Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

Two BApk representatives, Jodie and Giorgio, attended American Rendezvous in Columbus, Ohio from May 28 to 30, 2010.

Hosted by PKHorizons at their second edition bringing over from Europe PKGenerations coaches and assistants (Stephane, Dan, Blane, Chris, Annty, Alli, Dom) and -for the first time in the US- members of the original Yamakasi founders (Yann Hnautra, Châu Belle Dinh, Laurent Piemontesi), now Majestic Force.

The three day event started Friday with a natural environment training throughout Hocking Hills State Park, and continued in a more typical parkour setting at Batelle Riverfront Park, downtown Columbus, the following days.

Friday, Jodie and Giorgio checked in with the well prepared PK Horizons volunteers. During registration, the French/British delegation arrived, in the most unpretentious and uneventful way; brief, casual greetings were exchanged, without a formal introduction. Once on site, Dan Edwardes from PKGen split the roughly 100 participants in 4 groups, assigning them two PKHorizons group leaders each, who guided them for the whole day. Then, one Yamakasi and two PKGen coaches and assistants were assigned to each group.

The temperature and humidity itself were quite a "warm up", nevertheless the coaches ran everybody through a thorough but still manageable conditioning program. The location and the general conditions made for a very different experience (muddy ground, slippery rocks, uneven surfaces), so props to coaches watching out for practitioners' safety, and to everybody for staying within their boundaries. As planned "we started together, we finished together" (!).

The beauty and scenery of the spot and surroundings allowed for a very pleasant interaction among all participants. At the end of this first day nobody was thinking "Yamakazi!" anymore... it was only Chau, Yann, and Laurent. While their role of motivating everyone throughout the day was fully accomplished, equally important were the PKGen instructors running drills, and supporting everybody at the most challenging times. To end the day we all attended a video presentation, for which PKHorizons was able to provide a perfectly equipped Ohio State University facility.

Film maker Julie Angel, long lasting PKGen partner, introduced a succession of classic parkour clips. Leitmotif of the presentation was celebrating the union and continuity between the first French parkour family and the British promoters of the discipline internationally. Between the lines it emerged how Stephan Vigroux has been, among others, the successful trait d'union, instrumental to the collaboration with the Yamakasi, ensuing to the preservation of their "original method".

Saturday's session started out with a bigger group of about 130 participants, a pleasant feeling of acquaintance, and a lighter than expected conditioning warm up. After breaking up into groups, and doing some quick running balance exercises, Jodie’s and Giorgio’s group moved to what would have become the central focus of the morning: precision, foot-placement, and intention. The only female coach present, Annty, was able to lead her group to emphasize the importance of small, precise adjustments in everybody's jumps and landings. Yann stressed the value of "energy" (intention?) and "imagination" (visualization?) in all movements. He also mentioned the importance of "smiling" (positivity and correct breathing) and "relaxing" for successfully attempting new techniques. Big props to the Majestic Force members for expressing themselves in good English, and always making sure that their message would come across, one way or the other.

After breaking for a short lunch, the day continued with random vaulting to land-and-roll, with a strong emphasis on speed, and reducing transition times. Stephan's knowledgeable and encouraging guidance kept everyone highly motivated and engaged. The technically packed afternoon continued with follow-the-leader “hot lava” rounds, and a heart pumping session of wall runs, pop-vaults, running precisions, etc. High-pace circuits that felt like "Woot! This is what parkour is all about!".

But at the end of the day, throughout the many bits and pieces of conversations, after more rail precisions, cat traverses, climb ups and you-name-it, it clearly emerged that it wasn't: these gentlemen coming from overseas clearly believe that parkour is a mean, not an end. Parkour is their way to a stronger body and a stronger spirit. It's a holistic approach to parkour that they forcefully want new waves of practitioners to understand and propagate. As they say: "it's not for everybody, but that's THE way it was meant to be".

And finally they showed everybody how that's done.

