Perspective #1- Chris Kessler

Perspective #1

By Chris Kessler



There is something to be said about inactivity. It breeds weakness. I profess to have been doing parkour for two years. However, over the past six months, I have slacked. Not slacked in my conditioning, for I have never conditioned, but slacked in my dedication to the discipline itself. I spend my free time finding whatever I can to keep my mind occupied and my body stationary. I don’t know when I began this rut, although I am sure it began with a plateau.

I can only be what I am, and what I am is human. My lazy state is the product of hypocrisy and jealousy. I find no shame in admitting that, as it is precisely these faults that I must assess if I can ever overcome them. Lately I have looked on my peers with envy and a secret jealousy. This has driven me to a self-deprecating state of mind. That, I am not proud of.


My training has never been uniform. In fact, I’d hardly call it training. Random sporadic jams and gym sessions fill my days, at least most of them. I have recently become an officer of the Virginia Tech parkour club (VTPK) and, along with other experienced members, have taken up the position of teaching our Beginner Sessions. I have grown to love teaching parkour to anyone who is interested. I began teaching in my hometown before going off to school, but I only had about three students. Now that my “class” has grown to over 40, I am really starting to enjoy it more. When I first stepped in front of the first group of beginners, I was anxious. I have an anxiety/panic disorder, but I felt none of that anxiety. This was excitement. I wanted to prove myself so much that I stumbled over my words, and constantly felt a dry throat. However, over the course of a few weeks, it became routine, and the words became natural. This is what I loved.

Aside from teaching, over the past month what I worked on most was learning new techniques. I don’t think that this is altogether positive, while I have learned a lot, I have also neglected a lot. Parkour is give and take, and you should always be aware of your state of training. I have been spending more time inside of the gymnastics gym than out, and I have come to realize how beneficial outdoor training is. The gymnastics gym is fun, it is soft, it is fake. Don’t think that I am in any way denying the benefits of training in a gym. In fact, I’ll be the first to say, “Go practice difficult movements where it’s safe before you hurt yourself where it’s not.” I used to think of myself as a “purist.” Over time, my ignorance to the philosophy of parkour has slowly receded and I now hold the view that labeling things is simply a waste of time.

The main things that I have learned and become comfortable with in the gym are the back flip and front flip. Over my time as a traceur I have had the ability to front flip and back flip outside, and I have lost it, at least three times. The funny thing is, now that I have a safe environment in which to train these techniques, I am less comfortable with even trying them outside. I can land front flips on the spring floor just fine, and can do a back tuck comfortably off of a six-inch mat. Yet, even with two spotters, I cannot summon the will to throw one outside. This is frustrating.

Another movement that I have been learning is the side-flip. I have never had a good relationship with moving sideways, or spinning altogether. My front-full attempts were sloppy and I gave them up, and my round-off Arabian ended in a near concussion when I missed the mat and landed head first on the concrete floor. Very much a fail. However, I have persevered with side flips, which I had previously thought “un-doable,” and have been able to successfully land them on the tumble track. While they are still sketchy, I am going to count them as a “win” in my book.


I saved one movement for the reflections section of this article. One evening in the gymnastics room, I got the courage to do a standing back tuck on the tumble track. After landing a few, I began attempting to work on my landings, especially landing in the same spot. I landed a fair amount of them before subconsciously jumping forwards while rotating. I had just landed my first gainer. While in my brain I knew that I needed to take it slow, in my heart I just wanted to push myself. I pushed too far. I landed one or two more gainers before getting cocky. I say cocky, because I totally disregarded everything I knew about parkour. Safety, progression, all went out the window in a second, and I paid the price.

My final attempt at a gainer was ambitious to say the least. The previous ones I had moved 2 to 3 feet forward, however, on this trial, I jumped too far. In fact, I jumped forward with so much momentum that I had none left to complete the rotation. I landed on my upper back and neck with my legs being thrown forcefully over my head while my right knee drove down into my shoulder. I was the proverbial pancake. That was a week and a half ago. My back has not fully healed, and I have been forced to take it easy with my training.

My advice to anyone who decides that parkour is more of an “extreme sport”  than a discipline is to learn from my mistake. Be ambitious, but not overly so. Be safe above all else. It is one thing to push yourself, it is another to skip steps and shut off fear. Fear keeps your body in check and should never be denied. Respect your fear and push against it, never past it.

This is my parkour. My experiences are what mold me. This is my Perspective.

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Written by Janine   
Monday, 26 October 2009 18:49
Last Updated on Monday, 13 December 2010 21:49