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Topics - Alissa J. Bratz

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First of all, I apologize if this has already been discussed. This news is about a month old, but I don't recall seeing anything about it on the main page or anywhere, and a lot of what's mentioned in this article hints at some pretty big stuff, so I thought I'd share it here.

My friend in Paris sent this clipping to me. It's dated June 12 and was featured in "Direct Matin" which is kind of a supplement type publication tied to the national dailies. The article basically points toward a trend in France for "legitimizing" parkour, which I think is really cool!

The article is about the Yamakasi, and a demonstration they did earlier that week. At the demonstration, the French Secretary of State for Sports was present and went on record saying "It really is a sport!" It also goes on to talk about how because of this, city planners are starting to keep "urban sports" more in mind as they develop cities. Even more exciting is that Evry has announced that in 2010 the first art du deplacement academy will be constructed in downtown Evry. There is also some talk of standardizing parkour at the national level, with certification programs, etc. (discussed mostly in the inset next to the photo)

Here is a link to the article. You will have to download it to read with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

If the link doesn't take you directly to the article, use the drop-down menu to choose archive #484. The article is on page 4 of the archive.

Here is my translation of the text (pardon its rough spots!):

A "parkour" (French pun on parcours which means obstacle course, where parkour got its name as you know... the pun in the headline makes amusing sense in French) for scaling walls

For the past 15 years, the Yamakasi have been investing in cities.

You have to pinch yourself to believe it. You'd think you were in a 3D, high-def video game. Like Mario Brothers or Sonic, adolescents jump from wall to wall, as if they had springs in their legs, shock absorbers in their thighs, and scotch tape for hands. Slippery walls, emptiness, concrete rooftops? Nothing gets in the way of their progression, the whole city becomes a huge playground. It was in Lisses, near Evry, about 15 years ago, that a group of about a dozen or so friends and cousins created this happy discipline. Since then, the Yamakasi, a Congolese term meaning "man who is strong in body and mind/spirit" have paved its way.

Luc Besson made a film of them, Madonna called on them to choreograph one of her shows, Cirque du Soleil for acrobatic numbers. Having become professionals, the Yamakasi are emulated the world over and, according to Chau Belle, one of its founders, "France counts about 50,000 practitioners." Wednesday, at a demonstration on the cathedral square in Evry, the Secretary of State for Sports, Bernard LaPorte, did not come back from it (?? not sure what this is; I think it might be an idiom meaning he really liked it ??). "It's really a sport!" remarked the former French rugby champion. "This is the first time I've ever seen this!" Astonishing! But where did the idea come from? "Naturally. You give a ball to some children, they'll run after it, they'll play with it. We do the same thing with walls, ramps, railings..." recalls Chau Belle. "Our family histories are complicated. I'm a child of post-war Vietnam, Guylain comes from Zaire... we grew up with the desire to become stronger and to push the limits of what's possible."

The art of movement in an urban environment, called "parkour" isn't just a performance sport/spectacle. It's also a philosophy. Its founders see in movement without obstacles an image of the construction of the self, freedom, going beyond. "Jump to evolve, and go farther, forward, always. The biggest danger is inertia." No longer to subject oneself to the city but to live with it and make it one's own. But today, a new phenomenon, it's the city that adapts. "We're going to see again/re-envision our urban environment," promises Francis Chouat, first lieutenant mayor of Evry. "More and more elected officials are aware of the development of urban sports," says Thomas Bencteux, consultant to the Urban Recreation Agency. "They are being counseled [working with consultants] on management of public spaces to favor the practice [of urban sports] without generating harm/damages/conflicts with the general public...we're looking at the choice of materials, the angles of slopes/ramps, the types of surfaces on the ground." Evry is going even farther. It will open, at the beginning of 2010, in the middle of downtown, the first academy for l'art du deplacement where international and local training courses will be organized. In a vast space equipped with scaffolding, vault boxes, and padded obstacles, children and adults, coached by the Yamakasi, can train risk-free before venturing out into the urban environment.

Caption above photo: The city as their playground, the Yamakasi, urban acrobats, met with Bernard LaPorte, Secretary of State for Sports. Here is the portrait of this athletic discipline that shapes the body and mind.

