Monday 17 December 2012


Hey everyone,

I've been fairly sedentary over the last week after my neck seized up last Tuesday, leaving me unable to look at one thing for more than ten minutes, in bed for most of the day and unable to exercise for a few. But it's better now, yay.

Tonight I finished my final supervised assisting session for my level 1 coaching course, so I'll send it off and have that sorted soon. Another yay. For you guys it makes little difference - I'm still only an assistant coach so it doesn't do anything for us - apart from the fact that I've improved my doing it (hopefully anyway).

I've now been coaching for a few months, both at kids sessions at home (the main coach being injured I'm covering for him a bit) and the Oxford sessions, and I think I've learnt quite a bit, though definitely still a lot to learn. It's hard to say what I've learnt, apart from that hopefully I'm just better at being organised and giving tips, aside from creativity in coming up with things to do. After the first couple of weeks I started doing a wider variety of things. At the beginning it was always in the same place, though still with variety, but this moved on to having sessions in four different places and doing more things at each. I would often be stuck for ideas only to have a look round the day before and suddenly see lots of things to do.

The other thing I have learnt is about using routes - instead of just doing one movement over one obstacle come up with a path which uses many. They're great for making things more natural so that you do them without thinking too much, as well as working on things other than the movement itself (ie fluidity and foot placement) and being good for making you fitter (the fact that it works different muscle groups and in different ways (short bursts of power as well as the continuous base) makes it really tiring! There's definitely still a use for practising isolated movements, but I usually try and include a route each session.

There are still a lot of challenges. For one, coming up with a continued variety, though hopefully people won't mind too much if there's some repetition. Secondly, now that people aren't complete beginners it's a lot harder to come up with things more challenging than getting the basics perfect. I'll look for places with slightly move difficult vaults in, but I haven't seen much yet. It's also harder when there are more people, but that's to be expected and I should get used to managing that soon.

I've also got a few ideas for next term.

One is to have more sessions, one of them dedicated on doing conditioning, as we don't do enough of that. I'm hoping to do it at Iffley track as we'll be allowed to be there and there's grassy space and bits of equipment.

Another is to focus a bit more on the repetitive movements (ie doing something 50 times well) and the personal challenge side of it, though not much. I went to a session last week where the entire thing was doing loads of pull ups, push ups and box jumps and doing a number you didnt think you could do of them, which is important to do.

A third is to have a session where it's up to you to be creative and find new movements instead of me telling you what to do. I'll probably save this for when I have no ideas.

A final idea is that I'm going to try and get one of the ParkourGenerations coaches to come as a one-off to run a session, which will be good to see a different coaches perspective as well as one who is just better.

Anyway, there's a few thoughts about coaching I've thrown down. Have fun holidays =)

Sunday 9 December 2012

Training Solo

I promised during the last couple of weeks of term that I'd write a bit about training that you can do over the holidays, now that it isn't my responsibility to come up with stuff for us to do, so here's my attempt.

Firstly, see if there's anybody around where you live who does parkour, and then ask them if you can train with them. They'll know some places to go and mean that you can train in a group, which is fun.

However, when it isn't a structured session, group training can often not be that productive. The bits I've done in the past have mostly just been somebody seeing something they can do, doing it, and then some others seeing if they can. Though this did mean that you tried new and bigger things it meant there wasn't much practice or repetition. There's a lot to be gained from training on your own and it's worth doing even if you've got a group to train with. If you work at it you can get more out of it and it allows you to focus on techniques you want to practice which are at your level. It also challenges you to find the motivation to train on your own as well as to be creative in finding things.

I guess the first problem is finding somewhere to train (called a 'spot' in parkour terminology). This can be tricky but there's normally at least something nearby. I started to make a list (local parks and playgrounds, shopping centres, car parks, ...) but then I realised that it was broad enough that it included "anything which has a wall or a railing or things you can jump between". Parkour is meant to be about adapting your movement to your environment (although finding a place which gives this lots of opportunity is nice). But have a search around and you should be able to find something - even kerbs, street signs and benches can be used to train on!

