A bit of summer training…

Hex's handstand

School’s in session and this year’s parkour club looks better then ever. With so many new members things are starting out with a bang. I hope everyone stayed in shape this summer ’cause this year we hit the ground running…

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.


Welcome back to School, Fall 2011


Dear Interested Zoomassers,

Hello ladies and gentlemen, you signed our sheet asking for information and here is that information. First, I’ll start off with our meeting times. We meet Monday through Thursday, at the Fine Arts Center (FAC) from 7:00-8:30pm. Also, we hold weekend jams on Saturdays from 2:00-5:00pm. A jam is an informal session in which people from all around the area come to hang out and train whatever they want.

If you want a taste of practice without actually going to one, check out Get Active! Link: Facebook Event

My next point has to do with skill levels, if you’re afraid you won’t fit in, your fears are irrational. We teach beginners, advanced and high level parkour/freerunning practitioners. We tend to split up some group activies by skill level, so no one should feel bored or over-challenged. If you have either of these problems at practice, please feel free to speak to an instructor. Also, anyone can come, if you’re a student, an adult, we don’t really care. Just sign a health waiver and be ready to go. The only requirement for a UMass student to be come an official member is to sign up with us on Campus Pulse; here is the address: http://umassamherst.collegiatelink.net/organization/parkour

Finally, you all should check out our own Marc Freccero in his 2011 showreel. He is the PR representative afterall…

I love summer

Check out the flickr album from The Daily Collegian

To make your day even better, our amazing college newspaper sent out a photographer to see what we do!

If you’re not training hard already, its definitely time to get on that… but don’t fret, scooter and trav are coming up with a muscle busting workout that will make you a movement machine.

In addition to some ass-kickin’ workouts we’ve got some multimedia for you to check out our newest video!

Here’s our video from the awesome Mother’s Day Jam:

Finally, check out Snap Goes the Magic Camera, a sweet photoblog about UMass athletes!

Ill photo blog with a look at some hot action!

End of Semester News

Logo by kyle maguire

Hope exams are going well! Also, we will still be practicing this week despite our intense work loads… so feel free to take a study break (and doesn’t exercise make it easier to learn? I could have sworn that I heard that somewhere).

Come take a break a join us at the 1PM Sunday Jam!

So, what’s the news?

Elections! We are holding them Tuesday May 2nd at 7:10PM. Positions available are President, Vice President, Treasurer, Equipment Manager and PR Manager.  Nominees (yes, you can self-nominate) will give a speech concerning why they think they deserve the position and what they will be able to bring to the club. Who’s excited?

In other news, Scoot and Qaz went to Boston yesterday to meet up with people from other college groups in the area, thanks to Boston College Parkour for hosting that, I’m sure there will be some sort of digital media posted about this in the near future.

For those who are looking for some end of the semester eye candy, I put together a little video of some random clips that were lying around. check it outtt

Spring Updates

The Monkey Vault: Toronto, Canada

What’s good community? Happy holiday! I just wanted to update everyone on the goings on for the rest of the semester. Now that it is warm out, we’re going to be outside as much as possible (if there isn’t rain falling on everything). Also, elections are coming up soon… so everyone should think about running and who they want leading us next year. And please please please everyone should talk to one of the officers about getting on a workout regimen, we’ll design one just for you… all you need to do is ask! Possibility of a performance coming up soon too, so get pumped.

Finally, I’ll leave you with the video of the trip hex, marc and me took over spring break!

Beginner’s Guide: Part I

Trav balance

It seems obvious that practicing basic skills will pay off for any practitioner of parkour, freerunning, etc. but often even advanced practitioners have not mastered the basics of movement before trying more complex tricks. Many of these people never seem to develop the ability to flow between movements and objects and end up simply doing a series of disconnected tricks. This is fine; however, I personally strive to move beyond just “fine”.

Alright, so the point of this blog post is to teach you something about movement. The first skill that you will want to acquire is a high quality landing. Check this out: American Parkour Landing Tutorial. So mainly, you’re going to want to have good leg positioning and absorption as to avoid any injury. And please, don’t think that since you’ve watched a video on landing and rolling that you can jump off of a roof without injuring yourself… these skills should be practiced close to the ground. Once the skill and leg strength are present, then one can progress to higher jumps.

So, you’ve got a basic idea of how to land now, but you want to take it to some thing more structurally interesting… well I have a great video for you:

Remember, you now have an idea of how to land and fall safely, but you should also practice your roll! And DO NOT roll along the spine, roll across okay?

That’s it for today, learn your landings and ALWAYS land as silently as possible.

- travesty intl.


Downs attack

There is a trend that many of us have been noticing (it’s been going on for as long as we can remember) relating to many of the new people coming to club meetings, and even many people who have been coming for quite a while. That trend has been a fundamental misunderstanding of how to grow and improve in Parkour; and I daresay that up to this point we officers have not been doing a good enough job in clearing up the confusion. Many people have been showing up to meetings expecting to immediately learn how to do incredible moves, and most of these people are the ones that don’t come back after having their expectations be let down after their first training session. Let me make this clear, we can try and teach you technique for days, weeks, or even months, but if you do not have the necessary strength/flexibility/etc to perform the technique then all of our teaching will be fruitless.

