Hello friends! My name is James, I'm 23, and I've been training in parkour for about a year and a half now, from a background of absolutely no sport whatsoever. It is fair to say it has come to dominate my life in the most positive way possible, providing me with health, knowledge, experiences and friends I would never have otherwise been blessed with. I've become a level 1 Adapt qualified assistant coach, with which I've been lucky enough to assist with coaching in a few classes with Parkour Generations, and I've also been helping out with the running of the online store on this very same shiny website for a couple months now. If your hoodie hasn't arrived yet, I'm sorry. I'm very proud to have been asked to contibute to this blog, and I've been thinking long and hard about what I can contibute to you fine people on here.
I've decided I want to share a secret with you first, so lean in close now.
Ahem. Here it is:
My parkour isn't all that spectacular.
I know! I know. It's a shocker. Come back, please. Try and control your disappointment, indignation and rage-induced incontinence. Allow me to explain further.
My balance is so-so. My jump isn't enormous. I find kongs unnatural and would never do another one again by choice were it not for goddamn Yao always making me practise them. I can't do flips. I am still terrified of heights. Basically, as an observer, watching me practise is not going to drop your jaw. To put it another way; I ain't going to be making a video to put on youtube any time soon.
This can lead to awkward situations. I live in fear of that conversation, usually when I'm at a social gathering of some kind, when the subject of hobbies come up. It's nearly always the same response slurred back at me: 'wow, parkour! Show me something!'
A demand I expect most people reading this have also heard.
What can you say? "Well, drunken total stranger, I can drill a precision on this curb for three hours, want to watch that? It's not showy, it's not fancy, but that's what parkour is for me. Still interested?"
I tend to just mumble something about a rest day and leave. Through the window. (Hah! See what I did there?)
I share this with you in the hope that:
1) my disarming honesty will endear me to you
2) we can find a connection in the parkour community for the everyman
3) and that it might reassure those who felt as I have on those dark occasions when it's all seemed a bit too much. Hello. Yes, you. It's alright.
What do I mean? Well, almost everyone agrees that parkour is an entirely personal pursuit - an aim to master your own body and movement, in simple terms. You set your own goals and milestones. Yet it can be very easy, with parkour exploding into films and television, and the sheer proliferation of videos on youtube, to find your own view of parkour becoming warped by these amazing spectacles, and to then compare yourself unfavourably with them. You may find yourself thinking: If HE can do a triple backflip off a wall and land on the head of a pin, why can't I?
Well, maybe you can't. But you're not alone. I can't either. Lots of people can't. It doesn't matter. Instead, go outside and do a three foot rail precision. Do one muscle up. Kong a single wall. Congratulations! You have done something the vast majority of the human population alive on this planet today will never do!
To put it another way, as I am fond of doing: before I started parkour, I had never even HEARD the phrase 'kong gainer'.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with Richard, a good training friend of mine, while we were watching Kush, another friend, perform a slow muscle up - an impressive bodyweight feat of strength by most conventional standards. Richard turned to me and said, pointing at Kush, "And none of us think we're strong!" We laughed, and as Kush approached, Richard asked him, "Kush, are you strong?"
The immediate answer? "No." We laughed even harder - it's the same answer I'm sure we'd get from any of our training peers, and possibly even from those far above us in ability. Certainly this constant downplay of our abilities is common among my training friends, and while being humble is great, I also wonder sometimes if we're selling ourselves short. In fact I'm sure of it in this case; both Richard and Kush are excellent traceurs.
So, as I said at the start, I came to our sport with no physical background at all beside a little jogging. I was weak and uncoordinated, and I certainly had no natural aptitude for parkour. Every step forward I've taken since then has been hard. I look at how far I've come with pride. So should you with your own personal journey, no matter how far you think you still have to go; because I'd like to think parkour is about celebrating what you can do, not obsessing over what you can't. It's important to aspire, and I am certainly not advocating complacency, but also to recognise that, yes, you're awesome now too. Hell, I think you're awesome for even making the effort. How many people do you know would even consider doing the things you have done?
Negativity gets you nowhere, that's all I'm sayin'. All the best. I hope to see you out there training (on the ground)!