Parkour is a relatively new discipline, having originated in France only 3 decades ago. But it has all of the warrior-like courage that I associate with ancient, pre-health-and-safety martial art disciplines. It is also built on a logic that comes from knowing things in your bones rather than the once-removed knowing of scientifically designed regimes of movement. Our predecessors knew some things viscerally, without having to prove how. There are no double-blind studies done on the effectiveness of parkour, there is only an invitation to experience it yourself. And Parkour, although it has a name and identity, is really only something that all animals do: they get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Yet it has all the funk of the modern: it is originally an urban activity with an anarchistic edge. Joseph Bartz deepest reason for practising this art is so that he doesn’t have to walk down the streets built by others, he has the skill and courage to take any route he chooses, no matter what the obstacles. And it is totally open to EVERY BODY, no matter your starting place. I am helping to look after a 2 year old friend of mine at the moment and she is showing me all sorts of parkour moves.
(Picture of Joseph Bartz training. One of the principles of parkour is humility, so this is the best shot we could get out of him!)
At our recent Wildfitness coaches training, Joseph Bartz who has practiced Parkour since he was 16 came from Germany to teach us the wisdom of the discipline of Parkour, which from this year we will be injecting into our Wildfitness courses. Joseph made all the classic Power-Point mistakes: he used lists of bullet points and no pictures… but all of us were rapt and at the end ready to devote our lives to the pursuit of the reverent principles of parkour. The most spine tingling concepts were:
Many things can be done with step by step progressions so that your skill is always comfortably ahead of the new challenges your undertake. This is sensible and important to respect, but when trying to achieve new complex movements, as in life, there comes a time when you have to take the leap. When there is a gap between one level of skill and another and there is no step by step bridge. Some vaults just have to be done as a committed and whole movement and can’t be broken down into smaller parts and progressions. This is The Leap.
The Split-second samurai
Fear makes us tense and hesitant. To undertake a complex movement, especially if it requires a Leap, we have to be relaxed in all muscles except the ones we are using, otherwise we have the brakes and the accelerator on at the same time and we become clumsy. Hesitating messes with the exact timing needed. But sometimes fear is resident (I remember clinging onto the edge of a bungee jump and asking the guy there to push me off please because my fingers wouldn’t let go). One parkour technique is to induce a moment, even a split second, of samurai mind-state; where you are fearless so that you can do a movement fluidly and with 100% commitment. This can be done sometimes by slapping your body (see Olympic lifters) or using certain rituals which summon up this state of mind.
The meaning that parkour takes from the concept of spirit is real and practical. For them it is both strength and a ‘marriage with the environment’. They train in snow, rain and heat. That is part of the discipline. Parkour is the art of overcoming the obstacles that the environment presents by fostering the artists own skill and courage. Kind of like the opposite to building freeways through the alps.
Part of parkour training is to train for ‘body armour’. This is partly what you might imagine it to be: building muscle to give you some resilient padding were you to fall, but it is also a more subtle concept. It is the honing of your reflexes that allow you to stop your ankle going over, that tell you to roll with your momentum, that use the bend of your whole leg to absorb a jump. It’s kind of like having an app in your head that gives you the ability to save yourself from injury in one of those inevitable ‘whoops!’ moments.
Real movement in the real outdoor environment teaches us so many profound lessons about our place in the world. Come and start your journey with us at Wildfitness, we are bursting to share it with you.
Joseph Bartz details: website: www.natur-pfade.de