Sunday, July 27, 2008

Team Dynamics in Parkour

I recently contacted Michael Cardus, an Adventure Consultant for Create-Learning Team Building, who ran a brief article on Parkour. He is located in Western New York, near where RIT. I offered to write a guest article for him, dealing with team dynamics found in groups of traceurs. Check it out here

Friday, July 25, 2008

Into The Wild, With Flowers In Your Hair

I walked into the airport in Seattle, ready to fly to San Francisco. I was checking in, and the kiosk I was using gave me the option to change my seat. I mostly fly on the East Coast, and really only on Airtran Airways, and on Airtran it costs money to change your seat. This time however, it was free, so I decided “What the hell” and hit the button. I immediately noticed I was in the back row, all the way on the left. There wasn't even a window, it was almost as if it used to be additional storage, but decided to put half a seat there to make an extra couple of dollars. There were two other seats open, one center seat about 3 rows from the back, and one in center of the very first row of coach. “Hot damn,” I thought, and I grabbed the seat at the front of coach.

I got onto my plane, and noticed there was no where in front of me to put my bag, and the flight attendant made me put it in overhead storage (which I hate using). The plane was about half filled when another guy who looked about my age (19) sat down in the window seat next to me. He had kind of scraggly, unkempt hair, and an earring that looked like (and probably was) just a woodchip through his left ear. He sat down next to me, and the flight attendant immediately yelled at him to put his bags up above. We exchanged grumblings about having to put our stuff up, and then we started talking.

“It's weird being in an airplane again,” Marty commented, looking around uncomfortably. “In fact it's kind of weird to be surrounded by people.” I asked if it was his first time flying, and he responded “No, I've just been... out of touch with the world for a while.” He then went on to tell me about how he had just spent the past four months by himself in a log cabin in the woods of Northern Minnesota, fifty miles from the nearest road. He told me about how he was in the backwater bar in Minnesota, talking to some loggers. This one logger was telling Marty about his grandfather had built a log cabin up north a long time ago, but no one had had time to go there in fifteen years. Marty thought about it for a second, and then asked the logger “How much?” The logger was a bit taken back, and replied cautiously “Nine hundred dollars?” Marty wrote him a check on the spot, and then met back up with the logger the next day for a topographical map. “It's the only way you can find it,” the logger said. Since it's so far from any roads, you have to find the right hills, follow streams and rivers, and take the correct forks. Marty got some equipment, and then headed off.

He arrived in the closest town (50 miles from the cabin) and proceeded to make three trips to the cabin. He was hiking the whole time, so he could only carry so much. He arrived towards the end of winter, and had some trouble the first month. He shot three bucks, but didn't preserve the meat of the first two correctly and the bodies were covered in flies and maggots within 45 minutes. The third one he did right, but had to dry the meat in a corner of his cabin for a month. He said “it smelled like a dead animal.” He paused, and then laughed and added “Well I guess it was a dead animal.” The cabin had a wood stove, a wooden desk, some candles, and not much else.

He spent a lot of time cleaning up the cabin and the surrounding area (no one had been there for 15 years), and spent the rest of his days hunting small game (rabbit, squirrel), fishing (in lakes so clear you could see 30 feet below the surface), and exploring. He told me about how he used a series of pink bandannas to tie around trees, so he could find his way home. When exploring, he'd tie them around trees as he was about to get out of sight of the previous one. On the way back home, he'd untie and collect them, leaving no trace he was ever there. When he arrived back home, he would sit at his desk and read books, write, and draw.

He had the most amazing books. He had several books of Plato and Socrates, he also had a book, done in the same conversation-style of Plato, about the differences between Plato's time and “modern times,” and whether or not the same philosophies were applicable. The book was written in the 1700s. He had a book, first edition, from the 1890s. He showed me a book called “Two Minutes Till Midnight” which was written, I think in the 1930s, about the horrors of hydrogen bomb. Well before the Manhattan Project was even started. Almost every book Marty had taken with him to his cabin was written before 1950, and most of them were first editions. I'm not huge into antiques and old things, but just holding a book that was printed in 1890 was an amazing experience. Paging carefully through it, examining paper and ink so durable it lasted 120 years, and was still in excellent condition, was a very cool experience. Then I realized the book I was holding was six times older than I was. It gave me a whole new appreciation for old books. Very, very cool.

