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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Anonymous Andy Keller said...

I'm glad you wrote about this. It's something that I have started to notice as well - The truly strong-spirited traceurs are the ones who have traveled and a willing to travel more.

September 26, 2010 at 2:05 AM  
Blogger ~Andrew Wilson said...

I travel to the next town over ('Bout a 30 Minute drive) a couple times of month when I can to train with the local traceurs. Because all of us are used to our gym (Revolution Parkour), its a whole different enviroment to be training outside.

Also, once a year or so we travel down to OSU and have a huge training day there. 90 minute drive down there, and we're there for a good 5-6 hours. We hit up the local buildings, parks, everything. Its a real blast. One of these days I want to be able to travel down to San Fran or up to Seattle to train with some of the groups there. Bonus points if I can ever make it to a national jam in Washington or Cali.

September 26, 2010 at 3:17 AM  
Blogger Zac said...

Andy - Thanks for confirming my idea. Do you have any major travel plans coming up?

Andrew - That's great! Can you think of any ways to encourage those local traceurs to come out to you sometime, so they have a chance to travel too?

September 27, 2010 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Albert said...

I agree with your point about traceurs needing to travel and get more perspective from outside their own communities, BUT...

I don't think it's entirely true that there are less traceurs traveling. It used to be out of necessity but also because the people who were getting into parkour in the beginning wanted to be a part of something larger. Sounds like when you were starting you were always traveling to DC to hang out with those guys, but it was always the same place, wasn't it? In that sense you were basically only getting two perspectives, and that's about as much traveling anyone ever did. My solution when I got started was to try to build up my local community as big as possible, which was difficult, but I had no way of getting to LA from San Diego easily.

Now I've been lucky enough to get opportunities to train with other communities, but it really takes going FAR outside of your community to experience the benefits. Not from Berkeley to Sacramento, for example, but from Berkeley to Seattle, to Boulder, to Vancouver, etc. We should be training with people we have never even talked to before, that's how we'll get strong new perspectives.

September 27, 2010 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Zac said...

I think this is an area of my post that I could have improved with proofreading. As I brought up in a discussion with Dale on the facebook comments on this post, "The important part isn't that you travel - it's that you travel to new places all the time."

I definitely agree with you, 100%. I didn't mention it in the article, but in addition to going to DC on a regular basis, we'd train around our town, and go out to visit other traceurs in other places around Maryland. People should always be traveling in their "local-ish area," but the scope of the post was more to remind people that that isn't enough.

September 27, 2010 at 9:20 PM  

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