About 10 years ago the first so called Rendezvous (an annual Parkour workshop event featuring some of THE best coaches in the discipline) was held in a tiny gym somewhere in London. Amongst the 30 participants were legends like Yann Hnautra, Forrest Mahop, Dan Edwardes, Daniel Illabaca, Stephane Vigroux, Kazuma, Owen Covill, and so many more that I can’t recognise on that video.

 

August 2015: After having spent some days training in London already, muscles slightly aching, I was finding myself in the Chainstore waiting for the official opening of RDVX. It was great catching up with a lot of people again that I got to know back in 2013/2014. In fact there were too many to have a serious conversation with as every minute new people came droppping into the Chainstore. Amongst them were so many great characters that at some point I just sat there breathing in the awesomeness that gathered for what would become an intense 3 days. All the international PKGen branches were present and some additional international coaches from Brazil, Korea, the U.S., Germany, Scottland, etc. as well. Special guests included Yann Hnautra, Stephane Vigroux, Johann Vigroux, Thomas Couetdic and Christopher Mc Dougall (author of Born to Run, and Natural Born Heroes).

 

It was my first time seeing Yann and Stephane and I was excited to hear they were coaching. The procedure so thoroughly planned by Blane would be similar for the 3 days to come. The ~150 participants would be split into smaller groups depending on their experience and/or energy level. The groups get a session of coaching (usually 1 hour) and the rotate to the next coaching team. For day 1 (as it was an optional day, main seminar would be the next 2 days) people were split into beginners, intermediates and advanced. I did not feel too sure of where I belong as many of the PKGen core team members + some really good guys from abroad were actually participating themselves, thus making quite the hell of an advanced group. But I chose this one and was more comfortable with the idea of downgrading than not having tried to get along with the level. Physically I felt comfortable, but technically these guys were a few dimensions away from me.

 

Day 1 (Friday) – Location: Chainstore and areas around

Session 1 – Adam McClellan (PKGen U.S.)

After a short warm up by Dan Edwardes Adam´s session was my first RDVX session. And it can be briefly described as “jump/sprint/jump/sprint jump somer more and sprint some(correction: a lot) more”. Followed by some jumps and QM movement instead of sprinting. The thing was, everyone could push themselves as hard as they chose to. After sticking a certain precision one was awarded by a (roughly) 60metre sprint and then came back to the same precision (basically). Stickig precisions after sprints is a good one, though we had some rest period as we waited in line for our turn. Overall it was a solid session that tired us out and gave me an idea of how smooth Yann was in moving QM style. (he was participating)

 

Session 2 – Ben Scheffler (Parkour One)

After a session packed with short term power outbursts over a long periode of time Ben had another kind of endurance challenge for us. He showed us a route that mostly consisted of jogging and included around 15 Parkour movements (a wallrun wth climb up, a demi tour, a cat pass next to a drop, an underbar, a palm spin, rolls etc etc.). We would repeat the route steadily without stopping running for 30 minutes, choosing our own speed. 1 lap took me around 4 minutes I think. The challenge was great and I found my pace. Doing these challenges makes one realise how energy consumptive certain types of movement are and teaches one how to be more energy efficient overall. I really liked the session, and it was my first time talking with Ben whom I had scarcely met at a badly organised Parkour workshop in Germany in 2007 (I think).

 

Session 3 (and last for day 1) – Stephane Vigroux

This was the only session that day that was in the Chainstore and I was looking forward to finally getting coached by Stephane. I was not disappointed. We were offered to choose a rail precision somewhere in the Chainstore that was well in our comfort zone. The goal was to do at least 50 repetitions and try to stick as many of them as possible. Something awesome happened. After having a success rate of <10% with my first 30 tries I got so comfortable and close with the jump that in the end I nearly sticked every one of them, no bad landings, no mid foot. Stephane´s goal was to get us into the zone and get us to a state of mind where the jump just became natural, something I think he achieved (at least with me). After these precisions we did a 15 minute balancing session on the rails. Similar feeling, similar goal. Keep balancing on a rail without falling for 15 minutes (or 30, or 60).

 

In part 2 I´ll cover the second day of RDVX, including 5 really creative sessions and 4 amazing (optional) modules in the evening. Day 2 went from 9:00 to 22:00 making it about 10 hours of pure training.

