Panos is a greek traceur from Athens and a dear friend. As myself he has quite an oldschool approach to parkour and never shys away from a good challenge. A recent monster of a challenge he describes in the following blogpost. – Enjoy the read. (the greek version of this article can be found below as well as a short video of the challenge!)

In May 2019 during the dinner following our annual two-day Athens Parkour Gathering and its physical challenge that included endless push ups and partner carries, I ended up committing to another challenge.

To do 3000 push ups in a period of 6 hours!

The story begins a lot earlier, when in 2010 and at a similar dinner between friends, someone asked Blane (aka Chris Rowat) if he would prefer to do 10,000 push ups or 1000 Muscle Up in 24 hours. Chris was pretty sure that only the Muscle Ups would be possible. One brought the other and a few weeks later a group of people (mostly members of Parkour Generations: Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat, Stephane Vigroux, Dan Edwardes, Chris Keighley, Joe Boyle, Jun Suto, Andy Pearson, Bruno Peixoto) began their effort to perform 1000 Muscle Up each in one day. The challenge has gone down in history as one of the most legendary challenges of our community (which was successfully completed by at 4 people, among them Blane and in fact much faster than 24 hours)

And so we arrive at 2019, at the 7th Athens International Parkour Gathering and its own epic challenge. (traditionally our gatherings end on the second day with one) So during the meal that followed to replenish our strength and discharge from the two days and in a discussion about our challenge, we ended up remembering the challenge of 1000 muscle ups and me insisting that 10,000 push ups would be easier. (how wrong I was I would find out much later)

My logic though, was based on 2 facts:

  1.  push ups are much easier than muscle ups overall – 10 times easier maybe? – and
  2.  if I can comfortably do 1000 push ups in 1 hour and 30 minutes (a workout I had completed a few months earlier) surely someone out there could do, 10 times more repetitions, but in over 15 times more time.

At the beginning, of course, the discussion was theoretical, I did not at all insist that I would necessarily be the one to carry it out, but that it was possible for strong people and easier than the muscle ups challenge. Then Blane asked me if I was willing to do the corresponding bends in the 6-hour period (2500 push ups) Hmm, I thought, if I know I can do 1000 in 90, it should be doable to do 3000 in 360 minutes, as that means another 2000 in over 4 hours.

“Of course” I answer and because the goal is to prove that 10000 is possible in 24 hours and since the performance in such an effort would decrease dramatically over the hours, I will add another 500 push ups in the 6 hours!

So we shook hands and I promised to try the challenge within the next year.

The truth is that when I started doing the “maths” and the plan of the challenge, I realized that it would not be as easy as I initially thought. Also, it is not very easy to find a day where for 8 consecutive hours (calculating the necessary warm up & recovery) you will do nothing but push ups and then know that for at least 2 days your hands will be damaged. So now, with the COVI-19 quarantine and with my good friend Bill (aka Vassilis Tsirakis) agreeing to be there with me and participate, it was the right opportunity …

… In order to make 3000 push ups in 360 minutes, one has to do an average of 8.4 push ups every minute.

So my plan was to start with a set of 9 reps, but with a break of 30” (about 1 set per 40”) for the first half hour and then a set of 9 reps per minute for the next 2.5 hours. That way I would have completed about 1750 push ups in 3 hours and there would be another 1250 left for the last 3 hours. (7 bends per minute) “Ok, maybe I have a chance in the end…”

In real life, things turned out to be a little different. All went according to plan for about 2.5 hours, when I decided to drop the repetitions to 8 per set. Theoretically, I was still in the game since in 3 hours I had made 1590 bends, but I had already dropped the repetitions even more, down to 7 per set. So I accepted the fact that the challenge of 3000 push ups would fail, however, I decided to keep trying for the best.

At the end of 6 hours and with a lot of pain I had completed 2528 push ups.

2528 push ups! That means that if I had kept my mouth shut and simply accepted to do the initial 2,500 push ups that were equivalent to 6 hours, I would have succeeded! Right?

Well, right, but still I wouldn’t have proven that 10000 can be done in 24 hours (by me or someone stronger than me)

Of course, all these are of little importance, since the numbers exist just for us to set limits and goals, possible ones or impossible. So what makes a challenge successful or not?

First we need to figure out the definition and value of such a challenge.

The most (reasonable) people will wonder why would one choose to put himself into such a painful process, which is anyway doomed to fail from the start?

The meaning of the challenge is to push us to discover our limits, mentally and physically and once we reach them, to keep working so we are likely to overcome them.

If when we start a challenge we know we will succeed, it is simply not a challenge.

The same goes for any form of training. At first a workout (eg 1 set of 20 abs) may seem very difficult to someone, but the more he repeats it, the better he will become through the effort and after a number of workouts the 20 abs will be easy. Then the 20 abs will not keep improving him, but maintain him at the level he reached. That’s why we need to change our training routines quite often and challenge ourselves.

Of course, challenges like the one I mentioned above are not to be done often or even to be repeated more than once. These challenges are about proving to ourselves what we are capable of accomplishing. If are we able of continue working while in physically and mentally hard situations. And of course if you’re that type of guy or girl, despite the pain, the sweat and most likely the tears, it’s always a special experience and maybe even fun.

If I think about all these, about the challenge I talked to you about, maybe I could add that in the end #challengecompleted though failed

And for the hashtag to be proven to be true here are some reasons that make the challenge successful to me.

  1. In 6 hours I did not pause at all and at least 1 set per minute was performed. In fact, in 360 minutes, 366 sets were made
  2. I wanted and I am sure I succeeded in keeping the quality of my push ups from the 1st to the 2528th repetition. Quality over Quantity (even in such a challenge with an absurd number of repetitions)
  3. With a difference of maybe a few repetitions I really did as many push ups as I could do in the time limit.
  4. I persuaded my mind and body to continue until the end, despite the pain, the endless hours and while I knew after a while that I would not reach the original goal.
  5. I did 2528 push ups:D

Parkour is a sport – a way of life – an art, that contains the concept of challenge at its core like nothing else.