Inset next to photo: Tomorrow, an Olympic discipline? L'art du deplacement practiced by the Yamakasi, hip-hop, double-dutch, skateboarding, rollerblading, BMX... all these urban sports are expanding rapidly. The minister of sports, Bernard LaPorte, decided to get interested in them and will convene, next October, their first general conference. "75% of sports practice takes place outside of a league/sanctioned federation," he explained. "We want to analyze all these emerging sports, come up with a system, and a certification program. Notably, to secure/safeguard them. And why not, to make Olympic disciplines out of them. That will be the case with skateboarding in the London Games. Would anyone have imagined that several years ago?"


Wow, huh? :)

MadParkour / MADISON: Girls, Inc. Workshops again this summer!
« on: July 06, 2009, 06:35:02 PM »
Madparkour has been asked back to a local community center to lead parkour workshops for Girls, Inc; a national non-profit designed to help adolescent girls reach their full potential. Madparkour will be leading workshops for the boys' group at the community center also.

The workshops started in the summer of 2008, and were led by Alissa (Muse_of_Fire) and Chad. Zac Cohn of the APK Alliance also helped out with a couple of workshops when he was in Madison for his US Parkour Tour that summer. Alissa, Chad, and Zac met with the youth group once a week for a total of 6 weeks. They did basic conditioning exercises, active games such as QM tag and "hot lava," and skills practice with rolls, landings, precisions, balance, basic vaults, and cats/wall work. Plenty of obstacle course and follow-the-leader activities figured in to the program as well. Before each session, Madparkour showed a short parkour video and led a small discussion on certain topics such as safety, flow, balance, etc. that were illustrated by each video. The workshops were a success. Many of the kids had never really had opportunities to be active in a positive, structured way before, and all of the students improved and learned new skills and confidence over the course of the summer. Most importantly, they all worked hard and had fun! Most of the workshops took place in and around the community center playground area, with the group venturing out to a nearby school for some sessions.

The community center contacted Madparkour this spring and invited us back to lead more workshops. Our first session for this summer is Friday, July 10. We're very excited to continue this program, and hope to see it expand in the future! This year we welcome Joey from Waukesha's PK Squirrel to help us in leading the workshops. We'll keep you posted on how the workshops go!

MadParkour / New Madparkour site (mostly) launched!!!
« on: July 02, 2009, 10:47:01 AM »
After a long wait, Madparkour finally has its own site up!

I still need to put in some content, which will hopefully be updated by the end of this week. Also, I can't stand our old logo. I have a new one but putting it in the new site is beyond my primitive skills. So for now, the old one stands.

In any case, please update your bookmarks to


Suggestions/comments welcome; this is a work in progress.

Big thanks to Leonn for his help with some of the design and technical stuff.  :-*

In the Media / Wisconsin-Madison-Public Radio Broadcast 89.9 WORT
« on: June 24, 2009, 06:33:00 PM »
We got a little air time for our Downtown Works event on Tuesday, June 23 2009. It was mostly just a little montage of sound clips from our jam session and some commentary from the reporter covering the event. She did a nice job interpreting what she saw, although some of the quotes, taken out of context, I dunno. Try not to make fun of my "Fargo"-like accent too much. ;) Also you can hear Joey from PK Squirrel giving some great comments and great training direction during the jam.

Visit and scroll to "In Our Backyard-Tuesday". Our segment is at about 24:30 into the broadcast. Just a short little blurb, but some nice stuff.

Greetings, all.

Until our website is fixed I will be using the Facebook group and this thread here at APK to communicate the details of this event with you.

WHO: All Madparkour members are welcome to attend. Help out to the degree you feel comfortable.

WHAT: Downtown Works Week demo

WHEN: Tuesday, June 23, 11:00-12:30pm
*The demo starts at 11:30. Please be prompt at 11:00 to warm up, coordinate, etc.

WHERE: MATC Downtown campus

*We will be doing a parkour demo, with some audience participation, and will be giving away temporary tattoos.
*We have been invited to the Opening and Closing ceremonies. Please let me know if you plan to attend our demo and/or the ceremonies.

Please contact me via one of the following:

1. Facebook
2. This thread
3. At

to let me know whether or not you will attend, if you will be at opening or closing ceremonies, and any questions you may have.

