Tuesday 9 May 2017

Half a decade later...

While Parkour has been a firm part of the Oxford's culture since as early as 2003 (shout out to OxTricks!), this coming Saturday will be Oxford Parkour's (as we currently know it) 5th Birthday. So it's a good excuse to dust off this old blog and take a peek at where we now are.

Weird to think just how much this community has grown and matured over the last 5 years.

What started with Alex being pestered by a few people to teach them to jump around and stuff, has now evolved into a dedicated team of people constantly looking for ways to reach more people, deliver more sessions and make those sessions of a higher quality.

It's now rare for Oxford to have a day without a training session happening at some point, somewhere and we are seeing new faces appear on a pretty much weekly basis.

As a result, we have a near 50/50 split of male and female practitioners and I can't even keep track of how many people of different ages and backgrounds I've had the pleasure of training with!

Many of the practitioners who I first introduced to parkour are now constantly teaching me new things in return and having the same happen to them by people who they introduced to parkour!

Communities can be wonderful things!

PS: Our (well, Tom's) graphics design game is outstanding.

PPS: If you are about in Oxford this Saturday, come say hi - full event details are here. Otherwise, we hope to see you out there some time soon!

Thursday 8 January 2015

New Committee - Vote Results

For those of you who have been following our Facebook (facebook.com/OXFPK) and Community (facebook.com/groups/OXFPK) pages, you'll know that this week we have held elections for the roles of President, Vice President and Treasurer.

Results are in!

President: Nikolay Timofeev
Vice President: Harry Cruse
Treasurer: Holly Lees

Any suggestions for what you would like to see or do this term are very welcome, that is the point of a committee after all - to make the needs of a community happen. Wish us luck!

In other news, regular training sessions are slowly ramping back up into full swing - keep an eye out on our group and page to see when and where the sessions are!

See you all out there!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Termly Roundup

We've just got to the end of Michaelmas Term 2014 (or, for non-students, December 2014 just started!), so we thought we'd do a roundup thing.

Who are you: Nikolay Timofeev
What was your involvement?
President and 'coach' - Organised sessions, maintained communication with people contacting Oxford Parkour with regards to... All sorts of things really :/ Also managed various IT and web things (inevitably breaking things along the way) and found some time to jump on stuff in between all that.
What did you think went well: 
Because we have more people able to organise sessions, we were able to run around double the amount of sessions as we did last year. Better yet, I have had the pleasure of training with SO MANY OF YOU! Thank you to everyone who has turned up so far, I have enjoyed getting to know you all immensely.
Hopefully we have had more variety of session as well, combining both structured and unstructured styles of training, as well as the odd gym session here and there.
What didn't go as well as you might have liked:
One thing we haven't done too much of is stepped out of pattern very much. We have the regular sessions, but as far as doing other one off things, such as trips to other cities and communities, that has not happened too much, which is a shame as that brings communities together and shows all involved a fresh approach to training, and pushes people out of their comfort zone, thus helping progress.
We have also not managed to organise a social, something like a parkour movie night or just an meal or something like that, to bring our community even closer together, which was something we were hoping to do.
Finally, we have not done very much exploration of Oxford and not done any days where we explore new (or even just different) locations, which we could do more of!
What you hope to do next term:
All of the above! And it would be nice to slowly start putting out more media - Oxford's a wonderful city, full of great architecture - showing more movements here will lead to more people joining and will make a nice historic record for future practitioners to look at and be inspired by.

Who are you: Alex May
What was your involvement: I coached the Tuesday BCS and the Wednesday COM session, and trained a bit outside this too. And I helped discuss things and organise this with Nikolay and Harry (despite not being elected or on committee!).

What did you think went well:
  • We got loads of interest at Freshers' fair, and the attendance in 1st week was huge (I think 60+ different people turned up to try out parkour). The two sessions were well attended, usually around 8 on Tuesdays and around 3/4 on Wednesdays, despite the weather.
  • The COM Wednesday session was a success, in my eyes, in encouraging diversity (in non-male form) into our community.
  • There's now a good number of people in the Oxford Parkour Community, which is great!
What didn't go as well as you might have liked:
  • I found that I was busier with the usual Oxford-stuff than I had thought, so didn't have as much time, meaning that I didn't get to train much aside from coaching and that I didn't put on any additional sessions as I had hoped.
  • Didn't do more advertising after the start of term - should have sent reminder emails to the mailing list to encourage more people to come along to the Tue/Wed sessions (though until 4th week, the sessions were full!)
  • The tshirt company I used was busier than expected, so took them longer to do the order than I had hoped, and they didn't arrive far enough before the end of term to sell them.
  • Security (from the university) seemed to be fairly active in asking us to leave various areas, which is a shame.
  • Nothing social. I've been wanting to host a parkour social for awhile, but didn't manage this term, partly due to busyness, partly because the one attempt I made to book a room in college got confounded by the rules on filling out event forms in advance.
What might you do differently next term:
  • Put on some 'Focus' sessions, not aimed at beginners, for the non-beginner components of the community. And hopefully a bit more variety outside of that
  • Social!
  • Sell the tshirts!