But whether a Traceur (Parkour Athlete) or not, the only way to improve in any area of life is to challenge ourselves.

And if sometimes these challenges seem impossible or unreasonable even better!

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” Michael Phelps

Blog: http://togethoughts.blogspot.com/
Website: https://athpkclasses.wixsite.com/athensparkour
Instagram: panos_toge
Facebook: Panos Toge Almanlis

Greek version of the article

Τον Μάιο του 2019 σε ένα τραπέζι με φίλους, και ενώ είχε προηγηθεί το ετήσιο διήμερο Parkour Gathering μας και κατ’ επέκταση ένα physical challenge το οποίο περιελάμβανε ατελείωτες κάμψεις και κουβάλημα του ζευγαριού μας, κατέληξα να δεσμεύομαι σε μία άλλη πρόκληση.

Nα κάνω 3000 κάμψεις σε χρονικό διάστημα 6 ωρών!

Η ιστορία ξεκινάει πιο παλιά, όταν το 2010 και σε ένα αντίστοιχο τραπέζι μεταξύ φίλων, κάποιος ρώτησε τον Blane (aka Chris Rowat) αν προτιμούσε σε διάστημα 24 ωρών να κάνει 10000 κάμψεις ή 1000 Muscle Up. O Chris ήταν απόλυτος, ότι εφικτά θα ήταν μόνο τα Muscle Ups. Tο ένα έφερε το άλλο και μερικές εβδομάδες αργότερα μια ομάδα ατόμων (κυρίως μέλη της ομάδας Parkour Generations: Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat, Stephane Vigroux, Dan Edwardes, Chris Keighley, Joe Boyle, Jun Suto, Andy Pearson, Bruno Peixoto) ξεκινούσε την προσπάθεια της να κάνει 1000 Muscle Up o καθένας σε μια μέρα. Το challenge έχει μείνει στην ιστορία σαν ένα από τα θρυλικότερα challenges της κοινότητας μας, (το οποίο μάλιστα έφεραν σε πέρας 4 άτομα ανάμεσα τους και ο Βlane και μάλιστα πολύ γρηγορότερα των 24 ωρών)

Και φτάνουμε λοιπόν στο 2019, στο 7ο Athens International Parkour Gathering και το δικό του επικό challenge. (παραδοσιακά τα gathering μας τελειώνουν τη δεύτερη μέρα με ένα τέτοιο) Κατά τη διάρκεια λοιπόν του φαγητού που ακολούθησε προς αναπλήρωση δυνάμεων και αποφόρτισης από το διήμερο και σε μια συζήτηση σχετικά με το challenge μας, καταλήξαμε να θυμόμαστε και το challenge των 1000 muscle ups και εμένα να επιμένω ότι οι 10000 κάμψεις θα ήταν ευκολότερες. (πόσο λάθος ήμουν θα το μάθαινα πολύ αργότερα)

Η λογική μου βασιζόταν σε 2 δεδομένα: 1) οι κάμψεις είναι πολύ ευκολότερες από τα muscle up – 10 φορές πιο εύκολες? – και 2) εφόσον εγώ μπορώ άνετα να κάνω 1000 κάμψεις σε 1ωρα και 30 λεπτά (προπόνηση την οποία είχα ολοκληρώσει μερικούς μήνες νωρίτερα) σίγουρα κάποιοι εκεί έξω θα μπορούσαν να κάνουν, ναι μεν 10 φορές περισσότερες επαναλήψεις, αλλά σε πάνω από 15 φορές περισσότερο χρόνο.

Στην αρχή βέβαια η συζήτηση ήταν θεωρητική, δεν επέμενα δηλαδή ότι εγώ απαραίτητα θα μπορούσα να το φέρω σε πέρας, αλλά ότι ήταν εφικτό και ευκολότερο του αντίστοιχου με τα muscle ups. Τότε ο Βlane με ρώτησε αν ήμουν διατεθειμένος να κάνω τις αντίστοιχες κάμψεις που αναλογούν στο διάστημα των 6 ωρών (2500 κάμψεις) Χμμμμ, σκέφτηκα, αν ξέρω ότι μπορώ τις 1000 σε 90, αποκλείεται να μην μπορώ 3000 σε 6 ώρες, δηλαδή 2000 ακόμα με >4 ώρες παραπάνω.

‘’Φυσικά’’ απαντάω και επειδή στόχος είναι να αποδείξω ότι είναι δυνατές οι 10000 σε 24 ώρες και δεδομένου ότι η απόδοση σε μια τέτοια προσπάθεια θα μειωνόταν δραματικά με το πέρασμα των ωρών, θα προσθέσω ακόμα 500 κάμψεις στις 6 ώρες!

Δώσαμε λοιπόν τα χέρια και δεσμεύτηκα να δοκιμάσω το challenge μέσα στον επόμενο χρόνο.

Η αλήθεια είναι ότι όταν ξεκίνησα να κάνω τα ‘’μαθηματικά’’ και το πλάνο της προσπάθειας κατάλαβα ότι δεν θα ήταν τόσο εύκολο όσο νόμιζα στην αρχή. Επίσης, δεν είναι πολύ εύκολο να βρεις μια μέρα όπου για 8 συνεχόμενες ώρες (υπολογίζοντας και το απαραίτητο ζέσταμα – αποθεραπεία) δεν θα κάνεις τίποτα άλλο παρά κάμψεις και έπειτα να ξέρεις ότι για τουλάχιστον 2 μέρες τα χέρια σου θα είναι κατεστραμμένα. Τώρα λοιπόν, με την καραντίνα λόγω κορωνοιού και με τον φίλο και αδερφό Bill (ακα Βασίλη Τσιράκη) να συμφωνεί να είναι εκεί μαζί μου και να συμμετέχει, ήταν η κατάλληλη ευκαιρία…

…Για να κάνει κάποιος 3000 κάμψεις σε 360 λεπτά θα πρέπει να κάνει κατά μέσο όρο 8,4 κάμψεις κάθε λεπτό.

