Over the winter, I made it my goal to be able to perform above and beyond my abilities in the coming spring. As I get older and my involvement with American Parkour grows, I am realizing that my skills need to reflect my position. This has always been easy for me, as I started my own group in my hometown and taught many of the members. Yet, now that I am slowly becoming part of a group of professional traceurs and free runners, I know that I need to step my training up to the next level. I will not let myself stay on this plateau.
As spring drew closer and closer, I had made it my goal to get front flips outside. I have been able to do front flips and back flips outside at various times over the past few years, yet after minor, random falls, I have let the fear creep into my head. Lately, Iâ€™ve been letting the fear of a lot of movements get to me and it has affected my ability to move as fluidly as I want through my environment. However, I took advantage of the gymnastics room over the winter months and trained countless front flips. The movement became natural in the gym, the feeling, likened to the idea that one never forgets how to ride a bicycle.
Yet, still, the outdoor flips eluded me. One such occasion occurred last semester when I was prompted by my friends to do a back flip outside. Of course they were not pushing in a negative way, nor were they giving me a hard time for my hesitation. Even still, when having two of my best and most trusted friends there to spot me, I could not will myself to do a back flip. I hold them in the highest respect for allowing me to step off the ledge and offer their confidence that I would be able to do one eventually.
However, â€œeventuallyâ€ became a tedious and frustrating term to me. I knew that I had the ability, I knew that I had the skills, and I could not figure out why I would not simply do a back tuck off of a two foot ledge. So, I took my training to the center of that struggle: My mind and my heart. To me, those are the two focuses of a traceurâ€™s true strength. Without the ability to push through our mental struggles, our muscles mean nothing.
Towards the end of March, VTPK set up a jam on a wonderfully warm afternoon. Blue skies with the perfect random white clouds; you know, one of â€œthoseâ€ days. The entire day I had been publicly announcing to my friends that I would be doing a front flip. This was not to boast or rub it in anyoneâ€™s face, simply as a fail safe for me to actually go through with it. I was making promises to myself and to those around me. Yet, when the time came for me to go through with it, I hesitated. Once again, my friends were all there, urging me to flip, knowing that I could do it. I knew then that I was being ridiculous and that I had the ability to do it. So I did.
My first few involved jumping onto a 6-inch ledge and flipping onto a bed of mulch at level height. However, because of that step-up, I was landing quite low and most likely putting too much stress on my knees. We moved further down to a spot that involved the same step up, but a 6-inch drop on the other side. This was enough to throw my confidence off. Yet, again, my friends were there for me. My roommate, Chris â€œSpyderâ€ Wachtman, one of my greatest friends, was there to support me. â€œIâ€™ll do one first if you want,â€ he told me. He was getting over his fear, for me. I nodded and said, â€œokay,â€ and watched him do the flip. Still shaky from my fear, I gathered my thoughts and went for it. The feeling of flipping, of leaving the ground, being completely inverted, is one that I will never forget as long as I live, and to do it outside with confidence gave me a feeling of elation. I repeated the movement nearly twenty times, every time landing with a smile on my face.
What I take away from this experience is not simply the joy of getting the movement down. Nor, is it progressing in the art of parkour. To me, the greatest thing that I have gained is the friendship of a group born from amazing camaraderie. That is the most intense, most real, thing that someone can take away. The ability to perform a flip is transient and will most likely fade with time as I age. But, the bonds that I have created with the members of my community, I will never forget. They are what keep me smiling, keep me pushing, keep me alive. I am where I am because of the friends I have.