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In 2004 I got a first glimpse of parkour. All I had was a name and the fact that it was super cool. Unfortunately that was about it. There was no one anywhere close who could guide me on how to approach it, or how to train. A vast internet research did not even give me a proper definition of what was about to become my new way of life. In entire Austria as I found out around a year after my initial start, there were like 4 other guys doing something similar. After years of trial and error, slow progress and slowly meeting likeminded people we were finally moving forward. But even then the internet (our only source of knowledge) was full of inaccurate and person biased information. I was lucky to have been involved in parkour that early, but still now and with all the experiences I have made, some sources of knowledge that would have probably changed my whole approach to the discipline have remained hidden away. In the minds of people like the Yamakasi, Stephane or David Belle. Until now…

Reading “Breaking the Jump” filled a LOT of knowledge gaps that I had andcontributed towards bringing together many of the unconnected dots in me. It also enriched me with personal stories of the people who developed parkour thus giving me a deeper understanding of the whole discipline and its development and thus, yet another time, deepening my approach to parkour. It makes these people from the first hour also more human. If you know of the incredible feats of any of the Yamakasi for example you just can´t help idolising them. But better understanding where they came from helps one understand how they were able to achieve what they did (and still do).

One of the strengths of Breaking the Jump is the clear timeline of events. Rarely have I been aware of the order of what really went down. Also there is so much background info on nearly all the people involved in the early days of parkour.

Below you will find a more detailed review. Please be aware of potential spoilers. If you have not read the book and you would like to without any spoilers you might not want to continue reading.

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I see you are still with me. Awesome!

One of the things that struck me the most was how biased my own view of parkour was. When Julie writes about how David was perceived due to the TF1 report (click me) for example and how uneven the report displays the roles of the people involved I got a flashback. The TF1 report was the first of its kind I actually saw. Parkour to me was centered around David. Little did I know of the actual Yamakasi at that time and even less about what they had or had not in common. The book mentions a competitive side of parkour being unconciously (or conciously) promoted by David and when I think of my early years I always had the feeling of: “I have to be better than this person or this one” or just having to prove myself in the international parkour world. It was stupid and for me the turning point was a serious injury that if it went unnoticed could have killed me (ruptured spleen). In that sense these whole chapters were a big “Shit I can so relate to that!” – feeling.

Something that also came out quite clear in the book were all the interpersonal tensions and the different viewpoints of the founders. And if you think of all the early internet discussions, these tensions were clearly present in the generations to come after them. From simple arguments to whole different approaches to the discipline. Even today when people talk or argue about parkour or freerunning or l‘art du déplacement such as they are different things, it becomes apparent that what happened back then will probably for ever continue to haunt the discipline.

With all the hardship, all the struggles and the personal challenges that Julie described there was unevenly more positive material to absorb.

The sense of community amongst the early people could be felt. Williams story and how he got into it all was especially touching with domestic violence playing its part. In fact many of the backgrounds were accompanied by some sort of violence or severe struggle that had to be overcome, made them what they are. Parallels can be drawn to some of the best practicioners out there at the moment, whose story might not be known to many people. Once again there was a clear message to be distilled: parkour can be a great great source of mental energy. It is not just about the jumps.

Another very interesting part of the book revolved around Erwan Le Corre, Méthode Naturelle enthusiast and founder of MovNat. I remember doing an interview with him in the days of Parkour.net but little did I know of his amazing story, his determination and what he was up to at that time. Apparently he was part of a “secret clan” of people led by a guy called Don Jean Habrey who would do crazy night time actions in his mission of proving his method of “training”. From breaking into the zoo and mouthfeeding wolves to scaling Paris landmarks.

There are many aspects covered in the book I had never even heard of and that all somehow contributed to where parkour stands right now.

I think Breaking the Jump is a very accurate, warm hearted and easy to relate to documentation of the development and coming of parkour, freerunning, l‘art du déplacement or whatever you chose to name it. For non parkour practiciners it provides a good basis for understanding the background of all the action they encounter in mainstream media.

Thank you to Julie Angel and to everyone involved in this project!

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Additional Info: The book cover was shot by Andy Day and features Blane and (not sure if Andy or Stephen) from Parkour Generations. The picture is hanging as a large print on one of the walls in the Chainstore Parkour Academy in London! Breaking the Jump can be bought on Amazon for around 20euros.

 

 

I´ll make day3 of RDVX less detailed and instead just highlight some of the things that remained vivid in my mind.

