Moving beyond the 10.0 - The Journey from Gymnastics to Parkour

Melanie Hunt Gymnastics

Concrete Diveroll 

APK is very happy to intorduce this series of articles written by Melanie Hunt. She talks about her personal journey from Gymnast to Traceuse and in the process gives advice that is suitable for anyone who practices the disciplines of Parkour and Freerunning. So far there are 6 in the series which we'll relase over the next 6 weeks. In the first article, Melanie introduces the series, talks about what it feels like to start parkour, and then goes into her first topic, Air Awareness. Since she can land back fulls on solid ground, I'd say it's worth a read :) Read more for the full article.


Melanie Rainy Vault

Walking into a parkour gym or going to a jam session for the first time can be quite an eye opener for those of us who are used to working out in air conditioned spaces filled with foam pits, chalky apparatuses, and a myriad of cushy blue mats. All of the sudden there are wooden blocks, a cluster of pipes called ‘bars’, and of course the daunting 8-12 ft walls that are for…climbing? And what’s this about all the concrete? Yet, we watch these traceurs and traceuses leap from obstacle to obstacle like they are bounding off a spring floor. How do they do it?
Good news: Whether your experience with gymnastics comes from years of competitive team, a recreational class, or a high school team there are several basic things you have already conditioned yourself to do that are very useful in parkour. Yet, for as many strengths gymnasts have coming into parkour, we have some areas in which we specifically have to break gymnastics habits in order to train this new type of movement.



Body /Air Awareness and Muscle Memory

Mel BarsFrom years of bouncing on trampolines and flipping into pits we know that when training an acrobatic sport, it is important to know where you body is at all times – especially when moving, flipping, or spinning faster than your eyes can easily spot. Essentially having good air and body awareness means you know where the ground is without having to see it and where your arms and legs are without having to directly look or concentrate on them.

For example, where it may take a beginning parkour student months if not years to learn a back tuck you have little to no fear of throwing your body backward off a 4 ft block. You know you will automatically set, get your hips over your head, and land with two feet planted squarely below you.
It’s typically easy for you to form your body into hollow and arch positions, and keeping your legs together and toes pointed is as natural as breathing. This body awareness is very helpful in vaults, tricks, swinging on bars, and learning new skills. As soon as your instructor or fellow practitioners tell you to get your hips higher in the air before tucking through your hands on a kong vault, you’ll know exactly what they mean as well as how to make the correction.

However, the ‘automatic ‘muscle memory must be broken when learning parkour skills that are not directly transferrable from gymnastics. For example, the Webster (yes, there is a new set of terminology you’ll need to learn) is a combination of a front tuck and an Aerial. The take off is similar to an Aerial. It is a one footed takeoff using a downward swing of your arms and bending your front leg before lifting your chest up and beginning your flip. Then, instead of turning sideways and straddling in the air, you duck your head under, let your knees come together in a tuck and finish the flip forward, rotating directly over your head. This can feel a bit weird at first, especially since you may be practicing on hard mats or grass.

Don’t worry! You don’t need to ‘chuck it’ like you may into a pit. Learn new skills step by step, always making sure you land as safely as possible. (That’s where a strong sense of air awareness kicks in!) A good way to practice the Webster is by starting the aerial/side sumi sideways (like usual) and then landing on two feet. Then slowly angle your landings closer and closer to front. It takes a lot of practice to break away from what your body is comfortable with but by using what you already know you will be able to start doing skills that aren’t in the official ‘code of points’. Plus, you’ll get that feeling we live for – the excitement of mastering a new skill!


Mel Portrait


Melanie was born Augusta, GA and grew up in Chicago, IL. She started gymnastics at age 3, was a Level 10 gymnast, did D1 varsity gymnastics at Michigan State University and club gymnastics at the University of Michigan. She coaches three high school gymnastics teams in Fairfax County Virginia and classes at a local gymnastics club. She also loves her day job teaching high school English. Friends with Levi Meeuwenberg and Travis Graves, she started parkour and freeruninng a year ago at APK Academy in DC and picked it up quickly! Mel loves traveling and doing almost anything active.  Her favorite thing about freerunning is the creativity and almost limitless opportunities to learn new skills. She says "It lets you fly".

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