Living in London – PKGen Internship 2013/2014 – 3/5 – engl.

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The following blog post is a republish from my experience in London where I did a 6 month intership for Parkour Generations. The experience shaped me, changed me and also changed my approach to parkour. It was written in german as at that time I was not aware I had international readers. This 5 part series of blog posts includes info on my everydaylife with PKGen, how I lost nearly 8kg in 4months, went from 0 muscle ups to 4 consecutive, how I did my frist ring muscle up, how I partcipated in the first ever Night Mission (which I took to Austria after), how I got ADAPT qualified (bringing ADAPT to Austria later on), how I spent hours and hours helping bringing the Chainstore (that became my office) to life with the team and many other great experiences. For the german (and original) version of this post – click HERE.

Translated with

From December 10th to 13th 2013 the last A.D.A.P.T. Level 1 course of the year took place in London. The following blog entry is dedicated to my experience during the course and some basic things concerning my parkour, that have changed in the few days A.D.A.P.T.

What is A.D.A.P.T. Level 1 not?! This level 1 certification is recognized by the UK and partly by the EU as a level 1 certification. This means that the owner of this certification is allowed to assist a Level 2 Coach or higher in conducting a training session. The Level 1 certification is not an independent coaching cert! To teach parkour independently (meaning from an official stance) you have to be at least A.D.A.P.T. level 2, whereas between level 1 and level 2 there are whole dimensions concerning the requirements. That becomes clear when comparing the pass and fail rates. While at level 1 only 20% fail, at level 2 the rate is over 70%, which means that  only 3 out of 10 people at level 2 pass. It is also worth mentioning that you are NOT certified after the 4 days course and a written exam, but have to assist in 10 coaching sessions of a level 2 coach or higher, where the 9th and 10th sessions are assessed by a level 3 coach and you can still fail at this point. This procedure also applies to any A.D.A.P.T. level 1 certification held in an international setting.

My personal reasons for doing A.D.A.P.T. Level 1 were the following. As someone who teaches parkour regularly in Austria, I wanted to take the chance to develop my coaching skills as well as my parkour and at the same time take as much as possible of the A.D.A.P.T. knowledge with me to Austria. (Update 2019: this happened. In Austria for example it is a standard to have a session plan when coaching parkour, this was not the case back then and is pretty much traceable back to A.D.A.P.T.) The fact that A.D.A.P.T. was created in close cooperation with the Yamakasi, Sebastien Foucan and Parkour Generations (update 2019: and Streetmovement, which I did not know at that time) is a quality feature to me that is unique to date. So if you want to teach parkour to other people and at the same time value the spirit of parkour that´s a good start. This does not mean that I believe that there are no good coaches without A.D.A.P.T., but the certification is one of many quality characteristics for me when it comes to parkour and coaching.

In the following I will go into each of the days of the course. These 4 days, which I spent with the most different people, I could imagine in relation to parkour, represent one of the best experiences in my nearly 10 years of training. Our group consisted of 9 people. A traceuese from Chile with bad English, who proved that you can lead high level sessions without words. A 17 year old Englishman with a great understanding for parkour and long training experience. A mid 30 year old football coach who wanted to do A.D.A.P.T. Level 1 to help the level 2 coach of his community cope with the high demand for parkour. A 2x year old pro in the parkour buisness, who had been in Egypt with Daniel Ilabaca only a few days before to teach/perform there. A hulky polish dude who could rep 15 consecutive muslce ups with no problem. A ninja-like guy from Cyprus who had a break of 6 years behind him. A very talented Englishman with a hearing issue, who was dependent on a permanently installed hearing aid, but had a high parkour level and Sam a 20 year old, 2 meter tall and extremely talented Englishman, who seemed so warm in character that we had already befriended each other from day 1. With these people I would spend the next days 8-9 hours a day.

