The Dying Art of Hard Work

A few months ago I started going to a boxing gym. I’m not the most aggressive person in the world (or the state of New York, or even my house for that matter) but I’d started to feel like I was losing my edge, getting a little soft. I needed to go somewhere I could push myself until I became a sloppy, sweaty, semi-gelatinous mess spread out on the floor. I guess my brain decided the right place for that was a boxing gym.

It was a tiny gym nestled between a Chinese supermarket and auto shop in Queens, totally unassuming…just a yellow banner with the name of the club and a few posters for upcoming fights taped to the window. You wouldn’t have known from walking by that there were Golden Gloves champs that trained there, or that the owner was one of the most respected boxing coaches in New York. The glass door and windows were fogged up - body heat inside butting heads with the subzero temperatures. I opened the door on my first day not knowing what to expect.

 

There were two guys sparring in the ring, another one shadowboxing in the corner. Someone was jumping rope next to me and I could hear a speed bag pounding away downstairs. One of the coaches came up to me, showed me how to wrap my hands, how to stand, how to throw a jab, then he put me to work. There were no clocks...you worked until you heard the bell. You’d rest and when the buzzer sounded, you had ten seconds before the next bell rang and you were back to work. After 20 minutes I couldn’t lift my arms. Five minutes after that, my legs were cooked. Ten minutes later, the workout started and by the end of the session I was every bit the semi-gelatinous puddle of human Jell-O that I’d wanted to be.

As I slowly unwrapped my hands (surely they hadn’t taken thirty minutes to wrap in the first place?!) and wobbled my way toward the door, a sign caught my eye.

 

No photos or videos allowed inside! You are here to work...anyone caught posting pictures or video on social media is OUT!

 

I smiled...there was definitely a part of me that had wanted to take out my phone and post something to Snapchat or Instagram, to say “Look at me! Look how hard I just worked!” So much of our life these days is built around social media and sharing every accomplishment. The sign was a reminder that that part of my life had no place there. The gym wasn’t for looking good, it wasn’t for getting recognition or being “social” or having fun...it was for training. It was a temple, dedicated to the dying art of hard work.

There are plenty of places in today’s world where “hard work” is a dirty word. Look around any high school or college campus and you’ll find some students showing you what I mean...heck, I was one of them. Our society places value on results, and getting those results in the most efficient way we can. This mindset is responsible for amazing breakthroughs in science, math, and technology, but it comes with a price. When you value the end product above all else, your appreciation for the process suffers.

 

Parkour is a funny thing in that for many of us, all it is is the process. Parkour is a study in preparation - its value lies almost exclusively outside of its “results.” In this way, it goes against the grain of social norms. It’s training, and when someone asks you “Training for what?” there’s no perfect answer. Some might say “life,” or “everything,” others might say “to be ready.” It’s the process, the grind, the preparation, the hard work. That was what I loved most about parkour when I first started, and what still keeps me motivated to train every day I can. This train-till-you-drop mindset is also the thing that seems to be slipping away from us.

 

It’s been happening for years. We’ve had plenty of warnings. Blane’s Dilution in 2007. His Call to Arms post in 2012. There have been hundreds of Facebook posts, forum threads, and videos addressing it. But we forget. We get absorbed in the results - the “how far can I jump?” - and forget the process. We tell ourselves, “What’s the point in drilling a simple standing precision 100 times? It won’t make my jump any bigger!” or “I won’t get any good clips out in the rain, so why go out today?”

I’ve been guilty of it. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially since for so many of us our day-to-day lives revolve around minimizing the process and maximizing the result. But we have to remember to slow down, especially in our training. So start off simple and spend some time consciously training at the altar of hard work. In case you’re like me, and forget how from time to time, here are some good places to start:

1. Ditch The Camera

Video can be a great tool for examining your technique, staying motivated, and sharing your progress with friends. It can also turn traceurs into attention-seekers and “social media” athletes. Take a week every month to just train. Leave your camera and phone at home, grab a few friends, and break some jumps. I needed a sign at a boxing gym to remind me, so take this blog post as your reminder!

2. Go Back To The Basics

Try to stick a precision 100 times in a row. Balance on a rail for 10 minutes. Traverse until your arms fall off. Try and QM 400 meters without stopping. Will it make you “better” at parkour? No, probably not...but you’ll become better at enjoying the process, even when the results are failure and pain. And that’s not such a bad skill to have.