Thanks in advance,

MadParkour / Madparkour site/forums down!!!
« on: June 11, 2009, 06:21:54 PM » is down due to some complications with the domain. I am in the process of fixing things and should have something up within the week. In the meantime, watch this thread for updates, and rely on the Facebook group "Madparkour" for updates and training information.

I will also try to post training times, etc. here in the meantime.

Email me if you have questions. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Hello, all. Many of you in high school are trying to start parkour clubs. This is very cool but be aware that you will have challenges especially with regard to the liability piece.

I am trying to establish a parkour club at the school where I teach and have just started the process. I have submitted a constitution draft to our activities director and haven't yet heard back. However I will keep you updated on the process and how things go.

Here is the draft I submitted... feel free to use this and adapt it as necessary for your own school's policies. As the process goes along for me I will update this thread and make changes to the draft, etc. Hopefully this will serve as a guide for those in HS trying to start clubs.

Hope it helps! Here is the draft:

Advisor: Alissa Bratz

Purpose: The purpose of the MHS Parkour Club is to provide organized, safe parkour training for MHS students, to promote the practice of parkour, and to encourage the values of pakour: safety, responsibility, cooperation, mindfulness, citizenship, respect, healthy living, usefulness, and community.

Objectives: safe, progressive parkour training, participation at school functions in an exhibition capacity as needed, the encouragement of safe and mindful practice of parkour, and the general positive representation of parkour within the community. Activities will include weekly training sessions and community service (Leave No Trace), and may also include film and video screenings, travel to other communities for training and other opportunities, as well as hosting visiting groups for training and parkour “jams.”

Parkour has cross-disciplinary applications to French, anatomy/physiology, health, physical education, FACE/nutrition, psychology, and other subjects. Parkour is a non-competitive physical discipline that instills self-confidence, respect, responsibility, community, cooperation, physical fitness, and perseverance.

The MHS Parkour Club will charge dues at the rate of $5 per year. This will cover the cost of general supplies such as printing/flyers, snacks, etc. The MHS Parkour Club may engage in fundraising activities as needed for such activities as travel, hosting jams, creating t-shirts, etc. Fundraising activities will be conducted per district and building policy. Dues are non-refundable.

The MHS Parkour Club will elect officers from among its student members. Officer positions include: president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Duties are described below:

President: Leads meetings, positively represents parkour within the community, can make an executive decision in the event of a tie vote. Must attend all meetings and training sessions (maximum of 2 absences allowed per year).

Vice President: Assists the president with his/her duties, fulfills the president’s duties in the event the president is absent. Must attend all meetings and training sessions (maximum of 2 absences allowed per year).

Secretary: Maintains meeting agendas and minutes. Distributes agendas and minutes to membership in a timely fashion. Maintains membership contact/email list and is responsible for managing all communication between officers, advisor, and general membership as needed. Updates weekly training program and distributes to all members. Must attend all meetings and training sessions (maximum of 2 absences allowed per year).

Treasurer: Maintains accurate and up-to-date records of all club finances and transactions. Must attend all meetings and training sessions (maximum of 2 absences allowed per year).

Attendance training, and other policies:

For general membership, a maximum of 4 absences per year are allowed. Extenuating circumstances must be discussed with the advisor. For officers, 2 absences per year are allowed.

Official club training sessions will be held on at least a once-per-week basis. These weekly sessions are considered “club-sanctioned” practices. The club is not liable for training that occurs beyond these sanctioned training sessions.

Members are expected to maintain good academic standing, good school attendance, and to behave in a manner becoming to the discipline of parkour at all times.

Members are expected to show respect to other members of the community using the spaces in which we train, respect to law enforcement and security personnel, and respect for our fellow traceurs/traceuses, our bodies, and our training environments at all times.

Members are expected to abide by parkour’s “Leave No Trace” initiative by respecting public and private property, maintaining a clean and orderly training environment, and being respectful of architecture and landscaping elements. The MHS Parkour Club will engage in two “Leave No Trace” events per year, involving cleaning up litter, repainting surfaces, general groundskeeping, etc. Specific Leave No Trace activities will be decided upon by the club in conjunction with school maintenance staff and/or the City as needed. Attendance at and participation in both Leave No Trace events is mandatory for all members.

In addition to the above policies, members of the club are subject to the rules in the Athletic and Activities Code.

