Part 1: Learning to Enjoy the Fear

This particular incident that I am writing about, would be the best ice-breaker into sharing about what it feels like to be a female dancer training in parkour with Parkour Circle as their new intern.

This was sometime in June this year when Prabu was exploring and making us try things that would challenge our perceptions much much more than venturing into crazy physical extremities. However, on a different subject(something we hope to delve into the next blogs) who decides or in other words what is decided as physically extreme is another debate. Now, coming back to this ice-breaking account, a June early morning in Chennai,  we were training at Anna Nagar Tower Park – one of the biggest parks I have seen, which is situated somewhere in the more northern side of Chennai. The place has interesting structures, swings, slides made in different ways perfect for children to hang from, slide under, roll around etc. And it is perfect for people interested in Parkour to play around with.

Stationed somewhere in the heart of this park was a slide about 10 feet long that spirals downwards with a slightly bulging shape with large spots painted on it, which reminds me of the big Mushrooms in Enid Blyton’s books. The slide could be climbed up on from a ladder of about 10 feet high at about a 70 degree angle. The task – to get at the top of the ladder or the mouth of the slide, face downwards with head towards the ground, feet upwards and crawl downwards using the railings of the ladder.

It was a bright Sunday morning and I was with almost fearless boys from age 10 to say 24. Their execution of the task, ranged from steady to smooth to fast – in other words, perfect and enviable for me, someone who is dearly afraid of heights (let me add – it is through the practice of parkour that I realized I even had a  fear of heights, something which I haven’t had the space to conquer till now).  Prabu, aware of this fear of mine, was determined to make me finish the task, (by now I had almost started to convince myself that I would probably be able to evade the task. Just not today. “Tomorrow”, “tomorrow I will muster the courage and deal with heights. Not today, not today just yet. Let me delve into something more reasonable today.”).  I went up to the mouth of the ladder, and the whole world looked different from up there. No one was a bigger enemy of mine than Prabu that day. Prabu and the ladder.

Seconds turned to minutes. Whole 45 minutes. I could never have imagined that I would someday obstruct play time for children. They did manage to squeeze in up the ladder and slide down gracefully,  despite me latching on to one corner of the ladder with my dear life. Tarun and Hari, who by now started climbing an 8ft wall in another corner of the park, were placing fun unadulterated bets as to whether when they returned to the spot, if I would have gotten down or would have still been up on the ladder. Tarun said I would, Hari though, ‘hmm, maybe not just yet’. Prabu was adamant saying that, the day could end, we could be late for the next session, but I had to get down and today was the day. He even fired cannon – the ten year old boy was petrified, but he got down. Why can’t you? To the reader, please hold on to read till the end of what might by now seem to you as this overtly dramatic, pathetically narcissistic piece of writing. But, I assure there is a worthwhile ending.

Carrying on, by this time, 45 minutes obviously had never moved this slowly. Every time I thought this was the moment when I would cover the ladder, there would be either this involuntary tremble somewhere in the hands or legs, or I would get dramatic flashes of my childhood of when I never learnt to ride the bicycle like other children, or when  I went to swimming classes for the first time at the age of 22, of the blue deep water initially scaring me and eventually calming my senses, or even while trying to play football  with a theatre group comprising of mostly men, how I would get confused as to which side I needed to direct the ball, of always fighting with the idea of supreme physical ability of humans that is placed on the lines of male physiology and masculinity, or this anguish towards why the girls’ school we went to never had  a proper sports department etc. No brownie points for guessing who thought of herself to be the biggest wuss at the top of the ladder.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were multiple fake trials which gave Prabu these small hopes that that’s it, now she is coming down. But of course, I retracted and went back inside the cocoon. And then, that was it, it wasn’t a heroic step or sweep, rather a very slow and steady one. I placed one hand and then one foot, and then one hand and then foot and so on – I climbed down the ladder. Prabu asked me to go again, and it was smoother than the first time.

