Sunday, September 26, 2010

Get off that rail (and go find someone elses')

I'm not trying to be a crotchety old man, but back in my day...
Crotchety Old Man
Traceurs traveled a lot more. For national jams, for state jams, but also just to travel. Over the past year or so, I've noticed less and less of this. Sometimes traceurs won't even travel to the next town over, unless it's a big event (and even then).

I've identified a few reasons for this. A big one is that there simply isn't the need. It's the same reasons that Parkour forums aren't nearly as popular as they were four years ago. Why do you need to get online to talk about Parkour when you can just go outside with your friends and do it? Why should you drive an hour to train with people when you have your own community right here?

These are legitimate points. There was a time when I'd drive an hour to DC every weekend just to train with my friends there. I'd be there for 4 or 5 hours, then drive back. Factor in a teenagers sleep schedule, and there's a whole Saturday. I remember when it was a big deal to find out there were other people training in our town. What?? We don't have to drive all the way to DC just to train with other people!? Awesome!! (And then ALL of us would drive down to DC together...)

But it is still important to travel. Further than just your county, further than just your state. For reasons other than just National Jams. A friend of mine was recently interested in starting a Parkour gym, and came to me for advice. I wrote him a long letter, and the jist was that I was honestly concerned that he hadn't traveled enough.

Everyone who has started a "brick and mortar" Parkour gym (i.e. not running out of someone else's facility) has traveled extensively. To other communities, to other gyms, to other countries. Like my friend, they pretty much started their local community, but unlike my friend, they had seen how Parkour is being taught in Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Washington DC, North Carolina, Toronto, London, Paris, Lisses, Sydney, Tokyo. In addition to having experienced all these different methods of teaching, they have developed an extensive network of people to bounce ideas off of, learn from, and from which to gather support.

This is not just an article for people who want to start their own gym. This is an article for everyone who wants to really understand Parkour. Traveling is a NECESSITY. You should visit old communities, communities with gyms, and newer less developed communities. Always be looking out for things to learn, even when someone isn't trying to teach you something.

So this is my challenge to you, whether you are a newer traceur, or just someone who never really got around to visiting anywhere else:

You don't have to go to Lisses to go on a pilgrimage. Spend 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, some significant length of time. Contact a few Parkour communities you haven't ever been to. Preferably ones far away. Tell them you want to come visit, and ask if you can you stay with anyone. Stay for a few days, then go off to the next place. Keep a journal (or a blog) and record everything you learn and everything you feel during your trip so the world can learn from your experience.

Let distance be your obstacle, and cars, busses, trains and planes be your vaults.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Luuuuucccyyy, I'm home!

Hey everyone,
So Blogger changed some things for < 1% of it's users (one of which was me) in how you are allowed to make posts, so as of May 1st I haven't been able to post.

But it's fixed now!

I'm using this opportunity to transfer my domain to somewhere I have more control over, and then transfer to a new host. I'm planning on doing a lot more with this site in the coming months, so that'll be cool. I've got some neat new projects coming up.

In the mean time, here's a video of me jumping really high:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Test test

And... we are live?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Mission: Guerrilla Compliments

I have become enamored by the concept of guerrilla movements. The Princeton Dictionary defines a guerrilla as "a member of an irregular armed force that fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment." Typically, the term guerrilla refers to warfare. People who fight with guns and bombs to inspire fear and terror in the enemy. I prefer a broader interpretation of the definition, where any tool or medium might be used to inspire any emotion.

During February 2010, the Washington DC area experienced what came to be known as "The Snowpocolypse." Almost 4 feet of snow over the course of a weekend paralyzed most of the area. Events like this are stressful and dreaded by most adults, but to an equal intensity excite kids and teenagers everywhere because it means two things: 1) No school, and 2) snow shovels come out and it's time to make some money.

This has become a normal part of life, and no one is really opposed to kids making a bit of money by doing some hard physical labor. But my friends and I had another idea. We adopted a guerrilla shoveling strategy: We'd pick a house (often one we knew had older residents), swarm up, shovel the driveway (because there were six of us, we'd clear a driveway in 2 or 3 minutes), and then we'd quickly evacuate out of sight. We wouldn't knock on the door, we wouldn't charge them or even tell them who shoveled their driveway. We did this throughout the neighborhood (We got caught only once. It took us 5 minutes to convince her we really weren't looking for money. At this point, she came out and gave us apples and ginger ale. We decided this was a valid payment and graciously accepted it). I found out later that we apparently hit the editor of the community newsletter. She saw us running away, saw what we had done, and was inspired to write a whole article called "Snow Angels." An excerpt from the article she wrote:

"I was left with much more than a cleared driveway. More importantly, I was left... 
...with a greater faith in the character of the upcoming generation,
...with a hope, that the example of their kindness be recognized and spread,
...and with a sense of charity, that we all recognize the generosity of others and continue to pay forward the good will which we are blessed."