Who are you: Harry Cruse
What was your involvement: Vice President. I organised the freshers' fair, organised many sessions and a few gym trips, designed and ordered the business cards. I also gave my opinion and advised on many issues and decisions that the group faced.

What did you think went well: We got a huge number of new members this term, mainly from the freshers’ fair, it’s always nice to see new people trying out our sport. We got them all off to a good start, and a decent number of them stuck around. We’ve also had loads of sessions this term (up to 4 or 5 a week) which is brilliant, the more parkour the better!
Our new Facebook page has worked well, and due to it being public it’s brought in a few people that don’t have Facebook. It’s also nice to have an official entity that can post when the sessions are, so it’s organised by Oxford Parkour rather than by a person.
What didn't go as well as you might have liked: I think we have been a bit forgetful and lazy in some situations. We never got round to organising a social or a London trip, and the gym trips only really started happening towards the end of term. It would also have been nice to have more weekend sessions (which is entirely my fault).

What might you do differently next term: Be more on the ball! We should get better at organising things, and let people know earlier in advance. We should definitely do a social, with at least a week’s notice; and a London trip would be great, but I’m not sure if that will actually happen. I think we’ll also advertise the gym trips more often, and I’ll make an effort to put on more weekend sessions.

We would also love feedback from anyone who has attended - please be honest and direct, we won't get offended and it's useful for us to improve things!

Feedback form:
What did you do with the group this term?
What parkour experience did you have before training with us?
What did you think was good about the sessions you attended?
What could be improved, either sessions or group organisation or anything?

Monday 6 October 2014

Why a Female and Trans training session?

This is to explain the decision to run a Female & Trans beginners introductory session as part of the weekly sessions this term with Oxford Parkour.

This was originally called "non-male", but the language has been improved to "female and trans". There might be some inconsistencies with how it's used due to this change.

It's slightly different with potential controversy, so I thought I'd do my best to explain why I've decided to do it. Neither Oxford Parkour nor the coach in charge of this have done this before, so please excuse any poor use of language or misguided action.

What's the general aim?

To increase participation of parkour (in Oxford) by people who identify as female and trans. Parkour is for everyone, yet the participation is heavily cis-male, I want to encourage participation outside this, and I think this will help.

*for those who aren't aware of the term 'cis-male', this means somebody who was assigned gender male at birth and currently identifies as male. If you don't know what this means that probably includes you, but it is in contrast with somebody who identifies as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth.

How will this help?

Hopefully, in a couple of ways:
1. For the marketing, to overcome the general perception of parkour as being masculine. A direct counter is “actually, there's a female and trans session you can come to, so it is for you!”.
2. To make this minority* feel more comfortable about coming to try out parkour. A kind-of 'safer space' for it to be tried out in with less perceived pressure or expectation – there isn't any pressure or expectation normally in our community, but that fact doesn't mean people don't worry about it, so this measure is to deal with the possible worry.

* minority within parkour - not within the population as a whole!

The 'segregation' is aimed to encourage female and trans participation, not to keep them apart: all of our other sessions are open to anyone, so this just gives more option to non-males to take part. 

This is also why the name is different and doesn't include the word 'parkour': a different marketing approach to try and shrug off some of the effect of the media misconception of parkour (imagine all you knew of running was from seeing the Olympics and thought that because you can't run 100m in under 11 seconds, you can't run at all!). I noticed that lots of the gym classes which are attended by mostly females have vague names that say little about the content or style or dogma of the session (Total Body Workout, Bodypump, Aerobics, Bums & Tums) and thought about coming  up with a similar thing for a parkour session, which is what I've done here. (All of the example female gym classes could also apply to this - it will work your whole body, be aerobic, and use your 'bums & tums').

Will the coaching be different?

No, but a little bit.

Parkour is not gendered. We don't teach girls differently to teaching guys. We teach individuals; all individuals are different: different bodies, different personalities, different experiences. So in some ways, coaching girls is no different to coaching guys.

