I want to share with you a story about a training experience that happened a couple of months ago that affected the way that I view the art.
I had gone on a night training session on a cold October evening at my school. The session went fine until I noticed the security guard who frequents campus at night paying a bit more scrutiny to me than usual. Now I wasnâ€™t doing anything unsafe or reckless; in fact I made it a point to work on a bit more conditioning than usual when he started to follow me around campus. He left me alone after five minutes so I started to work on some techniques at a nearby group of picnic tables surrounded by railings. As soon as I nailed a palmspin I saw his truck come up, so I approached him and said hello. We struck up a brief conversation of pleasantries before he asked me what I was doing. I gave him the 50-cent definition of Parkour that Iâ€™ve learned over time to rattle off whenever people started asking me those questions.
â€œThat ainâ€™t safe,â€ he replied. â€œYouâ€™re gonna get yourself hurt, son.â€
â€œI manage to keep pretty good control of myself and my environment,â€ I replied.
â€œWell you oughta move on. We canâ€™t have you doinâ€™ this on campus at night. Why donâ€™t you come inside and watch the football game?â€
â€œIâ€™ll be there in a few minutes,â€ I said. This seemed to satisfy the guard, so I took that time to move to another location. I didnâ€™t want to pack up and move to a new ground (hotspots in my area are separated by several minutes worth of driving distance) but I didnâ€™t want to sit on a couch and watch football on an evening devoted to night training either. This was not a situation where I had much of an option to do anything but move on out of respect for those who had just a bit more authority than me.
Respect is a key function that we as practitioners of Parkour or Freerunning have to learn whenever weâ€™re out with the general public. We know what weâ€™re doing and we know how to remain in control; these are founding principles of the art we all share. Things like the Ultimate Parkour Challenge are giving the general public more of an awareness of the motion arts. However, we are still in a nascent phase of the publicâ€™s perception of the art. We do not want a situation in America like what has occurred overseas on a couple of occasions where the publicâ€™s perception of the art is tainted by a few people who think they can flaunt a disregard for authority and get away with it.
Many of you who practice Parkour or Freerunning do so on a daily basis. Training to you is as essential as breathing. I encourage each of you reading this to add an element of mindfulness into your training regimen. Those of you who wear clothing with â€œParkour,â€ â€œAPK,â€ or â€œFreerunningâ€ on it in any form are a representative of the community as a whole each and every time you go out in public. As a representative of the community we all treasure and respect it is your duty to make sure that the people with whom you come into contact leave your presence with nothing but a positive outlook on Parkour and Freerunning. If that means leaving a training ground you frequent for a day then so be it. Come back the next day or use your imagination to make a new training ground out of a location you havenâ€™t previously visited. Rememberâ€”the only limits you have are what you place on yourself.
If you train with others, keep a strong focus on accountability with your training partners. If one gets out of line with a spectator or an authority figure, I would dare say itâ€™s an appropriate reaction to take them aside and keep them in check as well. Donâ€™t be afraid to tell someone in these circumstances that theyâ€™re acting inappropriately or that what theyâ€™re doing is hurting the art form. If thatâ€™s truly the case, then itâ€™s a time for you to step in and do something about it.
Look at the world of skateboarding and the perceptions the general public has developed over time. This is not to denigrate those who ride a boardâ€”far from itâ€”but that sport had a long, arduous fight to legitimacy because of the actions a few people took in its formative years. A lack of respect for others and the environment caused skaters to be confined to parks, skate stops being placed on prime locations, and the world as we know it seeing the sport of skateboarding as an â€œantisocialâ€ or â€œextremeâ€ activity. Thatâ€™s not something those of us who train in Parkour or Freerunning really want at heartâ€”we want people to embrace the motion arts as something to better the lives of not only practitioners but also those who interact with us.
Respect. Itâ€™s more than the title of an Aretha Franklin song or a word in the dictionary; itâ€™s a way of life as essential to every practitioner of the motion arts as the techniques we strive to improve. If youâ€™re not training your respect as much as your kongs and precisions, why not start the next time you go out?