Το πλάνο μου λοιπόν ήταν να ξεκινήσω με σετ των 9 κάμψεων, αλλά με διάλειμμα 30’’ (περίπου 1 σετ ανά 40’’) για την πρώτη μισή ώρα και έπειτα σετ των 9 κάμψεων ανά λεπτό για τις επόμενες 2,5 ώρες. Έτσι θα είχα κάνει περίπου 1750 κάμψεις σε 3 ώρες και θα απόμεναν 1250 για τις 3 τελευταίες ώρες. (7 κάμψεις το λεπτό) ‘’Οκ, ίσως να έχω μια ελπίδα τελικά…’’

Στην πράξη τα πράγματα αποδείχθηκαν λίγο διαφορετικά. Το πλάνο άντεξε για περίπου 2,5 ώρες, όταν και αποφάσισα να ρίξω τις επαναλήψεις σε 8 ανά σετ. Θεωρητικά ήμουν ακόμα στο παιχνίδι αφού στις 3 ώρες είχα κάνει 1590 κάμψεις, όμως είχα ήδη ρίξει τις επαναλήψεις ακόμα περισσότερο, σε 7 ανά σετ. Έτσι αποδέχτηκα ότι το challenge των 3000 κάμψεων δεν θα ερχόταν σε πέρας, αλλά αποφάσισα να συνεχίσω προσπαθώντας για το καλύτερο δυνατό.

Στο τέλος των 6 ωρών και με πάρα πολύ πόνο είχα κάνει 2528 κάμψεις.

2528 κάμψεις! Δηλαδή αν είχα κρατήσει το στόμα μου κλειστό και αποδεχόμουν απλά να κάνω τις αρχικές 2500 κάμψεις που αναλογούσαν στις 6 ώρες θα είχα πετύχει! Σωστά?

Σωστά, αλλά και πάλι δεν θα είχα αποδείξει ότι είναι δυνατόν να γίνουν (από εμένα ή κάποιον δυνατότερο από εμένα 10000 σε 24 ώρες)

Μικρή σημασία έχουν όλα αυτά βεβαίως, αφού οι αριθμοί υπάρχουν για να μας παιδεύουν και να θέτουμε στόχους, εφικτούς ή ανέφικτους. Τι είναι λοιπόν αυτό που κάνει ένα challenge επιτυχημένο ή όχι?

Αρχικά θα πρέπει να δούμε τον ορισμό και το νόημα ενός τέτοιου challenge.

Οι περισσότεροι (λογικοί) άνθρωποι θα αναρωτιούνται γιατί να μπει κάποιος σε μια τέτοια επίπονη διαδικασία, η οποία είναι μάλιστα εξ αρχής καταδικασμένη να αποτύχει?

Η έννοια της πρόκλησης είναι να μας ωθήσει να ανακαλύψουμε τα όρια μας, νοητικά, ψυχικά και σωματικά και αφού φτάσουμε να λειτουργούμε σε αυτά, πιθανότατα να τα ξεπεράσουμε κιόλας.

Αν όταν ξεκινάμε ένα challenge ξέρουμε ότι θα το καταφέρουμε, πολύ απλά δεν είναι challenge.

Το ίδιο ισχύει και για οποιαδήποτε μορφή προπόνησης. Στην αρχή μια προπόνηση (πχ 1 σετ 20 κοιλιακών) μπορεί να μας φαίνεται πολύ δύσκολη, όσο όμως την επαναλαμβάνουμε, γινόμαστε καλύτεροι μέσα από την προσπάθεια και μετά από ένα χ αριθμό προπονήσεων οι 20 κοιλιακοί είναι πια εύκολοι. Τότε οι 20 κοιλιακοί δεν μας βελτιώνουν, παρά μας συντηρούν στο επίπεδο που βρισκόμαστε. Γι’ αυτό και θα πρέπει να αλλάζουμε την ρουτίνα της προπόνησης μας αρκετά συχνά και να προκαλούμε τους εαυτούς μας.

Βέβαια, προκλήσεις σαν και αυτή που ανέφερα παραπάνω δεν είναι για να γίνονται συχνά ή ακόμα και για να επαναλαμβάνονται περισσότερες από μια φορά. Αυτά τα challenge είναι για αποδεικνύουν στους εαυτούς μας το τι είμαστε ικανοί να φέρουμε σε πέρας. Σε τι καταστάσεις είμαστε ικανοί να συνεχίσουμε να δουλεύουμε σωματικά και ψυχικά. Και φυσικά αν είσαι τέτοιος τύπος, παρά τον πόνο, τον ιδρώτα και πιθανότατα τα δάκρυα, είναι μια ξεχωριστή εμπειρία πολλές φορές ίσως και διασκεδαστική.

Αν αναλογιστώ όλα αυτά, για το challenge που σας μίλησα, ίσως να μπορούσα να προσθέσω ότι τελικά #challengecompleted αν και failed

Και για του hashtag το αληθές ορίστε μερικοί λόγοι που κάνουν την πρόκληση επιτυχημένη.

  1. Σε 6 ώρες δεν έκανα καμία παύση, και πραγματοποιήθηκε τουλάχιστον 1 σετ ανά λεπτό. Για την ακρίβεια σε 360 λεπτά έγιναν 366 σετ
  2. Η ποιότητα των κάμψεων μου ήθελα και πιστεύω πως κατάφερα να είναι άψογη από την 1η μέχρι την 2528η κάμψη. Quality over Quantity (ακόμα σε μια τέτοια πρόκληση με παράλογο αριθμό επαναλήψεων)
  3. Με διαφορά ίσως λίγων επαναλήψεων έκανα πραγματικά όσες περισσότερες κάμψεις θα μπορούσα στο χρονικό διάστημα που είχα.
  4. Έπεισα το μυαλό και το σώμα μου να συνεχίσουν μέχρι το τέλος, παρά τον πόνο, τις ατελείωτες ώρες και ενώ ήξερα μετά από κάποια στιγμή ότι δεν θα έφτανα τον αρχικό στόχο.
  5. Έκανα 2528 κάμψεις 😀

To Parkour είναι ένα άθλημα – τρόπος ζωής – τέχνη το οποίο περιέχει την έννοια του challenge στον πυρήνα του όσο τίποτε άλλο.