He mentioned again how strange it was to be back in society, and I asked him why he left his cabin. He made it through winter, and it was summer now so food must not be a problem. He looked at me, smiled sheepishly, and replied “I ran out of books to read.” That was the only reason he left. Because he needed more books. So he trekked back to town, called his parents who, when they found out it was him, said “Oh, good. You're still alive.” They bought him a ticket to visit his uncle in San Francisco. Marty is convinced their ulterior motive was to convince him to get a job and settle down. Marty's reason for agreeing to go to San Francisco was because he heard there were some awesome used book stores there. He was going to hang out for a few weeks, buy a bunch more books, sell enough art on the street to finance a ticket back to Minneapolis, and then go back to his cabin.

Then he asked me why I was going to San Francisco, and I told him about Parkour, about my trip, and I showed him some videos I had stored on my laptop. He was absolutely enthralled. He was really excited and enthusiastic, and thought Parkour and my trip was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Frankly, I disagree, and I think living in a cabin in the woods is pretty much the coolest thing ever, but Parkour comes in a close second. After watching some more videos and listening to me explain it a bit more, he realized that he had been doing something similar in the woods. His goal was to, save the cabin, leave no trace that he was there (the bandannas are a good example). When he moved through the forest, which was completely wild and untamed, he climbed, crawled and jumped in order to get around without damaging the environment. Often when he was tracking a deer, he had to move silently, slowly, and be totally aware of his environment so he didn't scare his prey away. It wasn't exactly Parkour, but his goals were basically the same. Move efficiently through his environment. In his case, efficiency meant silence and without cutting, breaking, or snapping anything.

We decided, as we were landing, that we were the most interesting “single serving friends” we'd ever had. I got his phone number and email so I could invite him to the San Francisco monthly jam that was happening that weekend. The next morning, before I called him, I saw a used bookstore. I wandered in, and saw their “First Editions” collection. I looked through the titles and saw Jack Keuroak (s?)'s “On The Road Again.” Autographed. I considered purchasing it as a gift, if we were able to meet up.

I emailed him but he never emailed me back, and I called a few times but his voice-mail was full (which doesn't surprise me. He was gone for four freaking months) and he never picked up.

I guess Marty will truly remain a single serving friend. My best, single serving, friend.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MovNat and Methode Naturelle in Seattle, Washington

I arrived at Seattle's airport and called Tyson Cecka, who said he was waiting outside and to give him a call when I got my bag. So I waited. For about fifty minutes. I finally saw my bag coming down the conveyor belt... when someone else grabbed it! See the pictures in the first “Where's Zac” entry for reference, but my bag is pretty easy to identify, and not easy to mix up with someone else's. I started running to intercept them... when I recognized who it was! It was Jesse “Hardcoretraceur” from New York, just with no hair! We went outside and I hopped in the car. Matt Perry from California, Ryan Ford from Colorado, and Tyson Cecka were already inside. After Jesse and I hopped in, I noticed Jereme Sanders from Texas jammed into the trunk.

We headed back to Tyson's house and spent the afternoon jamming at Gasworks Park, an old gas refinery station that they converted into essentially a playground. We crashed that night, and then headed off the next morning in a rented MiniCooper to Bellingham, Washington to visit with Rafe Kelly.

Rafe is a traceur, but he also trains MovNat (an update to Methode Naturelle). We arrived at his house late in the afternoon, and headed to Whatcom Falls, a huge park with some really awesome trails. We asked Rafe to run us through a Movnat style workout, so we could learn more about it. He explained to us that Movnat was all about replicating Natural Movement. The twelve core parts of MovNat are walking, running, jumping, climbing, quadrupedal movement, balancing, swimming, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, and defending. Combining these ten real-life activities into a single methodology trains you to be a truly well rounded athlete. Unlike programs that focus on strength and conditioning to get you ready for an activity or sport, in MovNat, performing the activity or sport IS the strength and conditioning.

For our warmup, we started off running around a field. There are many ways to run however – forwards, backwards, sideways, rotating, sprinting, jogging. We went from one to another seamlessly, and alternated often. We then progressed into walking movements. This is something I always found confusing – I figured walking was walking. First, we just walked. But then we had to try and move as silently as possible. We then tried to walk, staying as low as possible, then switched it up and pretended to step over something very tall. Next, we combined the two. Pretend you have to step over something very tall, and then crouch and waddle under something very short, and then repeat. We transitioned into QM, and did a lot of QM variations, but also added in some crawling (forwards, left, right, backwards, rolling to the sides) on our elbows and knees which isn't done too often in a lot of Parkour warmups. Standing up into a fighting stance, we practiced bouncing, sliding back, forth, and to the sides, and some punches and crosses. This pretty much wrapped up the warmup, and then we moved onto the workout.

