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Old 23-04-2007, 09:57 PM
Faelcind Faelcind is offline
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I wrote this up to be posted on APK but I wanted to see what other peoples thoughts and responses were.


"Why I am against competition in parkour

One of the most consistent arguments within the parkour community is the argument over whether parkour should become competitive. In my experience most experienced traceurs are against parkour, but can rarely offer a strong argument against competition except that parkour isn’t competitive, or maybe because David Belle has said it should not be competitive which is neither clear nor a powerful argument. Meanwhile, many of the large commercial parkour sites have come out as supporting competition, or at least arguing it is inevitable.

When I first started parkour I did not understand the proscription against competition at all. I am by nature a competitive person I love to wrestle, box and play team sports and I want to win. In fact, as a kid running through the woods I used to fantasize that I was competing in the new Olympic event of obstacle coursing.

However I now look at the possibility of parkour competitions as a negative thing. When Gear wrote his essay on why we should look forward to competition in parkour, I thought he made excellent arguments, but it didn’t sit right with me and I could not agree with the conclusion, however I wasn’t sure exactly how to explain why I was against competition so I did not respond at the time. However I have continued thinking about it and at some point I was able to figure out why I was against competition in parkour.

To me it boils down to understanding the philosophy and background of parkour. Parkour is often connected to two french mottos: the natural method motto etre forte poure etre utile, and the parkour motto etre et durer. The natural method motto means “be strong to be useful.” The parkour motto means something like “to be and to endure.”

David belle has said that parkour was inspired by fireman and soldiers and he would like it to keep that spirit; that our competition is to see who can help the most people. I believe that the two mottos I quoted are both consistent with the attitude you will find in experienced traceurs that their training is not just to be efficient today, but for tomorrow, the next day, and 30 years down the road. To always be able to be useful and strong. To me this is very important and I think it is unfortunately counter to the reality of professional sports today.
I worry that parkour becoming competitive would be mean, over specialization in traceurs training, and even more injuries and accidents due to competitive pressures.

I think before I go into why parkour should not be competitive, it’s important to explore what competition in parkour would probably be like and what conditions are like in similar sports. Some people have thrown rock climbing out as a comparison, saying competition wouldn’t be that bad, few people know about rock climbing competitions, it affects recreational rock climbers very little except in improving the quality of their equipment, and some people get to make money doing what they love. What’s so bad about that? Nothing really. If I thought parkour could go a similar way, I would be a lot less worried about competition. The problem with that analogy as I see it is that rock climbing simply lacks the aesthetic element that parkour brings. How many movies feature gratuitous rock climbing scenes? How many music videos feature rock climbers doing their thing? I think the visual aesthetics of parkour are equal to or better than any of the most popular televised x-game sports, and on par with gymnastics as well.

So, assuming that competition in parkour would be more like the x-games or gymnastics or another minor but well known televised sport, these are the problems I see:

1. Parkour is general. Competition by its nature must be specific. I would draw an analogy to martial arts. A complete unarmed self-defense system will teach you striking at range using all your limbs, clinching, striking in the clinch, grappling in the clinch, take downs, grappling on the ground, and striking on the ground. However you will find very few martial arts schools that still teach all of these aspects because most martial arts have become competitive. If you look at the history of competitive martial arts like boxing, you will see how all of these techniques were once part of what was known by practitioners, but gradually they were banned until only something very specific was left, like boxing (striking with the hands), tae kwon do (striking primarily with the feet, with points not power as an emphasis), judo (takedowns), and wu shu (aesthetic displays). Jujitsu was until recently one of the most complete martial arts, but recently submission grappling competitions have become common under the name jujitsu, and you will find more and more schools whose primary focus is success in these competitions. At this point striking is hardly taught in many jujitsu school is hardly, and even take-downs are often barely taught in my experience.

A parkour competition similarly would very likely be a standard length or maybe a few different standard lengths. It would also likely include standard types of obstacles, and very likely standard safety features that you would not find in the real world. Optimal training for competition would mean not focusing on optimal overall training. It would mean over-specialization.

For those who say that competing would not affect their training: perhaps not, but what about the next person to become involved in the discipline, or the person after that? Tell me that most modern judoka are not basing their training for competition and not actually fighting, or tae kwon do athletes, or boxers, or jujitsu fighters. Competitive parkour would no longer be parkour in its truest sense in my opinion, and I think the new competition brand of parkour would likely cannibalize the old style.

2. Too far, too fast, too high. As Gear mentioned in his thread, competition is great for pushing one to their limits and discovering new levels of performance. I am certain that without competition the development of techniques like the triple back in gymnastics would have taken much longer. But what he ignores is the cost. Professional athletes are often viewed as the epitome of health. I think this is simply counter to fact. There is price to achieving the level of performance seen in professional athletics and it usually involves your health.

Take a look at gymnastics. Last summer I had the chance to chat with Bill Sands, a sports scientist who works with the USA national gymnastics team. He told me that at some point in the last 2 years every member of the men’s senior national team has had reconstructive shoulder surgery, except Jordan Jovtchev who had injured his elbow. His reason as to why this was happening was simple: the maltese cross. In his opinion, this technique was simply beyond the human shoulders design specs, and training it regularly was a guarantee of future injury at this point. However, in order to be competitive in men’s rings you have to do a maltese at the international level, so all the top men’s gymnasts are now getting shoulder injuries. My gymnastics coach, who was an elite level gymnast, has 20 percent disability in both elbows, has had reconstructive surgery on one shoulder and needs it on the other. He blames it on years of having to compete the Yamawaki — which is a double front flips in between the rings.