3. Train Your Old School Spots

When I was in high school I remember pushing myself to failure during training on a regular basis. In many ways, I was more dedicated, strong-willed, and passionate about training back then. Whether this is some twisted form of nostalgia or what actually happened doesn’t matter; what matters is these memories have gotten me to go back to my “old school” spots and push like I’d just started parkour again. In a great 2007 blog post, Thomas Couetdic writes, “...there was in Lisses a taste for very hard work.” Certain spots have an air about them - you go there knowing you’ll end up in a pool of sweat on the floor. Find those spots and cherish them. Bring them flowers and visit them often and treat them the way you treated your first girlfriend. Just don’t forget them.

4. Build A Community

If you want to work hard, you’re not alone. Find people, bring them together, and build a community of strong-minded individuals. King Solomon was on to something when he said “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Having a group of dedicated people will help hold you accountable, and push you beyond where you could go on your own.

5. Learn From Your Weakness

Go climb, or box, or take a Crossfit class. Do something you’re bad at. To get stronger, most of us need to be reminded of our weakness. I like to have my nose rubbed in it on a regular basis! Find things that make you feel weak and let them motivate you to get stronger. Allow yourself to be inspired. Read Bruce Lee. Watch old training videos. Avoid complacency and satisfaction like the plague!

 

*****

 

When I walked into that boxing gym, I didn’t know what I was looking for. It took me three or four weeks of sweat, bruises, and soreness before I realized...I’d been looking for something to wake me up. To kick me out of my comfortable routine of jumps and progression and filming and hanging out with friends. Training there - a gym with no clock, no cameras, and no excuses - brought me back to my earliest days in parkour. It forced me to confront the fact that I’d started to lose my taste for hard work. I’d lost sight of the fact that not every challenge in parkour is designed to make you more controlled, or increase your kong precision. Sometimes, it’s about getting dirty and pushing until you can’t push anymore, then crawling in the dirt, then collapsing and wishing you’d never been born. All because you wanted to see what would happen.

 

Parkour has never been about the results. It isn’t about how far you can jump or how many followers you have on Instagram. It’s about you, and your journey. It’s about the process. It’s about taking pleasure in the hard work, not avoiding it. Some day, some of us may drop out of training. Some of us may lose the fire, or find it kindled by something else, and move on. Some of us may train until we’re wearing sweats over our Depends, and we’ll get to see what seventy years of parkour training does to the human body. But between now and then lies the process, the training, and the hard work. So let’s learn to make the most of it.

4 Things You Should Never Say To A Parkour Athlete

If you’ve ever seen people doing parkour or know someone who does parkour then chances are good you’ve heard at least one of the following phrases said in passing. Maybe you’ve even said one or two jokingly yourself…because hey, what’s a “Can you do a backflip?!” between friends (or for that matter, complete strangers). Well, do you know the uncle at every family gathering who tells the same jokes to the same people every year and then gets mad and shouty if you don’t laugh?

 

Pictured here: the two minutes where Uncle Maury finally shut the hell up and went to the bathroom.

Congratulations, that’s you. So to avoid being Uncle Maury, here’s a list of four phrases you really shouldn’t say to someone practicing parkour.

#4. Can You Do A Backflip?!

“Parkour!!! Isn’t that the thing where you run up walls and then backflip from four-story buildings?!”

“Uh, kind of. Really though it’s more about self-improvement and understanding your bod-“

“Less talking, more backflip! Go!” 

This is probably the most common thing we hear as parkour practitioners and it’s amazing how this phrase can unite all non-practitioners in the way it spans race, age, gender, level of education, and complete lack of social skills. I have been asked this by businessmen on Wall Street and 16 year old pregnant girls in New Haven alike…all with the same blithe expectation that (1) I somehow owe them an answer to this question, and (2) if I can, in fact, backflip then it is my duty as a citizen of the United States, nay, THE WORLD, to stop what I’m doing and perform said backflip for them as many times as they request.

 

When we say it’s been happening for years we’re really not joking.

Do you see the problem here? The annoying thing isn’t only that we’re forced to completely break focus in order to satisfy a stranger’s inane and senseless questions but that we’re also expected (for some strange, inexplicable reason) to then perform for this random person. For those of us who teach, train, or do legitimate parkour performances as a career it’s frustrating and degrading. Imagine stopping someone wearing nursing scrubs on the street and asking them to give you a quick check-up. Or seeing a chef leave his restaurant and asking him if he could make you a quick PB&J on the street with some groceries you picked up. Just because the majority of parkour training happens in public does not mean it is meant for public consumption. Our training is not a street performance. Please don’t treat it like one…unless you see a hat on the ground with a bunch of coins in it. Then it probably is a street performance. So throw a few bucks in and ask for all the backflips you want!

