The Discipline of Parkour
By Dan Edwardes
Chinese translation by Daniel Wan
Stephane ghosting across the cityscape; Kazuma unleashing a ten-foot saut-de-chat; Forrest powering up a wall over twice his height in one fluid motion… The traceurs at the top of the game seem to be able to make the impossible seem not only possible but downright effortless. Many observers of these and similar feats find themselves asking ‘How can they do that?!’ which, for some, then becomes ‘How can I learn to do that?’ The answer is surprisingly simple – perhaps deceptively so. The answer, if ever one manages to catch and question one of these individuals, is one word: Training.
Parkour is a hard path to walk, this much is clear to all who practise properly. And yet there are no great secrets to advancing along this path, no hidden teachings or esoteric mysteries. Apply yourself to the discipline through correct and methodical training, and you will see improvements. Continue in this manner and these improvements will multiply and solidify – it’s that simple.
But if that’s the case, why aren’t there a hundred Stephanes out there, or hordes of guys queuing up to blow Forrest away in a ‘muscle-up’ contest? Well, probably for two reasons: one, in truth there are very few who possess enough self-discipline to train hard; and two, even fewer know how to train productively. That is, to train in a fashion that will produce the desired results given enough time and effort; to train in an efficient manner so that one does not plateau early on and fail to reach one’s true potential; to train smart as well as hard. Too often you will see people courting danger by ignoring the conditioning work and then practising movements they are not yet strong enough to repeat safely – hence the host of injuries and long-term joint and ligament damage many budding traceurs fall victim to.
So how can we avoid these mistakes, and so begin to set our sights on attaining true excellence in movement?
Train hard, but efficiently
It’s not just the amount of time you set aside for the activity, you have to use this time cleverly. Wandering the streets for nine hours while including a few periods of vaulting/leaping/running does not constitute nine hours’ training. It is almost impossible, and certainly counter-productive, to train in any physical discipline for nine hours per day. Olympic athletes do not undertake that amount of training, for the simple reason that they would soon incur decreasing returns. World-class rowers top out at about 6 hours per day, and that is very cleverly managed. But spend two to three hours per day actually training – which means constantly moving, drilling, repeating – and you will find yourself not only satisfyingly tired but also improving at a rapid and noticeable rate.
A distinction is often drawn between the terms ‘training’ and ‘practice’. Training can be viewed as the work that goes into developing the ability to be able to practise well one’s chosen activity. Both are necessary components of any serious approach to a discipline. However, one must also be wary of over-training which can lead to a whole variety of overuse injuries and anatomical weaknesses. Again, be efficient – devote one day to conditioning the upper-body, then the next day rest the arms/shoulders while conditioning the legs and ankles. Maybe on the third day aim for minimal conditioning and concentrate more on fluidity and combinations of parkour movements. On the fourth day you could choose to work larger, more demanding, single movements in a more measured session. On the fifth day, rest – which is just as important a component of a training regime as the actual training; both being as essential to each other’s usefulness as night and day. Whatever your regime, have a strategy for improvement and carry it out.
Train smart, constantly locating and reducing errors
Twenty years’ training means nothing if it is one year of mistakes repeated twenty times! Equally, one thousand repetitions of the same poorly-executed jump will only reinforce the error. This is because whatever you do over any substantial period of time brings about a change in your body to find homeostasis, regardless of whether you desire or value that adaptation. You do what you train, in other words. If you train inaccurately you will move inaccurately.
Learn to pay close attention to the small things. When you jump and land, make it as accurate as you possibly can and repeat that over and over again until you can be that accurate every time. Do not be satisfied with even slightly-off precisions, or overly-noisy landings. Aim for absolute control, for complete silence. Aim to master the particular movement, whatever it may be, by refining and refining until no one but yourself can tell the difference between a movement you are satisfied with and one you know to be imperfect.
Force yourself to work most intensively on the movements/aspects you find the most difficult or unnatural. If you shy away from what you are not good at and concentrate only on the things you are comfortable with, you will limit your growth and your potential. Develop both sides of the body as equally as possible – to be functional, you must be able to move off both feet, to vault on both sides, to roll on both shoulders. You will inevitably favour one side of the body, but give time to developing your weaker side and your stronger side will benefit – this is because our bodies are sympathetic in nature: what happens to the muscles of the right arm has a direct impact on the muscles of the left arm.