So, on Friday almost my whole school went on a field trip to the UW-Madison campus. I live in Madison but I work in a small school district about 35 miles south of Madison. I stayed behind because of the requirements of my particular teaching assignment, but after the kids got back at the end of the day, I was talking to a colleague about how the trip went and he shared an awesome story with me.

I show parkour videos in my French classes and talk to the kids about parkour a lot (hey, it's part of French culture!). For some classes when the weather is nice I'll even take the kids outside and do a little training with them on school grounds. My principal and colleagues all know about parkour because I talk about it all the time, and everyone seems pretty cool/supportive about it.

So this colleague was walking around campus with a group of my 8th grade boys and one of the boys said, "Hey Mr. J! Let's do some parkour!" The teacher said that parkour probably wasn't a good idea for this field trip, but he did acknowledge that the spot they were at seemed pretty ideal for parkour. He then encouraged the boys to continue to scope out good parkour spots during the walk around campus. So the whole time they're on this tour, he and the boys are looking around, pointing out potential parkour spots to eachother! It was so cool! I was just thrilled when this teacher shared this with me, especially since when I showed the videos and talked about parkour to this particular group of boys, they just kind of rolled their eyes and were all, "Yeah, right" about it. But apparently they were thinking about it on this trip, even though I showed the videos like a month ago.

Just thought I'd share that happy story. :) Maybe I should get moving on starting my parkour club at school. :D

National Jams / Can we please put the year in the thread titles?
« on: March 17, 2009, 06:02:57 PM »
Mods feel free to delete this thread, but it just occurred to me, no one is putting the year in the thread title and there are two jam threads for a lot of these, some from this year and some from last (CO is the most salient example right now). Could get confusing. ;)



Stuntman workout: Parkour leaves the bad guys -- and boring routines -- in the dust
Jim Polzin
March 4, 2009

A search for "parkour" on YouTube yields more than 8,000 results, including an action-packed three-minute clip from the French movie "District 13."

It begins with David Belle, the movie's star and the founder of parkour, seemingly trapped behind a locked door as he looks through a peephole and sizes up two thugs waiting on the other side. It ends 180 seconds later with Belle running to freedom after he jumps off a building and sticks a perfect landing on a sidewalk somewhere far from where he began his escape.

The manner in which Belle leaves the bad guys in his dust is, in some ways, a great advertisement for the activity he is credited with creating. After all, the essence of parkour is moving from one point to another as efficiently as possible. There's not a single wasted motion as Belle, among other things, kicks down a door and runs up it; uses a thug's head as a stepping stone; climbs up a wall and breaks a window above a door with his feet before gliding through it; scoots up a fire escape; and jumps from one building's roof to another on multiple occasions.

It's an awesome scene, but it's understandable why some in the parkour community are concerned by the reaction it may cause among people -- particularly young people.


"A 15-year-old boy watches this and is going to go, 'Oh, dude, that's awesome.' And they're going to climb up a building and try it, because they don't realize that David Belle trained for years to be able to do that," said Alissa Bratz, a Madison resident whose passion for parkour runs deep. "There's definitely the sense of the spectacular about it, but there's a big push in the parkour community to emphasize that it's not an extreme sport.

"It's actually a mind-set about working toward goals and taking care of your body, making yourself stronger mentally and physically. Most of the people who approach it as an extreme sport are going to wreck their knees in two years."

Probably because they saw a cool YouTube clip and tried to jump off a house. There was nothing like that going on during a recent parkour class at Monkey Bar Gymnasium in downtown Madison. Instructor Chad Barrett led a small group through a 90-minute session that included controlled rolls on a mat, vaulting over obstacles and a Spiderman-like wall hang.

It's a perfect workout for someone who has become bored with life on the treadmill because, as Barrett points out, parkour includes a little bit of everything: running, agility, body weight exercises, interval training and strength training.

Observers of Barrett's class may have thought they were watching some sort of gymnastics tutorial, what with all the rolling and vaulting going on. However, parkour takes on a different look outdoors, which is why Barrett is so eager for warm, dry weather to arrive.

When that happens, Barrett will lead his class on what amounts to an obstacle course. If you see a handful of people vaulting over play equipment in a park, balancing on concrete slabs in a parking lot, or running and rolling through Library Mall, it very well could be Barrett and Co.

"We do get funny looks occasionally," he said.

There have also been times when they've been asked to move on by law enforcement, although Barrett said Madison police officers have generally been very supportive of parkour.

