Reading Guide: ‘Kids’ — this section is for kids; ‘Grown-ups’–this section is for grown-ups. “Words to Learn”: Blue–words for kids to learn; Orange–words for Grown-ups to learn (definitions are at the bottom of the blog post). We include words from the video too!
Kids, we’ve got a great gym right here in Calgary that is one of the few parkour-based training centres in the whole wide world! It’s called No Limits AFC and its manager, Amanda “Panda” Holmedal, decided to share with us one of her favourite moves, the headstand!
Lots of people think of parkour as an extreme sport because parkour athletes (called traceurs and traceuses) can be seen jumping off ledges, flipping over rails, and climbing on their hands and feet along the tops of high walls. But as we shared in our last blog post featuring traceur, Jim Sinclair, parkour is all about NOT being extreme.
Extreme sports usually use pieces of technology like bungee cords or parachutes to help you do things that your body would not regularly be able to do (like jump out of a plane and land safely). But the idea behind parkour is to get really good at doing things that you learned how to do when you were a baby, like rolling, crawling and climbing. For parkour you don’t need any technology at all. Most parkour athletes just wear light, flexible clothing and a pair of shoes–some don’t even wear shoes! In parkour you are trying to move your body in the most natural way possible, so you only do moves that your body can do on its own. “But,” you might say, “traceurs are able to do things that seem impossible or like only superheros should be able to do them.” Yes, they do. And they are able to because traceurs practice, practice, practice, and start off with simple moves that are really easy to have fun with–like headstands.
In this Simple Fun video, Amanda “Panda” is showing us all how to have fun standing upside-down. She teaches us headstands first because they are a very important and fundamental move in parkour. By doing a headstand you learn how to balance without your feet on the ground. It can feel really weird at first to use just your arms and your head for balance. But, if you keep practicing you’ll find your stomach muscles, neck, back, legs and arms all get very strong. And remember the motto Georges Hébert used that inspired parkour, “Be Strong to Be Useful” (see our last post to read about the history of parkour). So the stronger you are the more useful you can be in helping other people and learning more parkour skills.
To get as strong as possible make sure that you watch and listen to Amanda very closely as she teaches you to do a headstand and then watch the video as many times as you need to learn how to progress to handstands. Progressing safely and comfortably is the way to get really good at parkour. That’s why one of the most popular mottos of parkour is “être et durer”, which, in English, means, “to be and to last”. Parkour is so much fun that you will want to be able to do it all of the time. So, build up to new moves by getting really good and strong at every level of the progression that comes before it. That way you’ll learn how to do lots of fun, cool and totally amazing things with your body while staying safe and comfortable the whole time. HAVE FUN!
Grown-ups, if you are over twenty, we’re sure you can count on more than one hand the number of injuries you have that flare up each time you go to the gym or slip on some ice.
Injuries are never fun, especially when they are persistent. Contrary to popular belief, and, seemingly counter-intuitively, parkour is phenomenal for rehabilitation. Because you are focusing on fluid movements that are based on natural human–almost infantile–abilities, with no dependence on sporting technology, properly progressed parkour is incredibly gentle on your body and soothing. Consider this, if you jump lock-legged off of a one-foot-high stair you can break your back and fracture your legs; but seasoned traceurs are able to jump off twenty-foot-high walls, land, and continue to run unscathed. The secret is to maxime the effective transfer of energy. The traceuse jumps forward off the wall, lands with outstretched (though slightly bent) legs, striking first with the ball of the foot and toes, then absorbs the impact with the flexibility of her feet, ankles, knees, hips, spine, chest, and neck, all while transferring the downward energy of the jump into a forward roll. This takes practice, but the ability is built from increasing your range of motion, strengthening your muscles and learning to accentuate the speed, receptiveness and accuracy of your body’s natural processes.
Our host, Amanda, is the picture of parkour-rehabilitation. Three years ago she was struck by a car while jogging. The impact damaged her L4 and L5 vertebrae, severed a ligament in her left hip and sustained a violent concussion and further brain injuries. Nearly concurrently, her mother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer–she passed away within the year.
These events swept Amanda into a deep depression. But, as she describes it, parkour gave her a pathway out.
The only thing that kept me going throughout…was my need to get back to training in the discipline I loved so much. I started getting back into training by doing small balance techniques and different isometric conditioning to build my body back up to be at a level where I could train again. Since the accident and my emotional pain, [I have] recovered myself to the point of surpassing my previous skill level…
Parkour is my form of meditation, it is the one thing that I can do that lets me live in the moment and not focus on the past or what is upsetting me at the time. I want to share my personal love for the discipline of Parkour and free-running with everyone. Also to show that it doesn’t matter how old you are or if you are a man or a woman or what injuries you have experienced in your life, there is a place for Parkour in everyone’s life.
