Friday, February 22, 2008

Star Tre-I mean Parkour Generations

On February 14th, Dan Edwardes, Stephane Vigroux, Chris Keighley, and Julie Angel came down to Central Park for a day-long workshop. Artem, Charlie and I showed up at Heckscher Park (an area in Central Park) around 10AM, and there were already a good 20 or 30 people there. We warmed up, did some small balance and precision drills for a while, until around 11. A group of four people walked up to us, and one spoke in a British accent "So.. are you guys Traceurs?"

After a (long) series of introductions, we hung around Heckscher for a bit longer, waiting for more people to show up, and then the day began.

We began with some light joint work: neck, shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle stretching. We then went for a short jog forwards, backwards, and to both sides. We slowed to a stop then Dan dropped to his hands and feet, and began to QM around the area we had just jogged. At about the halfway point, we continued QMing backwards.

Then we ran into our first problem. The Park Police decided that what we were doing 'could endanger the kids (of which there weren't any around...)' and 'adults weren't allowed to play in the park.' So we asked them nicely where we could train, and they directed us towards a baseball field. So we moved there.

After doing some (read: a lot) of squat work, we went back to some more QM. This time, we were doing a couple different levels of sideways QM. We started by just moving left and right in the QM position. We later incorporated leg lifts, both holding it still and moving the leg up and down, into the workout. About this time we ran into problem number 2. The Park Police came by and decided that we were "risking the children" again (keep in mind, this was a fenced in field, and there were no kids in sight, let alone on this side of the fence.)

So we moved a ways away to a muddy hill, where we did some push up work. We started with a 10-second pushup. They made us do a ton of variations on pushups: going down, and then moving our upper bodies in circles, putting our weight on our left arm, went down, shifted to the right, and pressing up, going into the down position, then rolling back onto our elbows, back to the hands, and up, what I call "dive bomber pushups" where you start in a ^ shape, and go down, leading with your head, and then arch you back up, and retrace going back.

Then we put them all together. Between the crazy types of pushups and the freezing mud, it was pretty hard. Almost everyone had to take a rest break, and a lot of people dropped out entirely before the end. The Parkour Generations guys though not only forged on, but were talking, teaching, and encouraging us the entire time. It was truly inspirational what they were capable of. While we were weeping and trying to keep up, they told us that this is their standard warmup that everyone, men, women, young and old, go through at their Academy.

Please check your ego at the door.

Stephane took over at this point - leading us across the street to do some precision/confidence building work. There was probably a 9 foot gap between two curbs (a pedestrian walkway). He had us leap on one foot to the center of the walkway, and then precision to the other curb, all in one motion. It was a very interesting drill, designed not to work on maximum distance, but on the landing and nailing it every time.

After a while, Stephane led us on a "Follow the Leader" style adventure through the giant rocks in Central Park. A lot of precision work, and also a lot of bouldering and rock climbing, which was enjoyable. Stephane was a very interesting person to follow, his movements were so natural it was... unnatural.

After the Follow the Leader session was over, we pretty much spread out and worked on random drills on our own, or inspired by the Parkour Generations guys. Around 1230, we decided to split into three groups, one lead by each representative from PKG.

My group followed Stephane through the woods of Central Park. A lot of forest-parkour here: climbing through, around, over, and under trees, scaling pretty tall rock walls, and more. There was one rock wall, perhaps 20 feet tall, that we were climbing.

Stephane decided to do it without hands.

We eventually regrouped back near Heckscher, and then broke and headed to Whole Foods for lunch. Afterwards, we resumed training on the rocks, and then we migrated to different parts of Central Park for the rest of the day. We got kicked out of a few more places, which is unfortunate, but there were about 60 of us at that point, so it makes sense.

The British have a very interesting take on Parkour. The V-day workshop focused very intensely on precisions and climbing, and far less than a lot of people would have expected on vaults. (Although to be fair, I'm sure they are equally ridiculously good at those, the environment just did not clalf or it.) I did not learn much to improve my technique, I don't really think that was the goal, and if that's all you got out of it then I think you wasted a lot of time.

What I learned from Parkour Generations was an incredible amount about potential. I already knew the importance of conditioning, but what they do every day blows me out of the water. What they were physically capable of astounded and inspired me. I'm already re-evaluating my training, and planning out how I'm going to change both how I train, and how I train others.

Parkour Generations is planning on coming back to America soon, so if at all possible, attend one of their workshops. It is 150% worth it.

Unforunately, I was a little bit busy to get many pictures, but I did snag a picture of each of our visitors. I'll be posting those a bit later tonight.

[edit - HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN? At the end of they day, Parkou Generations led us through a "warmdown." I put that in quotes because the only similarity it had to a warm down was that by the end, I was very warm, and wanted to sit down for a very long time. They ran us through an ab workout where the rest position was balancing on your butt with your legs folded against you chest. The second rest position was laying on the ground, shoulders and feet off the ground. Everything when we weren't resting was... a lot worse.

After the "warmdown," we went to find a place where we could all talk. We ended up at the upstairs room of Wendy's. We had a loose Q&A session that lasted almost two hours. Everyone asked questions and listened as the PKG guys spoke on topics ranging from their favorite food (cashews) to what Parkour meant to them. Then they asked us for advice - what do we think would help the growing American community the most? Advice ranged from more tutorial videos to articles giving ideas and specifics about warmups and and warmdowns.

I don't know how I forgot about that when I was typing this originally! It was probably the best part.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Generation, Lost in space...

Just a quick update for now. Artem, Charlie and I are leaving in about an hour to go down to New York City for the rest of the week. Parkour Generations is coming down, and they're holding an informal workshop/training session in Central Park on Thursday at 11AM.

It's going to be cold, wet, and awesome. Detailed update when we get back.

In other news, I have made meeting appointments with several more people in regards to the RIT Parkour club becoming official. Those will be occuring in the next two weeks - I'll update and let everyone know how those went after htey occur. Here's to hoping, though.

But now, it's time to pack (Read: cram a bunch of crap into a bag).

Friday, February 8, 2008

Hello, Student Government of RIT

Hello, and I'm glad you decided to check out my blog. I hope you enjoyed, and learned from, my presentation. As I said during the presentation, you can find our training video here.

I hope you enjoy it, and thank you again for your time.

Zachary Cohn