It helps that there's a "leave no trace" mentality in the parkour community. After working out in an area, traceurs -- as participants are called -- often will pick up trash before moving to another area. They also steer clear of landscaping and respect private property.

"You want to leave your training environment in better shape than you found it," Bratz said.

It's no surprise that most of Barrett's class is made up of young men, since that's the demographic that parkour generally attracts. Yes, the eye-opening YouTube clips are typically what drive them to the activity.

Jayneil Kamdar, 24, of Madison saw one of those clips and was instantly curious. He ran to a nearby park and tried some parkour moves on his own before showing up at Barrett's class for the first time last week.

"For me, it's about working out and having fun at the same time," said Kamdar. "It's an awesome workout."

Will Strinz, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, said he was surprised by how physically demanding the workouts are.

"I was always one of those kids that was jumping around on stuff on playgrounds or in the city, and it just seemed like a natural next step of that," said Strinz, 18, of Eagan, Minn. "But it's also just good exercise, and it's a good sport activity without a real whole lot of pressure or competition. It's more about you and personal development."

As much as Bratz cringes at the idea of people seeing Belle's stunts in "District 13" and expecting to copy them, watching that movie three years ago was what ignited her love affair with parkour.

Bratz set out to learn more about it and, in an attempt to find practice partners, started an online forum ( to generate interest in the activity.

"I love to move," said Bratz, a trained ballet dancer who performed with the Madison Ballet and now teaches for the company. "I'm just passionate about the idea that movement is life.

"What drew me to parkour was it is such a natural way of moving -- this is the way humans moved thousand of years ago, navigating through their environments to hunt and find shelter and all of that stuff. So it's kind of just a reawakening of the way we were meant to move and use our bodies."

As a 33-year-old female, Bratz realizes she doesn't fit the demographic of the typical traceur. That doesn't stop her, though.

"It's a way of sort of reclaiming playtime for adults, and legitimizing play," said Bratz, who also teaches French in Milton. "As we grow up, at some point in our life we get told that it's not appropriate to climb around on jungle gyms and play. And I don't really know when that happens or why that happens, but I think it's unfortunate."

PARKOUR (par-KOOR), n., the art of movement

Origins: It was founded by Frenchman David Belle. He and his friend, Hubert Kounde, named the discipline after parcours du combattant, the classic obstacle course method of military training proposed by Georges Hébert, a World
War I-era French naval officer.

Goal: Parkour focuses on practicing efficient movements to develop one’s body and mind to be able to overcome obstacles in an emergency.

Terminology: Practitioners are called traceurs, which comes from the French verb “to trace” but also means “to go fast.”


Diet / The APK Cookbook Project
« on: January 21, 2009, 07:23:31 PM »
Based off of feedback from this thread, I figured I'd start a new thread for this project to be coordinated.

I have wanted to do something like this for a long time and it now seems there is a demand for it. I would be happy to coordinate putting this together and I would like for it to be sold in the APK store, with proceeds going towards APK, and a percentage going towards a good cause that we (all the members of APK, not just those directly involved with making the cookbook) choose.

In other words, if you are involved in this project you will be putting in time and effort for something, with very little return save for some "internet fame" and a credit in the cookbook. All the money goes to APK and our chosen charity/cause.

Just so you know ahead of time. :)

Also, I do want everyone to know that until I finish my National Boards I won't be able to start on this project. The deadline for my Boards is March 31, and then I have some exams to take in May or June. But for now feel free to float your ideas around; I have a rough timeline in mind for the project so we should be able to get rolling once my Boards are done.

This is going to be really fun!


This was kind of a "quick and dirty" job on my part. Some things I wasn't sure of; my notes/comments are in brackets. If the translation on the front page is too tough to read, here is my translation:

"Victim of its own succes, parkour is seeing the birth of parallel movements, co-founders, and an art that they are rebaptizing and trying to retransmit.

Certain individual practitioners of these derived arts, full of good intentions, set themselves up as trainers and don't hesitate to put themselves and others' lives in danger by inciting young people, visibly still novices, to jump from rooftops to see them drop heavily several meters lower! They are going to try, attempt new drops, too dangerous to ignore, giving an image of irresponsible thrill-seekers out to get well-known for the sensational and for bigger challenges...Others, wiser, are still warming up, going through joint rotations... [etc.]

