As it turns out, Parkour is not just a bunch of leaps and balances. There is also an artistic element that I think is an integral part.
As a beginner, I’m learning a lot of individual movements. I practice the same vault repeatedly, over and over, until I can get it right. But then what? What do I do after I vault over something? Do I just stand there? Do I go somewhere else? And how do I do it?
In my recent class, I learned about flow, the stringing together of the movements as though they have a purpose, a certain type of grace and style that separates the newbies from the more experienced.
Think about language for a moment. Some people can string together words so effortlessly that we call them poets. Some people can’t. Who do we prefer to listen to? Which person is able to impress us with their words? I’d say it’s the people with flow, the people with that ability to communicate to us in a way that leaves us breathless. The same goes for Parkour. When a parkour artist can chain together his or her movements in a way that flows, everything just seems right.
Here’s a recent video of my coach Gerardo from Parkour Ways teaching me to string together a few movements. His grace is really lovely.
And here’s me:
Getting better, but definitely lacking something. (Please ignore the unflattering construction uplighting on my ass.)
I think, however, there’s more to it than just looks. It definitely seems pretty when the flow is present, but I think there are more practical implications of attaining flow. For instance, landings. If you smash into the ground with both feet after a vault, sure you’ve landed it. Good for you. You might want to continue running and you end up tripping over your feet and looking dopey, or worse, you may have also have sprained your ankle because you landed too hard without any grace and with no ability to continue forward.
I’ve tried cat leaps onto a wall. Let me be clear about this: smashing into a wall hurts. And yet, when my coach Kurt did it, he was graceful and light and barely made a sound, leaving himself the ability to continue on to the next obstacle without the string of expletives that were leaving yours truly when I attempted the same thing. Flow matters.
An article over at Parkourtrain.net suggests we shouldn’t train, we should play. I think that’s a good part of it. Getting mad at the obstacle isn’t going to help; we need to simply enjoy what we’re doing, and it’s a lot more enjoyable when you look awesome and feel good and you don’t whomp your ass on a ledge, let me tell you.
Here’s one of my favorite videos that demonstrates some really beautiful flow.
As an old friend used to say, let go, let flow.