Greater than the Sum of its Parts

           The physical aspect of Parkour is nothing special in this world of amazing feats and extreme sports. Running, jumping and climbing, rolled into a grownup version of playground hijinks. Focus on the moves, and you are left with a shell, an empty vessel standing amongst a shelf full of empty vessels. Parkour, like many arts, contains the potential for a greater purpose. This may not be inherent in its physical aspect alone, but rather, it is the responsibility of the practitioner to enhance their training with the mentality required to establish this purpose.

            The world is full of obstacles; mental, physical, emotional, social…the list goes on. It’s as if reality and nature conspire against our progress, or rather, our progress conspires against nature. Butting heads with the wall lasts only long enough to waste your time, approach obstacles head on and you will last just as long. We’re left with poor tools for a petty job, attempting to muscle our way through ever stronger setbacks with ever-weaker faculties. Perhaps we can learn to absorb, redirect and adjust to the obstacles at hand, use their strengths as our strengths, and create a constant sense of flow amidst a landscape jagged with harsh lines and concrete realities just waiting to be overcome. Take the time to step outside your body, outside the physical, and realize the mental landscape within which we train. The obstacles are your mind, and the path lies somewhere between mindfulness and thoughtlessness.

So within all physical practice there must exist a concrete foundation of mental training. The strength of will and focus will be the greatest asset that you could gain from Parkour, or any other art, for that matter. When you train, your thoughts must be anchored to a mindset of stillness that enhances this strength. The goal isn’t to simply learn the next move or create the next sequence, but rather, to internalize the moves and sequences and expand the state of being that blurs the line between thought and action. Left in the place of a trick-list is an internal stillness, no matter how fast you may run, and a silence born on disciplined focus and mindfulness of the moment at hand. Without this goal Parkour is nothing but moves, a mere game that we play to pass the time between setbacks and disappointments.

You open the door, stepping out onto the cool fall grass. As you warm up, you shift your attention to your breath, long and slow. Once you have created a sustainable cadence, you focus on the rhythm of movement and breathing, stilling your mind, focusing on the task ahead. Taking off at a jog, the steady motion of your body is the backdrop for a mindset of acceptance and absorptive presence. You see no obstacles, only a steady stream of constant motion, spurred on by the many possible paths that arise. Your body knows the way, so instead of fighting the wall, the rail, the gap, you allow yourself to move past, over and through it, maintaining this mindful nature, drawn by the infinitely varied paths at hand and the ability to effortlessly move within any environment you choose.

Without this mentality, you are left with running, jumping and climbing, so whether or not you choose to maintain some sense of mental focus during training is inherent in whether or not you wish to be practicing an art that is greater than the sum of its physical parts. The state of mind isn’t a matter of some instant transformation mid-technique, but rather a product of diligently applying a state of mindfulness to all training, and eventually, all of your everyday life. This is the real value of our art, as a vehicle for achieving a flow state not only during our runs, but also during our everyday interactions. Once we are able to retain this state during any and all events in our lives, we will truly understand the goal of Parkour, to create endless opportunities for progress where others see only obstacles.


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Written by Jesse Woody   
Sunday, 06 November 2005 09:42
Last Updated on Monday, 13 December 2010 22:05