There are some general trends among individuals within the gender classes. Guys tend to have both more ego and be more willing to take risks and try things that may be less safe – there are exceptions, of course, but a slight tendency. Guys are, on average, a bit stronger and taller. So to a small degree, the content will be different in that there might be less variation within the group and so the content can be more tailored. But this is nowhere near the sort of variety within, say, different aged practitioners: teaching 7 year-olds, 12 year-olds, 20 year-olds and 55-year olds is quite different!

So it is no different to any random group of people, that the coach will tailor the session content to fit the participants. And this is not the reason for running a non-male session.

Here, though, it's more about excluding (cis-)guys to allow for a non--cis-male space, not about splitting off the non-males.

I must mention though, the coach will be male, as we only have male coaches at the moment. I feel that's better than nothing though, and will look into seeing if a female coach could come along at some point later on in the term.

Further Information

Here are a few videos, incase you are interested (or not convinced that parkour is for you).

This one is an interview with a female practitioner and coach from London.

This one is a video of a youtuber doing parkour for the first time (without bias or vested interest as this was her first time).

And this one is my mum doing her first ever parkour session!

Sunday 20 July 2014

Start of Summer Holidays and a Year in Review

Hello guys and gals - with Trinity term just about over, I imagine a lot of you guys will be heading back to your respective homes. It's been a fantastic year, and I guess, if we don't see you over the holidays, then we hope to see you at the start of the next academic year in October!

Do keep an eye on the group if you can, as I will keep posting the usual helpful links and we will be sticking up votes for next year's committee (I realise I completely forgot to do the whole election thing this term).

Looking back at the year, a lot has happened! Here's a round-up of the biggies:

Working on online Content

Cherwell Tries - Parkour

We have been involved in the filming of a short documentary with Cherwell Lifestyle, which was fantastic fun! Here's the finished piece:

Huge thanks to both Tess Colley for giving parkour a go and to Lily Taylor for filming it! Was a pleasure meeting you both!

Parkour Map

Throughout the year we have been working hard on finding new places to train, and as a result, we have compiled a map of training locations. If you wish to collaborate, please get in touch!

Click here to see the map!

New Styles and Approaches to Training

Unstructured Sessions

Rather than continuing with the traditional 'coach and student' model of training, we have been experimenting more and more with the unstructured approach to training.

Typically this includes the usual group warm up and joint mobilizations, followed by seeing what people fancy focusing on that day. This dictates the locations we will train at and the time we take to spend there. But the movements that everyone spends their time training are completely up to the individual.
This is how parkour began in this country and the beauty from this approach is that the practitioners who know what they need are able to train exactly that, whilst those not so sure are able to draw inspiration from those around them.
What you end up with is a melting pot of styles, techniques and experience levels. This is underpinned by the beauty of a parkour community - at any point, no matter who you are, you can approach a fellow practitioner and ask them for advice, or they may in turn offer some insight for you, if they have experienced a similar puzzle in the past or spot a fault which you may not have done.


Dale Wood ascending the
Botley Rd Bridge
Due to more and more climbers joining our group, we have started finding more and more buildering puzzles in the Oxford Area.
If you are not sure what buildering is, then it's a if you have ever attempted bouldering (a rope-free form of climbing, typically trained at lower heights with shorter, more technical routes or puzzles), then it's basically the same thing, but on man-made structures. A great introduction to the sport is the Foundations of Buildering series by Julie Angel (episode 1 can be found here)

While climbing should be a very important part of any parkour practitioner's movement dictionary, it compliments the more traditionally dynamic form of parkour training very nicely.

New Indoor Training Locations

Abingdon Gymnastics Club

Keymore performing a
standing Back Tuck
We have also been lucky enough to have access to an indoor gymnasium available for us to train in. This environment is very different to what we are used to - the hard surfaces replaced with sprung floors and foam blocks. This is a fantastic location to begin your journey into tricking or acro, or to try any of those movements you have not been able to find a place for outside. To date, the sessions have been on Tuesdays, 8-9pm, however these are being replaced with Monday evening sessions, again at 8-9pm from the 28th July.