#3. That’s Dangerous!/You’re Gonna Fall! 

Here’s another example of how normal social behavior somehow disintegrates when it comes into contact with parkour…how many times a day do you tell someone that their behavior has potentially dangerous consequences? If your answer was more than zero you’re probably a police officer, college RA, or literally ANYONE off the street who sees someone doing parkour. I mean, seriously, do you guys really think we don’t realize messing up could be dangerous?

 

You mean to tell me there’s a way this could end badly?

At the end of the day, every practitioner understands that he or she can get hurt doing parkour. What helps us stay healthy and safe is having a calm environment to practice in…so yeah, screaming “OH MY GOD” while we’re balancing on a rail thirty feet up probably isn’t the best idea. Neither is interrupting us while we’re trying to prep a jump or describing in excruciating detail all the different ways we could mess up. Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, driving a car, and walking around praying to God you don’t get hit by a piece of falling debris are all calculated risks adults make every single day. People make decisions about how dangerous an activity or a situation is based on self-knowledge and go from there. Driving on the parkway isn’t a big deal for most people but it can be seriously dangerous if I’m intoxicated/texting/a teenage girl. Since the person actively training parkour probably knows their body and abilities more accurately than a random bystander we’d really appreciate it if you let us decide what’s dangerous and what’s not. Unless you’re Amish and you wear a hardhat every time you step outside, then I think you’ve got all the “calculated risk” bases pretty much covered so you can say what you want.

#2. You Can’t Do This Here, It’s Private Property/It’s Just a Liability Issue

If you’re a fan of traditional sports you’ve probably heard stories about baseball superstars from South America who grew up playing with milk carton gloves or linebackers from the ghetto who went pro having never played a game of organized football in their life. The moral of these stories is generally that amazing athletes can come from anywhere, despite circumstances that are stacked against them. This is sort of what it’s like trying to train parkour in the United States.

Imagine trying to progress at a sport where your friends have tons of high level gyms, parks, and practice areas all around them and you don’t have any.

 

Just in case you’re having trouble imagining…

Now imagine being actively discouraged from training at the one or two comparatively lame places you DO have nearby because of liability. It doesn’t matter that you’ve been training there for years without injuring yourself or causing trouble of any kind or that the business whose walls you happen to be training on is closed that day or even that you’ve offered to sign a waiver. The very idea of a liability issue strikes so much fear into the hearts of security guards, police officers, and park officials everywhere that you have to immediately stop what you’re doing and go home.

We understand that America has a massive sue culture and lots of times people who get injured look to liability as a way to pay off their (hefty) medical bills. But please don’t hide behind this as a reason to make us leave. If you ask politely, we’ll generally go no questions asked. It’s pretty understood at this point that what we do isn’t accepted by most people and that’s cool. But know that regardless of your reasons for having us leave chances are good that we’ll be back…the siren song of walls and rails is just too strong.

 

That’s what you get! That’s what you get for having a wall! 

#1. Hardcore Parkour!

First of all, if you haven’t seen the clip from The Office that started this trend you should probably watch that here so the rest of this will make sense to you. Also, it’s hilarious. Seriously, go watch it and get a good laugh in before you come back.

 

I’ll just wait here for you guys…

Now that you’ve seen this clip, you’re 100% prepared to deal with parkour practitioners in the real world. If you encounter some, your first thought might be something along the lines of “Hey, I know what parkour is! It’s that thing I saw in The Office, the funny French thing they made fun of. I bet those guys doing parkour over there would really appreciate it if I screamed the name of their sport at them…you know, out of a general sense of camaraderie or in case they forgot or something.” 

Wait, that thought process doesn’t make sense to you? That’s interesting, because it doesn’t make sense to us either but it’s one we run into pretty much every single day we train in a public space.

Now I don’t know who made it okay to scream random things in public but if you do parkour you have to come to terms with the fact that strangers screaming at you will be a part of your everyday life.

 

Kind of like working the drive-thru window at a McDonalds.