Day 1: The first day of the 4-day course consisted of a first aid course with selected topics relevant to parkour and a “Safeguarding and Child Protection” course. Day 1 was therefore only indirectly related to training and was the necessary first hurdle to be recognised as a trainer/assistant trainer in England and the UK. The first aid course was my third one so far and the best. The experienced London Paramedic John, had an incredible talent for presenting the dry contents lively and interesting. His work, which he linked to stories of real life, was both shocking and fascinating, for example he had to resuscitate 9 babies, 2 of which survived. In terms of content, cardiovascular issues were discussed as well as acute trauma-induced (if that’s the right word…) dangers and the necessary actions, as well as priorities to keep the chances of survival as high as possible, should it come to an emergency for whatever reason.

The Child Protection course was a bit dry but interesting. Children as vulnerable members of our society. Discussing the relationship of trust and authority between coach and child. What behaviour is regarded as abuse, what types of abuse are there and what needs to be taken into account when dealing with children. In one part of the course different situations were discussed. For example: 15 year old Sophie tells you as a coach she is pregnant and you are not allowed to tell anyone. If her father ever knew about it, he would kill her and the mother has recently tried to take her life with medication abuse. How would you react? To me as an Austrian such a situation seems relatively extreme, but for other members of the group rather harmless. One of the participants is a social worker in London and told us about a case where 9-year-olds acted as crack dealers. So a course like the child protection course makes sense.

Days 2 and 3: From this point on it was parkour 100%. Dan Edwardes now led the course, providing us with theory and a lot of practice. Basically the course was held as follows: A short theory block with discussion was followed by a large coaching practice block and a feedback block. What made these days relatively exhausting (in a positive sense) was the constant change from warming up to cooling down again and so it was not uncommon for us to warm up, up to 4 times a day. The days were packed with information and so besides the function of warm up and cool down also coaching principles and safety aspects of parkour training were discussed. At this point I will refrain from a detailed presentation of the whole contents. Instead I would like to discuss a few things which I personally noticed and/or which changed my thinking regarding parkour.

The definition of Parkour. Many of us know the following very simplified definition: Parkour as an efficient method to overcome any obstacles of a self-defined route from A to B. Following this definition was also my view of Parkour. Freerunning is more or less parkour with acrobatics, although it was known that Freerunning as a word originated as a direct translation of parkour in the documentary Jump London. So what is the relationship between Art du Deplacement, Parkour and Freerunning? It’s all the same. And yes…Flips can also be Parkour. The question is, why do you do what you do? I will continue to use the term Parkour for myself, but the important question is, why do you do Parkour? Because only from this it results whether you actually practice Parkour or just jump around and it looks like Parkour. For the original group of young men and women consisting of the Yamakasi (today), David Belle etc. the main goal was to become stronger. Not only physically, better as a whole person. They were looking for challenges in their environment, whose overcoming changed them lastingly. Parkour as a method of self-improvement in the course of constant challenge by the possibilities arising from the environment. In this sense self-improvement has little to do with pure physical strength, the creation of a giant jump or a double flip. The fact that this group was able to accomplish so incredibly fascinating things was the fact that they always wanted to challenge themselves in their environment, partly through actions that had endangered their lives more than once a day. Parkour has come a long way since then. The main elements of self-improvement through constant challenge, however, have been retained to this day and shape the definition of parkour. For me personally the emphasis of these 2 main aspects was very formative. On the one hand, yes I train parkour only for myself and yes I change through my training. But to constantly challenge myself, for example, I have neglected. Dealing with height and fear in particular is something I even deliberately left out. Physical challenges that brought me to the limits of my physical abilities were the exception rather than the rule.

