we can repeat a simple technique hundreds of times, for hours and not make a mistake. Accidents do happen and some things are beyond our control but we can greatly reduce our chances of messing up if we treat each and every movement as something important, something to be careful with.

I didn't do 300 level cat-pass precisions in the end.

The 301st was for the nice lady who had inspired my evening's activities.



Anonymous said...

You are a beast and an inspiration. Keep training man. Let the law of averages be just another obstacle to surpass.

Anonymous said...

Blane, every time I read one of your blog posts or watch one of your videos I'm inspired. In addition to a quality level of performance, your dedication to training is what causes me to hold you as a proper role model. Keep training harder, and love from the US.

Desmund said...

Blane, you're an inspiration to us all. I too have had the thoughts of others dwelling in my mind while training. However, it appears shrugging them off and doing nothing was the wrong way to handle it. :) The scientific approach is much more affective. Thanks for the inspiration.

Eliot said...

Very inspirational my friend, train hard, train safe, stay strong.

Unknown said...

Awesome, dude.
As said above, your accomplishes and shares are very inspiring.


Bronze said...

I really like this kind of challenge, congratulations for your achivement.
Just a question...Why is your left hand dirtier than the right?

Sorry for any mistake that I made.

Bronze from Brazil ^^

Anonymous said...

Great article. I've been doing also this do x repetition of x movement -training.

Only question that came in my mind was have you thought why there is more mud on your left hand than on right hand.

Anonymous said...

))) n1ce experiment, Chris ;)
I've noticed the came thing recently (1 and a... half, as far as i remember, months) but i haven't make any experiment like 'tis). We discussed it with my friend, I train with, and made a conclusion, that, really, if you're not concentrate on a sigle jump at all, it'll lead to some traumas, and this is true. This is a thing we have to keep in our mind. so, may we be attentive at each jump, we're goin' to do.

Thanx for sharing valueble ideas with all of us, Chris) keep training hard;)

Anonymous said...

I think the reason your left hand had more dirt on then the right was because i think i saw you rubbing your hand on the wall to test grip and everything wasn't it?

And now i know how you do your beast climb ups, you have 3 hands man! (How else would you of taken the picture?)


Natán said...

So True, ;) :D keep it up bro!
And i would think the reason U got more mud on your left hand is simply couse Ur last step before the cat is always right what leaves the left hand to compensate and straighten. . . thats probably about it :P. could be wrong (XD) some thing i like to do is to alternate my feet and hand repeat everything to times even in an arm jump hust to do the climb up with my other fot on the wall and bring my leggs on top by the other Side...
mainly so when it comes to the time i wount think have to strugle with what leg ill have to step and just hit it :D although this has its aparent limitation when doing uncomfortable or big thingies:D
Peace n luv man! Take care :D

Chris 'Blane' Rowat said...

HAHA... you've uncovered the truth about my third arm, Tez! :O

Thanks guys, I have no idea why one hand is dirtier than the other, it's a good question.

Dane Grant said...

A book inspired me to come up with the following phrase, and it's one that I often use to remind myself when "going through the motions":
If your mind is not faster than the movement you are about to do, then you will inevitably be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nice write-up "Daveeeeed Blah" ;-)

Ben Nuttall said...

What would you have done if you'd have missed the 301st?

Natán said...

id say the conclusion in that case would have been... do things for your self and that lady was still wrong :D
but that question is for you Blane
XD sorry for my bad writing in the other message couldnt readed before posting :P

Eight said...

Sounds like a good experience!

Anonymous said...

This is ABsolutely Amazing...I read the passage then got to "I didn't do 300 level cat-pass precisions in the end" and I was like "awwwwwwwwwwwwwww, come on" then I read under the picture(I didn't know hands could get so covered in dirt) and I was like AWESOMMMME!!!!! Thanks again mate for an absolutely inspirational piece once again! I only hope to one day be as motivated as you in Parkour.

Unknown said...

I hope I can one day Love something like you Love Parkour :) Truly an inspiration.

Erik Amnell said...

