Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

[note: if the intro is too long and boring, skip to the triple stars ***]

I didn't choose my screen name by chance: I was three months into my gym training back in 2007, and I said to myself "alright: if (and it was a big 'if") I'm gonna do this outside, I'm gonna stay safe, and won't do anything until I'll feel sure... sure that, at least, if something is going to happen, I won't be blaming myself for being reckless. Aside for the fact of being outside, moving and pushing the envelope a bit, of course..."; which was something I was doing anyway, in my more traditional physical and recreational type activities.

Nevertheless, I had my share of wake up calls: bouncing back from a catleap and falling on stairs (swollen forearm and pain to the ulna for weeks), hitting my knee straight into a square post (three stitches and annoying patellofemoral stress syndrome), sliding on wet grass while demonstrating rolls (minor collarbone fracture, the most common bone to break in the human body), beside the regular wear-and-tear of a bruise and a scrape here, or a cut and a ripped callus there.

So, even with this little repertoire (which frankly didn't impress me much: I could, and in fact I did, suffer most of this injuries before, mountain-biking, playing outdoor basketball, or running after cats with a little-toy-gun as a kid...), I consider myself fortunate: I had nothing holding me down for too long, and I always walked away with my legs.
But I learned to be prepared.

Two recent, unrelated and quite random episodes, though, prompted me to start this discussion and (a.) share with you my feelings and this bit of experience, (b.) try to identify injury prone situations, (c.) strongly recommend some behavioral improvements.

a.) In two very different type sessions back-to-back, I had to use my first-aid kit to its fullest extent to treat fellow traceurs, and we had to decide together if I should have driven them to an emergency room, or even if we had to involve paramedics on site.
- "Guy A" hit his inside knee against the sharp wall edge, while progressing (too fast, too self-confidently?...) on his weak-side speed vault; he didn't even fall, "stock!" was all we heard and his skin gashed open, requiring six stitches from a willing doctor friend. Guy had no health insurance to get sutured at the emergency room.
- "Guy B" hops down to the wet ground (with maybe too much momentum?...), after a well executed 3' high precision; landing on the wet/slick tiles, his feet sliding right up, and the back of his head hitting forcefully down on the granite ground: again "stock!" (louder), and I thought he cracked his skull open; but instead the very quick swelling bump was treated with an ice-pack, and after an hour and some painkiller, he was able to drive home, and eventually be fine. At first he wouldn't get up for like 5 minutes, and we probably would have preferred to see him checked, but (again) no insurance to visit the emergency room.

b.) Both traceurs could be considered being at least at an "intermediate" level, fit and strong, with a good athletic background, confident but not at all reckless, nevertheless with one "fault" (something that in sports is considered a fault ONLY in Parkour, as far as I know...): they were -as I was too when I had my above described accidents- overeager to progress, a bit too confident given the specific circumstances. They knew what they were doing but they were playing on the limit of their awareness (not their capacity!): they simply didn't foresee the accidents coming.
Accidents are not really foreseeable, but there's a difference between being surprised, and instead being completely unprepared...
We need to understand why we talk about progression (baby-steps), why BApk recommended multiple times slow progression, not because we think we may not "have" a transition, but because we believe that it's optimal to gain the necessary muscle memory and coordination, and to understand the fine mechanics of how our body moves, which will be different from how yours or anybody else's does. We need to remember why people have been preaching to train, not until you know a movement well, but until you don't know how to do it wrong anymore...
That slight difference can be worth six stitches, or a concussion.

c.) A short list of recommendations:
- be aware of your physical conditions, your level of fatigue, the difficulties and risks of the techniques you are progressing to, the safety margin you are maintaining while attempting new and old techniques, the ever changing conditions of the obstacles and their surroundings at all times;
- do whatever you can to have even a cheap health insurance: I had to ask the question twice in three days, and we had to make decisions based on that... DESPICABLE!
- make sure you tetanus boost is up to date;
- if you consider yourselves traceurs, (please!) carry with you, in your backpack, on your scooter, bike or car, a minimal first-aid kit: band-aids in different sizes, a disinfectant, clean gauzes, surgical (paper) tape, one instant ice pack, some over-the-counter painkiller... it may end up not being for you: how would you like being strong, but being useless, when a fellow traceur needs your help?