You have to be your own coach whenever you practise. Observe yourself; analyse your own movements; be honest with your self-appraisal. Could that vault have been more controlled, with a softer landing? Could it have been more efficient? What can I improve on? There will always be something, believe me.
Train completely, developing your attributes as well as your skills
We suggest that at least 50% of one’s training regime should be devoted purely to improving one’s physical attributes: attributes in this sense include strength, resilience, muscular endurance, cardio-vascular fitness, dynamism, and speed. Most of this falls under the broad heading of conditioning, and it simply must not be neglected.
For the best results in your parkour performance, you have to be strong enough, in all ways, to be able to cope with the physical demands of the movements. This is what is known as functional strength and is rarely the sort of strength that results from hours spent on weights machines found in gyms. Many times we have encountered gym-built individuals, carrying huge muscles, wanting to apply themselves to parkour and finding those same impressive-looking muscles to be hopelessly ineffective. There is a reason it is known as ‘counterfeit muscle’… You may be able to bench-press enormous amounts, but if you can’t pull your own bodyweight up and over a wall it just isn’t functional for parkour.
It seems that the most productive type of conditioning exercises for parkour are those exercises that actually include aspects of parkour movement. As a prime example, I will detail what we call the ‘double-tap’ drill: find two horizontal planes, one above the other by anything up to a metre. These can be two railings, a wall topped by a railing, anything so long as you can hang on without your feet touching the ground (for instance, a perfect set-up would be a two-metre wall topped by a gap of two feet and then a metal railing). Hang on the lower plane, with your feet against the wall in a cat-leap (saut de bras) finishing position. From that position explode upwards with the arms, lifting both hands simultaneously to grasp the upper plane/railing. The feet may move upwards a few inches for balance. To finish the repetition, let go and drop in a controlled and quiet movement to again grasp and hang from the lower plane/wall.
Repeat this ten times and you have completed one set: aim for ten or more sets as part of one training session, and very soon you will discover new levels of power and confidence with your arm, shoulder, and back muscles. This exercise, while very simple, is perfect for developing the upper-body dynamism and resilience (in the up and drop motions respectively) necessary for fast wall-runs (passe muraille) and controlled cat-leaps. This and other compound drills (there are hundreds to choose from…) should be performed regularly if you want to experience demonstrable progression in your practice. Strong attributes lead to greater ease in the acquisition of skill.
Parkour is a relatively young discipline and as such the number of skilled teaching individuals is small. Access to these teachers is difficult. These two facts combine with the end result that the majority of the practising community (especially outside of France) are self-taught, imitating flashes of movement from online videos or television spots. Most just do not realise the amount of hard training and sheer effort that preceded these displays of physicality, and so head out to copy movements they are simply not capable of carrying out safely and correctly. The obvious failings of imitation aside, rarely, if ever, does this simply mimicry produce talented individuals equal to those they are mimicking. Moreover, for these unfortunate imitators injuries are far more likely to occur.
And just because it is difficult to find proper instruction in a discipline does not mean one should resign oneself to training incorrectly. It all comes down to how serious you are about learning. So there is no one capable of guiding you in your village/town/city… so travel! Get on a train, or even a plane, to Paris, or to London, or wherever there is a group of competent practitioners. There are willing teachers out there, even in the fledgling parkour world, so seek them out and draw on their accumulated knowledge. Just a few sessions with such individuals are worth months of ineffectual solo training.
There are no secrets to parkour, true: but this is a double-edged sword. It means anyone who wants to find the way can do so – but it also means there are no magical shortcuts along this way. If you want to follow it, you have to walk it.
© Parkour Generations Ltd.
Stephane鬼魅般飄過石屎森林; Kazuma 在saut-de-chat之後飛了十尺; Forrest流暢的 muscle-up, 登上高於自己一倍的牆壁……頂尖的traceurs 似乎不只令不可能變得可能, 還好像不費吹灰之力. 很多人看見他們之類的都會問: “他們怎麼會做得到?” 之後, 你自然就會問 “我怎樣可以像他們一樣?” 抓住懂得parkour的人問個清潔, 得到的答案十分簡單, 簡單得令人驚訝. 兩個字: 練習.