What you say about smaller moves is true. I think that when you get very comfortable with a move and when it's stored in your musclememory, many people don't actually concentrate very much while they're doing that particular move.

This shows that you're familiar with the move itself since many people feel relaxed. But I don't think It's good. Like you said; the simplest technique might be the most dangerous since you don't have to concentrate that much.

I personally think that It's always - whatsover you do - you are aware of what you're doing, so you can prevent accidents from happening.

Real inspiring Blane.
Greets from Sweden.

Bruno Campos said...

Today I was out training and remembered this article, I ended up doing 30 cat passes to a precision landing in a row. Not much compared to 300 I guess(10%...) but I did alternate between jumping with my left and my right leg. Thanks for the inspiration in this bit of training!

Traceur.Robitza. said...

Another good method to train..
Tank you for sharing all these informations for us.

Keep up the GREAT work and Peace!

Jessica Toni Artti said...

Congratulations!! I'm sure about what some fo the comments says: it's an inspiration to all of us!! I have never had a seriously hurt while training, because I'm always concentrated and when something get out of my control I had always chosen the right way.
I think nobody can say what is my limit but myself. On other hand we need to be carefull with this and find a syntony between our body and mind.
I love you blog!

And you are invited to train with us here in Brazil yet, in Sao Paulo.

Good night!

pkvoz92 said...

hey blane it's dec (clarendon gym, etc.)
i've been out of action for a while due to having not many people (that i still get on with) to train with, no time, etc.
but yeah, thats no excuse

i'm reintroducing myself to the discipline within the next week since i hadnt realised, until recently, what kind of a physical, and mental escape parkour was for me

anywho, glad to see your trainings still going strong
fancy jamming when summer holidays arrive? (got gcses to do beforehand, you know how it is)
if you fancy a sesh(or just a general chat:P)let me know

all the best

Anonymous said...

I'd give it a four. :p

Nice one man, I'll see you soon!

NBT said...

Hi, Chris, agree that this article can be published on my blog in the Czech language? Thank you too, bye.

Anonymous said...

Hey man! I've always had an interest in parkour, but I've told myself that I'm not strong enough and that I don't have enough time to do it well. You have inspired me to think differently. With hard work and dedication, success becomes possible. Thank you for helping me change my mentality!

PS: I'm really gonna take that advice of yours to repeat the basic moves until they come easy!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,
This may not be a very frequently asked question but i have come to a bit of a dilema. Your advice has always seemed to make sence to me in the past so i thought you would be the person to ask.
I turn 18 soon and in the past I have noticed bad affects that alcohol has on me in the few days to a week after. The thing to do seems to be to go out for a drink with my dad, have an amazing party with the booze flowing and just basically drink myself into adulthood.
I at first thought no alcohol was the simple solution but more recently have been wondering if it is.
I don't really know why I am steering away from the idea of not drinkings because It doesn't seem to be good for me and surly my health is important for everything I do.
Basically what I'm asking is: what are your thoughts on alcohol consumption?
Well hope you can put a few thoughts forward on what i see only to be a very difficult matter.

Chris 'Blane' Rowat said...


NBT, sure... no problem. :)

Alcohol is something that I indulge in very rarely, sometimes with my family or maybe at some big occasion, but only a little. In moderation, alcohol - like most things - won't cause any major noticable differences to your health but obviously the less you drink, the better.
I think it's just a personal choice for you really, how important is your training to you and is one blurry night worth a week of feeling so bad?


Anonymous said...

I've been training parkour for over a year and a half, and I have been cautious enough in my training that I have managed to avoid serious injury. The one exception to this is cat leaps. There have been at least half a dozen instances where a wall is slicker than I imagined and I end up striking my kneecap and having to take a week or two to recover. I have gotten sufficiently worried about doing long term damage to my knees that I have started wearing kneepads when I train.

My question is: have you experienced this problem, if so, how do you deal with it, and in general, what is your feeling on wearing protective equipment when training?

Chris 'Blane' Rowat said...

Colin, when you say the walls have been slicker than you imagined... you have been checking them before you do the jump, right? You should always check things out before you try them!