UPDATE! (suggestions from the discussion)
- watch out also for simple movements, don't underestimate the risk involved
- use the buddy-system, and if you're alone don't "push the envelope"
- if by yourself, have a cellphone and proper ID
- listen to your body's signals and self-assess your condition
- for large injuries pause for a second and get creative with what available (clothing or other improvised equipment)

Feel free to add more recommendations in the thread.
Stay safe and be ready!

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Something interesting mentioned in the Point B documentary a while ago was that tracuers rarely hurt themselves doing "big" moves. Because of the level of concentration and preparation that goes into it we hardly hurt ourselves doing something challenging to us. It's the simple movements you really have to watch out for.

The list of recommendations very sound. Good stuff!
I'm going to get a first aid kit as soon as possible.

The worst injury I got took 3 months to fully heal. I have saved myself many times, catching myself before I hit the ground wrong.

For me, It's really tempting to mirror the moves of seasoned traceurs, because let's face it, sometimes you succeed! However, one accident can put you down for a few months or for good.

In terms of training, ignoring the obvious physical discomfort, it just doesn't make sense to take yourself out of practice for that long if you want to be useful for as long as possible in life.
Great thread! man i wish something like this was around when i was just starting out - words of wisdom for sure :] (however, on second thought, i may have been to headstrong to heed this advice haha).

I'm gonna type out my story of my most horrific accident because of all the lessons i took away from it (and i hope others can take away some of the same lessons as well):

I was training by myself at a local highschool ~4 blocks from my house. With said proximity to my house, i just took my ipod (no cellphone, wallet, water, etc.) and decided to spend the afternoon training. After really pushing myself the whole day, i decided to try one more precision i had my eye on since the beginning. Long story short my shin connected with the corner of a cement block and gouged out of it a ~4inch chunk. I had no cellphone for somebody to pick me up, and i was loosing a fair amount of blood so walking with the wound open was not an option (i tried walking and got about 100yards before "TV vision" began setting in - the body's way of saying you're about to pass out).

Honestly, if it wasn't for my past military experience the story may have ended a lot worse (remember, i had no ID so if i had passed out nobody would have known who i was). After attempting to walk, body kinda just went into "autopilot" - i tore my shirt sleeve and pant leg and created a pressure dressing to stop the bleeding, and after, i was able to hobble home (and from there, my housemates took me to the emergency room - yes, i did have insurance [yay family plans!]).

SO! the things i learned from this experience:
1. ALWAYS have a cellphone and wallet on you (for emergencies AND for identification - if you're training by yourself and get knocked out/pass out, paramedics need to ID you!!!)
2. KNOW your body's signals for when you're tired!! and when you're tired, your jumps will be less powerful, etc (so even if in your mind you know you should be able to make a precision, cat leap, etc. take a second to self-assess).
3. If possible, train with a buddy! and if you're on your own, try not to "push the envelope" too far - work on the basics!
4. (As SafeNSure wrote above) train with a basic first aid kit handy, and for large injuries (like mine) pause for a second and get creative with your clothing! you can bite off the stitching in your teeshirt sleeves, and the sleeves can double as a tourniquet, as a gauze bandage folded up, as a regular bandage wrap, or even as a headband! :]

anyway sorry for making this reply kinda wordy, SafeNSure you inspired me to share my experience haha :] hope some of y'all can take stuff away from this ramble ^^
This is great... I've added your and the others' suggestions in the TO!

Latest unfortunate example of "watch out also for simple movements, don't underestimate the risk involved"...


Traceurs are lucky: our environment won't attack us, nevertheless it has got teeth.
It's not deep and cold, but it might be slippery, or otherwise treacherous...

Please make sure you keep that in mind when you "get in the water", and be prepared: knowing what to do and what not, keeping a cool head, having a safety plan in place may save your life, a limb, or even just the day.

For a recent example of preparedness and prompt reaction see

Just remind people of how I broke three teeth by trying to progress too fast.

...but you became a lovely individual. :)

I'm a noob.  Should I wear knee and elbow pads and helmet, like I do for skate?

Nothing one can wear can substitute learning progressively, carefully and remaining widely within one's limits.

But you can wear whatever you want, that makes you feel safe, and doesn't hinder your movements...


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