The average life expectancy of an NFL player is 55, 22 years less then the general average. Elite endurance athletes have enlarged hearts and a higher risk of heart problems .
I am not even going to touch on the issue of performance enhancing drugs which are rampant in professional athletics.

From my perspective it is simple the pressure and money involved in elite professional athletics force an athlete to become over specialized and to take a constant risk with their health that eventually catches up to them. That is not a future I want to see for parkour.

If parkour is about being useful today, tomorrow, and in 20 years, and able to overcome obstacles whenever it is needed, I think that professional competition would be counter to that in the long run.

To those who would say “well it’s inevitable, there’s nothing we can do about it:” That is simply defeatism, we can not know what effect taking steps against competition can have until we try!

Also to those who say “well sure, parkour shouldn’t be completive, but free running competitions are fine:” this to me is hypocritical. Most people will tell you they’re against competition because David Belle said parkour shouldn’t be competitive. Well, if Sebastien Foucan is considered the father of free running and his motto is “no chiefs, no competitions, just a way,” shouldn’t his wishes be respected just like David’s?
Furthermore I think free running has even more aesthetic potential than parkour, and if it does become a popular competitive sport, parkour would basically get swallowed up by it just as easily as by a competive version of parkour.

That’s my thoughts for what their worth I am not completely happy with how I put them down but I hope they make you think."
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Old 24-04-2007, 07:39 AM
minion minion is offline
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Very interesting insite, well written arguement.

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Old 24-04-2007, 10:34 AM
Fezz Fezz is offline
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I joined the parkour discipline 2 years ago because I do not enjoy competitive sports where team members and opponents alike will shout at you for messing up. In a team of traceurs there is nothing but encouragment and a few laughs, the environment is really uplifting. participating in a parkour competition would be against every reason I started parkour in the first place.
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Old 24-04-2007, 05:57 PM
NOrburn NOrburn is offline
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good post made me think about competitions and changed my veiw. the only problem is posting on forums wont change anything, if we want to stop it we have to act and we have to act now.
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Old 24-04-2007, 06:18 PM
Dannyboy Dannyboy is offline
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Ill be honest i didnt read all of your post because im lazy like that, but if you dont like the idea of a competition, then dont be a part of it. And let the people who do want to have fun, and dont care whether or not it defies the meaning of parkour to the squareroot of David Belle divided by Urban Freeflow.

Im fed up of these pointless philosophical arguments because they just go round in circles.

Im all for the competition because its gonna be realy fun, even if im not going, just to hear about it and watch the doc.

Sorry to be moody
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Old 24-04-2007, 07:17 PM
Alistair Alistair is offline
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Read or don't reply, seriously. This is exactly like with Blane's "Dilution" article. Don't comment on something if you haven't read it. End. The arguments don't go round in circles, there's just two defined sides, on one side the people who defend parkour, on the other side the people who wish to exploit it or those who are misguided or misinformed. And never will either side completely disappear so these arguments will continue to exist forever. As a traceur and someone who tries to live by what is belived to be the origional concept of parkour, I also feel that it is my duty to defend those concepts and preserve the integrity of what I do. Because doing parkour the way it is supposed to be practiced is far more fulfilling and satisfying than "doing it for the fun" ever could be.

Fantastic points Faelcind and I'm right behind you on this. When the time comes, we need to stand up to this because I feel competition will be a defining moment in parkour, if it fails, it may well bring about the departure of those who hope to exploit it. We can always hope anyway.

On .NET someone pointed out that a competition over a 30km course involving everything that parkour encompasses wouldn't be anything like as attractive to the media or the sort of people who would compete in a "Free Running Championship". It's a real shame that the media just focuses on the bits of parkour that impress, not parkour as a whole.
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Old 26-04-2007, 07:57 PM
benmoore benmoore is offline
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</div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Alistair @ Apr 24 2007, 07:17 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>
On .NET someone pointed out that a competition over a 30km course involving everything that parkour encompasses wouldn't be anything like as attractive to the media or the sort of people who would compete in a "Free Running Championship". It's a real shame that the media just focuses on the bits of parkour that impress, not parkour as a whole. [/quote]
This is why the majority people practice parkour how they do... all isolated movements - perhaps 2 or 3 linked together at most. People spend hours working on their "kong to precision"... usualy on a lovely squared off obstacle.

Tis the reason why people can do 10 foot "kongs" or whatever they call them these days... But cannot run for a couple of miles haha!
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Old 27-04-2007, 09:35 AM
Rip TT Rip TT is offline
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I agree with Alisatair and Faelcind.

Alistair, what you've described is pretty much what we were told was David's plan for a parkour competition when we were in Lisses.
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Old 16-05-2007, 06:09 PM
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It kind of defeats the point if you only have a set area but If you want to do it have fun.
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Old 18-05-2007, 03:30 AM
urbanhybrid urbanhybrid is offline
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its things like Parkour competition that causes people not to be involve anymore...very nice and well written
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