Techniques are secondary. For the first generation (Yamakasi and David Belle etc.) there were no techniques. For them qualities and attributes of movements were in the foreground. Strength, speed, gentleness or quiet movements. The techniques came later. For example, the Yamakasi landed their arm jumps with one arm over the obstacle, which caused them to hit the obstacle relatively hard. They found this method safer than the classic arm jump, but their technique required an immense muscle armour on the upper body. When Stephane Vigroux, who had a completely different physique, began to develop the arm jump, it was only slowly acceppted. When I think about the fact that I have spent countless sessions in the last years teaching beginners landing techniques or techniques over single boxes in an empty space, I shudder. This way of teaching is miles away from parkour and although sometimes techniques are taught, from now on my focus is not so much on the techniques themselves as on the individual qualities of movement, the technique will develop on their own.

Session planning and setup! Why do I teach what I teach and what do my participants get out of it? How do I use my time in the training sessions? A basic principle that Dan taught us is to divide an exemplary training unit into 4 parts.
1) Warm-Up
2) Technical Session / Movement
3) Conditioning
4) Cool Down
Each of these parts should be matched to the other parts. Quadrupple Movement is very popular in the warm-up, but it is only one of so many exercises available. There are also general exercises and sport-specific warm-up exercises, where another basic principle of warm-up is to slowly and steadily increase the intensity until you reach the training level. People with experience in this sector will probably know that, for me it was new territory, but logical.

After discussing the different conditioning types (strength, power and endurance) and their characteristics, I led my first session. Dan let me lead a 5 minute conditioning session with the goal of teaching push ups under the strength aspect. This means I had to adapt to the level of the participants so that everyone was challenged and at the same time the strength aspect was trained for each participant. What does that mean? 100 pushups one after the other until the muscles fail, falls into the category endurance. You try to maintain a certain level of strength for as long as possible. Power would be classic explosive power, you try to release as much power as possible in as short a time as possible. And strength would be to develop as much power as possible over a certain period of time. Push ups in the course of strength exercises meant to play through one or more push up variations of which each participant creates a maximum of 10 repetitions. Challenging when you think of the polish guy and the traceuse from Chile in one group.

What I could definitely take away from the whole block was the importance of the individual parts (1,2,3 and 4) for the training and that I should structure my personal training more clearly. For the simple reason that you can make more targeted progress and I believe that it will work well for me personally.

Another session I was allowed to coach together with 2 colleagues. The goal was to use a relatively meaningless outdoor space as optimally as possible and to come up with a program that challenged the participant and gave them the opportunity to gradually increase to a point where they could no longer or only just manage the challenge. We decided for wall run variations up to one-armed wall runs. The rest of the exercise went well but unspectacular.

The two days as packed as they were should prepare us for 2 things on the last day. The written test and the 10 minute coaching session on the basis of which we were evaluated.

The written test was simple but detailed. Beside simple multiple choice questions there were open questions to answer like how parkour is defined or which 3 goals are pursued with a warm-up (injury prevention / performance improvement / psychological preparation for the coming training). The practical test was tricky. From day 3 to day 4 (Assessment Day) we should plan a 40 minute session divided into the 4 main parts of 10 minutes each. We would have to coach one of the parts, but we don’t know which one. Besides, we should expect everything, just like in real life. For example, it could be that we are not allowed to use equipment. In my case, it was a little different and pretty smart.

After a day full of test sessions (we were the participants of the other sessions and coaches of our sessions) Sam and I were the last two participants not yet assessed. We were asked for a short briefing while the others had a break. I had planned my sessions well and Dan had Sam and me explain the individual parts. After listening to the plans he said: “Alex you are going to coach Sams technical part, Sam you are going to coach Alex conditioning part. You have 5 minutes to explain the sessions to each other”. HAHA damn. What a challenge. And so we did it with a lot of joy and everything went pretty perfectly. After a round of feedback and a warm farewell I can say that A.D.A.P.T. Level 1 was an experience I can recommend to everyone.

When I’m through with my 10 sessions I’ll write about it. Especially about the last two assessment sessions. (Update 2019: I went to different PKGen classes for my first 4 sessions. Including Westminster Academy youth class with 60 students. The rest of my sessions I did at Winterval 2014).