Sunday, August 10, 2008

Texas National Jam Write up

Texas Parkour held their National Jam in San Antonio this year, Friday July 25th through Sunday the 27th. Over 75 people showed up throughout the weekend, coming in from all over Texas and the rest of the country. San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and Dallas all had a strong presence, and traceurs flew or drove in from Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Maryland and Michigan.

People started arriving Friday morning, and kept streaming in throughout the day. Jereme Sander's house was used as a staging ground for everyone, who stayed entertained while waiting for people with Jereme's trampoline and Zachary Cohn's slackline (although most of the adventure was in putting up the slackline. Knots are a very important thing to remember how to tie!). By 7pm, everyone had shown up (save KC Parsons, from Michigan, who earned the nickname “Chicago” after everyone kept thinking he was from Chicago), and we left for University of Texas: San Antonio campus for some night conditioning.

The focus here was not so much Parkour, but showing everyone how hard you could, and should, train. A lot of people who train Parkour either don't condition, or don't really know how. This is unfortunate, because conditioning your body for Parkour is so important – how we consider ourselves athletes but do nothing except for skillwork. Football, soccer, and lacrosse players all do non-skill conditioning work... what makes Traceurs any different? This “conditioning” night session was intended to teach people about conditioning and show them how they can be creative with their environment and still train hard.

We started off with a warmup, which transitioned into a workout. There was running (forwards, backwards, sideways), Quadrupedal movement (forwards, backwards, sideways), “PK Gen Style” push-ups (see: Philly Jam video for examples), hopping, and jumping. We moved onto balancing on some rails, both bipedally (standing and in a duck-walk position), quadrupedally, keeping track of your falls. For each time you fell, at the end you did 10 pushups or squats. Traversal practice was next, from a cat hang position people would shimmy across a wall, which would angle downwards (or upwards depending which side you were on), at about a 45 degree angle.

Eventually, we traveled to a large set of stairs, broken into two 14 step sections divided by a landing. Jereme showed everyone a workout he borrowed from Forrest of Parkour Generations. Everyone starts at the bottom of the steps in a squat position, and then using only your feet and hands (so you remain in a squat position in the air), jump up a step when the leader calls out “Up one!” If the leader calls out “Up two!” then go up two steps. However, sometimes you'll hear “Down one!” or “Down two!” and you have to jump backwards some steps. After this, more stair work. Hopping up all the stairs, one step at a time, with one foot, and then doing pushup hops down (hands on the top step, do a pushup, and when you are exploding up, your entire body hops forward a bit and your hands land on the next step down). Hop up the steps again with your other leg, and then QM down. Instead of resting while everyone else finished, once you completed everything you would just run up and down the steps, with more and more people joining as they completed the stair workout. This was wrapping up the night, and everyone circled up for a group cool down stretch. After about 30 minutes of stretching, people hung around for a bit, jammed, had fun, and then we headed back to Jereme's house around midnight for sleep.

The goal was to leave at 9am the next morning for Hemisfair Park. The convoy left around 9:30 (which was when we REALLY needed to leave anyway, we figured we'd be getting out a bit late) and showed up at the park around 10. By the time the convoy from Jereme's house got there, twenty people were already there, jumping around! Because there were so many people there (at one count, 55), we split into two groups. One group stayed at the meeting location, and the other headed to the other side of the park where there was a wooden Castle-style playground. Everyone in the first group spread out and worked on different things. Chris Salvato and Zac Cohn led a brief balancing workshop for a few newer tracuers, introducing newer concepts like shuffling along the rail sideways, instead of always forwards and backwards. Another Chris, from Oklahoma, was being coached on his dive kongs and double kongs. People were drilling cats and step up cranes, and there were really traceurs just scampering everywhere. After a bit, the two groups switched (but the second group came back to the wooden castle pretty quickly, they were asked to leave the area they were in), and everyone trained together at the playground.

People were nailing some pretty impressive cats and precisions, while on the other side of the playground some of the Huston crowd were drilling kong to cats when a police officer parked her car right next to us. She stepped out, made sure we weren't going to run into her car, and then hung out and chatted with us for a bit. Soon, a second officer came over and joined the conversation. They seemed genuinely interested, and the second officer told us a story from when he was young on the force. He was making a drug arrest, and the suspect ran. He proceeded on a footchase, but soon was weighed down by all of his equipment and started to overheat in his uniform long sleeved shirt and long pants. We discussed why, as recruits and trainees, they run all the time in shorts and t-shirts, but rarely do any training in full equipment. I thought that this drew an interesting parallel to traceurs who change into their “Parkour shoes” and where special shoes whenever they train. Would these people suffer the same problem? Being unable to perform to their maximum capacity because they didn't train in what they usually wear?

We wrapped up at the playground and headed out for a late lunch. Jereme then suggested we all go cliff diving, so we piled back in the cars and parked on this seemingly abandoned country road. We crossed the street and headed into the woods, eventually finding a trail down to a boulder-filled stream. After jumping from boulder to boulder for a while, we were able to cross to the other side and pick up another trail that led us to a much deeper stream, surrounded by cliffs. The cliffs ranged from 3 feet above the water to 30, and anyone who didn't feel like climbing and flipping into the river had a relaxing afternoon soaking in the warm stream. Many gainers, double fronts, and full twists later, we piled back in the cars and headed to dinner, then Jereme's house for sleep.

Getting up early AGAIN on Sunday morning, we left the house around 9:20 and drove to Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. The heat was starting to some people, but everyone still got out and trained hard. San Marcos was a lot of fun, a lot of interesting architecture, and a lot of awesome rails. Breakfast hadn't really happened yet, so we left a bit earlier and got burritos, then headed to another nearby wooden castle park where Jereme led a warmup and Matthew Lee Willis led a game or two of follow the leader. There was an article in a local newspaper about the jam, and a couple people were there waiting for us. Some people were there just to watch, but other people hoped to join in – they were just a bit intimidated. With a bit of encouragement, some of them joined in the fun and had a great introduction to Parkour!

We left the park and met up again at a river running through one of the nearby schools. There was a bit of swimming, followed mostly by a tricking session in very wet grass. There was enough traction to trick fine, but clothes and legs and feet got soaked. This resulted in some pretty cool explosions of water when people's feet started whipping around. At one point, Jereme set up a line of about 8 people, and everyone backtucked simultaneously, water shooting into the sky.

The day finished up as everyone went back to Mike Avery's house. We hung out there for a few hours before a midnight trip to IHOP, where there were plenty of “Yo Momma” jokes (Yo momma's so fat that my dog bit her and died of high cholesterol.), a creepy waiter, and a really super creepy older guy. When he started hitting on some of the traceuses present and getting into an argument with Chris Holden about the military we decided it was a good time to leave. We parted ways, and the Texas Parkour National Jam finally ended.

Overall, it was very, very hot. People did a ton of pushups due to “the Game” (if you say certain words, you have to do 10 pushups. No I won't tell you what they are, because I don't want to do them! They're all negative words though, and the game is played with the surface goal of fostering a more positive attitude. It's really just an excuse to make people do pushups though.), with Desmund Mitchell racking up 350 at one point. They started selling the newest Texas Parkour t-shirt (a sunset, with a silhouetted traceur vaulting a cow) We sweat a lot, and drank approximately seven hundred gallons of water. A ton of people showed up, and it was a huge success.

I'd definitely back to Texas – although maybe I'll wait until Winter.

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