Nothing about the movement seemed scary; the 45 minute hesitation seemed pointless. And this is where I hope to bring in the worthwhile ending which I claimed I would:

  1. All your fears and mental blocks are real, and just as much human, and not pointless. They don’t need to be overlooked, or need to be looked down upon. There is no need to feed yourself with the feeling of ‘manning up’ and brushing past the fear. Your fear when facing an obstacle is a challenge that you don’t fight, but accompany with yourself and this small shift does magic – something that most athletic videos don’t show these days whilst they bask in their super-human quality
  2. Taking from point a, this description,rather projection of a scared unsure hesitant adult doing something as athletic as parkour is usually unheard of. And one does wonder, is Parkour at all meant for any other body apart from the male physique that is able to jump between tremendous heights, perform the best ‘Kong’ (a tremendously physically demanding movement that has grown to become one of the spectacular parkour moves)? Is there a possibility of recognizing oneself as a parkour artiste without crossing the threshold of a ‘Kong’ and a ‘Dash’? What is the deciding factor of recognizing the skill of a Parkour artiste? Or is the mere idea of developing a yardstick of a Parkour artiste’s ability unnecessary, something that never existed before, that never used to coincide with the original philosophies of the form? How can a woman who doesn’t possess the euro-centric version of a straight-lined physique develop her own language in Parkour?
  3. This brings me to this budding confluence – between Varsha and I. Varsha is a long time member of PKC – a Parkour and Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast who moonlights as the owner of her own Management Consultant company. Varsha and I have had plenty of our own musings regarding our perceptions of our own bodies, on what we think we can execute and not execute in the field of Parkour. And these conversations gave rise to this brilliant idea suggested by Varsha of creating a video blog that presents two things on a daily basis – an obstacle (whatever it may be, a chair, a bar, a ladder) and two women. Each find their way of crossing the obstacle, pushing their threshold bit by bit, finding the extreme point to which their present physical standing can take them. We hope to take off this blog soon, whose main interest is to show the process of how we learn to overcome the obstacle bit by bit, day by day amidst all our fears and vulnerabilities, as opposed to the super-heroic and already well executed nature of most parkour videos found in the internet today.
  4. Finally, I come to this combined understanding of unlearning the methods of training in dance all these years through the eyes of Parkour. It’s the organic ways by which Prabu, Kishor or Baskar teach their lessons, and how the students imbibe the vocabulary in their ways, wherein nobody is executing a move in the same exact way shown by the trainer, but somehow everybody overcomes the obstacle wonderfully. When its an efficient move, it almost looks like they are performing.

Prabu and I have our ongoing debates where I insist I must learn to perform the moves which the guys can comfortably do so, before I decide to do away with these very notions. Whereas Prabu says that I should do away with attempting anything that guys do in the first place and find my own way from scratch. What is the right way or the wrong way will develop on its own with time.

To round off more clearly, my biggest takeaways from the ladder story I started with are, Progression, progression is key.  Even if you are someone, despite your gender,  who wants to learn the ‘Monkey’ or the ‘Kong’ or just wants to keep moving better, work steadily in the smallest intricate steps for as long as you need to till you get your satisfactory result.  Lastly, Success is an obscenely abused word. It imposes a timeline and a pace on your dreams. You just keep moving, trying and failing as proudly as you can till you gather your experiences that can offer the world to yourself or anyone.

This post is written by Satakshi Nandy. She is a dancer from Kolkata who is interning with Parkour Circle.

Parkour Circle has training sessions that are free and open to all every Saturday and Sunday. You can contact us on Facebook, or Instagram.

Parkour Circle and Satya Special School

After the opportunity was created to work with special needs children during The Urban Playground’s (UPG) visit in January 2016, we at Parkour Circle have begun training the children using Parkour methodologies.