It’s not just weird, it’s distracting and inappropriate. You’re not at a sporting event…if you’re screaming at someone while they’re training you damned well better have Tourette’s. Otherwise, it’s fair game if they follow you around and narrate your activities at the top of their voices.

 

Now that I think about it…please, yell “Parkour” as much as you want…

If you’ve ever made one of these parkour faux-pas, it’s ok. We forgive you. Just know that we would love to be treated with the same level of respect and decency you would treat a normal human being with. And if you can manage to hold back from screaming “PARKOUR!” or calculating (out loud) the exact probability we’ll break our ankles jumping to that rail maybe you can even stop by and do a little bit of jumping with us. Who knows, if you stick with it long enough you might be lucky enough to have someone ask “But can you do a backflip?!?

Parkour Or Freerunning: Does It Matter?

Parkour has changed since I started training…there are probably about twenty-five articles by practitioners that start with that general sentiment. Most of them tend to follow the same outline: share a few intense training memories from the early years, lament the fact that the current generation of athletes have gone astray from the path set by their predecessors, and conclude with some sort of admonition or call to action. This article will (hopefully) be one of the few that doesn’t fall into these patterns of pseudo-nostalgia we’ve seen before.

The diversification of parkour and freerunning is something very important happening right now and has brought up issues that need to be addressed as quickly and efficiently (see what I did there?) as possible. Instead, a lot of us have been enjoying the growing success of these sports without worrying or planning for the future. The parkour/freerunning argument has been going on (almost literally) since the beginning, but I’m hoping by formalizing it a little and really digging deep we can come to an understanding that will have huge benefits for both these disciplines.

What exactly do we mean when we talk about “parkour” and “freerunning?” Parkour has tons of short, quick definitions like “A to B,” or “reach and escape,” and is often described as a way of learning to overcome obstacles as quickly and efficiently as possible. Beyond the physical side of parkour, there is a philosophical aspect that is inherent our definition of the discipline. David Belle has emphasized the importance of the philosophy to one’s overall understanding of parkour many times. The original mottos of parkour, “be strong to be useful” and “to be and to last,” (borrowed from Georges Hébert’s Methode Naturelle) emphasized utility. In the same way that the end goal of most martial arts is to learn practical self-defense skills, the end goal of parkour is to learn practical “reach/escape” skills.

The term “freerunning” was coined in 2003 to describe Sebastien Foucan’s acrobatic take on parkour to an English speaking audience in the documentary “Jump London.” Freerunning takes place in the same environment as parkour and uses the same amazing equipment – the human body. But where parkour’s goal is inherently practical, freerunning focuses on creativity and self-expression. Where parkour is strict, freerunning is personal. It doesn’t confine itself to a sense of practicality. In this way, it already seems obvious that these two disciplines are different. Although they use the same environment and equipment, the intentions aren’t the same. Sports, games, and disciplines are defined just as much by their intentions as anything else. Both basketball and “H-O-R-S-E” use the same equipment and environment (not to mention many of the same skills) but since the intention is different, it makes no sense to say that basketball and “H-O-R-S-E” are the same game. Why wouldn’t the same argument apply to parkour and freerunning?

Alright, alright, maybe they’re different…but why are we having this conversation? Most of us train aspects of both disciplines, and the important thing is that we inspire people to get out and move, right? Well, yes…and no. As both parkour and freerunning grow in popularity, the way we present ourselves to the outside world becomes increasingly important. We should feel obligated to think about how our decisions today will affect future generations. We need to think of the kids.

When I started parkour, I was a nerdy 14-year old looking for ways to become a warrior-monk. I was exposed to parkour through David Belle’s “Speed Air Man” and “On Avance Toujours” videos on YouTube and the apparent practicality of the training is what drew me in. Sure, the flips were cool but at the end of the day I wanted to be able to save my family from a burning building. If I had first been exposed to parkour or freerunning through Farang or Tempest, there’s no doubt I would have been amazed and impressed…but I don’t think I would have fallen in love with it. For me, the utilitarian philosophy that defines parkour is what hooked me – and acknowledging these different tastes is important.

