Coordination, Skill, and “Natural Athleticism”

Scooter does a front handie.

Through talking with a vast amount of people about the possibility of joining UMPK, or even just doing Parkour on their own time, I’ve become aware of a huge section that tells me “I’m not athletic enough to do that”, or, “I could never do that”. I generally reply with “Well, Parkour is an individual discipline. It isn’t about being able to do specific moves like flips or leaping tall buildings with a single bound; it’s about doing whatever you can do RIGHT NOW.” Parkour is about the difficulty of a technique as it relates to YOU: not to me, or David Belle, or anybody else. So, the “that” that is being referred to in saying “I’m not athletic enough to do that” is not pre-determined, it’s defined by what you’re capable of and determined by you. For some, landing a smooth roll will push their limits and help them grow as much as doing a twisting front-flip over a rooftop gap would help another grow. It’s all relative.

While I was talking to two classmates in my Human Physiology class about Parkour they brought up an interesting point that really gets at the heart of why people feel that Parkour is out of their league. One of the two, who has known me for a few years, replied to my query about her reservations by saying “You can do it because you’re athletic, me, not so much”. As I started to explain that athleticism is learned, my other classmate brought up the idea of being “naturally athletic”. At first I didn’t quite know how to respond because it seems weird to say that there aren’t any “natural athletes” in the world – but after some thinking I realized that that’s actually the truth: there aren’t any!

When it comes down to it, your body is simply a tool for your Mind to wield. Therefore, the ways to improve your capabilities are to 1) Improve your tool, and 2) Get better at using the tool. To make your tool more useful you have to improve it through physical training to make it stronger, more powerful, flexible, resilient, etc. Of the two aforementioned ways to improve, this is the straightforward one that nearly everybody understands because everybody knows the effect of having the right tool for the job.

The second method, to get better at using the tool, is all too often overlooked and misunderstood – yet it is where the greatest improvements are reaped. To improve your abilities for using your body you have to improve your coordination. Bruce Lee defined coordination as: “the quality which enables the individual to integrate all the powers and capacities of the whole organism into the effective doing of an act”(Tao of Jeet Kune Do). This is where most people claim there is a disparity between the “natural athlete” and the “unathletic”. However, the disparity here is due to the “natural athlete” thinking about their movement differently than the “unathletic”. Since muscles have no contractile power without the Mind to direct them, it then follows that you have to understand, and train, your Mind to effectively train how you coordinate the use of your muscles

To go back to Bruce Lee: “Training for skill (coordination) is purely a matter of forming proper connections to the nervous system through practice… A badly executed move is the result of impulses sent to the wrong muscles by the nervous system, or sent a fraction of a second too soon or too late, or sent in improper sequence or in poorly apportioned intensity”. So when you practice, pay attention to the signals your Mind is sending your body. Pay attention to your emotions. Then figure out a way to change the way you’re thinking to overcome the obstacles within your own Mind.

You can do it.

As always, find your way.


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I second this. Two years ago, I was maybe a quarter as strong and coordinated as I am today. Although I have a long way to go, all I did was practice my ass off. Anyone can improve exponentially with time and effort, and I tell everyone that when they tell me that they can’t.

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