Thursday, March 12, 2009

In Which I Play the Bard...

A couple nights ago I was out wandering around, and i came to this one beautiful spot for a cat leap. it was completely within my abilities, but certainly not a small gap either. I paced around for a bit, wrestling with myself, and finally did it. But then I spent some time thinking about the mental progression of a leap like that, and I decided it was poetry worthy.
Now whether I'm poetry worthy or not is another question entirely...But in any case, the following is my own humble attempt to capture the emotions of that moment.


The Battle

My way is clear,
yet held by an unknown force I remain
pacing in agitation,
uncertainty? no.
This is fear.

Fear unjustified,
I make the leap and grasp the edge,
but only in my mind's eye,
it is enough.
My resolve solidified.

A battle within,
a culmination of emotion,
my heart screams for relief,
I know will come,
but only if I take the leap.

My heart beats fast,
yet within my mind a door closes,
the battle dies down,
I am one.
Alone at last...

No time left,
the ground falls away beneath,
yet all is right.
In midair, freedom,
flight beyond regret.

fear and gravity overcome,
my fingers grip the ledge,
peace at last,
the struggle over,
another battle won.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Essay

So I'm taking this Martial Arts class just for kicks and giggles and for part of the midterm we had an assignment to write a paper on the Philosophy of Taoism, and this is the result of that. I decided since Parkour was founded on many Taoist principles, I would just write it on pk. Needless to say, it's a pretty low quality and highly uninteresting paper, as the nature of the assignment demanded. alas... I also borrowed much from my previous writing so it'll be somewhat repetitive.


The Tao of Parkour

In this paper I intend to interpret the ancient philosophy of Taoism as it relates to the modern discipline of Parkour. Inasmuch as my personal philosophy concerning Parkour is primarily of my own construction, built from my own experiences, and inasmuch as my philosophy of life is largely comprised of these same ideals, by offering my views of Taoism as it relates to Parkour, I will also be providing my own personal interpretation and application of the philosophy of Taoism. As with any examination such as this, the terms must first be defined. Thus I will proceed by giving a brief explanation of both philosophies—Parkour and Taoism—before I begin to draw any conclusions on the matter.

Known by some as the art of displacement, Parkour is a discipline and a philosophy that has been developed within the past thirty years, with its roots grounded in the urban cityscapes of France. At its most basic level, parkour is a physical activity practiced in an urban environment, in which the practitioner (or traceur as they are commonly called) moves from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible while overcoming any obstacles in his path. Often described as skateboarding without a skateboard, the word parkour was originally derived from Parcours du Combattant, the obstacle course based military training exercises developed by the physical educator and theorist Georges H├ębert. Using movements often derived from those found in the animal kingdom, traceurs train themselves both mentally and physically to adapt to the urban environment in such a way as to move easily and fluidly past any obstruction. This goal is often accomplished to the extent that a traceur might perform seemingly inhuman feats, appearing to defy the laws the gravity. On any given day, a skilled traceur might find himself running up walls, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, or hanging by his fingertips five stories in the air. This is the physical side of Parkour. However, as one of the founding fathers of the art put it, "without philosophy, action has no meaning.” (Sebastian Foucan, Jump London) The essence of parkour is not defined by the movement, but by the philosophy behind the movement. It is this that seperates Parkour from other urban activities, because at its core, it is not an activity, but a mindset. It is not an extreme sport, but a way of life. It is here, at that core, that Parkour and Taoism intersect.

The word Tao, denotes “a power which envelops, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe." ("Our Beliefs," Reform Taoist Congregation at: http://www.reformtaoism.org). Tao is the driving force of nature. To live in accordance with that force will bring a person into a state of alignment with the natural order of life, which is considered to be the ultimate human ideal. A unification with this force of nature is what Taoism seeks to accomplish.

This unification embodies the first principle of Taoism; oneness. Taoism’s holistic approach calls for humans to become one with the universe. Only in uniting with nature in this way can true freedom be achieved. This precept of oneness is also fundamental to Parkour in two ways, the first to be considered will be classified as external. Acquiring a sense of external oneness means that the practitioner becomes one with his surroundings. In practicing Parkour, “you feel connected to your environment, you feel connected to your body and you feel connected to the forces at play around you and within you, and between you and your environment. You feel sort of not in control of them, but sort of half in control of them and half controlled by them. But you’re 100% there, in your environment, you can’t afford to be thinking about something else… it’s a very dynamic feeling, you feel very alive, vibrant, sort of full of power” (Dan Edwardes quoted in Angel, 2006). Gaining a profound respect and understanding of the world around him, a traceur is able to gain a full awareness of his own abilities and limitations, and as a result, he ceases to be enslaved by these things. By becoming one with his environment, he frees himself.