When kids come to a parkour gym and complain that they aren’t learning how to backflip, we shouldn’t make them sit through months of vaults and wall runs when we could put them in a freerunning class. And we shouldn’t have to worry about teaching kids tumbling skills if they just want to run speed courses and drill rail precisions. If kids want to explore both options, that’s fine. But we should make sure students know it’s also okay to explore one or the other exclusively, and develop their skills in the discipline they find more interesting. I hate seeing kids struggle through classes trying to be “well-rounded” when it’s clear they couldn’t care less about one side or the other. And I don’t want the confusion and timidity that we as a community seem to feel about defining ourselves to alienate nerdy little kids like me in the future. Not to mention, the longer we try to figure out what it is that we’re doing, the more likely it is that someone “outside” of our community will do so for us. And that brings us to the next reason this conversationneeds to be happening right now – the media and the outside world.

Parkour and freerunning have a history of being misrepresented in the media. A lot of the blame for this falls on us. We don’t have set definitions for what we do, or even a clear, overarching purpose for our practice. This gives people in the media an excuse to present parkour and freerunning as reckless roof jumping or “extreme flips.” When we are portrayed this way, it lowers the credibility of what we do and makes it harder for big events, gyms, school programs, and outdoor parks to gain public acceptance. This misunderstanding also tends to spill into the commercial world.

There are tons of people who practice parkour and freerunning for fun, but lots of the world’s top athletes are trying to figure out how to make parkour their life. In a world that revolves around money, this means figuring out how to market parkour and freerunning. Whether you’re teaching classes, doing parkour-based stunts in movies, or freerunning in live shows, who hires you and what they hire you for depends largely on how you’re perceived. I’ve seen plenty of parkour-oriented commercial jobs go to amazing freerunners, and vice-versa, because the companies hiring them assumed we all have the same skill sets. Wouldn’t it be great instead to see companies hire athletes who actually specialize in what they want? I’d love to see Phil Doyle or Callum Powell in a movie chase scene instead of Chase Armitage or Damien Walters (not to take anything away from some of the crazy stunts they’ve done). Or have Dylan Baker throw down some next-level descents as an alternative to more superheroes corking off various models of automobile. And the first step toward making that happen is to admit to ourselves, and the public, that these two awesome things are different. Once we start to respect all the amazing, diverse athletes pushing these disciplines in different ways and specializing in different things it follows naturally that others will as well.

You may be reading this and even agreeing with a lot of what I’m saying, but still asking yourself, “So what? How does this affect me or my training?” The truth is…for most of us, it won’t. I’m not saying that every time you do a punch front you need to ask yourself if you’re doing parkour or freerunning. We all have our reasons for pursuing our love of movement. I’m not writing this blog in the hopes that it will split the community down the middle, or create tension between traceurs and freerunners. What I dowant is for everyone, individually and on a community-wide scale, to look at their intentions and end goals. Think about how everything we do together will (for better or worse) build the future of these beautiful pursuits. If you find that you don’t align yourself with the ethos of parkour, that’s fine. I’m not asking you to change your movement. I’m just asking that you respect the fact there are still some of us out there who want parkour to stay practical. So maybe if you’re ever interviewed for a newspaper article, you say you practice parkour and freerunning instead of just parkour. Or tell people that, while both disciplines are similar on the surface, they have different philosophies and intentions. Every little bit helps.

At the end of the day, I firmly believe that movement training is for everyone. Whether it’s parkour, freerunning, tricking, dancing, basketball, or Zumba, using our bodies to explore the world around us is a life-enhancing experience. I’m hoping that by having this conversation now, our communities are able to simplify and communicate the amazing movement messages we have to share. We can’t expect other people to understand us if we don’t understand ourselves…so let’s get talking!

**If you want to hear Dylan Baker and I talk more about the history and philosophy of parkour and how it differs from freerunning, check out our podcast on www.parkourdojo.com** 

6 Things Parkour Girls Wish Guys Would Stop Doing

“Why don’t more girls do parkour?” 
“I don’t understand why my girlfriend doesn’t want to come train with me…” 
“I know a lot of girls who have tried parkour but for some reason they all quit after one or two sessions.” 

Have you ever thought this to yourself while jamming – confused, sad, and lonely during the 20 minutes of despair between everyone actually training and convincing the jam it’s time to go to Chipotle?

 

And you thought this post was going to be about parkour…

If you have, you’re not alone. Researchers estimate that approximately 90%* of male parkour practitioners in America are in the dark about how to treat the handful of girls that are actively involved in their community. Since typical interactions currently range between “That was pretty good…for a girl” and “I’d marry that,” I’ve reached out to some of the USA’s top female practitioners to compile a list of the top six things parkour guys say or do that really needs to stop.