Όμως είτε Traceur (αθλητής Parkour) είτε όχι, ο μόνος τρόπος για να βελτιωθούμε σε οποιοδήποτε τομέα της ζωής είναι να θέτουμε τους εαυτούς μας απέναντι σε προκλήσεις και αν κάποιες φορές οι προκλήσεις αυτές φαίνονται αδύνατες ή παράλογες ακόμα καλύτερα!

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” Michael Phelps

Simone Bicorgna is an italian practicioner who, after the events of the AOM 2019 in Matera released a statement openly discussing issues with the events surrounding the AOM that day. For Simone the AOM has raised questions on respecting spaces and on the ethics behind events like these. But it is not just Simones personal opinion. The AOM has caused an outcry from Matera locals and italian newspapers openly doubting the ethics of parkour/freerunning itself. Reason enough to take the initiative and ask Simone on his thoughts on it all.

At the end you will find many links to the articles, the actual AOM live stream, Storror and Storm coverage and other material related to the AOM in Matera.

Hi Simone. You recently released a statement (LINK!) in which you openly discussed your opinion on the Red Bull Art of Motion (AOM) that happened on October 5th in Matera Italy. Before diving into that:

  1. Who are you? What is your relation to Matera and the region?

I’m the director/president of ADD Academy Umbria, the first italian Art du Déplacement Academy directly recognized by the Yamakasi founders, that we opened in Italy in 2014. But first I’m a practictioner of Art Du Déplacement, I started to train in 2007 like many others, after many views of some parkour videos on youtube. Then in 2009 I met Laurent Piemontesi and after Chau Belle, Williams Belle and Yann Hnautra and I started training Art du Déplacement. I live in Terni, a small town in the centre of Italy, in the region Umbria, and I’m a full time coach in my association.

I was involved in a big project that ended in june 2019 in Matera and for this reason I have some good links, some friendships there, that is 500 km away from my place. I know the guys that live and train there, we worked together to make a big show and an International workshop supported by Fondazione Matera European Capital of Culture 2019.

  1. Can you quickly summarise what the key message of your statement was? What is it all about?

I noticed from the news that many accidents and disruption happened in Matera before, during and after the AOM, like damages to the Unesco heritage, and conflicts with the population, so I openly put the attention on it, because I think the most important values in the practice of ADD/parkour/freerunning are RESPECT and RESPONSABILITY. In my text I asked the readers some questions about that event: will there be any positive outputs for the local community? Which consequences for the town? Which for the RedBull brand? Who is going to pay for the damages? And, in the end, which kind of values are inspired by such events?

  1. Were you at the event yourself? How did you perceive the AOM?

No, I was not there, but I saw it on streaming.

  1. What are your main concerns in regards to the event?

I don’t like competitions but this is not the point. The main problem, as I see it, is the negative impact, caused by the event, on the inhabitants, and of course on the historical site. Matera is fragile and has to be protected. The organization of AOM didn’t pay any attention to that, but only on the show.

  1. Some time has already passed since the AOM took place. What is the feedback you have picked up so far?

a) What is the feedback from any officials and/or authorities? -> city administration for example

They didn’t say anything

b) What is the feedback from people living in Matera? How did they perceive the event.

I understood there is some disappointment, someone wrote about perceiving a sort of invasion by the freerunners, people jumping on the roofs of the houses at every hour for the whole weekend, annoying the owners of the houses, causing damages to walls and roofs and things like this. There were many calls to the police in those days by many inhabitants, and a journalist was beaten by a group of young freerunners because she was filming them while jumping on the roofs. I can’t say if in general people from Matera are happy about the AOM, but for sure someone is not. Recently the ADD/Parkour association of Matera “Muvt” realased a statement about that.

c) What was the feedback from the spectators from the event? Did they like the AOM?

I think that people who like AOM and went there to see the show, they liked it.

d) What is the feedback from the parkour communities who travelled to the event to see it live? (Have you heard anything?)

Same as before, I think the AOM has its audience, and these people love it, of course.

e) What is the feedback from the participating athletes? (Storror for example released a video -> LINK).

I don’t really much care about their opinion about that because, in some ways, they are part of the same business. Unfortunately Storror are already responsible for a sad accident that happened in Rome last year, filming themselves jumping on a police car. Because of that no one is anymore allowed to train where it happened and the local parkour associations had serious problems with their work on that area. Storror didn’t pay any consequences or apologize either.

  1. If we look at the relation between the AOM and the Greek island of Santorini for example. As much as I can´t relate to the AOM itself I still think the image of the island as a touristic location has benefitted from hosting the event since 2012. I don´t say the image of parkour has benefitted from the event but for the island and it´s public image it was probably a good thing. –  Do you think Matera is different from Santorini in this matter? – Why?

I don’t really think that places like Santorini or Matera need any help from the parkour community in order to grow their tourism; what I mean is that we are talking about people (ADD/parkour/freerunning practitioners) who, usually, don’t spend so much money while travelling, to let me think about them as an economic benefit for the city; in the particular case of Matera, they can cost a lot instead, causing damages to the ancient sites and roofs of the town.

  1. You mentioned the damages to the UNESCO world heritage: How serious is this damage we are speaking of?

I saw from facebook several walls cracked down and many damages on the roofs, so many that the President of “Fondazione Sassi” (the institution who works to promote and preserve the Unesco heritage in Matera) released an official disapproval statement that echoed through local and national newspapers.

a) Who do you think is to be held responsible for these damages?

First the Red Bull company that benefits from the event, then the ones who directly damaged the stuff, but also the Municipality for giving the authorization for the event.

b) What could have been done to avoid the damage?

I sincerely think Matera is not the place where an event like the AOM can be made without bad consequences, Matera is not Santorini, it is very old and fragile. Anyway the organization did not involved people from the town, or give any advice to the guys, there was not any security service. They came and went back home taking what they wanted, leaving damages.

