So, I've been neglecting this blog a little bit. I feel bad, but I've been quite busy. I left June 6th for my cross country trip, and since then I've been in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bloomfield, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, New York, New York, Columbus, Ohio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois. Tomorrow I leave for Madison, Wisconsin.
Everyone I've stayed with so far has been awesome, and the people I've met have been awesomer. I haven't, however, had a lot of time. I have a to-do list that's about 37 entries long, and sadly updating my blog is not at the top... For each of the major jams I've been to, I've written a summary and edited together a 3-5 minute video. I've been working on several other really great projects too, and I'll be announcing or releasing those fairly shortly.
I have to go to bed now, I'm totally worn out from Chicago. But long story short: I apologize for not updating more, and I promise I'll be updating more often. Over the next few days I'll be posting links to the videos of the major jams here, so check back often!
If you want to follow my trip more closely, you can check out Where's Zac? on www.AmericanParkour.com. I'm posting my write ups and videos there for the whole Parkour community to see.
For now, the Philly video:
Here's the video I cut together for the Pittsburgh "PKFR International" Jam.
NYPK (New York Parkour) had their annual jam the 20-22nd of June. Here's the video!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
I am back home in Severna Park, Maryland! Look out for the rest of the stories from my trip in the coming weeks, with a big cumulative post at the end!