 

First off. I was dead tired and in pain in the morning of day 3. Putting on my socks was challenge nr. 1. but the weather was sunny  and we were motivated. We were heading for the Olympic Village where for the first time an official permission for a Parkour related group was given by the authorities to train there.

 

One of the sessions was with Blane. He teamed us up in pairs and gave us a distance to cover. We would plyo over our partner who would be in push up position, drop down to the push up position ourselves and do 1 push up more than our partner did just the moment before us. When we finish our push ups our partner plyos over and drops down to do his set of push ups (one more than I did before). So if I´d start, I´d do 1,3,5,7….and so on. In the end (after the time frame of 40 minutes) I was up to 27 push ups but we had just about covered half of the distance Blane had set. Good challenge!

After 2 other strength related sessions we headed to the Chainstore for our last 3 sessions of RDVX. I was particulary impressed with Ben Sheffler from PKOne (Germany). He had some great input in terms of reaction-time related training. Again we were teamed up in pairs of 2. There was a route with a certain goal set. For example a wall run and a starting point a few meters away facing the wall with the back. We then gave some queues to our partners and they had to quickly adapt. For example which foot they´d have to use for the wallrun, which side the vault should be done with if there was something in the way, in what way to turn when they´d start running or simply blinding them, taking them somewhere in the space and then letting them adapt to what´s around them.

The other 2 sessions opposed to the first one with Ben were indoors. Pownall had set up about 15 different stations with the aim of massaging (deep tissue) and stretching us. If you want to know how to use an elastic band and a wooden stick to massage your calves to total relaxation including a horrendous amount of pain (just kidding), Alex is the man for you! Hector and Adam led the other Chainstore session that consisted of a variety of rolling challenges in different situations. Dive rolls across gaps. Rolls on thin walls and different obstacles. Dive rolls on concrete through a gap of rails. Good fun!

 

Conclusions:

Again I got proven that just because I am tired, stiff from the day before or simply have the worst muscle ache ever, does not mean I can´t move. The right warm up and attitude can boost you!

The huge variety of movement in RDVX was great, so was the input from all the coaches that came from all over the world.

Just having experienced so many different Parkour styles and coaching methods is inspirational and showed me how limited my view was before and how important it is to get in exchange with other people. RDVX did just that for me.

And overall it was great to see all the guys again I got to know back in 2013/2014.

Oh and just before I forget it. Congratulations to Forrest for knowing/learning each and every name of ALL the participants and coaches of RDVX. At the end of day 3 Forrest went through a crowd of about 150 people calling every one by their name, an amazing skill he had demonstrated the year before as it was told me.

 

THANKS to everyone who was part of it. To Hector for hosting us. To the English weather for being so nice these days. To the scandinavians for a relaxed and funny evening at the Canary Wharf burger place. It was a great experience and who knows, maybe see you all again at RDVXI!

P.S. This is the so called Grant curve as we named it. We had a slight jogg with Chris Grant who then came up with it and I feel obliged to share the knowledge.
grantcurve
In the beginning of every traceurs life the motivation to run / jogg is growing. Up to a peak that is reached after a few years. From that point on it nears to zero again as the more experienced a traceur gets the more lazy he gets 😉

Check out the previous part for a quick overview of what happened on day 1 of RDVX!

The day to come would be quite a long and exhausting one. We would start 09:00 in the morning and, including the extra modules, would end at around 22:00. After an unpleseant situation in 2009 in Vauxhall and some light training sessions there in 2013/2014 I was anxious and looking forwardat the same time to train at the place again, as the Vauxhall walls are one of the worlds most famous Parkour spot ever.

 

Day 2 (Saturday) – Locations: Vauxhall (various areas) + The Chainstore (evening modules)

Session 1 – Forrest / Yann Hnautra

After a slight warm up led by Blane and a split into 4 groups our first session was with Forrest and Yann at a small spot right next to the Thames. The session was split into 2 parts, first part with Yann and then a switch over to Forrest. It was my first time ever getting into a session led by Yann so I was excited and given the high level of the advanced group I was a little anxious to deliver my best. Now, imagine Yann furiosly demonstrating a small route consisting of 4-5 (rather complex) moves, including rolls, palm spins, rolls on the backs on walls and so on, ending with a set of push ups and then expecting us to repeat. The group couldn´t go all at once due to limited space but as soon as the majority of the group was done, Yann would shoot off demonstrating the next round. No need to say I struggled. First off, I could not really remember / reproduce the routes Yann did, secondly by the time I did my push ups, Yann was in demonstration mode again. Surprisingly some of the guys could keep up. This went on for 20 minutes until Yann gathered the group around and explained what the purpose of his session was. So no matter if we got the route right or we would bump into each other, each repetition at any given time and situation should be done with 100% dedication and 100%willpower (if that makes sense). I guess he supposedly tried to put some stress on us and see how we react. Anyway, hearing Yann explaining was inspiring even though he labelled our group as average overall.