Working with Special Needs Children

It has been an eye opening journey to say the least. There are so many aspects of things that I had missed over the past few years of my training. All those limitations were laid bare once the work with the kids began. In this series of blog posts, I will try to verbalise my observations, my learning, and what I intend to do with the knowledge gained. My teammates at Parkour Circle will be leading me in this journey as mentors, peers, and fellow seekers.

The first introduction at Satya Special School had been a fairly simple one. Meeting the teachers and discussing the various conditions that they deal with. While I had very limited knowledge with regard to the various conditions that exist, the overall perspective of Satya Special School opened my eyes in a way I never thought possible.

Contributing Members of Society

When it comes to any form of disability, our society today has become so rigid that even slight differences in physicality, emotional stature, psychological preferences and behaviour makes it difficult for those individuals to thrive. Emphasis is always on conforming to rules and regulations that try to fit the majority population into quantifiable contributors to society. Satya Special School’s teachers told me that their intention is to train all the kids to become functional and contributing members of society. It is a very heavy term: Contributing Members of Society.

Most people would deem any person with a physical or so called mental disability a burden on society. However, this school was trying to find ways to give them the dignity that is rightfully theirs. Oh! DO those kids earn it.

Working Through Parkour

It is in this context that the thought process of fitting in Parkour as a training regimen for these kids started forming in our minds. The whole point of training in Parkour is to be efficient, and to be strong to be useful. It was with this mindset that we began our research into the various conditions, and to wonder how we could develop a program through which the children and the teachers can have one more weapon in their arsenal … to be strong and useful.

We will share more about this journey of discovery soon, so do subscribe to our social media channels.

Are My Parkour Movements Efficient?

People often get confused between “efficient” and “easy”. Most people don’t even give enough thought about what the difference is.

Practicing parkour does not mean just jumps and workouts and random things on a day to day basis. There has to be a fundamental truth to the whole practice if anyone wants to achieve any kind of progress in their parkour practice.

If you do at least 30 push ups everyday, then 30 push ups becomes easy. But does that mean you are doing it efficiently?

This restrictive question immediately gives rise to the thought about perspectives. From what perspective does one measure efficiency of movement in parkour. I was talking to a silambam practitioner the other day, and they revealed a very interesting fact about how silambam was practiced in earlier times. It was not just practiced by soldiers who would be using it in a battle field, but was practiced by people in every household. If there was a problem with bandits and thieves raiding a village, then one man from every household used to take a weapon to defend the village and their loved ones. This required them to practice a martial art everyday. Looking at the amount of work that a farmer does in the field and at the end of the day, practicing one of the most gruelling martial arts before going to sleep on a day to day basis… Now, that’s strength. Strength to do what is necessary.

Am just talking about this to give an idea of what the possibility of the human body is. These days a lot of emphasis is on repetitions, numbers, structured progression, benchmarks, programs etc. While these are maybe useful as a tool, the sad truth is that most people are caught up in doing repetitions as an ultimate target. That is not how your own parkour evolves.

Train hard everyday. But be mindful of what you train. Mindful does not mean “counting every repetition” or every jump or repeating every movement by counting. Keep your mind inside your body. Be aware of what you are doing. Not just mechanical movements. Do not train just as an escape. Of course, it happens at times after a tiring day that your training becomes mechanical. But keep pushing your boundaries mentally and physically. Mind within the body as you train. Then, the movements become efficient.

Now, Two Weekly Parkour Training Sessions!

Parkour Circle can now happily say that you are welcome to join us in our Parkour training sessions on Wednesday Mornings or Saturday Mornings. Both sessions are at 5:30 am, and they are spread across the city. They are also a fixed schedule, so you can just turn up and meet us. Take a look at our current schedule below:

When and Where are the Training Sessions?

Wednesday Morning 5:30 AM: St. Thomas Mount steps
Saturday Morning 5:30 AM: Besant Nagar Beach, Near the public gym / Police booth.

