Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Visit to Paris - training with the Yamakasi, classes at the ADD Academy, and a stop by the 2WS Store

Since London is a whole lot closer to Paris than Boston I decided to take advantage of my proximity to the city of light to spend a few days there before heading to Thailand.

My visit to Paris was pretty productive despite the short duration and I managed to fit in a grueling training session with Chau and some of the other guys at the hill/stairs in Torcy, attend one of the ADD Academy classes being held at Bercy, and spend a fair amount of time at the 2WS boutique near Chatelet.  There are a number of new products in the pipeline for the upcoming spring and summer seasons and I got a chance to try them on an give some input into the designs.

One of the new custom-printed t-shirts.

There are new colors available for both pants and tops.

The Takare is now available in "Cherry Red".

If you can recognize the arms, you've spent way too much time with me...
While I was at the store some of the guys showed me a recent “reportage” that aired on France 3 about the ADD Academy and the classes that it offers in Paris.  It is especially notable because it was done by a French reporter that actually took the time and effort to try to get to know what l’art de déplacement/parkour/freerunning actually is, instead of the usual dismissal that the French media gives to the sport, labeling it as an activity performed by a bunch of kids from the banlieue that want to be stuntmen and get on tv (or worse, an illicit activity by bunch of street youth training how to become acrobatic burglars.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

WFPF Launches “College Parkour”

I saw this press release earlier today and am drawing attention to it because it not only poses a lot of interesting questions about the future of parkour/freerunning in the USA, but it also highlights a number of the cultural differences that seem to exist within the parkour scenes in different countries.

I’m sure that many traceurs would have differing opinions about the vision of David Thompson, the WFPF president, mentioned in the article, who hopes to “see every college in the United States have a Parkour/Freerunning club or team, to one day see sanctioned inter-collegiate Parkour events, to one day see young people choose a college because of their great Parkour program, or get into a college with a full paid Parkour scholarship!"  While this vision may seem especially strange to non-Americans for whom the concept of “university sponsored athletics” may be unfamiliar, for those of us that are well-acquainted with the system it does not seem that far off.  Having seen the full variety of athletic options available when I was at Davidson, I don’t find it too difficult to see a “parkour club” developing there, just like we had rugby, tennis, water polo, softball, windsurfing… 

The question then becomes, what does this parkour/freerunning club do?  While it may seem harmless to form clubs, normally these clubs have the goal of interacting with other school’s club, and the question then becomes whether that interaction should be in the form of jams, workshops, competitions, or perhaps something that has yet to be developed and manages to keep the philosophy of the sport intact while sating our desire to compete. 

The new logo for the program, as seen on their site.

While I think that the WFPF’s announcement is a great step towards the development of parkour/freerunning in the USA, especially given the power of the American university system to expose its students to new ideas and to give them opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have (I guess I’m a pretty good example), I think that a lot of thought and discussion needs to happen concerning the direction of this program and its long-term effect on the sport.  That being said, I’m excited to see what can be done with this program and look forward to following its development.

The full press-release can be found here.

A .pdf version can also be found here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Winterval at LEAP

After a day to sleep off the jet-lag I headed back to the LEAP facility for the Parkour Generations Winterval event.  The idea was initially inspired by the success of the Rendezvous events held in the summer and meant to encourage people to train in the colder months of the year as well as the nice ones.  It also served as the launching event for the LEAP Park, which had officially opened the day before.

The location for Winterval 2012. (Photo courtesy of Saiyan Parkour Academy)
While the weather was a bit colder than it is for Rendezvous in August, Winterval had the same great community feeling and atmosphere that seems to be especially prevalent at the Parkour Generations events that I've had the opportunity to attend.  The participants were divided into different groups based on their skill levels and spent the day training throughout the park and the surrounding athletic facilities with instructors from a wide variety of backgrounds.

I spent the day coaching alongside the other PkGen staff and a number of guest coaches that had been invited from the Greater London area.  While there were definitely a few downsides to not being a participant (it’s a lot colder for the instructors than most people realize) it was great to be back coaching in the UK and to be able to work with a wide variety of skill levels.  Since we had some free time throughout the day I also got a bit of time to reacquaint myself with the park (until then, I’d only trained on the park once the rest of the Westminster facility had been closed down for the night) which seemed to just as daunting in daylight.

Leon and Dan planning their station for the day.  (Photo courtesy of  Saiyan Parkour Academy)

Overall, I think that the event went really well and should be a staple event on the "parkour calendar".  Not only is there a big lack of events going on during the winter months, but I think that the there was also a bit more a "

For a better look at the park and to get a feel for the event, check out the video below that was made by fellow globetrotter Bruno "Rachacuca" Peixoto:

Some more pics...

Hanging out with some of the other instructors and making my typical "photo-face".  (Photo courtesy of  Saiyan Parkour Academy)

Photo courtesy of Parkour Generations.

The "official" group picture from the event.  I'm right above Forrest with my hat over my face- thanks Abdu. (Photo courtesy of Parkour Generations.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back to London for the LEAP Parkour Park Opening

After a few months back in the USA, my arrival back in London felt oddly similar to coming home, and it felt good to be back within the PkGen community.  Unfortunately my flight was delayed so I missed the official opening of the LEAP Parkour Park at the Westminster Sports Academy, arriving in the city a few hours after everyone had already left.  I've attached a brief clip below that includes some footage from the event.