Forrest was already awaiting us with a nice challenge. We did rail precisions as a group at the same time, from a wall to a long rail and were given the task to stick all of them and  precision back to the starting wall. If one fell it was ok to catch oneself on the rail, come back up and continue as long as no one touches the floor. If that happened we would all be awarded 30 small jumps (burning out our quads) and would then continue. The core message of the exercise was a question: If we are 100% physically capable of sticking a rather easy rail precision, why shouldn´t we be able to stick all of them, every time and whenever? After the exercise we wer challenged with a variety of different rail precisions that we could choose of (see the picture that Thiago from Brazil drew). Aiming on sticking them again.

thames pres

Session 2 – Blake Evitt / Jiho Kim (PKGen U.S. / PKGen Korea)

After a quick spot change we rotated to Jiho and Blake for a fun partner throwing session. We were shown 3 techniques of throwing partners and by doing so giving them a higher potencial for overcoming distances than if they just jumped on their own. The most recogniseable one and in my opinion the one that worked best was the 2 person slingshot method. Imagine being in a squat position leaning back, reaching out with with your hands to 2 people roughly your weight and size. You lean forward – JUMP and receive a massive pull that carries you farther than you could have ever jumped alone. Combine that with armjumps and precisioning up walls and thats it. Ideally though you have a nicely light guy/girl jumping and 2 strong people throwing, thats basically how we levitated Hector over a small wall to a 12 foot precision jump!

 

Session 3 – Adam McClellan(*) / Andy Keller (PKGen U.S)

Taking place at the main Vauxhall walls spot and being the first session after lunch break we started with a nicely weird warm up game. Movement through the space with the limitation of using your hands and feet in certain combinations only. For example after using your hand next thing to be used has to be a foot and so forth. The game was spiced up when we were teamed up in pairs and groups of 3 moving like the Parkour version of the human centipede. 😉

The next part of the session was really innovative and something I would like to keep in memory for my own coaching.

We were split into groups of 3 and could choose anywhere at the spot. We should work out a set of 3 movements and repeat unti we got it nice and flowy. After that 2 people of the group rotated to an other station and the remaining one would show the 2 new people that formed a new group the route that was previously developed. Practice time a few minutes and another rotation. This time the person that showed the new people the route had to rotate to an other station and would be shown a new route and so on. The concept is brilliant. Develop a route, teach it someone else and be tought a new route with new movements you would not have thought of on your own. Simple yet effective, and great fun.

Session 4 – Mikkel Thiesen / Mirko Svabric (Streetmovement Denmark / Parkour Croatia)

So….What do a danish bearded guy and a croatian Parkour veteran have in common? Both of them are beasts and both of them made a nice exhausting session with some good challenges in there. What they did was conceptualise a route around the back part of the Vauxhall walls, including a sketchy 180 cat leap to precision, precisions with high drops right after and probably the only swininging movement to be found in Vauxhall (danish style). The goal was not breaking the jumps though but to repeat the route as fluid and quickly as possible, making the usually longer decisions of slightly trickier jumps come natural with the flow. Some of the movement (the 180 to the wall or the swining move for example) I couldn´t do but overall it was a tiring experience with a high need for focus every time the route was done.

Session 5 – Chris Grant (Glasgow parkour Coaching) / Johann Vigroux

BREAKING JUMPS TIME! Having some really advanced guys in the group Chris and Johann took up the challenge and presented us 5 gnarly jumps we should work on. A 9 “foot” precision over a high gap to a brick wall. Same gap, same brick wall,different spot of the wall, this time doing a cat pass to arm jump. An other one was a precision at height to a small rail of a staircase. The first precision I described came easy but after that the other jumps were all … scary…. I seriously eyed up the cat pass to arm jump. I knew the distance was far but with a clean and nice take of should not be any problem. Long story short, I already saw myself bailing ugly, gave me the chills, too many people around, excuse after excuse, did not do it in the end… The session achieved an anxiety though andmade me seriously consider a jump that clearly was in the upper third of my performance range. To loosen things up we played a quick few rounds of tag before heading off to the Chainstore for the evening modules!

