Monday, December 8, 2008

Write up - Leave No Trace/Beginner Parkour Workshop

On Saturday, December 6th, Rochester Parkour held a “Leave No Trace Initiative/Beginner Parkour Workshop.” Thirty five people put on layer upon layer and headed out into 25 degree weather to Manhattan Square Park in downtown Rochester, New York.

We arrived at 2:00pm with three brooms, three dustpans, two (very) small rakes, six pairs of rubber work gloves, and about four thousand gallons of elbow grease. There were a lot of new faces, people out for the first time, so we all circled up and had a brief introduction to Parkour. Zachary Cohn explained what Parkour is, what it isn't, and what it means to be a traceur. We discussed the different facets of respect – respect for yourself, respect for others, and respect for your environment. Respect for yourself included a discussion on safety and an emphasis on slow progression. Respect for others was about respecting your fellow traceurs, pedestrians, property owners, and law enforcement. Respect for environment was the focus of the discussion however – we talked about how lucky we are to have these amazing locations to train on, and how it is important to give back to the community. We discussed how important it is to pick up trash as you see it; such a small effort can make a huge difference. On Saturday, we decided to clean up Manhattan Square Park.

Manhattan Square Park had several years worth of trash, broken glass, cigarettes, leaves, and other miscellaneous junk scattered around it. For the first 90 minutes of the day, we spread out around the park. We raked, swept, and picked up everything we saw. We ended up removing twenty one bags of trash and leaves from the park. It looked AMAZING afterwards, so much better than it did before. And the best part? I found out from a Fire Marshall that was there preparing for a fireworks show that night that there was a parade that evening, and it ended right smack in the middle of the park! So we ended up doing the whole city a huge favor by cleaning up the area for them. It was a very gratifying experience... even if as a whole the city never finds out who cleaned up, we still know and we still can be proud of that.

At 3:30, we started the Beginner's Workshop. The group was split about 50/50 between traceurs who had been coming fairly regularly and very inexperienced people. This workshop was focused on the very basics of Parkour, so that's where we started. Jeff Whalley lead the first half of the warm up, and Charles Moreland wrapped up with quadrupedal movement variants. Once the warmups were finished, Zachary Cohn taught landings in six separate phases: 1) Just jump. 2) Jump and land on the balls of the feet. 3) Jump, land on the balls of the feet, and bend the knees. 4) Jump, land on the balls of the feet, bend the knees, and use your arms when you jump. 5) Jump, land on the balls of the feet, bend knees, and maintain good back posture. 6) Jump, land on the balls of the feet, bend knees, maintain good back posture, and be silent when you land.

After everyone was taught how to properly land, we broke up into three separate groups. One group went to a playground with Charles to work on rolls, one group went to the park benches with Jeff to work on vaults, and the third group went with Zac to the field and worked on precisions. We brought three homemade precision trainers use, and then the precision group drilled footwork by taking two steps and then precisioning to a stair. The vault group learned safety vaults, and then some of the more experienced people drilled their speed vaults. The rolling group started by rolling from a squatting position, and some of the more experienced traceurs drilled rolls from standing.

We had to rush a little bit at the end, they were going to be shooting off fireworks and we needed to clear out. We packed all of the bags of trash into cars, gave out a few of the new “Rochester Parkour” t-shirts, then went across the street and stretched a bit. We decided to head to a local coffee shop for some well deserved hot chocolate to wrap up the day.

All in all, it went off better than we could have possibly expected. The weather was tolerable (and for Rochester, that's as good as it's going to get), we had a HUGE turnout, an article in the paper that morning, pulled out 21 bags of trash and leaves from a great training spot, made friends with several parents who were watching their kids play near us, and we all met new people and made new friends.

All in all, I'd call it a win.

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