Since then, I've become interested in this concept of anonymity - doing good not only without expecting to be thanked, but by making it impossible to be personally thanked (or at least very difficult). During a conversation last night with Jesse Danger, I was hit with an idea. I call it "Guerrilla Compliments."

I took a pad of Post-it notes and wrote a short, positive message on each. Some were cliche sounding mood-boosters (The world is beautiful, and you are too), some were positive suggestions (Dreams are not just for when you are asleep), and others were calls-to-action (Make moves, not excuses). I wrote about 15 unique messages, stuffed them in my pocket, and went to campus for the day.

I've used about half of the notes I wrote so far. A few places that I've put Post-it notes today: Snuck one into a girl's open backpack. On a janitor's floor scrubbing machine. The 5th tray from the top of the stack of food trays in the dining hall. Each time, I take a picture of the post it note (on the target if possible, although most times I take the picture earlier so I can decide on a target at the last second), and then post it to Twitter through Twitpic with a description of where I just put it. I'm tagging each post with the hashtag #guerrillacompliments.

I hope that people are surprised when they find a yellow Post-it note somewhere they weren't expecting. And I am hoping that this surprise will encourage them to read, consider, and really embrace what is written on it. Maybe they will just throw the note away without reading it. But maybe one of these will brighten someone's day. Maybe it will inspire them to engage in their own spontaneous act of kindness. Maybe the encouraging Post-it notes telling people that "The only difference between dreams and reality is action" will cause someone to stop hesitating and take some action to change their lives. So many people go days, weeks, or months without a single positive or encouraging word said to them.

Lets change that.

Guerrilla soldiers fight a stronger force by sabotage and harassment. Lets be guerrilla soldiers, waging a war against unhappiness, with Post-its and pens as our weapons. If you want to join my war, I welcome you to show support by posting your own attacks on unhappiness to Twitter with the hashtag #guerrillacompliments. Don't have a Twitter? Then don't worry about it. The important goal here is to get out, and do good.

I'm going to inspire hope and joy where ever I strike. And I will strike every day. Will you?

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ah, Sweet Misremembered Youth

This is an excerpt taken from the editor's note of the August 1986 edition of Analog: Science Fiction, Science Fact magazine. Analog is one of the longest running science fiction literature magazines, and authors from Timothy Zahn (of Star Wars Expanded Universe fame) to Isaac Asimov have written for them.

I found this issue in an antique shop in Seattle, and the message here really spoke to me. I wasn't able to find a copy of it online, and I think this is something people should be more aware of:

"Once upon a time there was a little town in the midst of a sea of fertile farmland. it had a downtown - not a big one, to be sure, or truly bustling, by cosmic standards; but a central district where a few main highways came together and townsfolk and farmers from the surrounding countryside converged to do business. One day this town decided to make all its downtown streets one-way - and many onlookers, both residents and outsiders passing through, wondered why. It didn't seem to them that the actual volume of traffic required such action, and in fact the resulting confusion seemed more of a headache than the "congestion" the new arrangement was supposed to alleviate. Some of these perplexed observers thought the matter over at some length, and the best explanation they could come up with for a tranquil little town's making its streets one-way was this. Much as a little girl might like to dress up in her mother's clothes because it makes her feel "like a big girl," a little city might adopt big-city traffic patterns to make itself feel like a big city.

A bit far-fetched, you may say, but several years later I still haven't heard a better explanation. Admittedly such analogies between the behavior of individual organisms and that of social units are imperfect, at best. There are such obvious differences as the fact that the decision to make streets one-way was made by a few individuals, not by the town as a whole (though that difference may not be as great as it appears, since the little girl's decision to dress up was made by a similarly small group of her cells). In any case, there are also clear similarities in the behaviors of organisms at individual and group levels. It can be at least mildly entertaining, and perhaps even instructive, to look at what they are.

The one I'm particularly thinking about today concerns a common tendency among adults which you've probably noticed in others and very likely exhibited at least occasionally in yourself. How often have you heard an adult beset by some problem like taxes or work pressures of family responsibilities sigh nostalgically that he wishes he were back in his childhood, without any worries? I've heard it often - and I've always considered it a clear sign that the adult's memory of childhood is, at best, exceedingly vague. Any child could remind you that childhood is anything but carefree. Every day is filled with concerns like what's-my-teacher-going-to-do-to-me-if-I-forget-my-book-report and is-that-bully-going-to-catch-me-on-the-way-to-school and am-I-growing-up-the-way-I-should and why-don't-boys-like-me.

"Ah," the adult smiles wistfully, "but those are such TRIVIAL problems compared to mine!"

To which I reply, with all possible respect, hogwash. The measure of a problem is not how big it is compared to somebody else's, but how big it is compared to your own perception of your ability to solve it. In those terms, a child's problems are not one whit less formidable than an adult's, and they may even be far more so. (Especially when you consider that the current crop of children are exposed to an unprecedented amount of information about current events and are well aware that many adult problems directly affect them, but are completely beyond their control.) A child's problems may loom large primarily because he lacks the perspective to accurately judge their real seriousness. If he's lucky, by adulthood he will be able to evaluate them more realistically and thus be less likely to let his worries get out of proportion to their causes (though many adults, alas, are not that lucky)."