  1. Do you fear long term consequences for your work in the region because of the AOM 2019? If yes: What kind of consequences? What are your thoughts?

Yes, of course. We did an amazing job in june working with Fondazione Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, but now I feel people in general will not understand the difference, also the municipality could ban future events.

  1. Do you think the AOM 2019 in Matera has helped spread parkour to a greater audience in Italy? Making it more accessible to an audience that had no idea of parkour yet for example?

For sure AOM it’s not promoting parkour, but parkour based competitions instead, that is very different.  I really can’t say if some people heard for the first time about parkour thanks to the AOM in Matera, probably it happened, but I think the great majority of the people who heard about this (understanding what parkour really is) already knew parkour. The real aim of Red Bull is promoting the energy drink in all the action sports and extreme sports in order to reach all the different markets. The marketing strategy is easy and probably the best in the world actually: to persuade all kind of people (mostly the youngers) to buy the Red Bull energy drink, because it helps you to overcome your limits and reach your goals. In order to achieve this goal, Red Bull has occupied every kind of sport, sponsoring (and owning) athletes, teams and of course events. Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz said: “We don’t bring the product to the consumer, we bring consumers to the product.” They associate the energy drink to the best athletes and the most extreme and spectacular sports to spread the energy drink to all the audiences who like these sports. Of course the athletes involved in the Red Bull Circus gain in terms of popularity and fame mostly inside the community, but I don’t think it helps so much to spread the parkour outside the community. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my opinion.

  1. Do you have anything else you want to mention? – Anything else to say?

I think Red Bull can easily pay for the damages and apologize for what occurred. I’m not against events like that, but what about ethics and responsibility? It seems to me that many teams and events are pushing on the marketing strategy to appear as outlaw, over any rules, spreading the message to the younger generations that they can do whatever they want and that it is just fun (escaping from police, invading private property, pushing the adrenaline on the maximum to reach the podium, the likes, the success). I want to say that this is all fake and very risky. The original spirit of the founders/pioneers is very different instead: intimate, respectful and responsible, very linked to the habitat and to the people and yet powerfully revolutionary. The new generations should have the opportunity to know and understand this primarily and fundamental approach based on positive values. Keep your Ego aside, put community first.

We don’t need to build anything fake to move freely, and I also think there is no evolution in the practice of parkour/freerun through competitions, because competitions and competitors are the orthodoxy in sport, it is a very conservative way to look on the physical activity, so, in my opinion, they are not pushing forward, but backward the movement, building themselves their own cage, with the audience screaming out to see them pushing over the limits like any other sport. And what happen if  anyone injuries oneself? They just cut him/her off from the competition and pick someone else up to occupy the empty seat, the show must go on. I still think the best and real competition is with yourself, with your own limits and fears, not with others.

 

Simone Bicorgna

 

Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts on this!

 

To finish this up here are some useful links if you want to know more:

AOM 2019 live stream – LINK

Simone Bicorgna statement – LINK

Newspaper article on the AOM in the local Matera newspaper – LINK

Newspaper article 2 on the AOM – LINK

Neswspaper article 3 on the AOM – LINK

ADD Academy Umbria – LINK

MUVT: local Matera Parkour group – LINK

Workshop video with Laurent Piemontesi and Marcello Pallozzo in Matera – LINK

Storror video of the AOM 2019 – LINK

Storm Freerun documentary on Ed Scott and his participation in the AOM 2019 – LINK

Source of pictures: unsplash.com, Simone Bicorgna

 

 

In October 2019 I had the chance to lead a session for the Parkour „Übungsleiter“ education, a preliminary step for the state recognized instructor certificate in Austria.

For the past years I have reflected on my style of teaching parkour and what values I want to transport. And to me it comes down to 3 major things:

  • Outdoor Training
  • Exploration
  • The use and creation of challenges

Before heading on here is a quick overview /table of contents of the article

Table of contents

Background

Outdoor training
Exploration
The use and creation of challenges

Designing challenges

Categories of challenges
The nature of a challenge
The context of a challenge or – the setting

Summary

Planning your students effort / performance
Conclusion

Outdoor training

Parkour is an outdoor activity.  It was born on the streets of Paris, Evry, Lisses and in the woods of Sarcelles. Parkour is Parkour because of the way people trained and developed it. Training outdoor, amongst other factors is what separates us from other disciplines like gymnastics for example. Sadly training outdoors is not something I can expect and take for granted in every practitioner I meet. Even when I look upon the next generation of coaches I don´t see this. And that´s a shame. It indicate the parkour culture is losing its touch with being outdoor, with being in the city, with shaping our spaces. I see people who openly admit not wanting to teach outdoors because of safety issues or because of fear. I see people who have rarely trained outdoors themselves in their years of practice. In my own session at the “Übungsleiter” I have heard the words (more or less like this): “I am too tired to train on concrete” – This still sticks to my head and I find it sad.

To cut the story short. I expect a good coach to focus his/her sessions outdoors. AND I expect a good coach to be able to deliver a beneficial session anywhere, geographically speaking. It should not matter if you are in a small town close to the alps in Austria or doing a session in a neighborhood of a big city you have not been before. Be there, do it, and do it outdoor. Sure there are occasions where indoor is better, but I am speaking on a  general basis here.

Exploration

I have a natural curiosity that is also reflected in my practice and in my teaching. I love looking for and discovering new spots AND making a different use of already known spots. If my character would not have this feature I would have stopped parkour very early on as at the times I had started there was nothing! We discovered the spots people train on right now. We saw the chances a place had to offer. We created movement where other people saw nothing. If you don´t like exploring you will always train in other peoples shadows. Every spot you go will have the stigma that someone else already did this or that, and you will feel either a need to achieve something similar OR a feeling of “oh alright” I can do this too. But when is the last time you were 100% certain that no one else has done this or that ever. Or that YOU must be the first person to train here? This is what parkour is about, because like this you take temporary ownership of a spot and forge a deep connection with the spot but also your own movement. So when I look at a coach I expect him or her to have made experiences like that.  These are the experiences we want to foster when coaching. These are the experiences that are valueable to practicioners. Exploration is key to these experiences and also key to making use of the outdoor environment. Especially when having to deal with unknown territory.  Exploration to me is a skill. One of many I want a coach to own.