Call Prabu: 98848-97546 / Baskar: 97911-02804 for more details.

These aren’t the only sessions, though! We will also be announcing sessions in other places across Chennai, such as Anna Nagar, Velachery, Nungambakkam, Chetpet / Egmore and more. If you have a suggestion for a training spot, Contact Us and let us know!

Parkour Training at Besant Nagar Beach every Saturday in Chennai Parkour Training at St. Thomas Mount every Wednesday in Chennai

How Much do These Sessions Cost?

They don’t cost anything. They are free. At Parkour Circle, we are all professionals who have our own careers, but have a fierce love of Parkour. We want to see Parkour being explored by people from all walks of life, for passion, for adventure, for fitness and for self-discovery. We want it all! Join us on this journey.

What Should I Wear? What Should I Bring to Parkour Training Sessions?

Be sure to bring a bottle or two of water, a small snack to eat (we suggest a fruit like a banana or an orange) after your session, and a bag to keep your stuff safe.

You can wear shorts, or track pants, a comfortable shirt, and running shoes. We don’t suggest that you wear sandals or slippers, but training barefoot is ok.

Who Can Train With Parkour Circle?

We firmly believe that barring a Doctor’s restraining order, there are very few things that should prevent you from being able to train in Parkour. We welcome everyone to come and join us in our sessions. No matter your age, gender, weight, height, complexion or religion, feel free to join us in something that all humans share… Movement.

Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. If you would like to see updates on some other social media channel, do let us know in the comments, or on Facebook. We are usually quite responsive.

Parkour Jam and Performance Parkour Workshop on 18th January, 2016

For the last 9 days, Parkour Circle has been working closely with The Urban Playground Team. We have jointly conducted workshops for diverse sets of audiences, ranging from differently abled children, to educators, to men-women-children-grandparents of socially excluded communities, and children from an International school.

We are very excited to be able to present to the Parkour community in Chennai, two unique experiences on the 18th of January, 2016 at Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram, Greenways Road.

Events:

3pm – 5pm: A Performance Parkour workshop aimed at exploring how Parkour movements can be used in performance arts.
5pm – 7pm: A pure parkour jam with a masterclass led by Malik Diouf of the Yamakasi. If you’re a parkour enthusiast or practitioner, you can’t afford to miss this.

Contact us on Facebook, or on the phone (+91-99620-28747) for details

Welcome to the Parkour Circle Blog

Greetings, searcher for Parkour knowledge! Welcome!

We are a Parkour training organisation based in Chennai, India.

This is the blog. You can expect to see posts and updates about various projects, classes, and other parkour related topics. You will also hear from various team members… Their thoughts, insights and probably also some of their ramblings. I suspect that this is going to be a fairly informal place for traceurs across Chennai, Tamil Nadu or even India to gather and discuss their thoughts in the comments. So, don’t feel shy. Step up, leave a comment and introduce yourself.

If you would like to join us on our exploration of Chennai through movement, you’re welcome to join us. Our sessions are free. Here is our Training Schedule, for your convenience.

You can also communicate with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Join us on:

Wednesday Morning 5:30 AM: St. Thomas Mount steps
Saturday Morning 5:30 AM: Besant Nagar Beach, Near the public gym / Police booth.

Call Prabu: 98848-97546 / Baskar: 97911-02804 for more details.

Interview with Tim “Livewire” Shieff

Timothy “Livewire” Shieff is a Freerunning athlete who has recently been in the spotlight after he won the World Freerun Championships ’09. He’s also appeared in the MTV Ultimate Parkour Challenge alongside other well known athletes like Daniel Ilabaca and Ryan Doyle.

Tim graciously took the time (even though he’s been working hard, and fighting sleep deprivation) to answer some questions that my buddies  had for him. Here they are, for everyone to partake in.

Tim Shieff Speaks.

Prabu asks “In the midst of the most physically demanding move, what runs through your mind? How do you build mentally and physically towards something that is very dangerous?