The image these practitioners, trainers, present to us, serves neither traceurs, nor the sport/discipline, and doesn't show in any way the mastery of an art or even the mastery of its instruction.


The misunderstanding of elementary basics of APS [activite physique et sportive=physical training (thanks hac!)], becomes damaging for these apprentice trainers and the young people they teach, but also for the image of parkour that they're trying to put forth.

We don't support this type of image, and condemn these parallel practices that are passed down under other names, that can't be likened parkour.

If the BAFA [French government-regulated certification required for teaching young people any kind of sport/physical discipline] is required to take in these young people and the sports BE (not sure what this stands for?? probably another type of certification??) to lead training sessions, what types of training are necessary to train and make young people jump from rooftops?

Let's be serious!

Athletic training is a specialist affair and furthermore, parkour training requires knowledge and understanding that many people are unaware of, and still underestimate. Anatomy and physiology courses, without forgetting the psychological aspect of young people one is training, are indispensable knowledge to take into consideration if one wishes to start training [others] in total safety...

If the practice of parkour remains free, the responsibility of its training passes from an indispensable training system with a goal of avoiding the errors we see all over the place, and that presents only an image of practitioner-trainers, irresponsible and uncaring of the risks and dangers that they are bringing to others... and that can only damage the image of parkour

The meeting concerning the conditions of affiliations and the future of parkour was held December 20, 2008 [??? could also be “is held December 20, 2008.” Grammatically that's what it should be—so either he is planning it for next December and just accidentally put the wrong year, or it was already held and he just had a typo on the verb tense... hard to tell.] (Concerning the leaders of parkour associations)

Thank you for your attention."

Diet / How bad was my Thanksgiving dinner?
« on: November 27, 2008, 07:31:52 PM »
I tried to keep it relatively good for me while still maintaining the festivity of the occasion. I'd like to get some feedback (::eyes Chris:: :) ) on what it is I actually consumed.

1st course:

Cranberry Royale: 1 flute of sparkling wine with 1 oz. cranberry juice
2 handfuls homemade "tavern nuts": cashews roasted with butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, & fresh rosemary.
3 cornichons
6-8 pickled green beans
3 whole-grain sesame crackers with cream cheese-cranberry peach dip (about 2 Tbsp)

2nd course:

4 oz roasted turkey breast meat, 2 Tbsp. gravy
about a palm-sized scoop of homemade dressing: sage bread crumbs, pork sage sausage, mushrooms, onions, celery, dried cranberries, walnuts, butter, chicken stock
about a palm-sized scoop of roasted sweet potatoes: sweet potatoes, butter, chicken stock, curry powder, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, salt
about a palm-sized scoop steamed green beans with butter, fresh tarragon, & almonds
1 large slice homemade French bread with about 1 Tbsp. herbed butter
2 glasses white wine

3rd course:

about a palm-sized scoop of cucumber salad: sliced cucumbers, creme fraiche, white vinegar, fresh dill, salt, dash of sugar

Cheese course:
2 oz. camembert on a small slice French bread


1 apple, sliced & sauteed in butter, brown sugar, & cinnamon, and served over a tennis ball-sized scoop of all-natural vanilla ice cream

4 oz. coffee with a splash of half-and-half

I know the bread was a no-no, but at least I had it with butter or cheese; and the sugar snuck into a lot of places, but I'm hoping it wasn't *too* bad. I mean, at least there were no mashed potatoes on the menu!



Diet / Diet Journals??
« on: November 18, 2008, 05:50:43 PM »
This may be a dumb idea, as we already have training journals and most people put their diet info in there (if they choose to include it). However I was thinking, I am always working on *something* for parkour even if it's not active physical training, and diet is a huge part of that. Even when I can't get my body out to move I am working on tweaking and improving my diet. It might be helpful to start some diet journals for people to report and comment on, and get advice.

I know lots of folks already get great starting diet advice from the many knowledgeable people on this forum, but it may be useful to have a spot for ongoing diet advice/encouragement/reporting, like we have for the training journals.

Then again it may be redundant and too much of a hassle since we already have the training journal threads.

What do you guys think?