Below you will find an unpublished record of my experiences from the first PKGen Night Mission in London in 2014. After this experience and my return to Austria I had the pleasure of adapting the concept that eversince has positively changed my training approach.

 

Parkour Generations Night Mission Challenge

 

In March 2014 I had the pleasure of attending the first official Parkour Generations Night Mission Challenge. The Night Mission derives from a way of training where practicioners train through the whole night, taking advantage of an empty city to explore and to challenge themselves all through a longer period of time. Especially the parkour founders used to regularly train like that where as my personal encounters with this sort of experience were very limited. I was told stories by PKGen members of some of the adventures they set out to so I was a bit worried of what would await me.

 

At the time I decided to go for the first Night Mission all I knew was that it will be hard, it will start at 21:00 and we will end by sunrise (6:00). I did not know of how it will be exactly or what I should be aware of.

 

The session was led by Dan and we were told to pack light. I needed to estimate how much water I would take and how much food, what clothing and so on and in the end I carried 2 litres of water, a cut up Mango, 2 sandwiches, some fruit and muesli bars, dried fruit and 3 sausages. (More than I needed but I was thinking that I would need a lot of energy) I had my rain suit with me as well just in case. After all it’s London and you never know. The day of the Night Mission I slept as much as I could and next thing I know is I am at the Chainstore being briefed on what’s going to happen this night.

 

The group for the night was consisting of Dan Edwardes who would lead the session. Then there was James from the PKG Team, Deepak, Thomas Couetdic and myself. When I found out Thomas will be attending I was quite happy as I wanted to meet him for a long time. As one of the first practitioners and well known amongst names like Stephane Vigroux and David Belle I also knew he was quite experienced in what was about to go down.

 

Every Night Mission has a theme or a topic. This first night mission, as Dan told us would be an endurance one. The second and the third one would be movie / series themed and would be totally different.

 

After the short briefing in the Chainstore we started. I will not go into detail that much as I think that a) you have to live the Night Mission yourself to understand it and to value it and b) because given the skill level, the experience of the group and depending who is leading it the Night Mission is totally different every time! Instead I would like to share a handful of my experiences that night and how it all affected me and my training.

 

At one point we were at an abandoned bridge. The bridge was closed but we found our way in. I was not too comfortable with height to be honest but for personal reasons and because I knew I could trust Dan and Thomas and after all my skills I was doing the challenges related to the bridge. First off was an easy climb to the top followed by crossing the bridge on the top steel made part. Although it was at height and it was dark it felt quite safe as we moved on a really wide section of the bridge. The other challenge was to get under the bridge and touch the pillars that the bridge was built on with our hands. We were doing that by climbing down to some wooden support structure and following it along to the pillars. The descending to the wooden structure was awful but Thomas was helping a lot by going first and guiding me through the grabs and steps I should make. At one point we were balancing on the wood, it was dark and all of a sudden a pigeon bursts off directly next to Thomas. Holy moly… Now I can understand Batman´s batphobia. Imagine being at height, under you the river. Silence…you are concentrated on every step you make and BAAAM, pigeon.

nm1

These are just some of the impressions we had. Lower left picture is the bridge I described. Pictures by Deepak. Thx for carrying the camera around that night. I know how any additional weight must have felt that night.

 

An other challenge was just beautiful. It was about 4 or 5 hours into the night (I think) and Dan lead us to this amazing spot right in the middle of London. Imagine trees everywhere, decorated with small blue LED lights. Like a light Forrest. In the middle was a small square where we decided to do the 15 minute push up challenge. Choose a number between 8 and 12 and rep out that many push ups every minute.

 

In between the various spots we were running (in the beginning) then walking mixed with running and then walking as James upset his ankle when he unwillingly dropped down from a hanging position at one of the strength challenges. He could have given up and maybe this would have been a wiser choice in terms of health but he was a true inspiration that night and he fought his way through! A great deal of our mission was urban navigation with input by Thomas who shared his experiences he gained in the military (map reading, compass reading and that stuff)

 

An other challenge that scared me in the beginning was balancing related. Even when the obstacle you balance on is thick and wide a height drop on both sides just gives me the chills. I originally thought of crawling along it on all fours but after repeating to myself that I indeed have a good balance and that the obstacle was way wider than my feet and that it should be childs play to walk over that I pulled myself together and went for it. And of course it went well. A few steps into it I realised how my fear had gotten the better of me and that battling it was the right thing to do. Generally this night, I battled a lot with my fear although I tried to not let the others in the group take any notice of that.

