Exploration is KEY
As parkour people many of us agree on adjectives like creative, adaptive or inventive to be associated with our characters and the way we move. In many cases though we tend to limit ourselves to the sole movement when it comes to creativity for example. We consider unusual movement creative, or new ways, new routes at our spots, new ways to use obstacles and so on. That´s cool!
But over time an aspect of parkour that I find key to the whole discipline got a little forgotten. Be honest: When was the last time you went out for a training session and did not know where exactly your path will take you, or where you were actively seeking the unknown and uncovered areas of your town/city/village/your block?
In the beginning there were no “spots”* (see footnote) whatsoever. People were seeking places that provided them with opportunities for movement. Places with many opportunities became visited more often, got recommended to others, got to be frequent meeting points. The spot was born.
Spots did not only provide great places for parkour movement but made it possible to compare one another directly and without the need for being at the same place at the same time. We knew people had done the IMAX cat-to armjump, then the cat-pres, then the double cats (or kongs) and ultimately the frontflips.
By knowing what other people were capable of it gave us a sense of where we were standing at the moment. But spots provided availability as well. The discovery of a spot meant people knew for sure where to go for a good session. No risk of ending up nowhere without having found any opportunities( for maybe the exact technique you wanted to train today). So spots provided security. Also to that extent that in most cases spots were great spots because parkour was widely accepted there (even at Vauxhall except for that 1 tenant).
In conclusion spots became one of our comfort zones in a way. And over the time more and more spots were discovered. Where ever you go today be it London, Bangkok, Vienna, Athens, or any small town village in a destination of your choice, chances are high spots have been established. So why go somewhere else when you have all you need at one of the already known spots?
Even when travelling, what we do is: go to the known spots, maybe even just repeat the jumps other people have done, fly home (being a bit sarcastic here, but you get the idea).
I think we lose something when not watching out for these habits. Something that I find is key to parkour and what makes it so beautiful to me and many others. Exploring our environment and dealing with what we find should be something regular in our training. By doing that we might find challenges, real challenges where there is no certainty if anyone has ever done something similar. We will also be confronted with situations that demand skills that we (probably) would not train otherwise.
We also train our mind. Parkour vision is something we call when we look at things and instantly see many possibilities of movement. I could go up there, use these as grips, swing to there… By going new ways and actively and consciously exploring our surroundings we put our parkour vision to the test. What can we really work with? Are we creative enough to deal with seemingly sterile environments?
Obviously that is not something that needs to be done every day. But a healthy mix of exploration to add to your training is a) a great way to test yourself in many different ways and b) is very closely related to the roots of parkour itself. It should also be mentioned that exploration and its benefits is one of the main arguments in the discussion against facilities / parks made for parkour and I guess this is what many people refer to when they highlight that designated parkour parks or indoor environments can only be a supplement to our training, not the main part of it.
So when you think of your next training session maybe plan in to get out a tube station before your designated spot and take the hike looking around every corner on the way.
*spots: as in established, well known and frequently used areas and places for parkour training