Sundays at Pumphouse Parkour

Alex and Sam training
at the Pumphouse
As if one indoor training facility was not enough, the Pumphouse in Faringdon have not got anything much Facebook page to make it happen! happening on Sundays lately, and thus has offered us the use of their space for our training! Not only do they have a large hall and stage area to train on, they also possess two sets of Freemove Portable parkour equipment, which is a great mix of vault boxes, platforms and scaffolding. These will be happening on an ad hoc basis, so please show your interest in this on our
In Addition to this, Dale Wood and Rob Chamberlain still run classes on Saturdays in the same location. If you do grab the chance to check them out and get in touch over at www.thepumphouseproject.co.uk/

The Holidays and Looking to Next Year

Over the holidays, we certainly will still be training in Oxford (and surrounding towns, such as Didcot, Tackely, Reading and anywhere else anyone wants to visit) among with anyone else, willing and able! I mean, with weather like this, it'd be criminal not to!

Looking forwards, we shall of course open up for a new committee in time for next year. The next big event will of course be Oxford Freshers' Fair, running from 8th-10th October. Any help with manning the stall anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated.

If you have any thoughts on how the year went and how to make it better, do not hesitate to let us know on our facebook group, or email us on president@oxfordparkour.co.uk!

Dale Wood performing a standing precision at the Castle Mill Stream Lock

Many thanks to  Mu'adip Shakir (Keymore) and the Pump House for providing the pictures.

Monday 19 May 2014

Creativity, Parkour Vision, Adaptability, etc.


Take a look at the set-up in the photo. What do you see? Please, take a minute to consider what you could do here - if you "do parkour", make a list of all the different things you could train here (and I mean all the ideas you have); if not, think about it anyway. Compare it to any experience in any sport you have, or even to what someone might do in a fitness studio/gym to get stronger. What different ways might you (or another) be able to move here? [The metal frame and trees behind it don't count, too overgrown, but the wall going along the side away from the stairwell does].

This staircase is nothing special - I'm sure there are many just like it all over the place - but this one one was found in a park in either Padova/Mestre (Italy, right by Venice), where I had gone as part of an interrail trip to an event with a 10km-zombie-chase-game the previous night and a parkour jam on the Sunday (blog posts to be found here and here). The park was huge, with a number of different full-size spots throughout (one with lines of rails and some steps, another a concrete built garden thing, a third with a disabled access ramp with rails/walls and a roof spot, etc), but a number of hours in we had moved to a big patch of grass against the plant structure you see in the picture above (but on the side of it), doing some tricks (I had ended up, somehow, being better at tricking than most of the people and was teaching butterfly kicks, twists and possibly a flip of some sort too) and sitting around. This then turned into movements with the flat wall (on a different side of the square plant structure, but the same wall that the steps in the photo are built into) before we came round the corner 15m to this stairwell.

I would guess that we spent ninety minutes on the wall surface and these stairs, mostly just four of us (two of the Italians involved with the event, and Finn from Cologne who had gone along too). We shared moves, both weird movements and well-known ones, that some of us could do and others not, learning and trying new things, and came up with various challenges, routes, things to play with on the stairwell. It was probably one of the best sessions I've ever had (though it's hard to pick looking back, as it's all an incremental development and there were others that led up to this point and that have continued from it), as it seemed that at this point my eyes and mind were open to the possibilites that existed in such a simple spot. On the flat wall we did at least ten different things, some of which I don't know the name of, and at least the same number of challenges and routes around the steps - but I'm certain there are many, many more that we didn't get to. Can you tac off the wall to get to the top? On both sides? Can you do this set of strides? This particular jump? Spin around like this? Do it with your eyes closed? How high can you jump up the steps? Can we all make this jump perfectly first time? And this? That? Heard of that move? etc. And the environment was great - because of the way this "training" was taking place, it was not a hierarchy of who was better like might happen at some spots which have lots of obvious standard movements and much more a melting pot of ideas of the four of us working together. Each of us had different things we could and couldn't do better, different eyes from previous experiences, etc, and so on. 

The moral of the story for parkour people - or better, the slight insight I'm trying to impart - is along the lines of "play around with small spots lots". Maybe confine yourself in a session (or more) to a very small location and see what you can make of it - there's certainly something to be said for creativity happening when you set yourself limits to work inside of. And what is a "spot" anywhere - if parkour is about adapting to the environment, the concept of a spot doesn't make any sense. 

As for non-parkour people (if any of you actually read this to here), this really makes me question the way we treat exercise/movement with gyms (with a very specific set of movements, little variability for the body, less mental exercise with playfulness/creativity/fun) or childrens' playgrounds.

Inspirations I've had towards this style are Steve Moss (when he was in London with PKGen), capoeira that I dabbled in a bit last semester, and videos from the people like Scott Houston, Naim L'1consable ("Spots are Everywhere"), and some random German and Finnish people, I've played with it more recently. Thanks to them, though most of them don't know I exist, and check them out if you're interested in it too.