 

Throughout the night we covered a HUGE distance by foot. For all non-Londoners let me just give you some numbers later. We started in East London (East India) and went to Vauxhall and further. We then went to Cutty Sark via Elephant and Castle and then headed back to the Chainstore via Canary Wharf. About 15 kilometres I think?

 

The night was coming to an end and I have to say I was glad that we were walking a lot of the time and not doing any challenges in the end as I was exhausted and tired. My bag got quite light, that was something. We made it back to the HQ just right to see an amazing sunrise.

 

The whole night will stay in my memory for (probably) ever as it was an AMAZING experience that I can recommend to everyone. It might not be height that scares you, it might not be work at height at all that you will do during your night mission but if you are keen on working with what troubles you and what gives you a hard time then there is nothing better than the night mission to explore the ends of ones comfort zone.

 

I want to thank Dan and Thomas for the guidance, James for his unbreakable spirit and the pain he endured and Deepak for his friendliness, helpfulness and his positive mind. It was my pleasure being there with you guys!

What follows is the first review of one of the original participants from Night Mission II that I hosted in 2015 in Vienna. Enjoy the read!

Night Mission Beta

It’s 9 pm in Vienna, and we’re just standing around at Donauinsel. Would we’ve been aware that these were our last moments of idle rest for a long time, we probably would’ve enjoyed them more. After all five participants gathered, Alexandros looked us in the eye, smiled from cheek to cheek and proclaimed: “Night Mission Beta has officially started.” He briefed us on the mission’s toughness, encouraged us to drop out before we pass out. And then we ran into the dark.

On the one hand, I expected an adventure. Cities the size of Vienna burst with hidden corners and secret places. I knew Alexandros wanted to explore those with us. Secondly, I expected a challenge. Back then I was sleep-deprived from the start, so I knew this mission would push me to my limits. In both cases I was right. Especially as my physical limits got a good kick to the teeth.

The first surprise was the sheer lack of motorized transportation. We ran the city. Now I’ve always perceived Vienna as a mosaic of metro stops. Now I visited all these hotspots – Donauinsel, Stadtpark, Schottentor and others – by foot, and I saw Vienna as a whole, interconnected and fluid. This alone gave me a new feeling for my city. We made around 20km that night, jogging, walking, breathing, repeat. Alexandros didn’t want us to get cold or tired, and even though my body hated him for that at some point, I knew he was right. Too many breaks would’ve broken us. And with the challenges at hand, we couldn’t afford to go down.

The ~18 challenges demanded both physical and mental strength. I climbed walls in 8m height, with just the arms of our comrades as safety nets. I carried an 84kg man on Vienna’s most beautiful staircase, up and down. I stood on a railing, fell, got up again, fell, up, fell up, for 15 minutes all in all. And all that with my body wondering why the hell it wasn’t lying in my bed as usual in the middle of the night.

Towards the end, when we ran up a mountain, sleep deprivation almost got the better of me. My eyelids weighed tons. I slept for split-seconds while walking in an involuntary zig-zag, looking like a drunkard. All the time I knew I would pull through, and I felt Alexandros watchful eyes on me, ready to step in. But Jesus Christ was I tired. Going in there without sufficient sleep was my mistake. A Night Mission demands top-notch fitness.

We all were struggling at some point. But the group generated a force field of determination, which fuelledevery single one of our cells. With a healthy mixture of competition and support, we battled those weak moments we all had individually. And thus we achieved feats I would’ve deemed impossible otherwise. The Night Mission Beta was not so much a feat of strength as it was one of endurance. While I ran, jumped, balanced and carried, 95% of my brain was occupied with a simple mantra: “One more step. One more push-up. One more minute.”

But the other 5% were all like “Hell, I can’t wait until tomorrow when I grasp what I’ve achieved here.”

And indeed, when I woke up the next day, I was physically crushed to pieces – but my mind fired endorphins in all directions. I bathed in my glorious pain, knowing that’s how it feels when limits break.

We started at 9pm. At 6am I collapsed into my bed. 9 hours, 20 kilometers, 18 challenges, 6 warriors, 1 goal. The Night Mission Beta showed me the power of comradeship, it gave me a new perspective on my city. And I got a glimpse at the potential of body and mind. It’s an experience like no other. If you want to see how far you can push yourself, go for it. Just make sure to take a nap beforehand.