Throughout the workout, we moved pretty much constantly. Running through the trails in the woods, balancing on fallen treetrunks and handrails as we went. Several times Rafe had us stop, pick up a rock (a large rock) and we ran with it, passing it off whenever Rafe called out “Pass!” We eventually stopped along the trail, and then practiced lifting. This is very different than lifting weights. When doing a clean and jerk (weight starts on the ground, you pull it up and push it over your head) with a barbell, you have a good hold on the bar and the weight is evenly distributed on the two sides. With a rock, you have to fight to find a decent place to put your hands, the weight is uneven, and we had no idea how heavy it was. Everyone lifted the rock over their head several times, then we played some passing games (just passing the rock down a line). We continued our run, stopping to flip some logs (like telephone poles) and climb up a rock face. We wrapped up the day by finding a big pool of water nxt to some cliff faces about 30 feet up... so we jumped off. A bunch of times.

It was a very educational experience, and I think MovNat something that everyone should try to incorporate into their training. I know when I go back to school, I'll be looking for some rocks to carry around.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Madison, Wisconsin

I'm going to start posting a story from most of the places I visit. I'm going to start out with Madison, Wisconsin:

Alissa (Muse_of_Fire) and I were in the car, driving to a daycamp for pre-teen boys and girls in Madison. This was the first day we were working with Girls, Inc (the group that runs this camp), and we had absolutely no idea what to expect. We didn't know whether we'd be working with boys, girls, or both. We didn't know what kind of facilities we had to work with, or how many people we'd have to work with.

The night before, Alissa, Chad (her training partner), and I had dinner and planned out what we were going to do the next day. It took about two hours, and due to The Game (if you say certain words, you have to do 10 pushups), there were pretty constant distractions - but we finally worked out a rough lesson plan. We would start with a Julie Angel video, give a brief talk about Parkour, then, boys or girls, we were going to focus heavily on games.

We pull up to the driveway and get out of the car. We examine the Kennedy Heights Community Center, it's pretty much just a big temp building. There's a wooden fence outside for balancing, and a playground around the back. The director of the camp came out to meet us, introduced us to the girls, and we were on our own! There were eight girls, I'd say age 12 to 14. Long story short, they were not impressed by our pep talk, or by the Julie Angel video. Looking back, we probably needed something a bit more action oriented.

Once we got them outside though, we started to play some warmup games. Alissa started by having them all run in place, and then drop into the landing position whenever she said drop. We did some side QM, and did some other fun warmup activities. We wanted to start off with a game, so I ran a game of QM Redlight/Greenlight. Went to the fence to do some partner balancing drills, and then we played a balance game. Two people would stand about arms length apart, and try to push each other over without moving their feet. The first person who's feet moved, lost. We then played a finger jousting game, and then I taught precisions.

This was the only thing "taught" and "drilled" all day. Later on in Seattle, Rafe Kelly brought up the point that children and adults learn differently. Children are very "lets go go go stop talking and let me do it!" Adults have goals, they want to see progressions, and they want a specific set of steps to get to their goals. When teaching children, at least in the beginning, drilling something will only drive them away. It bores them, and they do not understand why it must be done. I felt it was necessary, however, to "drill" precisions, just for a little bit. We used one end of a sidewalk to another, so it was maybe two feet. I had them jump twice, and then I taught them something new.

First I just had them jump. Then I taught them about jumping in an arc, instead of straight to it. I had them jump two more times with this in mind, then I taught them about landing on the balls of the feet. Jump two more times, and then I taught them about bending their legs and compressing. Jump two more times, and that was it. I feel like this was the best way to introduce them to all the necessary concepts. I didn't want to drown them in information, or have them just standing around listening too long, but they needed to know those three basic concepts. It worked well, too. They didn't get bored, and they had fun with it.

As soon as we were done the lesson, the girls got to learn about some practical applications during a game of PDQ. It was a little bit bigger than optimal (8 girls, the director, Alissa, Chad, myself), but it was still a lot of fun, and some of the girls really got into it!

PDQ was the last game and activity of the day, and we gave them a quick pep talk, and then left. When the girls started, they were pretty typical pre-teen girls. Completely uninterested and unengaged. By the end, they were running and jumping around, talking and laughing and having fun.

I heard back from Alissa yesterday, who just had the second meeting. Apparently, I'm the cute one, because all the girls were asking where I was and when I'd be back. Which is cool....

Kinda. :)

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicago Parkour Jam

This is the video for the Chicago jam from June 28th. Over 75 people showed up, representing everywhere from Washington, Texas, Virginia, and everywhere in between.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

New York Parkour Jam - 2008

NYPK (New York Parkour) had their annual jam the 20-22nd of June. Here's the video!

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pittsburgh Jam Video

Here's the video I cut together for the Pittsburgh "PKFR International" Jam.