As the traceur develops a physical proficiency in the external realm, he also attains a sense of internal oneness. As the movements become fluid and instinctual, the traceur no longer has to think through what he will do. His thoughts and actions meld together into one unified purpose. “Activities such as parkour, place the participants body (and ‘mind’) within an experience that challenges social norms, due to its non-normal occurrence. Such activities also bring a reported sense of purpose through movement, an embodiment of intent. ‘Embodiment has as a principle characteristic the collapse of dualities between mind and body, subject and object’” (The Art of Displacement, Neill Brown).

Oneness of mind and body is also coupled with an emotional oneness. The emotional condition a person is in will have a profound affect on that person’s physical performance. The emotion most commonly experienced when practicing Parkour is probably fear. While many unexperienced Traceurs will attempt to deny or suppress their feelings of fear, this route can quickly lead to injury or worse. This is why the serious injuries are generally sustained by beginners, even though the moves they are attempting may be far less dangerous than those performed by seasoned Traceurs. Those more accomplished in the art will be quick to tell you that fear is a natural human instinct of self-preservation and that it is not something to be surpressed, but rather embraced. When a person begins to embrace his feelings of fear, he begins to understand them, and by understanding, he is set free. Many people are enslaved by fear, but learning to understand what it is, and control it, gives us the power to harness fear as a useful tool and avoid being ruled by it. Paradoxically, becoming one with your fear is the path to finding freedom over that fear. Once again, the principle of oneness is an all-important factor in Parkour.

Another one of the fundamentals of Taoism is the idea that opposing forces work in harmony with each other to maintain balance in the Universe. This concept is embodied in the Yin Yang symbol. This symbol can be understood to represent any number of different opposing forces, but in Parkour, it may be understood as the balance between hard style and soft style. This same perspective is held within many eastern martial arts systems. The soft style being the fluid, effortless movements, and the hard style, being the fast, high-impact movements. Both of these methods are essential for a traceur to move freely within his environment. Thus, balance is achieved only through the harmony of opposites. Equally important to this idea is the relationship that exists between the Traceur and the obstacle opposing him. There must exist a harmony between man and object. This is where the concept of “flow” comes into play. This is perhaps the most defining difference between seasoned practitioners and amateurs to the discipline; that smooth, natural fluidity of movement that comes only with training and experience.

The word “Tao” can be roughly translated into English as the way, or the path. This idea is inherently foundational to Parkour as both a philosophy and a physical activity. Physically speaking, a practicing Traceur must navigate a path through his environment, utilizing the most direct and natural methods to overcome whatever obstacles are in that path. This principle of finding the path easily transitions over to the philosophical side of Parkour, and it is this principle which gives Parkour its universal relevance. As human beings, we each make a series of choices and actions that will ultimately decide the path which our lives will take. The choices that we make will impact that path either for better or for worse. To walk ”the path” is to live in harmony with the natural order of things by making the choices that will allow us to fulfill our proper place in that order, and once again, become one with nature. To practice the discipline of parkour is to choose the most efficient path and learn to overcome all opposing forces in that path, whether they be physical, intellectual, or spiritual. To find this path is the ultimate goal of a traceur.

The truths revealed in Taoism are universal by nature. This is why many of the ideals found in Taoistic philosophy are also represented in Parkour. Contrary to popular belief, Parkour is not an extreme sport. It is not some passing teenage fad devised to satisfy the reckless desires of adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers wishing to prove themselves. It is a philosophy of life, a personal mode of expression, and a channel for the actualization of human potential. It is a means of conquering oneself, thus attaining freedom of movement and freedom of thought.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dissertation

This is utterly fasinating and quite brilliant... I know it's kinda long, and our attention spans are practically nonexistent these days...but read it at all cost! (Mike and Austin, this means YOU!)
The Art of Displacement

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quotation: for the times when i got nothin' to say...