Tim: Moves are only dangerous if your not ready to do them/dont have the abilitiy. Theres always a step before thats less dangerous so if your scared, work out what that step is and do that instead. Its all about progressing at a rate your comfortable with. Progress is the second most important thing in parkour, safety is first.

Terence asks “Were you naturally strong among boys of your age group when you were a child or did you have to work on it? What advice would you give those who are aren’t built too strong and want to be traceurs?

Tim: I was always a skinny kid not noticabely strong just had this strange ability to walk on my hands but that only ever gave me the role as class clown more then anything! I rarely ever do conditioning I just like to train movements that are safe and beneficial to you physically.

Tariq asks “Do you undergo any particular training for your famous upper body strength and the signature one hand-stand?

Tim: Nope just always enjoyed being on my hands. The key is to have fun with it and be playful so you don’t get bored.

Sandeep asks “Parkour is hard on one’s body, especially the joints. Do you have advice on joint care and recovery?

Tim: Don’t do anything that feels as though it may be damaging! There’s infinite things you can practise that will only make you stronger. You don’t need to do big jumps and drops to do parkour. In my videos you’ll notice I hardly ever do anything thats big impact, it’s not worth it.

Havish asks “I have seen most of the Traceurs not wearing Knee Braces, Elbow Pads etc… Would wearing the protective equipment hamper the ethics of Parkour? Or is it just to supress the personal FEAR?

Tim: Yes, if you feel you should be wearing protection then your not training within your boundaries or safely enough. You should only do things your comfortable doing in trainers, sweat pants and a tshirt. You should NEVER supress Fear, fear is a wonderful gift that stops us killing ourselves. Its just knowing what to be afraid of thats important, and thats what we learn through parkour.

Susheel asks “What drives you towards Parkour / Freerunning as a creative outlet? Does recognition, success and popularity figure in that, and where do you see Parkour and Freerunning taking you in the future?

Tim: Everyday I wake up to the nicest emails from people that appreciate my work which definately helps me keep going and wanting to put out more content. But as for training creativity alone plays a huge part as it keeps it fun and original so you never get bored! I dont know where it will take me but the path I’m on right now is the exact one I want to be on so I’mma keep following it, everyday is a blessing full of exciting prospects.

Tariq asks “What exactly is the tattoo on your back? I’ve never been able to get a clear picture of that.

Tim: Its of Atlas (the greek god) holding up the world, I know in the stories he held the sky up but you often see him pictured with the world on his shoulders, its just to represent how I feel sometimes. That and hes one of the strongest men in greek mythology, what better a role model?

Terence asks “What did it feel like, growing and developing under the shadows of greats like Daniel Ilabaca? Would your life be any different if you had not really met them at all?

Tim: I don’t know if it would be different or not but I am very grateful, he really is a great athlete, role model but above all human being, just being around him you feel his aura of confidence and precision.

Havish asks “Approximately how many hours a day or what kind of a routine would you suggest for Freerunnin (for guys who hardly find time besides their busy schedules. Considering the fact that work starts at 9 AM and that we are back home late in the evenin at 7.30 or so)

Tim: Sometimes less is more, the time we spend resting can be as important as the time we spend training, just make sure you train properly on the weekends!

Havish asks “I have a pair of Powerisers (Jumping Stilts) and would like to try Parkour with them. How do I do it?

Tim: You tell me! I’ve had a go on powerisers but would never try anything beyond running down the street in them.

Havish asks “What Vegetarian & Non-Vegetarian Diet would you suggest for Parkour enthusiasts?

Tim: I don’t follow a diet, I just listen to my body and think “I feel bad today, hmm what did I eat yesterday? I’ll try and avoid that in future.” Or the other way round.

 

This interview was originally published on the Chennai Parkour blog by Susheel Chandradhas it is reproduced here for everyone’s benefit.