Parkour in Madison: The new urban workout
Madparkour traceurs combine discipline and adventure
David Medaris on Thursday 10/23/2008

It looks exhilarating. Dynamic. Depending on your ability to process what you're seeing as you watch the leaps, vaults, rolls and other maneuvers executed by its most experienced and accomplished practitioners, parkour might even appear intimidating, beyond the abilities of all but the most physically fluent people.

Not so, says Alissa Bratz. The executive director of Madparkour acknowledges the inherent challenge of the discipline, and the online proliferation of parkour videos focusing on some of its more spectacular examples, such as running across a series of rooftops. But the prevalence of these daring video escapades fosters a mischaracterization of parkour, she insists.

"It's not an extreme sport," she says. "It's not a daredevil sport."

It is more difficult to describe than to see and appreciate first-hand. Created and cultivated in France, parkour seeks the most efficient, purposeful and direct means of traversing an urban or natural environment using only one's body, the surroundings and the most appropriate movement methods for sustaining momentum while overcoming obstacles. Its basic vocabulary includes running, jumping, climbing, crawling, vaulting and rolling, and eschews wasted effort and recklessness. (Free running, a more acrobatic offshoot of parkour, affords greater latitude for creativity and is often mistaken by the general public as synonymous to parkour.)

"Humans have moved this way for thousands of years," Bratz says. We used to interact with our environment in the style of parkour, she explains, but these instincts have been dulled by buildings and sidewalks that inhibit and restrict us to more linear movements. "Parkour is kind of a pushback against that," she says. "It's a reclaiming of our natural way to move as humans, and it's an embracing of movement in the most complete sense possible," reintegrating the full body and reintroducing it to three dimensions.

A French teacher with an extensive ballet background, Bratz, 33, has also studied kung fu. But it was her love for French cinema that led her to parkour. Watching the kinetic 2004 French thriller District B-13, "I said, Wow, I have to figure out what that is," she recalls. "I did some Googling and found out there was a name for it and there was a community out there all over the world and I just jumped in with both feet."

She landed on, run by Mark Toorock in Washington, D.C. Finding no established parkour group in Madison, Bratz launched the online forum in June 2007. Within weeks, a handful of Madison parkour enthusiasts were gathering to train at locations including the UW Library Mall, Bascom Hill, the GEF III plaza and MATC-Downtown.

Such public places afford the opportunity to demonstrate parkour's leave-no-trace ethics and traceurs' devotion to picking up trash. Their two-hour training sessions are an opportunity to dispel misconceptions about the discipline, engage onlookers and satisfy their curiosity.

A typical Madparkour gathering begins with warm-ups and conditioning exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups and squats, building toward more dynamic movements. Specific drills may follow, to develop skills such as the execution of safe landings at the end of a jump. Training sessions then move toward what she calls flow or gauntlet training, a follow-the-leader activity along a path or circuit, involving obstacles such as street furniture, railings, walls and boulders. This evolves into even less structured free-play time during which traceurs work with the obstacles at hand and learn from each other in a supportive environment. A cooldown period and stretching often concludes these two-hour sessions.

Madparkour's ranks have swelled as a result, though its numbers remain modest. The madparkour forum now counts 120 registered members. Bratz estimates its most active core at 10-20 "traceurs," the French-derived term for parkour enthusiasts.

By this past July, Madparkour had become proficient enough at overcoming obstacles that it hosted the Midwest Jam, part of a series of regional gatherings that lure traceurs for a weekend of training and camaraderie. Toorock was among the 65 attendees, Bratz notes, and his appearance gave a significant boost to Madparkour's visibility.

Chad Barrett — a certified natural trainer and personal trainer at Monkey Bar Gym — has emerged as Madparkour's training director and has structured a more codified training program so local traceurs can make more efficient progress in their training.

The structure is helpful, Bratz says, given the challenges posed by parkour. "It is one of those things that grabs your attention, and then you try it and realize how physically demanding it is," she allows. She is the group's only female member, and one of its oldest. This is typical for the discipline, she adds: Most traceurs are men in their late teens and 20s.

"Parkour is probably the hardest thing I've ever done physically," she continues, "and I know how to dance on my toes. It's so hard. People need to realize that. But the rewards are so great."

Chief among the rewards, she notes, is that "you come to view obstacles as opportunities. You hear a lot of traceurs talk about how parkour has helped them overcome mental obstacles or even emotional or spiritual obstacles."