You heard her, grown-up or kid, broken or resilient, parkour holds a way for all of us to have Simple Fun.
Words to Learn
bungee cord: remember the rubber bands that our Simple Fun Video hosts, Donovan Deschner and Pat MacEachern used to show how to do magic and make a guitar out of a Kleenex box? Imagine if you tied thousands and thousands of those rubber bands together. You’d get a really long, bouncy, elastic rope; or, ‘bungee cord’. Some people use one type of ‘bungee cords’ to tie things down because they stretch easier than ropes. Other people use a different type of ‘bungee cord’ to do an extreme sport called bungee jumping in which a person will attach one end of a very long and strong ‘bungee cord’ to something like a tall bridge and then attach the other end of the ‘cord’ to their ankles. Then they jump off the bridge and bounce with the cord. Bungee jumping is a lot of fun but YOU HAVE TO DO IT WITH TRAINED PROFESSIONALS. (your parents should always try it first)
flexible: being able to change and adapt to different things without breaking. You’ll be best at parkour and even going through everyday life the more flexible you make your muscles. Stretch to get flexible. You can make your mind more flexible too by challenging it with puzzles or real-world puzzles like choosing parkour lines (learn about parkour ‘lines’ in our previous blog post).
impossible: not able to happen. Many things humans do everyday at one point in history seemed ‘impossible’. It seemed ‘impossible’ to travel to England from Calgary in a day, it seemed ‘impossible’ to create a vehicle that could fly (like a plane) or roll (like a car) at hundreds of kilometers per hours; but we do it now. It may even seem impossible for you to practice parkour, but by learning moves and progressions you’ll start doing all sorts of things that once seemed ‘impossible’.
ledge: a flat surface that comes out from a wall with very little room to walk or balance on.
parachute: a big piece of cloth attached by strings to something like a backpack that a person wears when jumping out of a plane or off of a very tall building or cliff. The cloth opens up when released from the backpack and catches so much air that it slows the jumper down enough to land safely on the ground. Again, ONLY DO THIS WITH TRAINED PROFESSIONALS WHEN YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH (AT LEAST 18) AND MAKE SURE YOUR PARENTS DO IT FIRST.
parkour: a movement-based practice that uses natural human movements (running, jumping, climbing, balancing, etc.) as its basis. The main idea of parkour is to move from one place to another as quickly as possible by going over, around, under, or through as many obstacles as is needed.
progress: developing toward a higher level of skill. To get good at doing handstands you need to first learn to do headstands, then go through the handstand ‘progressions’. Eventually you may have ‘progressed’ so far that you are safe and comfortable doing handstands on ledges way above the ground–but you have to practice lots of ‘progressions’ for a long long time first.
straddle: to place your legs wide, wide apart, to make them form a shape like a big ‘V’.
traceur / traceuse: a male person (boy or man) who practices parkour is called a ‘traceur’. A female (girl or woman) who does is called a ‘traceuse’. These are French words that come from another French word, “tracer”, which means to “trace”. You know when you want to draw a picture just like something you’ve seen so you put a piece of thin paper over the original picture and “trace” the lines? Well, when a parkour athlete runs from one place to another the way they chose to take is called their “line”, and because they chose to run over that “line” it is like they are “tracing” it. So, we call parkour athletes ‘traceurs’ and ‘traceuses’.
No Limits AFC: parkour is a discipline that is designed to help you move efficiently and safely through obstacles in your everyday (often urban) environment. But sometimes it is nice to build up your confidence with knowledgeable instructors and a soft floor. No Limits Alternate Fitness Concepts Gym provides a vestige in Calgary for introducing yourself to parkour and pushing the limits of collaboration on your skills. They also often work with Breathe Parkour Magazine to host open, public parkour ‘jams’ in and around Calgary. Come to the gym and a jam! For anyone interested in parkour and the traceur community, No Limits is definitely the source to follow on Facebook and Twitter.
parkour: a movement-based practice that uses natural human movements (running, jumping, climbing, balancing, etc.) as its basis. The main idea of parkour is to move from one place to another as quickly as possible by going over, around, under, or through as many obstacles as is needed. There are various forms of parkour that have developed out of showcasing specific skills which are less concerned with efficiency of movement. This other type of parkour is often referred to as “freerunning“.
traceur / traceuse: a male person who practices parkour is called a ‘traceur’. A female who does is called a ‘traceuse’. These are French words that come from another French word, “tracer”, which means to “trace”. The derivation occurs because when a parkour athlete runs from one place to another the route they chose to take is called their “line”, and because they chose to run over that “line” it is like they are “tracing” it. So, we call parkour athletes ‘traceurs’ and ‘traceuses’.