*Numbers based on totally legit samples I collected while not hitting on all the girls at the last parkour jam

#6. YouTube Comments

If you read that topic headline and said to yourself “Oh boy, here we go” then we’re in the same boat. Congratulations! Chances are you’re not part of the problem. If, on the other hand, you have no idea where I’m going with this…please, take a look at this picture.

 

At least they don’t seem to have an issue with commitment.

This is a screenshot of the comments section from Katie McDonnell’s super awesome 2013 compilation. Find anything unsettling about this? Besides the terrible grammar, that is…(it’s ok, they’re foreign)

How about the fact that it only took me four seconds of scrolling to find three straight comments on a parkour video that have almost nothing to do with parkour? Kinda weird, right? Well, if you’ve ever waded through the comments section of a female parkour video…no…it’s not. The blatant sexualization of female parkour athletes within the parkour community, while not unexpected, is pretty disheartening. Here’s a quote from one of the ladies I interviewed on how it feels as a woman to receive this type of comment on a video.

Comments on Parkour videos….Half of them are the ‘good for a girl’ type, and the rest are scattered with ‘I would date that/tap that’ or ‘she could be my girlfriend’, as if it was MY privilege. I just hate that most of the time the comments are never about the movement in a non condescending or sexually aggressive way. Not always, but most.”

There you go gentleman. Sexually charged online commentary mostly comes off as creepy and weird. Even in the parkour community (which apparently is a surprise to some people?). So if you were planning on using the comment section of YouTube for your next proposal I’d seriously consider some other possibilities.

 

Because nothing says love like Little Caesar’s.

So if comments like “Ur a hott pk gurl wanna bang” are out of the picture, how should a male parkour practitioner go about commenting on a female practitioner’s video? Say something nice about their movement, or say something bad about their movement, or offer suggestions on what could have been better, or tell them you liked the video. Try to avoid directly or indirectly mentioning your desire to date/marry/have sex with them…you know, like guys do with each other all the time. Or if you know them really, really, really well and are sure they won’t mind, feel free to leave a weirdly sexual comment. Because that’s pretty much the norm on most male parkour videos. Hurray for equality and friendship and stuff!

#5. You Should Really Train With [Insert Random Beginner Girl’s Name Here]

This one came up a lot in the message thread and I have to confess I didn’t even realize it was a thing until all my awesome parkour amigas brought it to my attention. If you’ve been training for a while you’ve probably had someone come up to you and tell you all about their friend who is amazing at parkour (despite the fact they have no videos and you’ve never heard of them) that you should totally train with. So you arrange a playdate, get stoked you’re gonna have a new training partner, then realize your friend’s definition of “awesome at parkour” is “has n00b-level proficiency at three vaults and can front handspring to his ass.” 

 

Dude, trust me. He’s pretty much a pro.

I always hated when this happened to me but somehow never connected the dots and saw that this is what happens to girls in the parkour community literally ALL THE TIME. Like, it’s the norm. And it sucks. Want to know why? Here’s a handy little list of numbered bullet point things that will explain!

  1. Training with people that aren’t near your skill level can be fun sometimes, but it can also be super boring and unproductive for both parties if it happens constantly.
  2. Imagine how awesome it feels to progress at something you love. Getting better at parkour (or anything for that matter) is pretty sweet! So think of how great it must feel to have someone come up to you after an awesome session, ignore the fact you hit a bunch of new challenges, and suggest you train with a complete beginner. Then say some other stuff to subtly hint that you two are at the same skill level. It’s just douchey. Even if you don’t mean for it to be, it just is. Sorry.
  3. It’s douchey. SERIOUSLY.

 

Do you even jump bruh?!

To be honest, I’ve been guilty of this myself from time to time. But the first step to solving a problem is recognizing you have one. Or reading the actual problem if it’s one of those annoying Facebook “intelligence test” things. So I’ve packed up my wife-beaters and hair gel and decided to say goodbye to my chauvinist, Jersey Shore-Guido-parkour doppelganger. You should too! That’s not to say you can’t give girls suggestions on people to train with…just know that you should base those suggestions off personal training styles and experience instead of sex. Because it’s annoying and offensive if you don’t

#4. Come Train! 

Training parkour with girls is awesome for pretty much the same reasons training with guys is awesome – it’s fun to jump around with people, there are lots of new ideas that get thrown around, and you generally leave a spot looking at it a little differently than you did before.

