Whether you think so or not, you move differently around other people. Most of our cherished memories of Parkour are training, exploring and playing with our friends, but in between lies injury, frustration and demotivation- these factors may eventually dominate your training without attention to training solo.
Put simply, if you don’t train alone, you cannot truly know what it means to move. The result of training solo is a more fulfilling training experience that allows you to identify WHY you move and approach obstacles with clarity and presence.”
Why would I train on my OWN!?” You might say this to yourself, and if you do, this article is for you- read on.
Video-Credits: Minh Vu Ngoc, ParkourONE
EGO in Parkour
Firstly, lets address EGO. Ego is an entity within you that wants to impress, to be appreciated, to compete, be bigger and better than other people. Let me give you a scenario in which ego was in control of my movement; about a year ago I was out training with a couple of friends, one of which approaches a roof gap that I consider to be dangerous- he nails it without fault. I considered this guy to be less ‘skilled’ than myself so witnessing his ‘superiority’ in this circumstance energizes my ego and really gets the adrenaline pumping. I convince myself that I’m calm, but my judgment is clouded by the overwhelming need to prove myself, plus the adrenaline is a satisfying distraction from the gravity of what I’m about to do.
Sure, I manage the jump first time (which inflates my ego further), but coming back on it for a second try I misstep the jump…. Long story short, I catch the wall and walk away with a couple of heavy sprains, cuts and a scar, which serves as a reminder of what I’ve learned (believe me, this was the best case scenario).
What happened? I was not moving for myself, I was moving for others, worse than this, I was not present, subsequently my attention was diverted towards how others perceive me, how I perceive myself and the adrenaline coursing through my body, instead of the obstacle and the movement. I came to the realisation that this would not have happened had I trained alone.
When you train alone, it’s just you and your environment. No one is egging you on, pumping you up, you are stripped of distractions and are more able to recognise the raw desire for movement within yourself.
From that memorable day on I realised that most people (including myself) neglect mental training, and that most of my past movements were possessed by this negative energy to varying degrees. It’s always there, waiting to grow behind everything we do, but it’s every traceurs duty to catch themselves feeding it.
Let’s get personal!
Every traceur/freerunner moves differently. They see and approach different movements naturally, but often when we come together different peoples movements start to become similar and melded together. We can lose our sense of self/ our movement identity. It’s important to create links between your movement and other peoples when you train by creating opportunities for creative movement or technical (but not super competitive) challenges, but… when your motivation to move revolves around others, you will start to lose those little things that make your movement.
I enjoy technical challenges that others do not and enjoy repeating specific movements or combo’s, especially small ones. In a group of traceurs, there is often no attention to basics because the criteria for ‘THAT WAS AWESOME’ escalates very quickly- don’t become lost in this.
I recall attending a freerunning jam at Imax (London’s most notorious spot) in which the unoriginality of movement was excruciating, to put it politely. The spot was overrun with guys trying to prove their worth to each other and a few famed freerunners, while myself and most others were at the sidelines watching ego fest 2012 unfold. You couldn’t train in this atmosphere, not unless you were willing to perform. People were lined up (like employees at an office queuing for the water dispenser) and were going for Side flip off the block, side flip off the block, side flip off the block, dive kong, same dive kong and the same dive kong but slightly bigger…
Though there was technically a high degree of difficulty, the reproduction of movement diluted its value. ‘Difficulty’ doesn’t matter because it is relative to others. When we stop measuring ourselves against others we find real progress.
From experience I’ve found there’s certainly no way to find fulfillment from trying tick boxes – e.g. ‘I can do this, and this, and this’ – I’m not sure if anyone learned anything new that day, least myself; everyone was too scared to become an outcast, or inferior, and so they conformed to one channel of movement.
Move for yourself, satisfy your craving for creativity, technique, speed, endurance or whatever! Try things that other people might think are stupid, weird or unimpressive and see where they lead you.
Here are some wise words from my friend Maz:
“Solo training to me is a process which requires a good level of dedication to the art of Parkour. I personally could say solo training has benefited me greatly. It lets me stay on track, I may come to a spot with a goal, I know I will pursue this goal and be able to focus on achieving it, because I don’t have other people putting me under pressure to do something they want to do.
Training solo also allows me to be at whatever pace I want to be, I am able to train when I want, relax when I want to, and I can train at whatever intensity I want to.”
Training with others
If I only trained alone, there’s no doubt I’d go mental and self destruct – humans need company and sometimes 2 heads are better than 1, so how do we know when to train solo and when to train with others? Movement serves as conversation; it is another language – an exchange or ideas and creativity. When I’ve smoothed over the cracks that ego leaves in my training (constant repairs may be needed), that’s when I get back to training with friends.
Its important to recognise the desire to move and to tend to it, whether or not Tom can be bothered, Harry thinks it’s too wet outside or Dave’s seeing his girlfriend (again). The point I’m trying to make is movement can be unconditional.
When you have one little move in your head, maybe a jump you saw a few weeks back that you just want to go out and try nail, you’ll know to take it alone – sometimes there is no need to bring ‘the crew’, other times, you’re up for a laugh, you will know that you are going to train with your friends, but without the nagging voice that says ‘You can jump further than that’ ‘Go on, just do it, he did’. Leave behind all expectations of yourself and just move.
When you do train alone, what starts as a 10 minute session could be an hour, you have no responsibilities or obligations. Best part is you can leave without everyone being like ‘Where you going man?’ And in the face of frustration, take yourself out alone, no sweat, no pressure, try something different- It’s not giving up, it’s progress.
Following these new ideas I’ve begun to train on my own terms. I hope this article helps you find the same contentment in your journey as a traceur/freerunner.