 

Module 1 – Chris Mc Dougall featuring the Vivo Bearfoot Team (Author of “Born to Run” and “Natural Born Heroes”)

I did not know Mc Dougall before but after this presentation I bought “Born to Run” and loved it! Chris introduced himself as a previously unhappy and injury ridden hobby runner who after spending small fortunes on the latest running shoe technology, that did not help him, just could not believe that the doctors adviced him to quit running. Why does running shoe technology advance so much over the years but injury rates amongst runners stay the same if not went up over the last years? These and other questions led Chris on a journey described in “Natural Born Runners”. A key message from his presentation was that it is weird how EVERY sport has techniques how to do certain things but as far as it concerns running “everyone has it´s own style”. The Vivo Barefoot team was present too, and they did video analysis of volunteers and their running styles, analysing frame by frame for example how long the feet touch the ground and how long the full bodyweight was pushing on the joints when jogging. They also performed a set of basic tests, like one footed balance with closed eyes, checking the deep squat position and many more, showing that even amongst Parkour people basic body functionality is not a standard (yeah, yeah, I know about my squat,…no need to get mean about it). Chris did a demo of what he developed as a “correct” running style over the last years, showing a very upright position with a  centered body balance and lifting his feet quite high, all while making very short contact with the floor. Nevertheless, key messages of the presentation were:

  • Running shoe technology is 99% marketing
  • A lot of cushioning is useless and potentially dangerous. For example when people tend to strike their heels when running, something no one would do when there was no cushioning at the heels (see running bare)
  • Our feet are the perfect tools for absorbing impact and shock while running

Generally speaking the presentation and the book both were very entertaining and thought provoking but it has to be said that for every theory there are many counter theories, and I believe it is the same with some of Mc Dougalls statements. The Book for example, follows along something called the endurance running theory arguing that human´s main advantage over any other mammal species is the ability of long distance running and that we evolved into the perfect running machine.

So yeah, great presentation paired with some nice practical examples and me resulting in having an amazing read after my London trip and enjoying running a little more. Thanks a lot Chris!!

 

Module 2 – Andy Pearson / Thomas – Infiltration/Exfiltration (TBW Docks)

I´ll make this a short one. The guys presented us with 3 challenges of getting into certain areas that were not directly accessible. Some were fenced with barbed wire, others were secured by a bridge over water or both. Our job was to scout the situation, evalute access points, assess any risks just by looking and then react to anything ad hog. Additionally Andy threw som curve balls at us in the form of hidden security measures like chalk behind certain bars where we used to grab representing, for example preassure triggers of alarm systems or whatever sensors are out there. It was a fun topic with a serious background. Anyone willing to put himself in the line of risk when entering sealed off areas like construction sites, cranes or private property might overlook many of the dangers that these places hide. Alarm systems being the harmless ones, other ones would be being able to enter a place but not being able to exit it again. After the challenges Thomas gave us a crash course in tactical group movement that he was tought in this time in the french military. Interesting stuff.

 

Module 3 – Kristian Mc Fee – Powerlifting for Parkour

Kristian is a traceur / professional weight lifter and allaround awesome guy. He is currently training in the british talent suqad if I got that right. For an interview about his training experiences check: http://www.powering-through.com/2014/02/interview-kristian-mcphee-talks-gb.html

In his session Kristian introduced us to some weight lifting basics, showed us basic technique and explained us the benefits of each exercise for our Parkour performance all while letting us test the stuff we were talking about with unloaded bars.

 

Module 4 – Blane – Offground Challenges in the Chainstore

Blane showed us 3 stations with a variety of offground challenges. One of the challenges was like a mini Ninja Warrior course AND we had Teige Palmers (Teghead), who actually competed in Ninja Warrior to demo the route for us. It was quite hard consisting of small pieces of wood on ropes to be used as grips, swings on bars and a lot of traversing. It was fun but I was already really really tired.

I was happy when the sessions came to an end and knew the next day would be physical. I got “home” as quick as I could, took a shower, ate something and dropped dead just to get up a few hours later with a worse than ever SERIOUS muscle ache that now had me tortured for a few days already. LET´S DO THIS! -> Check part 3 (and last) for what happened on the final day of RDVX!

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.