If you can find somewhere secluded to train that's always nice, though ultimately shouldn't stop you. I always feel much more self-conscious when I'm on my own (when I'm coaching I find that I don't even care, but alone I do), but try and ignore that. Funny looks don't really matter and if somebody asks what you're doing you can either explain to them about parkour or just give your immediate goal (ie, seeing if I can jump from here to here or making myself stronger by climbing this wall over and over). There's an article I'll link to about not caring what other people think which might be useful.

Once you've found somewhere, then you need to decide what to train. It's probably easiest if I just give a list of moves as a sort-of checklist:
 - Balance
 - Jumps (in both dimensions, so distance as well as height. Also standing take off, running take off, multiple jumps in a row)
 - Vaults (varying angles of approach and heights of obstacles - small things can actually be really good for working your technique)
 - Walls (up and along)
 - Fluidity (moving around railings or multiple obstacles)
 - Specific techniques (rolls, for example).
Again, there are lots of things and I've probably
 - Technical things (like rolls)

There are different approaches to training and a variety is often useful, but experiment and see what works for you. Sometimes I'll go out with a mind to train but without anything specific in mind and see what I think of when I get there, but other times I'll have a short list of things to work on, and this is an approach I've often found more useful. For example, I'm currently trying to practice rolls (because mine could be improved quite a bit) and handstands, so I can do these anywhere, but also looking at doing kong-precisions (the vault, but then trying to land on a certain spot) and a few other minor things. It's often also good to set yourself challenges either for the day or over a period of time: I did one the other day where I found a rail and told myself that I would make it to the end 5 times (I got on the rail about 13 times in total), or that I'll jump between two things a certain number of times. But you could also think of a few things that you want to improve over the holidays and keep going back to them, such as a certain length balance or distance jump or a new technique. A challenge I'd be tempted to set is being able to cat-balance (on all fours on a rail) for a certain length.

Repetition is very useful and important as it helps to ingrain techniques into your body (muscle memory type stuff, I won't claim to fully understand what this means, but I think it just means so that it comes naturally) and makes you stronger somehow. Once you've found a jump that you manage once every ten tries, keep practising until you make it every other time. Once you've found a vault which you can do, keep doing it until it's smooth. A good way of doing this to stop it being boring (though I usually quite enjoy the repetition because I'm still having to concentrate and it's still more fun than other exercise) is to find a route (you might have noticed I've started using these more often in the sessions I've been running!) and repeat that.

A final thought on actual training is to do things which scare you every now and then (but make sure that they're safe things!) to challenge yourself with that.

Bleurgh. It's become a fairly long post so far but I've still got some stuff left to talk about - sorry about that but I'm trying to be thorough. The other thing to talk about is 'conditioning', which is a word with negative connotations. As well as moving around, we need to make sure that our bodies are ready to move around and also improve how well we can move around. Conditioning can be done as part of movement parkour training (repeating techniques often works certain muscles well and doing lots of drops toughens the body up) but also as stand-alone exercises. There's lots of ways to work fitness and lots of exercises to work different muscles, all of which are useful, but instead of me talking about it I'll put a link at the bottom. I would really recommend doing conditioning as it both reduces risk of injury and increases your ability to do stuff. Some people who take parkour seriously spend more than half their training time conditioning. Also stretch lots, both after exercise and generally: flexibility is often overlooked but is equally as important as strength.

A final thought before I start throwing links down for those of you enthusiastic enough to want to know more: the weather! Yes, in this season it's likely to be cold and wet, but don't let this stop you. To deal with the cold, wear appropriate clothing and warm up lots. To deal with the wet, wear appropriate clothing but also change your training style. Everything is slippy so doing big or precise jumps is not so good an idea, so instead work on some technical or conditioning things. Parkour is about adapting your movement to your environment and that includes the weather!