PS Some of the words I've used are in "these", because the word "training" or "spot" or "parkour" is a bit of an odd word, which I might not agree entirely with the way it's used but is understood for what I'm trying to get across.

PSS This post also at my personal site Alexmay.co.uk, which has more thoughts about parkour and non-parkour things., 

Sunday 9 February 2014

5th Week @ Oxford Parkour

5th Week @ Oxford Parkour

This term we're running a special mid-term event in 5th Week with training every day and a variety of different types of sessions – probably something new for everyone!

If you will be joining us, please let us know here: Event Page

This gives the overview for each session, there will be slightly more detail including a map of where we are meeting on our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/OXFPK Don't be put off by the word “parkour”, it's just a label we use to refer to a certain style of movement/exercise/play/thinking which is probably quite similar to how you used to play as a child!

Sunday 16th February – 1100 at St Giles

“Introductory Workshop and Training”

We're kicking the week off with a training session open to all abilities – especially complete beginners! If you're not really sure what it is we do, come along to this to find out. We'll have a few different coaches on hand to take you through basic movements (and more) and you'll probably finish the session surprised at what you can do!

We'll have some coached structured training to start with, then after that there will be free jam-style training (ie not coached and unstructured) for those who want to stick around!

Monday 17th February – 1930 at St Giles

   “Hell Night”

Want to get stronger? Hell Night is a very physical type of session aimed more at building strength and discovering where our limits really lie than a technical movement sort of session. It will be packed with a variety of different exercises to work different muscles and aspects. It'll be tough, but the point is to make us tougher. If you want to find out more about the idea, look up what Blane (the practitioner who popularised the idea) has written about it (though ours won't quite be at that level!).

This session will be coached. It's open to ability as the idea is that we all work at our own limits, wherever they are; all you need is some resolve and a desire to push yourself.

Tuesday 18th February – 1800 at Westgate, 2000 at Abingdon Gymnastics Club

“Unstructured Training and Abingdom Gym”

There will be unstructured training in the Westgate area from 1800, after which we will go to the Abingdon Gym for indoor training at a fully-equipped gymnastics centre: foam pit, crash mats, high bars, a sprung floor and more! This gives a chance to those who want it to try out things which are less safe to learn outside, such as tricks and flips.

Wednesday 19th February – 2230, at New College Lane

“Parkour Nuit”

This session involves running around late at night in a near-silent follow-your-leader style. Inspired by David Belle's video of the same name, we'll be exploring the city long after the sun has set doing route-work in as close to silence as we can.

This session will be led and all abilities are welcome.

Thursday 20th February – 1800 at Westgate

Coached Session

This will be an example of the typical training session we have been doing throughout the year. Lead by Nikolay, it will be focusing above all on quality of movement. Typically, the session starts with a thorough warm-up. From there, you will be given challenges designed to work on specific aspects of movement, be it balance, fluidity, creativity, climbing or just the efficient application of power! All levels of ability welcome!

Friday 21st February – 1600 at St Giles

Coached Session

This will be a “standard” Alex-style training session: all organised and coached with focus on certain techniques or aspects of parkour. Typically the session is split into slots 10-20 minutes long with a certain focus and changes between them. If you have any particular requests, get in touch!

Saturday 22nd February – 1030 at South Parks

“Games Session”

Remember being a child playing tig/tag/it in the playground and how much fun that was? For some reason, we play these games a lot less as we get older, even though they are quite fun (and you don't notice the fact you're “exercising” as much). And so we have a session focussed all around playing games! Expect varieties on chasing games such as manhunt and capture the flag, among other things. Feel free to invite anyone who might enjoy it even if they aren't interested in “parkour” specifically.

This session will be organised and led (but due to its nature, “coaching” isn't necessary!).

Sunday 23rd February – 1030 at Manor Road

“Training Session: Walls 101”

Up-and-over. This is a coached training session with particular focus on going up and down walls, such as climb-ups and wall-runs. Focussing on a particular technique helps us to develop it more than the general approach to training usually would and this technique is one with a lot to it.

Sessions will typically last 90 minutes, including warm-up and warm-down, unless otherwise stated.

Sunday 23rd February – 1230 at Castle Mill Stream

“Oxford Jam!”

To finish on a high, I invite everyone to join us for a day of training all over Oxford! We will meet at Castle Mill Stream (map: http://goo.gl/5raD3t), near the station, warm up and train there for a while. From there, we will be moving from spot to spot and training everywhere we can, just like the good old days!
Bring food, bring water and bring your friends!