 

…and this is your brain on a new spot.

Depending on their background, girls can also bring to the table some super cool challenges that most guys wouldn’t ever think of. Some of the coolest, weirdest challenges I’ve ever done were found by girls with crazy flexibility or finger strength or climbing tech (I swear I’m not speaking in euphemisms…)

So where am I going with this? What could possibly be bad about inviting the girls in your community to come train? Well my friend, the problem lies not in the invitation but in the fact that many times it’s followed up by a whole lotta ignorin’. It’s well and good to invite girls to training sessions, heck, I’d even suggest it! But if you do, don’t say hello then ignore them until it’s time to grab dinner. There are tons of cool things guys and girls of all skill levels can work on together. Get creative and find some challenges you can all try. And this doesn’t just go for girls…if there are new people/older people/younger people/aliens at your session go out of your way to find some things you can work on together. Just make sure it’s a challenge that’s tough for everyone involved!

 

Otherwise you’ll end up being this guy…and no one wants to be this guy.

Since this problem is pretty easy to understand and (hopefully) to remedy, I’m going to save some words and move on to the next one! Cue…

#3. Bringing Girlfriends to Parkour Jams

If you’re as dedicated to (read: unhealthily obsessed with) parkour as I am, you probably want your significant other to be too. And if she’s not, hey, you’ll settle for dragging her to jams and training sessions so she can meet your friends and (hopefully) develop a mild interest in jumping around via diffusion.

 

I just can’t believe you don’t want to devote your entire life to this sport I do.

The next thing that usually happens in this scenario is the loving boyfriend drops his girlfriend off with the girl(s) at the jam and goes off to do his own thing. That’s cool, right? I mean, girls like to hang out and it’s probably less intimidating for her to learn from her own species…plus now I can actually train instead of wasting 45 minutes trying to teach her precisions! It’s a win/win situation!

Except for everyone that isn’t you. Your girlfriend (who was only marginally interested in learning parkour in the first place) is now alone and surrounded by a bunch of jacked women who are making her feel like a noob. On top of that, the ladies you left her with now feel obligated to stop training and teach your girlfriend (who, mind you, still doesn’t really care). So basically, it sucks. To illustrate the level of frustration and suckage that this situation causes, here’s another quote from one of the ladies I interviewed…

You want me to stop what I am doing and focus my energy in teaching someone who, to put it plainly, doesn’t care or take it that seriously. I teach a fuckton during the week, when I get to train I want to train… If I am going to stop to teach, she’d better actually be interested. And second, you are completely capable of teaching her. Women aren’t aliens. You brought her along… she clearly doesn’t want to be here… you deal with it. Stop making it my job to get her involved just because I am also a woman.”

You heard it here, folks. While getting your girlfriend involved in parkour is undoubtedly awesome, treating the female parkour community like a weird adult babysitting club is not. So if you plan on bringing your girlfriend to the next jam, be prepared to actually spend time with her and help her learn stuff. Once she’s gotten to know people a little and actually wants to train it’s a different story. But until then, treat your girlfriend like a person please *gasp* and not a coat you can drop off with the other girls at the jam.

#2. That Was Pretty Good…For A Girl

Here’s another one that should be pretty self-explanatory. Telling anyone that they’re good and then qualifying it is depressing, degrading, and douchey (plus a bunch of other words that start with the letter ‘d’). Saying it to girls in the parkour community needs to stop being seen by dudes as an acceptable kind of backhanded compliment.

 

But racial jokes are still ok, right? RIGHT?!

So what should guys say instead? We went through this with the YouTube comments…stop obsessing over the fact that girls do, in fact, train parkour and focus on addressing the actual movement. If something is good, say it’s good! If it’s not so good, offer constructive criticism or just stay quiet…because a lot of those social quirks we learned in pre-school (if you don’t have anything good to say then don’t say anything at all) still apply as adults.