If you're hitting your knees it means your technique is slightly off in some way. Find a small one that is nowhere near your limit and repeat it many times until your technique is perfect then slowly build up to bigger ones again, adjusting your technique as necessary.

I don't wear any protective clothing or equipment at all, it's completely unnecessary once you have a solid foundation of techniques... any technique you regularly use needs to be trained to a level where you can use it quickly, without thinking and in a way that won't cause you any damage.

So as with many things, the solution to your problem is simply more practice. ;)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response Chris,

I guess what troubles me about the kneepads is that I worry prolonged use will create a kind of psychological dependence on them that may carry over if I ever need to put my parkour training into practice. At the same time I'm just not sure that trying to enforce absolute concentration by abandoning protective equipment is worth the potential shattered patella.

In any event, thank you for the advice; I think a few days training cats specifically are certainly in order.

Anonymous said...

Hello blane, I would like that you were answering me to these questions for my blog,
" That you think of the difference that estan giving the people on the parkour and the freerunning? "
" Wherefrom you believe that these conclusions extract the people "?

Http: // can look at it. It(he,she) is very recent, if you could answer he(she) would be grateful for it very much.
A greeting.

Anonymous said...

Im kokeiko in the past a wrote you some emails to ask you some questions maybe dont remember me, does not matter xD

Im writte you for asking you

Can I translate and hang your article on the web on that I collaborate?Of course we will support you as the author, simply ask you if it matters for you

Sry my really bad english :( I hope you understand the general message of the mail.

Chris 'Blane' Rowat said...

Hi Kokeiko, you are welcome to translate anything you find here. :)

Mario, I don't think about the names too much now... they all came from the same guys and the same spirit. So whether you call it Parkour or Free Running, all that matters is you're training hard and trying to improve yourself daily.
Hope that helps, I'll check out your blog!


Anonymous said...

What do u mean with "stray straigh, medium power"

A.Winteryard said...

You are one awesome guy, keep it up. I got taken by the law of averages once, it was on a start of climbing just a normal catleap. Got my body up took my left foot, and put it on wrong side so i feel down on side. But then even if it hurted i decided to do it again. not falling. So i loose my fear for that place.

The day you get injured by something basic, do it again with success so you loose your fear

Unknown said...

Hey Blane,

I experienced something similiar just a few minutes ago. I've always jumped off my left leg, and this hindered me from doing speed vaults with my right hand.

So lately i've been training by jumping off only my right leg and have actually gotten very, very good with it.

Well today, I got too much confidence and went to jump up into my house.

I lunged upwards in a carefree way, and then boom i stubbed my toe on the doorway!

Now I see your post here, and can really relate to it :)

Me chamo Sapo (Lucas Mourão), said...

Hey Blane.
hope you read this, as i guess it's the very first time i write to you, even tough i've been watching your videos for almost 3 years, which is about the time i practice parkour.
I'm a tracer from Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and during the last week due to an event celebrating the year of Frace at Brasil i had the opportunity to train with some of the most dedicated people i know from many places of my country, and also Thomas Couetdic and Kazuma (they came for this event in São Paulo, but also trained yesterday here in Rio).
During this trains i had the opportunity to make remarkable progress by facing many of my personal fears and simply having belief in my traning over this 3 years. I also realised that this tracer i admire were not perfect (in the sense of not being able to commit common mistakes), but what made them accomplish all of the moves they tried was their's absolute Focus, concentration and so on (as you stated in your article).
The funny thing is that i tried a monkey-pass precision which seemed impossible. And after some trys and some advice from Zico ( the tracer who performed at the doc "samparkour") i almost did it... Today i'm gonna train in the same spot, and with a difference: i know it's possible if i focus and give my best!
Thanks for sharing your experiences, this way many tracer can profit from your words and "to the evolution" in their own ways
Thanks Blane

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auto said...

I am impressed with the determination, concentration and shear guts. In fact we all do the jumps of various sorts everyday and we will have to have an olimpians preparation for it to get through.

Sunburn Treatment said...

kudos, i'm not brave enough to even try to do half of what you described in this post. keep it up!

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