Thanks, kaos, for digging into what this parcouring thing is all about. Regarding this particular competition and the way it came about, I agree, it seems to be very much against what parkour is about.
However, about competitions in general, including ones which award prizes, I am still non-opposed and still believe it is not inherently damaging. Aside from the usual sports I played growing up, the two most recent competitive activities I've dedicated myself to have been ultimate (frisbee) and bike messengering, sort of (I'll get into why "sort of" in a bit).
For those unfamiliar with ultimate, I will spare the mechanical details aside from saying it's a field sport played with a disc and shares certain elements of play with soccer, American football, basketball and a number of other tradition sports. One aspect of ultimate which makes it unique among competitive team sports is that it is self-officiated, even at the highest levels. Players on the field make the calls and, for the most part, are responsible for settling their disagreements. Another unique idea, at least as far as it is explicitly included in the rulebook, is the Spirit of the Game (SotG) which reads:
"Ultimate relies upon a spirit of sportsmanship that places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of mutual respect among competitors, adherence to the agreed upon rules, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate unsportsmanlike conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting opposing players, dangerous aggression, belligerent intimidation, intentional infractions, or other 'win-at-all-costs' behavior are contrary to the Spirit of the Game and must be avoided by all players." (for more, see http://www.upa.org/spirit)
In addition to the traditional recognition for winning games, I think every tournament I've been to has included a Spirit award which is voted on by attending teams and awarded to the team which most exemplifies the SotG. Often it is the team which is happy to be there and doesn't care about winning a point, but just as often it is a team which plays hard and is highly competitive but still respects their opponents and the game. One of the coolest things I've seen in sport was at the 2000 world championships when the USA open division team won both the gold medal in the regular competition as well as the Spirit award, proving that it's not just a consolation prize for congeniality.
As to the bike messenger world, for many years there have been races ranging from after work alleycats (held on uncontrolled streets) on up to the Cycle Messenger World Championships (held on a closed racecourse). These are events which originated in and are organized by the international bike messenger community. Even though the events have often had corporate sponsors (including Red Bull more than a couple times), the structure and rules have always been decided upon by the organizing messengers. Despite being organized around a main race, most attend for the party as much as it they come for the competition and trade convention. Messengers understand that these races are not true reflections of the work day so while racing is all good fun and the prizes are often greater than what some pro bike racers will ever see, winning the competitions doesn't necessarily earn one universal recognition as best or even fastest messenger. So what I meant by "sort of" is that, aside from no longer working as a messenger and no longer racing, the racing was never as important as the social atmosphere.
(continued in reply because the forum cut off my long-winded response)
So now that I've bored you with my recent lifestyle history, here are a couple main points I see tying them together:
1. Competitions should be recognized for the arbitrary structures that they are. Understanding this arbitrariness should effect some reflection on what an individual is willing to risk to win and on what winning means at all. Even if the prizes are great, awareness of the real value of winning will affect the path individuals choose to get there, if they decide to go at all. Winning can and should be defined in more ways than one.
2. It is possible to create light using the dark. Competition can be a central attraction to an event, but it should never eclipse the rest of the event which can be used for a number of positive things (exchange of ideas, recruitment, getting people out and connecting with one another, increasing awareness of parkour by contacting media outlets and controlling the spin, fundraising, etc.). If we really want to spread the word of parkour, I think it would be limiting to ignore some of the most effective methods to attract interest because we worry if we are able to influence the reception.
I think events like the parcouring stuff are unavoidable and it's not in the best interest of parkour to ignore them and hope they go away on their own. It makes more sense to me to be more public about actual parkour events (whether they be things like regional jams, PK Generations, or counter-compeitions) so the dominant perception of the discipline doesn't become the falsely manufactured one.
(I wish my German were better so I could write intelligent responses on the parcouring.eu forum.)
The reason I brought up ultimate is because it seems like a lot of folks' objections to competition is the idea that there is no way to be directly competitive without disrespectful, dangerous and secretive behavior. Ultimate addresses this by immediately saying that there are a number of things more important than winning. There may be other competitive sports which have similar clauses in their rulebooks, but this is just the one I have experience with.
I have mixed views. I'm not solely pro or anti competition. It depends on the intent of the competitor, not the competition. If someone wants to push them self and expand their boundries, I think that's a great thing. I know I always do better and push myself in competition, and I ENJOY it. but it your competing for the prize and glory, thats a no-no.
also, I'm fine with freerunning competitions as long as the difference between fr and pk is acknowledged.
I'm still not sure about freerunning competitions. In my mind it is sort of "more tricks, less philosophy." However, Sebastian founded it as a non-competitive activity, so we should probably respect that. Maybe, if somebody wanted to create a pk/fr competition, they could call it something else, so the "purists" don't get offended. I would be fine with it as long as it is a separate sport from pk/fr, and the point of it is to win, not to train and get better.
By the way, I'm also fine with friendly competition where everybody involves benefits from it. I remember at my first jam, kaos and Andrea were trying to catbalance longer than each other. It seemed that they were friendly to each other about it, as they were laughing and having fun, and it seemd that both of them benefitted. That is good competition in my opinion.
Friday's fatal luge accident has been bringing up some questions concerning the dangers of pushing the sport, or any sport for that matter, to be "bigger, faster, more spectacular." This article reminded me of the ongoing parkour + competition discussion. The following quote especially resonated: "The Olympics, too, fall prey to the notion propagated by football and baseball and other mainstream sports that progress is defined by something measurable."
I suppose all sports are faced with the question of how to push athletes to excell, without pushing them over the edge and into danger. So, how do we push traceurs to excell? I know that parkour is largely an internal process and part of the satisfaction is that cultivation of personal willpower. But parkour is also a communal, community oriented practice where the progression of an individual is also the accomplishment of the group. Conversely, I'd rather see those being challenged overcome, than drop out of parkour. As a community, how do we cultivate this?
I really hope this made sense, I'm trying to cut down on the coffee, but the result is a messy brain.
Again, I like to go back to the basics:
"Parkour is the discipline of overcoming obstacles in one's path using only the human body."
- It encompasses the training, the practice, and the emergency/utilitarian use of Parkour.
- It abides to all speed, safety, longevity, efficiency criteria necessary to achieve its utility goal.
The mentioned Utility Goal derives directly from Georges Hebert's Natural Method's motto "Être fort pour être utile" ("Being strong to be useful.").
Utility, to one self and others, can and has to be measured over time, thus longevity comes into play.
Longevity is directly affected by training safety.
Hence: a parkour practitioner excels when she/he slowly, but surely and safely progresses in his practice through the years, maximizing not the momentarily result, but the overall utility.
I also hope this makes sense, because it should...