Before I move on to number one, let’s talk about one more semi-related thing guys 100% need to stop bringing up in comments and conversation; how masculine/feminine certain practitioners in the community look. I’m not talking about when they’re moving around and training. I’m purely talking about physical appearance. Here’s a quote from an awesome traceuse that identifies and explains this problem…

Traceurs criticize parkour girls for looking butch…It’s actually something that I’ve heard and seen many, MANY times- on Facebook and in person…Those kinds of opinions should be kept to yourself. There have been entire discussions on this topic in a giant parkour group on fb with lots of male AND female members. (A guy posted a question asking whether or not the other guys would want to date a parkour girl and an overwhelming amount of the argument had to do with how “butch” they looked)”

Seriously guys? This is what it’s come to? This doesn’t even have anything to do with parkour, it’s just a matter of common decency. Complimenting a girl for “not looking as butch as other parkour girls” is not a compliment. It’s a two-sided insult. Having an opinion on who you find attractive or unattractive in the community is fine. What isn’t fine is blasting that opinion on social media in an offensive and degrading way. So please, just think before you say or post things and realize that what you say has the ability to effect other people. This is pre-K stuff. And for that matter, so is…

#1. Do You Need Some Help?…Want Me To Spot You?

We’ve come to it at last. This is probably the most common problem I’ve seen and one that was consistently brought up by every girl I interviewed. Yup, I’m talking about using teaching/mentoring/advice/spotting to awkwardly approach and hit on any girl that has tried or expressed any remote interest in parkour EVER.

 

It’s so common I didn’t even have to make a new meme for it…

Teaching people and helping them progress is a noble pursuit, and one that many of us find our way to at one point or another. But if you’ve ever been to a parkour jam with a girl, you’ll realize it’s also an interest that 95% of the male practitioners within a hundred foot radius instantly develop as soon as they see her try a jump. I mean, seriously, I’ve seen guys that didn’t even train walk off the street and give girls tips on movements. It’s like the scene in Spirited Away when all the little dust spiders come out of the woodworks to steal Chihiro’s shoes.

 

Pictured here: guys at a parkour jam rushing to help that one girl over there with her frontflip

What’s annoying about this? We’re gonna need another set of numbered bullet things…

  1. Most girls don’t need/want help to the extent it’s offered. Sometimes people like to just try things on their own. One of my awesome traceuse friends put it best:“If there is a guy doing a jump he isn’t getting, most of the time guys don’t go up to him and give him advice. But if there is a girl, guys feel quite free to come up and give their unsolicited opinions.”  Sometimes people need to figure stuff out on their own or try stuff a few times before nailing it perfectly. Give girls the same opportunity to learn from their own mistakes that you’d give guys.
  2. A lot of times, guys will give advice on things that have nothing to do with what the girl is training at the time. Again, I’ll let the ladies speak for themselves here...”I also hate it when guys ask “hey, do you know how to do a [insert some move or trick]” and if you say “no” they interrupt whatever you’re doing and try to teach you how to do it- while insisting to *spot* you of course because it’s never not creepy. Again, I don’t see this EVER happen with guys. Like dude, I don’t care to learn an arabian just now. I was going to fucking do this precision.” Got it?
  3. If you bring up “spotting” a girl for a jump before she explicitly asks you for a spot, you’re probably being a creep. I’ve seen and heard about guys trying to cop a feel WAY too many times for this to stay unmentioned. It’s disgusting and inappropriate. Even if you teach for a living and a girl has asked you for some advice on a move and you are confident that a spot would be the best way for her to learn…only bring it up as one possible option. And please do it in a not-sketchy way. We’d all appreciate it. If you’re in a situation where you’re not sure if you should spot her or not…let her bring it up. It’s just better that way.
  4. Getting advice or beta on a challenge can be awesome, but if it’s happening constantly and from all angles, you’ll never have a chance to train. If you’re a dude and you feel you have a piece of advice for a girl, let her know and walk away. Same way you’d do it for another dude. Then go do your own thing. If she wants more help she can ask for it. That way everyone will get to train!

 

You should strive to be this guy in all jam-related situations. 

Long story short, it can be tough to be a lady in a sport that (right now) is heavily dominated by lots of hormonally-charged teenage boys. So if you’re a dude and you do parkour, be accommodating. Try to avoid doing any of these six things and be confident in the knowledge that you’re not being a creepy jerk. Women have some awesome knowledge and skills to bring to the table and it’s a big part of our responsibility as guys in the community to make sure it’s easy for them to get involved. If you’re a sick ass traceuse, keep on trucking! Together, I think we can make this article obsolete in two or three years

And if you’re a lady who’s interested in starting parkour, don’t let this article scare you! While there are a lot of guys in every community who fit into these stereotypes there are also a lot who don’t. Like anywhere else, you’ll find some good and some bad. Just know that the parkour community is one of openness, acceptance, and equality and we’re all trying our best to keep it that way!

-Max Henry

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