Parkour Progression

DaveSThis article was originally a forum post by DaveS.

Parkour is a training discipline. It's purpose is to help us develop our abilities. We practice getting past obstacles to movement in order to get better at getting past obstacles of all kinds. Like any training method it has many benefits, and it has a wide range of applications and can be used to hep us achieve many different things. However by it's very nature, Parkour like all training systems helps us with some things more than others.

In Parkour, the focus is on getting past obstacles. Whatever the other benefits, time spent on Parkour will go most directly towards helping you get better at getting past obstacles. Not just the physical objects around you that you might need to get past, but obstacles of all kinds, in all areas of life. In letting you get past obstacles Parkour frees you from unnecessary limits, letting you choose for yourself the path you wish to take.

What I'm going to do here is try and outline how our ability to get past obstacles develops....



Starting off - Technique
When we're a complete beginner the first and only thing we choose is to practice Parkour. We choose to do, to act. Everything else we do when we first start is just copying. After some time spent experimenting we start to understand that we can make changes to our technique and we start to gain control of our movements.

'Technique' progresses into 'Techniques'
What we start to realize after that is that there is progression in our progression. As we make progress with improving one movement we realize that we can't get past all obstacles with just one movement. For instance, no matter how good our running technique we can't run up a cliff. We start to realize that in order to be truly effective at getting past obstacles we need to try other movements, for those situations where they are needed.
So then as well as making the technique better, we start trying to learn about more ways in which we can move.

'Techniques' progresses into 'Strengthening'
The progression continues. When we have made progress in giving ourselves a choice in which movement to use we start to see that even with lots of techniques available to us there are some obstacles that are just too big. Just because we can run, jump, vault and climb, doesn't mean we can run 100 miles. We recognize that in order to really become effective we need to keep increasing our capacity, and to do that now we need to get stronger. We therefore start needing to control the difficulty of the obstacles we face.
So then as well as improving the technique, and the choice of technique, we start trying to strengthen our ability to move past obstacles.

'Strengthening' becomes 'Broad strengthening'
If we start by strengthening in one aspect, for instance our muscles, then we notice that there are still some obstacles we can't get past. For instance, no matter how strong our muscles, they can't prevent us from being distracted as we move. We start to recognize that in order to become really, really effective in getting past obstacles we need to strengthen in more respects, in all respects with regard to movement. Therefore we start needing to control more of the details of the challenges we face.
So then as well as improving the technique, the choice of technique, and one aspect of our strength, we start trying to strengthen more broadly in all areas relevant to moving past obstacles.

'Broad strengthening' becomes 'Complete strengthening'
If we keep going, the path of progression keeps going too. Even though by this point we've spent a long time improving all these things that help us move, we notice that there are still other important obstacles that we can't get past. For instance, no matter how good you are at getting past a huge, complicated, new set of thin railings when you're tried, distracted and hungry, that doesn't mean you are good at teaching or good at preparing food. We start to recognize that in order to get past these other obstacles that we face we need to broaden our abilities even further, broaden them beyond Parkour. So then, as well as improving technique, choice of technique, and broad strength with regards to movement, we start trying to improve with regards to the demands of other skills, non-movement-based skills, further broadening our training.

'Complete strengthening' becomes 'Helping others'
As we improve our own skills and strengths, we start to notice that there are some even harder obstacles that require help from other people. For instance putting up a large tent, or educating large numbers of people. We start to recognize that, no matter how capable we ourselves are, if we want to get past some of the most difficult obstacles we are going to have to have other people who are also capable. So then, as well as improving our own skills we also need to help improve the skills of others and our ability to work together, broadening the effect of our training even further.

'Obstacle' becomes 'Easy'
As we improve more of our skills and become more broadly able, we inevitably start to recognize that no matter how good we are at how many different skills, we still encounter other things we need to do, other things we need to learn. If we can move, teach and cook, we still sometimes need to fight, learn and build. The process of learning and developing never ends.
However with that realization, that the process of trying to get past obstacles is never-ending, comes acceptance. The existence of obstacles becomes a certainty of life, something solid we can base our understanding on, and so it eventually becomes a reassuring presence.
At each stage of the progression we've proved to ourselves that we can get past the obstacles we face. We've experienced the process of facing an obstacle and trying to get past it so many times that the whole process becomes easy. Once finding solutions becomes easy, we stop thinking of obstacles as problems and life become easy.

All these stages are connected in a continuous progression. Training starts with a very narrow focus for a beginner and gradually gets broader, encompassing more and more as we become more proficient at getting past obstacles. If we want to get better at getting past obstacles than it's this kind of progression we need to take. Each stage is a natural progression of not only the previous stage but of all the stages that come before it. Each one broadens our view of our training and gives us a better perspective on previous challenges, allowing us to re-evaluate our previous actions and find better alternatives.

There's no point trying to skip stages, for anyone.  Whenever we have a problem with a stage we fall back down to the previous stage. If we're not strong on that stage either we'll keep on slipping down until we reach a stage we are strong at, or reach the bottom. It is our strength at all previous stages that supports us and allows us to deal with problems in getting past the obstacles we're currently facing. Similarly, it is our weaknesses in previous stages which prevent us overcoming our current obstacles.

When some part of you fails, you fall back on what you know best.

When you fail in one activity or skill, you fall back to one you can succeed in.
When one strength fails, you fall back on another strength.
When all your strength fails, you fall back on techniques you know to control your fall.
When you fail with one movement technique, you fall back on a technique that you know.
When all techniques fail, when everything else fails, the only thing you have left to rely on is your initial choice, your ability to choose what you do.

So progress gently. If you have problems taking a step forwards, go back and finish the step you're on. The more time you spend on one obstacle the better you'll be at the one after.
Life becomes easier, not the more obstacles you get past, but the more of the process of getting past obstacles you understand.


DaveS is Chairman of the British Parkour Coaching Association, author of the BPCA's coaching standards booklet (and many other Parkour articles), and Parkour practitioner of 7 years. He is an active participant in the APK forums.

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Written by Mark Toorock   
Sunday, 13 March 2011 15:28
Last Updated on Sunday, 13 March 2011 15:33