正確練習 parkour的人都會清楚明白到, parkour是一條艱難的路. 走這條路沒有捷徑, 沒有秘密方法. 用正確的態度與方法練習, 你可以觀察到自己的進步. 如此下去, 進步就愈來愈快, 愈來愈明顯 – 就是這麼簡單.
可是這樣的話, 為什麼這世界沒有一百個 Stephane Vigroux, 或者沒有一大幫人在 ‘muscle-up’ 比賽之中勝過 Forrest? 這個可能有兩個原因: 第一, 事實上的確很少人有足夠的自律去努力鍛煉; 第二, 更少人知道如何有效地訓練自己. 有效地訓練自己, 就是消耗一定的時間與汗水, 你便知道產生理想結果的方法. 有效的訓練不會令人的進度停滯不前, 亦不會令人發展不到自己的潛能; 訓練是要艱苦, 可是亦要有腦筋. 很多時候你會看到人挑戰危險, 卻忽略了體能方面. 當自己未有足夠的力量時, 又要強行去重複做自己未能應付的練習 – 所以造成傷患, 長期關節或韌帶受損等, 令很多新手受傷.
你不只要為這活動所付出的時間, 你亦要將時間使用得宜. 在街上游盪九個小時, 偶然做一下vaulting/ 跳躍leaping/ 跑步running等練習不可叫做九個小時的訓練. 一日練習九個小時在任何運動或是紀律 (discipline) 裡都是不可能的, 當然亦會有反效果. 奧運健兒亦不會訓練如此之久, 正正就是因為成效會愈來愈少. 世界級的賽艇手一天訓練六個小時, 可是他們這時間裡非常有效的鍛煉. 一天兩至三小時真正的在練習的話 – 也就是不斷的移動, 重複的練習– 你會發現你不單累得很滿意, 而且你會在快而明顯的速度上進步.
很多時候人們會將 ‘訓練training’ 與 ‘練習practice’ 兩字的意義分開. Training 被看成在某個特定的技能上發展, 讓人在日後practice 之中, 在實用的時候能好好做出自己的活動. 任何人認真地對待一個紀律時, 兩者都是必要的. 可是, 人們一定要小心訓練過度 (over-training), 因為這樣會導致一連串的過度運動的損傷以及結構變弱(anatomical weaknesses). 再一次說, 我們要有效率 – 可以用一天去練上身, 下一天去練腿子與腳踝, 讓手/膊胳休息. 第三天可以做少量的體能, 集中於流暢性以及將parkour動作串連起來. 第四天你可以選擇做一次性的大動作, 要求更高, 動作也要有分寸. 第五天, 休息 – 休息在訓練計劃裡與真正的訓練同等重要; 兩者相輔相成, 就如白天與黑夜一樣. 無論你的訓練計劃是什麼, 你都要有策略地去進步, 並切實執行.
若然一年的時間裡, 錯誤重複了二十次的話, 二十年的訓練也不代表些什麼! 同樣地, 重複做一千次很差的跳躍動作只會將失誤加固在你記憶之中. 這樣是因為無論你長時間做什麼事情,無論您是否希望如此, 身體都會改變, 去嘗試找一個平衡點 (homeostasis). 換句話說, 就是你練什麼就會做些什麼動作. 如果你不正確地練習, 你的動作就會不正確.
學習怎樣留意小細節. 當你跳起來, 要著地(land) 的時候, 盡力將動作做得準確, 然後重覆練習, 令自己每一次的時候都做得同樣準確. 不要滿足於最少的落差, 或是吵耳的著地(landings). 你的目標應是絕對的控制, 完全的寧靜. 目標要是熟練這一個動作. 不論是什麼動作, 你都要不停練習去改善自己, 直到只有自己才知道動作有什麼不足, 其他人是看不出來的.