"Without philosophy, action has no meaning.”- Sebastian Foucan

"Down there we know, the streets we know, but up here? Nobody's been here." -David Belle

"Everything was invented when somebody was alone.”- Sebastian Foucan

"All these people here, they come and they want me to do big things, expect me to do big drops so they can sell pictures, put it on their websites, whatever. But what is my motivation then? I could do this jump once and maybe get hurt, but even if I don't get hurt what is the point right here, right now? To make these people happy? If my family was over there and needed me, I wouldn't even hesitate. I would do it for them and that's who I train and do these things for." I'm not a monkey, I can't be treated like one. I don't understand how people want to put themselves into great risk for money. I've trained so long and hard for myself, to save people, to protect my family... People get into Parkour now just train in order to do risks for media, I just can't understand why they would do so. That was never the goal of Parkour." -David Belle

"You can find the way by yourself naturally, you just need a guide to tell you to be careful, to not do this to impress people, just follow your instincts."- Sebastian Foucan

Monday, February 16, 2009

I really want to train right now.

but it's 40 degrees outside.

and i ain't doin' dat...

So I'm just gonna do lots of push ups and spiff up the blog a little instead.

and that's all i got...

Monday, February 2, 2009

guess who's back...


Yesterday I went out and trained for the first time in months.

It was beautiful.

I honestly thought it would be horrible to go after all this time, being so out of shape and out of practice. But it was far from that. I decided to begin by getting back to the basics. I just went and found a four foot high wall and began vaulting. I spent almost an hour on that little wall, practicing kongs, dashes and lazy vaults mainly.

I was completely alone on top of a parking garage. There was no pressure to perform, no expectations to live up to. just me and the wall. I knew my physical limitations and stayed well within them, and thus survived the day injury free...for once.

I then went on to work on my balance with some rails, and then moved on to some more complicated things such as cats and cranes.

It was simple... and flawless.

My moves where by no means flawless obviously, but my mindset was. I felt that feeling of oneness that I have not felt in such a long time. I was so perfectly focused and attuned to my surroundings. Everything felt right.

The more I consider the philosophy of parkour, the more I come to view it as nothing less than a martial art. Unlike other disciplines or "sports", parkour is a mindset, a philosophy that can be most accurately compared to eastern martial arts systems.

For a while, I disagreed with David Belle on his view that it is better to train by yourself. I only saw that training with others increases one's will to succeed. But I now completely agree with him. Training in groups has its advantages, but it eliminates the personal reflection aspect, and to a certain extent, it eliminates the very freedom that defines parkour.

I can't express how good it felt to train again.

For a while I feared my parkour days had come to an inglorious ending, what with my nonhealing injuries (or ninja-ries as i prefer to think of them) I had completely squelched my desire to train, to the point that I could walk down a sidewalk with naught but a wistful glance into the past. I lost the vision entirely. I stopped seeing the paths.

That was somewhat terrifying.

So nice to know I've still got it=)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

*sigh*

well...I was supposed to be healed months ago...doctors are dumb.
anyways...since i decided that to help mike in his endeavor to give it up, and because i keep getting my hopes up that i'll be healed soon and be able to run again, i'm simply going to put both parkour, and this blog, on hold indefinitely.

I'm giving it up.

for now...
maybe in a few months (or years?!?) my body will do what it's supposed to do and freaking heal itself. but i can't continue to wait and hope that every week brings me closer to training again. because it's just not working and having parkour constantly on my mind is just tormenting.

so...for the precious few of you who actually read this blog...
peace.

i'll be back....
...like a spine.
;)

Friday, August 22, 2008

...The Blackest of Days...

An event of the most tragic nature has come to pass...

My dearest pk brother mike has given up the art, for completely understandable and unavoidable personal reasons.

My initial reaction is to use this post to be overly dramatic...so i think i will. (For best results, read with this song playing in the background;-)

I could talk about the countless close calls we've had with cops and security...I could bring up our triumphs and failures and the accompanying scars and injuries....I could talk about any number of epic urban adventures we've had this year....so many glorious memories to choose from.

But i won't. *sniff* he wouldn't have wanted it that way...If he were standing here today...I'd shake his hand, call him stupid, and punch him in his overly jacked pectorals...

Rest in peace my dear friend...we'll miss you dearly.

oh wait...you're still alive.....right.

Having written this, i find that i can't really put into words that which i want to say. It seems like such a trivial thing (It's not as if he's dead or anything for crying out loud!) so i'm making a joke out of it. yet at the same time, i find myself truly sad about it.