The base from which all Parkour flows is your body. Training technique without training fitness is like trying to build a house with only a hacksaw, a bucket of rusty nails, and a rock for a hammer; you just won’t have the tools to adequately do the job. I am definitely not saying don’t show up if you’re out of shape, in fact if you are please come more often so you can get more out of training. What I am saying is don’t expect to magically improve without “working out”. Improving in Parkour is a struggle and takes effort and it’s only when you put in that effort that you’ll see good results. If you don’t know where to start in working out please ask any of us officers, we are all more than happy to take some time to go over exercises and workouts and we can even write up a plan for you if you want. After all, we’re here to help.

Parkour can be the most rewarding experience in your life; you just have to put in the effort. In time you’ll come to realize that that concept doesn’t only apply to Parkour, but everything you do. But before you do something, whether it’s trying a new technique, doing your homework (or not), or anything else in your life, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Find out why it’s important to you that you do it. Only once you know that answer will you be able to put your heart and soul into whatever you choose to do. So, if you want to show up to meetings and watch everybody else improve quickly while you watch, so be it. I’ll be there to crack jokes and have a fun time with you regardless. But if you really want to improve yourself in both mind and body, get ready to put in the effort.

As always, find your way.

Vacation Thoughts

Seth's copyrighted move, the side kong.

First I just want to congratulate everyone on a great fall semester. I believe that as a group we all progressed physically and mentally. I look forward to continuing this progress next semester.

That aside, I wanted to talk about vacation. I know that as it gets colder and starts to snow, most of us will not be going outside to run up walls and vault tables. This does not mean that we should get lazy however. It is very important that everybody stays in shape over vacation so that when we resume practice next semester we don’t have to play catch up and get back in shape. There are a number of things you can all do to ensure you don’t get fat and lazy over break. If you’re lucky enough to have a gymnastics gym close to you it is a great place to practice flips and you can do all sorts of crazy vaults on their equipment. Assuming most people won’t have access to a gymnastics gym you can still stay in shape. If weight gyms are your thing, you should check to see if your local gym has a college vacation special, where you can just get a membership for the month or so that you are home. If you don’t like gyms you can get a copy of P90X, which is a great fitness program. It is a little expensive but ask around and you may be able to find a friend you can borrow it from. You could also just lift some free weights in your basements or bundle up and go for a run. At the very least do some pushups, sit-ups, and plyometrics on your stairs 4 or 5 times a week. Taking this step will keep everyone in prime form for another great semester of parkour.

Good luck everyone and I hope you have a great Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) vacation.


Why we train.

downs flips

Sebastien Foucan (the man accredited with the founding of “Freerunning” and host of the website http://www.freerunningtv.com/) recently interviewed the accredited founder of Parkour, David Belle. The two have been friends since childhood and trained together for many years, and lately both have become aware of a shift in the reasons why people involved in these disciplines train. Back when they first started training these men, and the rest of the Yamakasi, trained in an effort to strengthen themselves and the people they trained with. Their name, “Yamakasi”, originates from the African Congolese Lingala language meaning loosely ‘Strong Man, Strong Spirit’, and it sums up the original and still core aim of their discipline – to be a strong individual: physically, mentally and ethically (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamakasi). However, Sebastien, David, and other pioneers of these disciplines have started to vocalize their thoughts on this shift in attitude. For the interview follow this link to see Sebastien Foucan interview David Belle.

Their fear is that people these days are wandering away from the deeper meaning of Parkour and Freerunning. They see all of these kids who are introduced to these disciplines by videos on youtube and immediately they think it’s all about producing the best looking and flashiest video edit, being able to do the biggest tricks and sickest flips. Wisely Foucan and Belle are both extremely hesitant to call this shift “bad” or a “negative” thing, they merely say it is just different from how they see things. Being someone who sees eye to eye with them, I agree with their phrasing. It is not inherently “bad” or “worse” to train in Parkour and Freerunning for the, at least partial, purpose of showing off, it merely makes the disciplines mean something different to the person training for that reason. If what you value is being the first to throw triple-flips with impunity for the sake of being put on adverts and featured in movies, more power to you. But if you seek something else, like to strengthen and grow as an individual and help those around you do the same, Parkour and Freerunning offer that as well.

What it comes down to is figuring out what you want from Parkour and/or Freerunning. For the officers of this club, they mean to us what they mean to Foucan and Belle. We wish to grow from the experience, both physically and mentally, and even have fun while doing it. Parkour and Freerunning are amazing in that they can give you just about anything you seek provided you put in the effort.

So, I’ll leave you with this, listen to why other people train. Listen to the Foucans, the Belles, the Shieffs, the Ilabacas, the 15 year olds who just watched 100 youtube videos in one day and decided they want to start training, the gymnasts, the breakdancers, and even the “e-runners” -those self proclaimed experts on these arts who have not trained a day in their life but can rattle off the top youtube videos like they’re scripture. Listen to all of them. But, never, NEVER, take what they say as the absolute truth about Parkour or Freerunning. That is up to you to decide. Take that knowledge you get from listening and use it to formulate your own ideas and opinions about what they mean to you. As the title of Sebastien Foucan’s book wisely says: “Find your way”. PK/FR are not static. They are fluid and can be as complex, simple, profound, or shallow as you make them.

Find your way.