1) . Along the lines of what I've said which is good to read!
2) . About not caring what other people think.
3) the YouTube channel 'DemonDrills'
4) the blog , which I spent hours reading in procrastination.

Aside from this, there's loads of material all over the internet about how and what to train, just get looking!

Most importantly though, have fun! Hope this is useful (if scattered and long), and any questions feel free to ask me =)

Tuesday 4 December 2012

End of Term

So we had our last session last Wednesday, term ended on Saturday, and like most other students, I came home and slept double what I was sleeping in 8th week. I've given myself a couple of days to sleep and be lazy, but hopefully from tomorrow I'll be pressing on with less lazy things such as ambitious amounts of exercise (fitness/conditioning and parkour, of course) and maybe some work.

The last session of term had ten people turn up. TEN. I'm pretty happy with that being as it had been mostly three or four at every other session (occasionally going higher but mostly from one-off people), and while I was happy that there was a small group of us training consistently there was definitely space for more. Throughout the second half of term there had been more interest on the facebook group of people who wanted to start coming, and it looked like this had been converted into people actually turning up just in time for the last session!

For next term I'm hoping that there will be higher numbers. It was always going to be tricky this term given that we didn't go to freshers fair (partly my fault - I tried but had to pull out due to me being too busy helping out with my college's freshers and only having a couple of days notice that we could attend) and that in first term, everybody is trying out new things from freshers fair and so too busy for other new things. But hopefully next term we can build upon this foundation (the 7 or so regular attendees) with the people who tried it out once or twice becoming regulars and also by attracting new people. Attracting new people isn't just down to me - though I will be trying my best with advertising in president's post (or similar college emails) and also pestering the Cherwell and OxStu to write about us (they ignored me last term) - so please do invite your friends and share the website on your facebook =).

More importantly, though it would be nice to have more people turning up so that more people learn about parkour and more is got from the time I'm putting in, what matters most is that people are getting something from the sessions - much better to have few people turn up if they're learning lots than have loads turn up but not get much out of it, and this challenge is on me. I've got to keep running good sessions (at least, I hope you think they've been good so far!) and mix it up enough so you don't get bored. I'll hopefully have another post about the challenges of coaching, but I'll hopefully look into running indoor sessions (though not often because I think outdoor is much more important) and whether we can do occasional London trips and if a coach from London wants to come to us to run a session.

Another post shortly to come about what you can do to train by yourself over the holidays =)


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

Saturday 27 October 2012

Getting into a rhythm

After the setbacks in second week I've been really pleased with this week's sessions - hopefully those who came enjoyed them too! It feels like there's now a group of regulars coming along who will hopefully keep coming (which is exactly what a group like this needs!). With around five people coming each time it's a good number because there isn't much waiting for other people to have their turn, it gives focused coaching, and also means I can join in sometimes. There's definitely still space for new people to come along and each of the sessions this week has been somebody's first.

Today's session was a bit more tiring than previous ones and included a route of a few different parkour moves joined up, the idea of this being to get used to doing the techniques naturally as part of a bigger movement as well as to work you physically. Despite everybody being tired and using the rest stop more than I had hoped it seemed to be the best part of the session! I'm going to mix up sessions a bit more from now on - there will be some at Hinksey, some around the St Giles cemetery, and some around central Oxford, so keep an eye on the facebook group to find out where they are.

Sessions will continue to be 1520-1700 on a Wednesday and 1050-1230 on a Saturday - hopefully everyone who wants to can make at least one of these!

Saturday 13 October 2012

We had our first session today - I was impressed by the turnout of 6 people given that I've done no publicity yet, so it was only people who had been involved last term who knew about it.

Next sessions are on Wednesday at 1520 and Saturday at 1050, both meeting at the Christchurch meadow entrance on St Aldates - let me know on the facebook group if you're coming. They're both free still =)

Friday 28 September 2012

Hey everyone! Welcome to the website - it's mostly finished, but I've got to sort out a mailing list and session timings yet.