He was the first guy that i ever met who truly understood and shared my passion...now he has to try to kill that passion to do the right thing. I know how hard that'll be for him. such is the way of life.

But i'm now reminded of a conversation i had with Mike during a recent excursion into downtown Augusta GA. We were discussing the subject of manliness, and as i recall the conclusion was reached that one of the most manly things a guy can do, is to give up that which he loves to do that which he knows to be right.

Mike is a man.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Freerunning at it's finest...

This video had some nice freerunning bits in it...Although the language is quite heavy so watch at your own discretion.
Mighty Moshin' Emo Rangers
lol. OK, well maybe I just thought it was hilarious and it had enough free running thrown in there to justify posting it on this blog.
But you gotta love that cartwheel of doom...

"Congratulations you've saved you're city! today's deathtoll was only 10,000!"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

WARNING: soliloquy head...

Yeah it's that time again. When I get on my soap box and spew forth a highly confusing, often random, scatter-brained train of thoughts. Good luck making any sense of it...

This is also the part where everyone starts to think i've completely gone off the deep end and joined some kind of freaky parkour cult or something. Call me weird, but I guess I just happen to enjoy finding deeper meaning in what I do than most people.

The other day, I found myself wondering why I was so dismayed when I read that UFF was announcing their hosting of a "World Freerun Championship" on September 3rd. I don't know why this would bother me, because first off, why in the world do I see competitiveness as such a bad thing?

Secondly, I know that the discipline which I seek to adhere to is not freerunning, but parkour, therefore I should not be bothered by the actions taken by those in a playing field that is not mine. But the line between parkour and freerunning will always be a little sketchy... I guess that only now have I begun to realize some of the more subtle, philosophical differentiations between the two schools of thought.

The first one which I'm dealing with here, being that of competition...

In the most widely accepted definition of freerunning it is defined as having an emphasis on aesthetics. This in itself implies that it's about flashiness, about looks, and to summon a phrase that I normally so despise... It's about showing off. The focus seems to be less internal and more on what other people think. I'm saying this not to detract from or demean all of the highly skilled athletes out there who rally under the freerun banner, but simply to make my point. The fact is, freerunning is by definition, a competitive sport. When the drive of the art is, at least partially, centered around performance, the focus in this case is generally outdoing the next guy.

This is also known as "healthy competition." I'd call it a great thing in most cases. However I see parkour as an exception to this rule.

For me, it's very easy to allow parkour to become a competitive sport in my mind. But that's something that I have to train myself not to do. I take parkour as very much of a personal thing. I'm not striving to beat everyone else.

However it is easy to get frustrated when someone else can pull off a particular move that I cannot. Taken in moderation, this can help inspire me to train harder, but to allow the fact that someone else is more advanced than I am to bother me, goes against the very meaning of true parkour: freedom.

Not simply freedom of movement, but freedom of idea. Freedom to view and experience the world through my eyes. Not someone else's. To allow myself to become frustrated and envious of another traceur's abilities, would imprison my mind and limit my creativity.

But this is MY path.

One of the greatest joys of parkour to me, is the aspect of exploration. The chance to forge my own path in a world where everyone else seems to be following the person in front of them.

I will not fall into this trap.

My mind is the enemy. The city is the battlefield. My body is my weapon of choice. (when it's not malfunctioning on me that is...:-P)

Fear, weakness, doubt, pride, laziness... I would include Competitiveness in that list as well... All the things that hinder and prevent me from reaching my full potential, these are the things which I strive against. Not against my fellow traceur. I am not running against him. To allow myself to do so would ground me.

I refuse to walk in the footsteps of another.

I wrote all this and let it sit for a couple days not knowing quite how to end it. Then I was watching I Robot and at the end, Will Smith's character put it more simply than I could've.

He said: "I think you'll have to find your way like the rest of us... ...That's what it means to be free."

That's what it means to parkour.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wow...

I just found this video and I was pretty amazed. This is old school...
video
Gotta love it. There truly is nothing new under the sun... and this dude is no n00b either! Even by today's standards he would be considered incredibly good.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The World. My Playground.

The Streets. My Home.
The Architecture. My Inspiration.
The Fear. My Motive.
The Sweat, the Scars, the Pain. My Proof.
My Name. Traceur.