Bratz has experienced this herself, discovering in parkour the opportunity to confront the obstacle of fear. "Fear can be an inhibitor," she observes, "but it can also enhance your training, and a large part of what I like about parkour is the opportunity to explore your relationship with fear."

Gesturing toward a railing and a nearby picnic table, she notes that jumping from one to the other "is a pretty far jump, but if you miss it, it's not going to kill you. For me, personally, far jumps are really, really scary, even if they're low and the possibility of injury is small." Confronting a situation like this affords the opportunity to pause and determine whether the fear is an obstacle to be overcome, or stems from a genuine self-preservation instinct.

Bratz notes the camaraderie shared by traceurs as they navigate the constant challenge of parkour. "No one is ever done with parkour training," she has learned. "You don't have to have a gym membership to do parkour. You don't have to own any equipment or have a bike or canoe. You can do it wherever you are, even walking down the street."

As an integrated full-body workout that draws from a broad vocabulary of aerobic and anaerobic movements, parkour builds strength as well as stamina. Like rock-climbing, gymnastics and most martial arts, it also cultivates problem-solving, balance and improved spatial sense. The payoff, Bratz observes, is greater overall physical fluency. Plus, she adds, it's fun. She compares it to playing.

But perhaps the greatest appeal of parkour, at least for Bratz, "is how strong it makes you feel. In particular for women, it's a way to realize how strong we really are." Even with her background in dance and martial arts, parkour has been a revelation. "Kung fu spoke to me a lot," she allows, "but I never realized how strong I could be until I started doing parkour."

To learn more

Madison forum with tips on getting started, training calendar, parkour hotspots and other resources.

American Parkour
Tutorials, training tips, videos, photos, links and other resources.

Parkour Project: Pilgrimage
90-minute parkour documentary touching on the discipline's history, philosophy and principles, featuring demonstrations by more than 100 accomplished traceurs.

Jump Westminster
28-minute documentary rich in dynamic visual demonstrations, emphasizing the importance of safety and the discipline's accessibility to beginners.

Parkour And Freerunning / Sad news for Madison!
« on: September 18, 2008, 05:22:13 PM »
They are tearing down all our favorite spots! :( Those of you who were at the Midwest jam this year will remember Union South (the little courtyard with the yellow low walls, near the railroad tracks) and also the Humanities Building (near where Hamid sprained his ankle the first day) are being *torn down*!!!

They are going to be remodeled, so they will be rebuilt (hopefully new and improved), but there is something sad about the fact that those obstacles will never be there again... so all those goals I set for myself at those spots... guess I'll never reach them. :(

They have also ripped up Library Mall (where we did our warm-ups) to put in new utility cables... but I am assuming (hoping?) that it will all be replaced like before once they're done. At least I hope so.

I'm all for change, and looking forward to what the new architecture will bring, but I'm sorta sad too. :(

C'est la vie.

Just thought I'd share for those of you who were at the Madison Jam... you trained on some bits of history that may never be the same again.


Wisconsin / Possible Film Gig in WI
« on: September 02, 2008, 05:07:35 PM »
As posted in the "Media" section...

I don't know much about this... I thought about posting it in "Jobs" in the Marketplace but (1) I can't seem to create a thread there, and (2) I am still not sure how "legit" it is.

They contacted me via the Madparkour group on Facebook, but I couldn't find much information so I just ignored it for fear that it wasn't legit; but then one of the guys on Madpk found this newspaper article link about it, so I dunno...

Anyone with more experience with these things, I'd appreciate your help in navigating this. And in any case, if anyone's interested, here is the newspaper article.

Will cross-post in the WI forum; if this needs to be moved or deleted, please feel free.

In the Media / Possible Film Gig in WI
« on: September 02, 2008, 05:06:44 PM »
I don't know much about this... I thought about posting it in "Jobs" in the Marketplace but (1) I can't seem to create a thread there, and (2) I am still not sure how "legit" it is.

They contacted me via the Madparkour group on Facebook, but I couldn't find much information so I just ignored it for fear that it wasn't legit; but then one of the guys on Madpk found this newspaper article link about it, so I dunno...

Anyone with more experience with these things, I'd appreciate your help in navigating this. And in any case, if anyone's interested, here is the newspaper article.

Will cross-post in the WI forum; if this needs to be moved or deleted, please feel free.

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