The use and creation of challenges

The former attributes I described would be nothing without the knowledge and tools of creating a beneficial learning experience.  “Exploration” and “being outdoor” directly transfer into the skill of creating challenges to achieve our goals when coaching. Every session should have an underlying goal, something  a coach wishes to achieve for/ or transport to his/her participants. The “challenge” is a tool of doing this.

Why don´t I say exercise? A challenge is a type of exercise. Its outcome is not sure because it would not be a challenge if it is 100% sure you can do it. On the other hand something  physically impossible can never be a challenge. Let´s go with the Cambridge dictionary definition of a challenge: “(the situation of being faced with) something that needs great mental or physical effort in order to be done successfully and therefore tests a person’s ability.” Creating challenges in parkour sessions IS a challenge itself. It is a skill. It serves a coaching goal. It is done with responsibility for the health and safety of the people we teach. We should create meaningful challenges. 1000 push ups is in most of the cases not meaningful.  A challenge is foremost a test of ones abilities.

What I want to discuss further and what I have actually never written down yet is my own method of creating challenges, probably a big part of my own teaching. I want to do this because I hope other people can benefit from my approach. Use it to their liking and adapt it to their coaching. I don´t expect anyone to copy it. This approach has served me well over the years. Be it in designing the infamous Night Missions (the most extreme form of this approach so far). Be it when I was teaching my weekly classes on a regular basis or when teaching private sessions for people with specific needs.

Categories of challenges

When exploring my environment in the process of planning a session and developing challenges I often find myself in what I perceive as a complex environment. If the spot/area of your session is not well known to you or if you don´t know exactly how your group will be for the session (in terms of skill, in terms of size, etc.) then it becomes gradually harder in planning the right session. The more you as a coach don´t know about your session and everything that comes with it the higher I would say is the complexity of the task of creating a good session! Simplification is ONE means of dealing with a high grade of complexity, and the way I tend to think about challenges poses such a way of simplification. At least for a first step of planning a session.

Using categories of challenges for designing a session!

Imagine you are planning a session at a spot. You know what coaching goals you want to deliver and what the rough content of your session should be. The only thing you don´t know yet is what to do where exactly. What movement do you want to see where. What type of challenge do you incorporate?

The nature of a challenges

I for my part have come to think of challenges in certain categories. These are so far:

  • Balance

    There are a thousand ways of balancing. The simplest way might be standing upright on a bar. But balancing can be made impossibly hard. QM on a rail. Balancing on a chain? Doing other tasks while balancing? It is a basic skill in parkour that you simply can´t be good enough at. A good balance is the key to successful movement and successful bailing.

  • Climbing

    I often use climbing challenges at the beginning of a session as a means of getting to know my students and their skills. A technical climb on low level might show the level of strength they possess, their coordination, their recklessness or their thoughtfulness. It sometimes serves me as a diagnostic tool on the one hand but as a challenge in itself on the other hand. A technically easy climbing route up to a few meters height might be the sort of test for a student’s self estimation and mental strength.

  • Strength

    How do people get stronger? One way is doing strength and conditioning. Packing strength and conditioning in a challenge makes it more fun. But strength challenges can be a test of ones ability or a good way to get people out of their comfort zone. However you do it, always ask the question why you are doing a strength challenge. And: what type of strength are we training? (explosiveness, strength endurance, power?)

  • Offgroundchallenge

    Moving over an area without touching the floor. – I often combine this with teamwork. Presenting the problem in terms of a certain route for example, and then making a group of people help each other along the way. To me this serves as a way of developing communicational skills as well as problem solving.

  • Breaking jumps

    Breaking jumps might be one of the most important processes a parkour practicioner can go through. I always tend to present levels of difficulty for challenges like these if I am not sure how capable people are.

  • Movement at height / dealing with real fear

    Usually there is no big consequence in messing up a jump. So for some people it is tempting to throw themselves into a move without thinking too much. Introducing height to a challenge is something I like to do on a regular basis as it is an aspect of training I have neglected myself for a long time. The result was that I froze up as soon as I had to move on higher ground. Training dealing with height  and/or fear benefits the overall parkour training in my opinion and liberates a persons movement. This has to be done with great care though, always.

  • Endurance

    …is something a lot of parkour practicioners lack. A lot of people focus on single jumps instead of whole lines. Endurance might be the biggest neglected aspect of peoples parkour training. Don´t be that person. And don´t let endurance slip when you teach. An endurance challenge could be repeating a fixed line 10 times in 10 minutes. Or 20 times in 15 minutes. Depends on the line. Depends on the physicality.

  • Urban exploration

    I have shown people secret spots of their cities. For example an underground tunnel passing through the city center or abandoned bridges that lie in the dark. To me this is a category that is not really a stand alone category with a well defined aim. Urban exploration to me is a way of appreciating your environment. A way of forging a connection with city space. This is so related to my idea of parkour that I tend to incorporate this into my sessions sometimes. As a personal experience rather than a means of progressing a persons parkour skills.

  • …and many more

These are some of the categories when I think of challenges. And each type of challenge may serve a certain goal in my session as you can check out in the descriptions and examples above. But if you think of the categories of challenges as the CONTENT / NATURE of a challenge there is yet another aspect of a challenge that you can and should have in mind when designing it. This aspect can be adjusted and can be designed too.

The context of a challenge or – the setting

The setting can be worked with and changed and every setting can serve its own goal.

  • Teamchallenge or working alone

    Training alone has benefits. Achieving something alone has benefits too. For example breaking a jump. On the other hand solving problems together or sticking together in training when things get hard is something to consider when designing challenges. The question to answer for yourself when considering if a participant of your session should move on their own or in a team is: what do I want my students to learn from this? No promises it will work out BUT having this thought process dialed in is important.