The article goes on to talk about how this applies at a cultural and global level, which is just as important, but for another time. What do you think of this editor's note? Do you agree? Disagree?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Safety has EVERYTHING to do with Fitness

Based on a forum post where someone stated that advanced practitioners were more likely to get hurt than beginners:

Safety is largely a skill/mental attitude. You can go about a difficult jump with safety in mind, using spotters, progression, and building up to it - or you can just go for it. Most of us choose to go the route of safety - but sometimes someone doesn't know how to be safe. It's an inherent skill to some extent, but must be actively developed or TAUGHT (which is something all three gyms (APEX, Primal, PKV) focus on.) To address later points, these gyms don't just say "Do X and Y and never do A and B." They teach with safety in mind, and through that teaching style students learn how to be safe on their own.

However, I do think Rafe is right about the quote "Safety has got nothing to do with fitness." being incorrect. On Saturday, I took either the worst, or the second worst, bail of my life (parkour, flipping, gymnastics, martial arts, slacklining, firespinning, waterskiiing, wakeboarding all included). The only reason I am probably not paralyzed right now is because of my strength, fitness, skill, and experience.

I wasn't doing anything dangerous, just a simple step up to crane with my off leg. I stepped, leapt, my foot landed on the top, but I had a little bit too much forward momentum and I pitched forward, head first, feet in the air, toward the concrete on the other side. It was about a 4 foot drop, and all I remember is a snapshot of the concrete about 2 feet from my face, and my right arm outstretched toward the ground.

Based on the map of my (extremely minor) injuries and scrapes, I contacted the ground with the blade of my right hand and braced with the palm of my left, lowered myself down into a roll. I hit my thigh on the corner of the wall, and I must have hit my knee at some point - probably during the roll.

I ended on my back, eyes closed, on the concrete. My right leg was extended, and my left knee was bent about 45 degrees. The person I was training with came over, and I calmly asked her to extend my knee and help me unzip my jacket so I could breathe. I walked away about 2 minutes later, and now about 36 hours later the only remaining pain/tightness/soreness is in my thigh, which is greatly diminished.

I was doing something easy and simple. This was something a beginner could probably do. I am sure, however, that this was not something a beginner could have walked away from so easily. I consider myself somewhat strong, but I still do things that are largely not risky. I take great care not to put myself in any unnecessary or excessive danger. This was a technique that was not excessively dangerous. But just like any technique, if the right thing goes wrong at the perfect time...

Physical strength is JUST AS IMPORTANT as mental strength. You can not say that a beginner is exposed to less danger because it simply isn't true. You can not say that because I am stronger, I have to take more risks. Because I was stronger, I am able to move my fingers to type this right now. Life is a long road and we must be strong in order to walk it to it's destination.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Last Night's Dream

So I had a dream last night, and I'd like to share it with the world.

It started off and we were at the Whole Foods near Jesse Danger's house (there is no Whole Foods near Jesse's house), and there were a bunch of parkour people hanging out. Someone comes up and tells me they got the car, and we go over. The car looked kind of like the Corvette LT-1, but about a billion times shinier and better. They handed me the keys and we got in. There was a stickshift, but I never needed to shift between gears. There were, however, about 12-15 different orientations it could be in (including some sort of turbo boost).

So we started driving down this highway. We were going pretty fast, I looked down and it was about 35mph. I thought "We can go faster than this." So then I hit the gas and we sped up to about 80-90mph. I hit the "turbo boost" somehow, and then we were going about 300mph. At one point we saw a turn coming up and I said to the guy in the passenger seat "Oh crap." I pulled the e-brake, executed a perfect skid around the corner, and then we kept going.

Finally, we drive into this cave. There is still road, but the walls are right up against the edge of the car. I hit the turbo boost and we're going about 400mph when the view switches to 3rd person of the car. Jet fighter wings fold out from the car, scraping and sparking against the walls. The whole car is on fire - but it's white fire. Then we hit this massive jump and glide for about a mile.

Next, it's me and my friend in this cave (no car), and we get to a door. "You have to write something insulting to get in" he says. So I inscribe with my feet on the ceiling "Write and die." We enter a living room style area. My friend Graham is there, along with the guy we were going to meet. The guy immediately jumps up and starts demanding who we are and how we got in here when Graham interrupts and says that we're with him.

The guy suddenly becomes friendly and welcoming, but in a very "mafia boss" kind of way. There are other people around who seem to be there for the same event as me. I mash some macaroni and cheese with chicken in it on the guys face (that's what was expected of me) and then the dream ends.

Someone woke me up in the morning and I immediately reply "I was having an office space dream." I'm not sure what that means, or if I was having a dream about office space afterward - but I'm glad I remembered this one instead.