On Sunday they pulled out of their traceurs backpack a gruesome 2 hour parkour conditioning session that was more along the lines of what some expected (or feared?) to begin with: never ending strength and power drills, alternated with many different running exercises brought to exhaustion, and based on the 'mantra' of the team-, or better the 'squad'-spirit: never quit, help your mate and finish as a group. After the cool down and regenerating lunch, it was time for free play, but the level of communal participation at that point was such that people would simply keep on drilling individual techniques (power jumps, running precisions, wall-spins...) with the various coaches as fellow practitioners at any (serious) parkour jam anywhere around the world. At that point BApk reps had to get going and board the flight returning them home, while the fortunate who could stay longer attended a cookout and an ensuing Q&A session.

All in all a very positive experience (maybe a bit warmer than expected: high 80s in the shade, with very little breeze, and "river-front" humidity), absolutely worth the expense and the time invested. Beside all the thrilling personalities involved, and the good representation of national communities (among many others: Alissa from Wisconsin, Ozzy from Hawaii, Alan and Bao from N.Carolina, Brandee and Colin from Seattle, David and Andres from PKCali, Nico and Reno from Santa Cruz, Sean from Michigan, and of course BApk local Sylvan), and the obvious immediately parkour-training and -coaching related knowledge, there may be one unasked question that remains unanswered:

Is this very serious, almost elitist approach to parkour the most likely to capitalize on its own appeal, benefiting the interested masses the most? Or, while pushing oneself and each other physically, would it be possible to push the concept a bit further, in the attempt to reconnect also the less athletic, the more distracted, the somehow intimidated, and even the lazy ones to their inner child? Is this the job of the local communities? To diffuse the holistic approach to parkour without watering it down, while at the same time keeping it accessible to everybody?

And finally: can the local communities do this, while at the same time preventing parkour dilution, and opposing sponsored, extreme-sports-type competitions, as well as mainstream commercialization efforts in general? Hardly without some support of the older, overseas brothers, in our humble opinion.

[please kindly forward corrections or specifications to BApk]

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Comment by Bay Area Parkour on June 22, 2011 at 1:55am

Good coverage of day 2 (this video was released a full year after the event tieing in with 2011 edition, covered separately):

Great testimonials and some familiar faces...

Comment by Bay Area Parkour on August 10, 2010 at 10:05am
Teaser coverage of the first day by Julie Angel (PKGenerations cinematographer):
Comment by Julien on July 10, 2010 at 9:32am
Thanks for the post!
Comment by The_Monkeyman on June 2, 2010 at 9:46am
Wow, quiet an adventure you guys had :) Wish all of us were there.
Thanks for posting this.
Comment by b2c on June 2, 2010 at 1:04am
lol sounds like a very expensive bapk sunday sess haha! as the the whole seriousness of it, like Teghead said, its all alot of rubbish in there, parkour n freerunning are both pointless activities! i dont know what eveyone is so desperate for the pros to tell them what parkour is, parkour is just whatever u get out of doing this sport, kinda futile trying to get people to agree on a mass definition. personally i jsut htink parkour is shortcutting from A to B.
Comment by June Huang on May 31, 2010 at 9:00pm
Glad you guys had a great trip. I'm sad I couldn't join up. :( Hopefully, next year!
Comment by N_o_F_l_o on May 31, 2010 at 8:10pm
Thanks for the very comprehensive write up, Giorgio!
Comment by Seng on May 31, 2010 at 6:47pm
Excellent post! Really wish I'd been able to make it for this long training session.

The question of how to preserve the parkour as a means and not an end is an interesting one. I, for one, am also of the opinion that parkour is not for everyone and that watering it down too much destroys it. Considering it, in other words, as a method instead of a result is an interesting one and perhaps would relieve some concerns of elitism of the discipline (not the same as within the discipline), ie one can still be a strong person and learn the lessons of parkour, but another activity may better suit their temperment.

Is it possible to get the content of Julie Angel's presentation? With all the cobbled together partial histories out there, many of which are picked to support a specific "definition" or parkour, it would be interesting to see what was put down by those who have been involved in it (even if it may have it's own degree of revisionism).

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