  • Moving with a backpack as added weight vs. no added weight

    A lot of times people feel comfortable with just moving. Add their backpack into the game and their hard acquired skills become useless. Adding the backpack is a simpleand effective means of scaling exercises. I don´t say you have to have the same moves under your belt with or without backpack. All I say is you still should be able to do a climb up, a wallrun and some basic moves even with your backpack on. If you can´t move with your backpack on what would you do in a situation where you HAVE to? Being an emergency situation or trying to keep up with the Storrors on one of their roof missions? The sad answer to this question was presented to me back in 2009 when we got robbed in London – ever since I run, jump and climb even with 10kg on my back. – Sometimes…- https://www.we-trace.at/2016/01/15/the-vauxhall-robbery/

  • Timed challenges and added stress

    Adding time to a challenge can switch it up and make something totally different of it. In the “Übungsleiter” I had a simple offgroundchallenge with a degree of height in there. It was technically easy. I introduced timed laps and wanted to encourage the teams to go as fast as possible. I hoped this would force the group into a more uncomfortable situation as the challenge itself was not (yet) demanding. As I did not check up on every team I don´t know if it worked in the situation but I hope you get the idea.

  • Height and fear

    I have already introduced this as a type of challenge but to me this is a type of setting as well.

  • Competitive vs. non-competitive

    Introducing time restrictions for example is a way of making a challenge competitive. If you compared the times between groups it would make the challenge even more competitive. But beware competition bears the risk of injury and short sighted decisions. As with working with heights, introducing competition should be done with great care. As a coach you want to know your group and how they might react to competition.

  • …and many more

By adjusting the NATURE of a challenge as well as its CONTEXT I dare say it is possible to cater to most of the coaching goals you want to transport. Of course it needs a lot of preparation. It needs a lot of planning. It needs the willingness to try new things as a coach and a certain extent of creativity. The categories I have listed above are just examples of my own coaching practice. You will have other categories in mind or maybe you have already developed other ideas. Maybe you can think of a dozen different settings to use in a challenge. That would be awesome! Because that is exactly what I am aiming for with this approach.

Planning your students effort / performance

Challenges should be scaleable to cater to every skill level and to the whole group. If you think of a session as a chain of challenges, thinking in the proposed categories allows to judge the type of exhaustion, the type of effort your group will be faced with. It also allows for a well balanced planning of the type of effort you will demand of your students. Climbing might demand strength in the arms but balancing might relax the arms and demand concentration. Endurance might be hard on, well, endurance, but working on height might allow for some rest endurance wise. Chain your challenges together wisely and you can achieve quite a high performance output of your students without killing them physically. That´s the main concept behind the Night Mission where we cover a distance of up to 25km in 9hrs of constant movment! (The distance is not the aim of the Night Mission it is merely a result of transporting oneself from one spot to the other).

Conclusion

My categorization of the nature and the context of challenges is neither whole nor is it 100% defined. Sometimes categories may overlap, be a subset of a different category, whatever. I realize this. BUT remember that this system shall help reduce complexity not serve as a definition.

If this system helps any coach to bring more structure into his/her session I dare say mission accomplished. Especially to new coaches or coaches from a way different background I assumed this way of thinking can be of benefit. That´s why delivering this approach was my main aim at the “Übungsleiter” in October 2019 but also at a session in New York earlier this year.  If you have any questions or if you want to discuss this further you can reach me at alex(at)we-trace.at

In 2012 while the olympic games were hosted in London, Storm Freerun released a great ad/video filmed and edited by Claudiu Voicu who also did the groundbreaking Storm Freerun Volume I. Read more

The way you present yourself as a coach has a direct impact on the experience your participants will have during a Parkour class. Read more

When someone asks me if he or she or if this or that person can do parkour I usually instantly reply “yes” – “of course”. Usually with no further explanation except that it´s all about the way you approach parkour and that you should not compare yourself to others. Stephane Vigroux´s post on Instagram is more on point though.

[blockquote align=center]

Anyone can do parkour but parkour is not for everyone

[/blockquote]

 

 

 

Suppose you hate challenging yourself, you are afraid of even looking out of your very narrow comfort zone. Suppose you really do not like to interact with your environment or face your weaknesses and/or are mainly motivated extrinsically. Well I guess there might be better practices to pick up than parkour. It is still my deepest believe, and of many others, that any person regardless sex, age, gender, heritage, ethnicity, religion or any other social demographic variable, can practice parkour. Practicing parkour and progressing in parkour are not bound by these variables. What the real problem is, is the persons attitude toward him/herself, their expectations on what they have to achieve or deliver and especially their own fear on how they score in relation to what they see on social media and/or from others. For me there is only ONE single constant that I aim on scoring myself on. Do I progress in my training and my parkour practice? Progress can mean physical progress, technical progress or maybe mental progress, maybe even all of the above at once or maybe rehabing out of an injury, slowly and steadily.

So when someone asks me in the future if he/she can do parkour my answer is still “yes” – “of course” but I might think to myself – “do you think you have what it takes?” and I might make them ask themselves what they expect from practicing parkour.

I am well aware though that the realisation that stands behind these thoughts is nothing we can just tell someone or something we can teach solely by talking about it. I guess people have to make their own experiences and somewhere along the way honestly review themselves.

Thanks to Stephane for being so on point.

Find Stephane on [icon icon=icon-instagram size=16px color=#000 ] here: https://www.instagram.com/stephane_vigroux

 

 

For us it was a great adventure hiking along the Odontotos railway tracks. I hope to be able to transport some of the impressions we got. Other than that if you aim on doing the trip yourself you can read this as a sort of guide with good info on what will await you. In either case: enjoy.

 

Table of contents

Intro
The train
The village of Kalavryta
The monastery – Mega Spileo
The hike
Summary

 

 

Intro

In the north east of Peloponnes (Greece) lies the village of Diakofto (Διακοφτό), directly next to the sea. Having travelled through Greece, Diakofto in my opinion is neither especially beautiful nor has to offer great beaches. It is neither overly touristic nor “typical greek”. Diakofto has to offer something uniquely special though.