While there was a lot of debate at the beginning of the year in the London parkour community as to the usefulness of the park with a fair amount of resistance to the concept of “paying to train” in a city with so many great public training areas, the park seems to be becoming more and more popular.  Part of it is probably because of the presence of a number of skilled traceurs at the park, especially since many of the PkGen instructors and advanced students are often at the Westminster Academy on a regular basis anyway for classes and training (the park has also seen frequent visits by the awesome "Supa XXL Sunday Training" group).  Also, despite what some veteran traceurs may claim, the park offers a convenience factor that is tough to beat, with a large variety of very challenging obstacles (both mentally and physically) located within a small training area.  Instead of having big jumps and different training surfaces spread over the entire city or neighborhood, they are all located in a compact area and are interconnected, which allows for additional creativity.  While the park is by no means a substitute for training in the greater urban environment, it is a good place to work on specific physical techniques and mental obstacles.

Travel Plans for 2012

After a few months at home I set off in the beginning of January for another 9 months of travel.  As usual my itinerary is a constant work in progress:
  • January  5 - January 1:  London, UK
  • January 11 - January 16:  Paris, France
  • January 17- February 21: Thailand
  • February 21- Feburary 23: London, UK
  • February 24 - June 27:  Gerlev, Denmark
  • June 27 - July 15: To be determined (Possible travel in Denmark, Norway, Poland....)
  • July 15 - July 22: Gerlev, Denmark for the European Gathering
  • July 22 - September: London, UK for the Olympic Games
  • September 2012 - TBD: Boston, USA

* As usual, all plans are subject to change based on whim, weather, and opportunity.

New adventures to come (with new blog posts to follow of course!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Training in Boston & Trial Classes in December

Since I'd spent most of my time back in the USA thus far gallivanting around the country checking out the scenes in other cities I decided to spend some quality time with my family and check out places to train in Boston (more specifically, Somerville- my part of Boston).

Map of Somerville's in relation to the rest of Boston, courtesy of Google Maps.

I was pretty anxious to find some good places to train so spent most of my free time roaming around my city and the surrounding ones trying to find good places to train.  While I didn't find anything that resembled Elephant & Castle or UNC Chapel Hill, I did find a number of places that have a lot of potential within the Boston area, two of which are pictured below.

One of the cooler spots in the area, called the "Baby Pool" for some reason by some of the local traceurs.

Lots of potential at the Josiah Quincy School, but unfortunately it's off limits a lot of the week due to school being in session. 

Another view of the school's entrance, a perfect place to train on the weekends.

Since I’d had a number of people express interest in having me lead parkour classes for their kids I held a few "unofficial" classes in a local park a few days per week throughout December.  Despite the cold weather and lack of advance notice, the classes went really well and the kids classes in particular quickly filled up to the point where I had to set a cap on the number of participants in order to keep things manageable.  While it seemed like I had to head out as soon as things felt like they were going smoothly, it was a great trial for what will hopefully be established on a more permanent basis in a few months (more details to come).

Warming up.

A bit of conditioning after playing around on the rails.

Stretching at Prospect Hill, the site where the first American flag was raised on January 1st, 1776.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A weekend in NYC and visiting with NYPK

After a few days at home I headed to New York City for my family’s annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Big Apple.  As I had been anxious for a chance to check out the parkour scene there, I decided to leave a few days early to explore a bit before my family arrived.

After some facebook networking I managed to get a hold of some of the guys involved with NYPK and ended up meeting them at the Tompkins Square Park.  The park includes one of the classic playgrounds that has become well-known around the world via the internet due to groups like the “Bar-barians” and "Bar Starz".

These playgrounds seem to be much more popular in NYC than other American cities.

While comparably spartan to many of the newer playgrounds with lots of stupid plastic bits, they offer much more room for creativity and exploration...

.... and are a traceur's dream for training.

The playground also works as a great place to train parkour.  After training in the park for a while we headed to a new spot where the training became a bit more focused.  After spending most of the afternoon training we went to grab food and ice cream and I even managed to pick up a pair of Feivues in Chinatown for $25 (a review of their performance to come later).

Another great spot from the afternoon training session.

Lots of variety to keep us occupied for a few hours.

One of the great things about my visit to NYC was that I was able to meet a number of the guys from NYPK, an organization that has existed since 2005 and was involved in the early evolution of the sport in the USA.  I spent a lot of time talking with Exo, one of the original members of NYPK who helps to manage the organization today.  NYPK is one of the larger parkour organizations on the East Coast, and in addition to its claim to fame as one of the first American parkour groups, it remains a great networking and training tool for traceurs in the state.  Along with Exo, I met a number of other members of NYPK and traceurs from the area.  Not only was I was impressed by the level of skill that some of them had. but also be the training philosophies and ideas that I heard expressed throughout the day.
After talking for a while I hopped in to the first part of one of the NYPK training sessions before my bus back to Boston.  While the intensity level and efficiency of the training wasn’t quite the same as what I’d become used to in the UK, a lot of the exercises were very familiar and the participants seemed to really enjoy the classes.

The warm-up. 

The Empire State building in the skyline.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spotlight on Parkour in the Media: Traceurs used in UK study on orangutans

This article was recently posted on the BBC and is just one example of the increased attention on parkour in the UK, especially as a subject of study for various university researchers around the country.