Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

As traceurs we all encounter a great deal of obstacles, but most of them we are able to surpass after some practice (that is what parkour is all about, after all). However, there is one obstacle that is taller than the highest wall, longer than the widest gap, and deeper than the greatest drop. I'm talking, of course, about irrational fear.

I'm not going to offer a solution to getting rid of all your fear - if I had one, I'd being doing cat leaps in a vault filled with giant blocks of gold, Scrooge McDuck style. However, a friend of mine recently said something on the subject that I thought was pretty profound.

We were eating out at this together. It was a busy night, and had the misfortune of being seated next to what had to be the sloppiest eater alive. This guy was a mess - some of his food came sloshing onto our table.

"Look buddy," my friend says to him, "can you not spray your shit onto our food?"

The guy looks up, and I see how totally buffed out he is. "Hey BUDDY," he replies, "how 'bout you shut your fucking face? I'm going to snap your fucking neck."

I'm ready to get the hell out of the place, but my pal just sat there. He moved his face in close to the other guy's, motioned for a waiter to come by, and asked him to move the asshole somewhere else. He went away eventually, after a bunch of cussing, saying that he'd "rather get away from these shitfaces anyway".

Anyways, I was pretty surprised, and asked him after the meal how he was able to keep his shit together when the guy was threatening him like that.

"Oh," he replied, "I served in the Israeli military when I was around your age. After you've had people who genuinely want you dead and are willing to shoot at you for it, after you've had tons of genuine fear, everything seems a lot more mellow." I left it at that, but I've been keeping it on my mind since.

I guess the moral of that whole bit there is that fear gets weaker the more you experience it. The best thing to do is not to reject it or to push it away, but to accept it, embrace it, integrate it, and act despite it. In this way, you can learn to ignore and eventually control the fear.

Wow, that was a bit more than I planned to write... let me know what you think. D:

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Comment by Bonez415 on December 5, 2009 at 7:23am
@ Puck... im with the marines on this one... "Fear is not in my vocabulary1"... lol... and also "pain is weakness leaving the body"... thi latter is really the one i believe in... ill go crazy even after i injure myself because i know the worst is yet to come and ill b ready for it...
@Marisa Fearlesness becomes stupidity depending on teh individual. i for one am extremley dumb... so my stupidity generally ends up injuring me more... lol...
@Seng... QUIT TYPING SO DAMN MUCH!!!! i never end up reading your whole entry cuz its always a damn essay... lol... love ya man
@Niko ... c u on sunday...
Comment by puck on December 3, 2009 at 9:42pm
Thanks, Niko.
I'm glad to hear that the phrase, "The only thing we've to fear is fear itself" bothered somebody else besides me as well. :)
Comment by Nick Romero on December 3, 2009 at 5:50pm
"The best thing to do is not to reject it or to push it away, but to accept it, embrace it, integrate it..." Puck, I couldn't agree more with this statement - though I'd argue the next sentence regarding ignoring and controlling fear is contradictory..

Fear of course is one of the most primal senses, serving generations as a crucial element of survival. In that function it is a well developed tool in gauging a fundamental aspect of our parkour practice -- safety. Let's not attempt to conquer fears, but acknowledge them, work advantageously with and through them while staying focused on the progression-oriented path.
Comment by puck on December 2, 2009 at 5:13pm
Good point, Seng. Hadn't really thought about it that way... nice, nice.
Comment by Seng on December 2, 2009 at 5:07pm
I think what the story above shows is that fear is not entirely an internal process. The Isreali guy understood the difference between when someone really wants to kill him and when someone is expressing something else which has very little to do with him other than his proximity or decision to engage. His ability to deal with fear wasn't through conditioning it out of himself through varying doses of fear, it was through experience gauging the difference between real and perceived danger and his capacity to manage the consequences of miscalculation. Certainly he had to deal with fear a lot internally, but some of his ability to handle a situation in which others would feel fear had to do with going outside himself and understanding others.

For those inclined toward reading academic papers, here's an interesting one about the geography of fear and how it plays out in parkour. From the paper:

"To practise parkour at any level is to be open and vulnerable to space which in turn requires the blurring together of bodily maturity and habit with play and spatial immaturity; neither maturity nor immaturity ever being complete"

Or perhaps, in fewer words, "train hard, stay humble."

Like a physical obstacle, fear doesn't really get stronger or weaker, it doesn't conquer of become conquered, it just is. We learn different aspects of fear the same way we learn- and perhaps even grow fond of- the differences between the a polished stainless steel rail, sticky in the heat which is softening the rubber of our shoes, and one covered with chipped paint and rust, sticky because of its roughness. The rails don't go away when we ignore them and they don't really care how long it took for us to get that precision or kong involving them, but the more we familiarize ourselves with them, the more we understand the emotions we attach to them. the more we will see them not as obstacles but as opportunity.
Comment by hillexallen on December 2, 2009 at 2:46pm
Good post.

Yes, l think fear is like an obstacle in that we should pay good attention to it when it gets in our way, but we should also overcome it when necessary.
Comment by SafeNSure on December 2, 2009 at 1:48pm
...see also: It's All Mental.

Especially the related video...
(I think I like that better than the recent Ilabaca vid...)
Comment by puck on December 2, 2009 at 1:32pm
There are moments when the fear is necessary. I'm talking about the times when the fear is arbitrary and hinders your movement, like the kind described in Dog's article here:
Comment by monk on December 1, 2009 at 9:26pm
good question Marisa, that line is too fine and too subjective. i interchange fearlessness with overconfidence-- just short of stupidity
Comment by marisa on December 1, 2009 at 1:21pm
Nice story, thanks for sharing. The subject of fear as an obstacle comes up a lot in pk (related) discussions and it's an interesting paradox how abolishing fear can mean indulging in recklessness. I've found myself asking the question, at what point does fearlessness become stupidity?

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