Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

[originally posted by BApk co-founder Chris, a.k.a. Kaos, at his East Coast community site NEpk]


Learning when to use speed and power is one of the most important fundamentals in Parkour. Appropriate use of these two elements can often mean the difference between success and failure, and safety and injury. Too often people use speed to compensate for lack of technique, when properly timed power would be more effective.


The faster someone runs at an object, the more difficult it becomes to gauge the timing of his jump. As he approaches with increasing speed, he decreases the amount of time he has to decide when to jump. Once that short window of opportunity is missed the traceur ends up jumping too close to the obstacle, and must slow himself down so that his speed does not carry him directly into it. All the power used in the approach was wasted, when it could have been applied to the jump.


When using the power technique you can jump closer to the obstacle and push off of it because you have less speed directed into it. This in turn allows you to push off the obstacle and increase your distance. When jogging up to an obstacle, you have long time to gauge the distance and the amount of power you want to use. You are only committed to the jump in the final steps when you apply most of your power. That commitment is essential. Once you have decided to put all your power into the jump, there is no turning back. Conversely, using the pure speed technique you are committed from the very beginning. When running full speed at an obstacle it is very difficult to stop yourself. Not allowing any room for error makes a jump very dangerous. If you do not have your timing down perfectly, you could easily clip the object or simply crash into it.


The majority of the time, even for ... advanced traceurs, a properly timed power burst is the most effective technique in surmounting an obstacle.


read the whole article with examples>> 

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I think pitting speed v. power is a bit of a false dichotomy. Chris's point seems to be that speed forces the tracers brain to process past its abilities, but I would say that mental processing so far into a move illustrates shortcomings in developing movement to begin with. I think what it really points out is that most tracers should spend more time nailing their footwork so that it becomes part of a vault and so that the running between obstacles (not speaking of open space as an obstacle for the purpose of this post) blends seamlessly with the passing an obstacle.

Any "move" has to be set up well before the wall, window, fallen tree, etc., and the continuation afterward must be accounted for. The approach includes but is not limited to footwork, body positioning and momentum control- the same is true of follow-through. To use an example from another sport, kicking a soccer ball isn't only the swing of the leg and contact of foot and ball, it also includes how the other foot is planted, how the body mass counterbalances during the kick and how much space there is after contact to stop the leg from moving (ie if there's another player in the way, you may risk injuring the other player or yourself during the follow-through); these are the same reasons why a movements may need to be modified over uneven terrain, narrowly defined spaces, with limited run-off room, etc.

Specifically about footwork- it's the foundation for both speed and power and it needs to be programmed into one's body. Despite platitudes claiming otherwise, parkour is not natural movement any more than any other sport or martial art because none of us- Danny Ilabaca, Ryan Doyle, Olag Vorslav, etc. included- are built like the gibbons and cats we hope to emulate. So to come anywhere close, we must be very repetitive in our training to reprogram our muscle patterns. As uncool as it may sound, this may mean measuring off a vault like a place kicker to make the approach footwork as much a part of a move as the last, powerful step, the placement of the hands and the movement of the body mass. Only after making those basic movements second nature can we start adding speed or significantly increasing power. This is certainly not a training method which serves "getting a move" today or in the short term, but I think building the foundation will improve adaptability as well as facilitating and expediting learning in the long term.
yeha this makes alot of sense!
A more correct title might be "Initial Speed vs. Acceleration" -- but not that any of us are physicists or anything.. Nevertheless I think the point is clear: The rate of a successful vault is higher using a moderate speed approach, followed with an explosive burst of acceleration directly into said vault. This is due to an inverse relationship between body control and body speed/velocity.

In practice Chris would instruct people to vault an obstacle, then repeat, starting a step closer to the obstacle after every successful attempt. This method really drives home the point by gradually forcing the practitioner to generate the technique's energy at the time of vault, rather than well before.


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