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Parkour Is Safety

Posted by Justin Deffner on July 1, 2013 in Recreation, TW Parkour |

By Guest Author: Justin Deffner

Often times when I’m training, I’ll get asked, “how often do you get hurt,” or, “what’s your worst injury?” Although it may seem like what I do is dangerous, I can honestly say that in the three years I’ve been training, I’ve only had one significant injury from doing parkour; a large bruise on my arm from attempting a jump and using a technique incorrectly. From everything I’ve seen so far, I’ve come to the conclusion that parkour is one of the safest physical disciplines that can be practiced.

Have I taken drops that could sprain ankles or break legs? Yes. Have I jumped over gaps that were sketchy? Yes. Did I risk myself while doing any of these? No. I, along with almost any traceur out there (especially those I know in The Woodlands scene), knows their limits and understands the capabilities of their body. Issues can arise from the miscommunication and lack of understanding about this discipline. I will say this right now, I know that many people are not familiar with parkour, and similar to other things, a lack of understanding can result in misconceptions about what parkour is or is not. Parkour is not just a bunch of kids trying to out-perform each other by doing the most dangerous stunt they can imagine. Parkour (French pronunciation: ​[paʁˈkuʁ], abbreviated as PK) is a holistic training discipline using movement, which developed out of military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to move quickly and efficiently through their environment using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves, negotiating obstacles in between (wiki). It is a fairly new discipline here in America, and is sometimes greatly misrepresented on TV and the internet. My goal is to bring to light what parkour truly is.

Martial Arts

Let’s take a few other disciplines and sports into consideration when thinking about potential danger. Along with parkour, I’m a martial artist (and I love every second of training). Parents and authority figures everywhere love the fact that kids are involved in the martial arts. Practicing these physical disciplines teaches self control and self defense among other things. They also put you in situations where you have to fight (commonly known as “sparring”). I have been kicked, punched, rammed, choked, and grappled more times than I care to count in my martial arts training. Is it dangerous? Obviously yes, it is. In the real world, if somebody attacks you, they likely mean to hurt you – or at the very least, prevent you from hurting them. It is neccessary to learn how to react to potentially dangerous situations and how to protect yourself if somebody is actually attacking you. By donning hand and foot pads, martial artists practice “controlled” fights, and will go to tournaments to spar against people they’ve never met before. It’s quite intimidating, especially when you’re a short guy like me going up against the bear-size men I’ve had to spar against.

Now, learning to defend yourself is great. I love the martial arts, and wish I had gotten started in them earlier. However, there is another way to defend yourself against most any potential attacker. What if, instead of trying to overpower an attacker, you can simply avoid the confrontation by safely getting away from the situation? As a test, I had one of my friends (who doesn’t practice parkour) attempt to chase me in a variety of outdoor environments. In every attempt, I successfully evaded him very quickly. If you can scale a wall in less than a second that takes another person three seconds to get over, or jump off a staircase (SAFELY) instead of taking fifteen seconds to go down the stairs, you can get easily escape from bad situations in quick and safe manner.

Gymnastics

We’ve all seen the people in the Olympics flipping and twisting and doing those movements with funny names (as a gymnastics coach, even I sometimes laugh at the names of some moves), and those athletes are applauded for what they can do. In just over a year since we opened, we have had 1,400+ students enrolled in our gym whose parents want them to learn how to flip, jump, and tumble to some extent. Who can say that gymnastics isn’t dangerous? Yes, we have what seems like a million different cushions, pads, and foam pits. Why? Because tumbling is so ridiculously dangerous to do. Gymnasts learn to flip and focus on pointing their toes, sticking landings, and making sure their form is perfect – and they will fall while learning to do so. Imagine the impact in your knees after doing a double backflip and sticking the landing. I’ll tell you from experience, it doesn’t feel good; and it is hard on your body. With parkour, we learn the flips in a completely different way. A gymnast will worry about sticking their landing, while in parkour, the emphasis is on dispersing the impact of the landing so that we don’t take as much shock throughout the body. A gymnast will focus on pointing their toes and using correct form, while in parkour, we just worry about what naturally works for a flip and what will get us through it in the safest and most efficient manner. Have I fallen while practicing parkour? Yes, countless times; but learning how to disperse the forces of the impact became second nature to me mere weeks after starting my parkour training. In fact, because I learned how to tumble and flip outside of a gym, I’ve become much more capable and versatile with what I can do compared to gymnasts who have trained the same amount of time. It’s not uncommon to see me or my friends do flips and land in the most bizarre ways (on our stomachs, kneeling in a “Power Ranger” pose, or even flat on our backs) not unlike what you might see the hero do on TV or in the movies. Because we trained our bodies to react to our physical environment, we learn to adjust at just about any point, in any movement, to position ourselves to land in a safe – if not always graceful – way.

The Unexpected

Wooden items breaking as we jump from them, rails shaking as we vault over them, or tables being slippery and wet when they might look completely dry. Yes, we learn to test the durability of items before we climb or jump on them, but at the spur of the moment there may not be time to decide if the rail is loose or the grass is dry. Things like people walking in front of us as we’re about to start a maneuver, or even shoes slipping in the grass can happen to all of us everyday. Parkour teaches us to learn how to react to these situations and greatly lessen the odds of being injured. You could think of it as the most masculine form of ballet; learning how to be graceful in the great outdoors. Many of these and similar situations have happened to me, and I’m not going to lie, it is scary. But through my training, and the training that every traceur has experienced, these situations become nothing more than simple obstacles and handleing them is second nature. Before we can even think, our bodies can react to these situations accordingly, and we either jump, roll, redirect, stop, or even fall in the safest possible manner.

Traceurs go through training that is just as rigorous as that of the martial arts and gymnastics. We learn the extent of our bodies and our own capabilities. We learn how to preserve our bodies while doing what should be natural for us to do. When we are on a narrow ledge, or up on a high surface, we aren’t doing it to be reckless or try to get millions of hits on Youtube. We are doing it because we know we can do it safely, and we want to move past the state of mind that says “you can only do things one way.” If I can make a standing five foot jump between two ledges on the ground, why shouldn’t I be able to do it twenty feet in the air? If I can do a backflip and land in the same spot on grass, why shouldn’t I be able to do it on a concrete ledge nine inches wide? We don’t throw these tricks to show off, we do it because we know we can, and we have to prove to ourselves that we, as humans, are capable of so much more than we may know, or think we are.

In closing, consider this statistic from Parkour Visions, a renowned academy known for teaching parkour. Rafe, one of the instructors there, calculated injury statistics from the gym. “For the record, we calculated our injury rate recently in the parkour visions teaching program. It came out to two injuries per thousand hours training time. This is probably lower then self-directed training, but it is not in my experience a huge difference. Indoor rock climbing averages around three, gymnastics (training) around four, soccer (training) is 7.6 and American football (training) is 16. I could not find statistics for MMA training but concussion rate alone for MMA competition is 15 per thousand hours – that’s not including any other types of injuries.” (Source)

If you have any questions about parkour or the safety of the discipline, feel free to email me at XMAparkour@yahoo.com

Related:
Movements of Parkour
Parkour: Fact versus Fiction

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