要硬迫自己努力練習一些自己覺得最困難, 最不自然的動作. 如果你怕了不做某些動作, 而專注做自己擅長的動作的話, 你只會減慢自己的進步以及限制潛質. 盡量平衡的發展自己身體的左右兩面 – parkour要有用處, 就要能夠雙腳都可起跳, 左右兩邊都可以roll. 無可避免地, 練習會偏向身體的一邊, 但你也要花時間在較弱的一方, 那樣你較強的一方也會得益– 因為身體的不同部份是相輔相成的: 右手肌肉發生的事也會影響到左手的肌肉.
你練習的時候就要自己當教練. 觀察自己, 分析自己的動作; 稱讚自己時要誠實. 那個vault 可否更有控制嗎? 著陸時又可以更加輕巧嗎? 動作可以更有效率嗎? 我還有什麼可以進步的? 相信我, 你總會有進步的空間.
我們建議, 一個人的訓練計劃最少有50% 是用以發展身體的基礎能力: 力度, 靈活性, 肌肉耐力, 心肌功能, 身心活力以及速度 (strength, resilience, muscular endurance, cardio-vascular fitness, dynamism, and speed). 這些大多數都屬於conditioning 這個大標題之下, 是不能被忽略的.
Parkour 做到最好, 你要在所有方面都強, 去應付每個動作對體能的要求. 這叫做 functional strength (或有功用之力量), 並不是花時間在健身儀器就可以得到. 很多時候我們遇到健身的人, 負起巨大的肌肉, 練parkour 的時候發現這些宏偉的肌肉完全無效. 原因可以叫做 ‘假肌肉’… 你可以做很多掌上壓, 可是不能將自己拉上一幅牆, 在parkour 來說沒有功用.
似乎最有效的parkour conditioning 練習是包含parkour 動作上某元素的練習. 舉例說, 我叫作 ‘double tap’的練習 (譯:即dyno): 找兩個橫向平面, 兩者之間高低相隔最多一米. 這可以是兩條柱子, 可以是牆頂上有一條柱, 高度足以令你雙腳碰不到地面. (比如一個完美的設置會是一幅兩米高的牆, 比這再高兩尺有一條橫鐵柱). 在牆頂掛著, 腳踏在牆上做個cat-leap (法文saut de bras) 完成的動作. 從這個姿勢向上爆發, 兩手同時抓向上面的柱. 腳掌可以向上移幾寸去平衡. 完成一下動作需要練習者放手, 跌下再抓住下面的平面/牆.
重複十次你就完成一set: 一次訓練裡目標是十個set, 你便很快你對手臂, 肩膀及背部肌肉的力量與信心都會進入新的境界. 這個練習雖然簡單, 可是在向上與向下的動作對上身活力以及靈活性都有很理想的效果, 也是wall-runs (法文passe muraille) 以及控制cat-leap時必要的. 如果你想有看得到的進步, 這與其他數以百計的複合練習需要有規律的實行. 有強大的基礎才更易習得技術.
Parkour比較年輕, 教授技術與分享經驗的人少之有少, 要聯絡上他們更是困難. 這都引致絕大部份練習的團體模仿網上影片與電視看到的瞬間, 都是自學而成 (特別是法國以外的人)的. 很多人輕易嘗試自己未能安全/正確地應付的動作. 他們不了解到, 華麗表演的瞬間, 背後有多少的訓練以及努力, . 模仿除了有明顯短處以外, 單單抄襲別人的動作很少能夠成就偉人. 再者, 模仿者會更容易受傷.
尋找正確的指導是困難, 但不代表你就要因此而放棄. 最終的問題都是你對學習有多認真. 沒有人能在你居住的村落/市鎮/城市可以教你… 出門吧! 登上火車, 甚至是坐飛機去巴黎, 或者倫敦, 或者任何有一群有能力的練習者的地方. 總有願意教授他人的老師, 漸有雛型的parkour 世界也如是. 找他們, 學習他們, 因為與他們數次訓練, 就已經遠比數個月的自行練習更加有用.
說練Parkour沒有秘密的方法, 是對的: 不過這有也有其好處. 因為有志者事竟成– 沒有神奇捷徑. 如果你要跟隨的話, 就要走大家都在走的路.
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