Saturday, 24 November 2012

Today's Thoughts/Silence and Awareness


Firstly, apologies for not posting for a few weeks. Also, apologies for apologising for a lack of posts: every blog has these posts and it's usually better to just put up content instead of apologies. It's not a lack of ideas (I currently have 4 or 5 ideas for posts to write), it's that I haven't got that much time, what with it being Oxford and all I've got work and sleeping that I could be getting on with.

I was going to just put up an apology but I thought I'd do a small post too, which since turned into a full post, though not a particularly well formed one.

I went from this morning's session straight into brunch in hall. Everybody else was sat nicely enjoying their beans and bacon having had a lie-in from being out last night; I came in wearing a waterproof and trackies, dripping. These aesthetic differences represented the slightly bigger lifestyle differences, and I'm sure I'm the slightly crazy one for getting up earlier (only 9:30 so not too bad) to run up hills and climb on things in the rain, but I definitely prefer it.

I usually get blog ideas while thinking about parkour, either having come back from a session or while I'm planning one, and today wasn't that different: it furthered a post idea about the rain and the wet and also gave me an idea for a silence/awareness post.

Because today's session was fairly wet I thought it a good opportunity to try out a part of the session based around silence. There was a concrete block nearby to a chest-height wall with a fence on it, so I made a simple route of onto and off the block and onto and off the wall. We were aiming to do it completely silently, so we were tip-toeing and climbing as slowly as possible, and ended up not being too far off with only the odd shoe-scrape or fence rattle to give us away. We then did it with increased speed with walking and jumping but still being quite quiet, and again the lack of noise was impressive. It wasn't just about the quite movement but also about how we were thinking and focusing on it (for example, when I spoke I kept my voice quiet to not break our thoughts). While we were doing the drill we were much more focused and aware of our movement, which was of course the point of the drill, and as well as thinking about the movements of our bodies and the obstacles we were climbing about on we could also hear birds and the river.

The importance of this is twofold. The main reason is that this sort of focus on our bodies and our immediate environment helps to refine our movements and make them more efficient: we should always have this awareness to our movements. In any other drill it's very easy to be thinking about the vault, the takeoff, or how we put our hands, if we are thinking at all, and I've seen people execute a complex route almost perfectly only to make a loud thud as they jump off the final bit. We should be focusing on the entirety of our movement, not just the part we're focusing the movement around (ie the run-up and landing, not just the vault) too. This requires a sort of relaxed concentration which I've found in other sports too but is quite hard to describe: in sprinting I try to be relaxed yet focused, thinking about generally running fast without honing on on a specific like driving my foot, and in martial arts it's the idea of not overthinking any strike and just letting your body act and react, ie "Stop trying to hit me and hit me" (Morphius in The Matrix). We should be having the same level of focus as we had when were trying to move silently all of the time.

Aside from this, wider awareness of our environment is always useful, but not specifically to the movement in parkour (ie it's a wider life application of parkour). Although it is useful for parkour to know that you aren't about to collide with a passer-by, it's more just that a general awareness is useful in life to know what's going on around you, for example in self-defence to realise that something dangerous might soon happen or that you're being followed.

If you're interested in reading more about silence in parkour, there's a great article here: .

I'll hopefully put up a post or two in a week's time once term's over to have a reflection on how parkour has gone this term and also to give tips about training over Christmas, which a few of you have asked me about: it'll be the challenge of going from coached, structured sessions to training on your own.

Until next time,

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Pushing yourself

I had a reminder of perspective and spark of motivation while walking to tesco a couple of days ago.

On my way I bought a Big Issue from a vendor who was sat on the pavement peacefully reading a book and had a quick chat with him. One of the things he remarked upon was that it wasn't pleasant waking up in the cold (which as you can imagine it isn't - there's no prospect of a nice, warm lie in and it's quite achey), which compared to hearing a couple of friends mention the cold is much worse.

This then triggered a series of thoughts about how lucky we are and everything we have at the moment. There's no need for me to list things; I'm sure you can all think of a tonne of things we have in our favour in our lives. And that we have all these opportunities that others aren't as fortunate to have just gave me a drive that we ought to make the most of them: I feel that we kind-of owe it back to fate that we use what we are given well. In a general level this has encouraged me that I ought to use my time better, more efficiently; I should focus on academic work but also be more efficient with it so that I have more time to use for other things.

And unsurprisingly, given that it's my most important hobby, my thoughts turned to parkour. 

At the heart of the parkour philosophy is the idea of always pushing yourself further. Not to be content with where you've got to, but to always try to improve. Even the traceurs who have been training for ten or even twenty years think the same and still see improvements that they can make, and I am definitely well below that. Not to say that I'm at any level which means I can sit back, but I could be making more progress. My current aims are to try and train a bit more often and eat more healthily (despite me already eating pretty healthily I have had three cookies, a flapjack, and five pieces of cake in the last 48 hours).

But this doesn't just mean keeping training; it also means making more out of training sessions. I was trying to explain this to the people at the today's session before a continuous route that they ought to think of the number of laps they thought they would be able to do, then set themselves a number that they had to complete above this. I told them that at the end of a session they should look back and be able to tell themselves that there was nothing more they could given to it. Unfortunately I don't have enough of these sessions, but I have improved since I realised this, but I have had more than I used to. Especially given how busy we are at Oxford, the most ought to be made out of any time we set aside to train, the same way we should make the most of all the opportunities we have on a wider scale.

(While writing this I was reminded of a couple of blog posts which a london coach had written, both in which he sets himself a challenge which proves much harder than he expected but still completes: and