A few times a day it is the starting point for the so called Odontotos train connecting Diakofto with a small village in the mountains called Kalavryta.

 

The train

Odontotos is a single track railway covering 700 height meters from sea level and runs through steep and tight passages, through tight and dark tunnels and over impressive metal bridges leaving no space for a floor to see if you dare look out the window when it crosses one of these. The trains primary means of motion is its Diesel engine with a solid 25 km/h average speed. Because of the steepness of the railway it has to rely on its “teeth” – thus its name Odontotos (originating from Dontia, meaning teeth in greek). The secondary motion system (rack railway) springs into action every once in a while, the average speed around 6 – 10km/h. The whole scenic trip to Kalavryta takes around 1 hour with a station in Zachlorou.

 

The village of Kalavryta (Καλάβρυτα)

At the end of the train line you will find beautiful, yet touristic Kalavryta. It is perfect for families and elderly people and fairly priced. Straying off the used paths of tourists and looking around a little we found great spots to train (Parkour) even at this remote mountain village. The village itself seems to be active in winter as well as Kalavryta seems to be a winter vacation location too, which is rarely seen in Greece. After a coffee and some training we waited in the historic train station for Odontotos to carry us back down to Zachlorou from where we would start our hike to Diakofto again. The part between Kalavryta and Zachlorou is not as eventful to hike so we left that out and saving our energy, also knowing we would still hike for 6 hours if we wanted to include the monastery Megaleo Spilaio.

 

The monastery – Mega Spileo

We got off at Zachlorou and started our ascent. It took us an hour to get to the monastery, because we got off track at one point and had to retrace our route to find where we went wrong. No biggie, but it cost us a few minutes. The monastery itself is huge. It’s carved into the mountain and can be visited for free (2 euros for their museum if you want to see that). Inside the 8 story monastery is a cavelike yard with trees and a few beams of sunlight. We grabbed a coffee at the touristic tavern with a beautiful view over the valley before heading to Zachlorou again for descending to Diakofto by foot.

 

The hike

We did the ~13 to 15km in ~3 – 4 hours, walking slow and steady, taking pictures of the amazing view. The hike is nothing less than a spectacle. But you need to be prepared. As some passages of the tracks are so narrow that a hiker would not fit at the same time with the train, I strongly advice to keep the timetable of departures of the Odontotos in mind. If you estimate the time the train needs to reach you, you can find a comfortable spot to let the train pass and wait it out. Worst case would be meeting it up on one of those bridges or in a tunnel, that would suck. We got assured though that in the worst case the train can stop and the hikers need to back up to let the train pass. I doubt the drivers ability to make a full break in the tunnels though.

 

In our case there was only 1 train left going that day and after our first 20 minutes hiking we comfortably waited for it to pass by. After that we knew the tracks were free. Another thing to consider while hiking is rock slides and falling stones. In the narrow passages we chose to move quick and steady instead of staying at a spot for too long, because the possibility of falling rocks and stones is existent. In fact, this was the major concern when I asked the train driver for advice on the hike. And the existence of the problem was proven to us when the way of the Odontotos was blocked by a rock that had to be removed by two employees from the railway company the time we rode the train up. So no joking around in potentially dangerous spots or passages. We took our short breaks in the safety of the tunnels or in open passages. The third thing to watch out for at this adventure are the bridges and how to cross them. The bridges can be dangerous.

 

There is no safety for hikers because they were not intended for them to hike on. They are rusty, old and falling would mean certain death. But they do hold the train, of course, so once you have figured out the stable parts of the bridge crossing becomes easy. It’s nothing I would recommend children, or elderly people to do, so don´t think that´s a trip you can do with young children, but if I knew my children are disciplined and can follow my lead I´d take them (probably 14 years and up). When crossing the bridges I chose to do it on the steel beams. Not on the thin layer of rusting metal to the sides, that give you the wrong impression of safety just because you can´t see the drop. Neither on the wooden parts floating in mid air hat are suspended in the middle. Crossing on the steel beams and holding onto the guard rail with the hands is quite safe if you are not stupid. And if you don´t lose respect or become ignorant of the potential danger after crossing 20 of these bridges you will be fine. The hike is by the way quite tiring for the feet as the ground is 90% mid sized rocks and pebbles. Your only relief is walking on the wooden parts of the flat parts of the railway tracks and making awkwardly small steps for kilometers or actually balancing on the rail as we did a few times.

 

Summary

If you got a day and want to spend it on an adventure in the mountains of Greece, Diakofto – Kalavryta is the place to be. If you can handle the bridges and the train schedule you are good to go 🙂 The hike itself is not (yet) illegal, you can even find it in some travel guides and you can ask about it at the train station of Diakofto.

More information on the Odontotos train can be found at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diakofto%E2%80%93Kalavryta_Railway

https://odontotos.com/

 

And if you want to see great art from my fellow travel partner check out:

https://www.instagram.com/sou.slikart/

https://de-de.facebook.com/pg/souslikart

As you know I am a great fan of interviews and in the past I dedicated a lot of resources towards conducting a variety of interviews with parkour-related people. Recently Skochymag lead by the awesome Andy Day has released interviews with Blane, Boki and Thomas Couetic.

Andy got a great sense for relevant and sharp questions and the three interviews you can find below are a great read. My last interview with Blane dates back to 200x, in the time between then and now Blane has totally changed his life to being a fulltime firefighter in London, leaving most of his coaching duties behind and living our well known motto “being strong to be usefull” to its fullest.

If you happen to don´t know Boki already, he is a Serbian traceur, Etre Fort sponsored athlete and one of the main influences of parkour in Eastern Europe.

Thomas is the second generation of traceurs originating from France and currently living in Fontainbleau. Along with others from his generation (Stephane Vigrourx, Kazuma, the Shintais and many more) he is a direkt link to the early phase of parkour, a still active practicioner and a soruce of parkour wisdom and philosophy, although he mostly keeps to staying in the background. Enjoy the interview.

The only thing I regret when reading the interviews is not having done them myself 🙂