European Art of Retreat 2019 Part 2: Sunday and Monday

Welcome back to our European Art of Review write up! The first half of our weekend on a Scottish island had been eye-opening and a ton of fun. The discussions were flowing, ideas were flying about left right and centre, little movement games were popping up during the lulls between scheduled talks and activities and the general atmosphere was one of collaboration and a desire to solve problems. The most intense parts of the weekend were mostly past and Sunday lay before us featuring a slightly emptier schedule with more space for free time and impromptu talks and panels.

The Sunday morning movement I chose to get involved with was a handstand workshop led by Donald Dalziel, who is a photographer and film maker who happens to love playing around with handstands and sharing the fun with others. We spent a bit of time assessing where each of our present skills levels were at, then Donald gave us exercises to try based on how comfortable we were with our handstands.

Less experienced participants started off working with headstands, getting more comfortable being upside down and using their core and legs to balance, while more experienced participants tried working on their handstands with input and tips from Donald. Those who became more comfortable were given little handstand challenges to help them start exploring the playful things that can be achieved with handstands, such as different positions to hold yourself in, holding objects with your feet while performing a handstand and handstanding on different objects. It was a really useful workshop and I learned a great deal about how to progress my handstands.

On Sunday we had one Spark talk and one Deep Dive. The Spark talk I chose to attend was led by Madeleine Küsel of ParkourONE. Her talk, Seelenparkour (Soul Parkour) – How Parkour According to TRUST can Support Mental Recovery, looked into Parkour as therapy and its uses in rebuilding confidence through the sensory aspects of exercise. She discussed her own experience with mental illness and her current work in a hospital in Berlin using Seelen Parkour with people who are recovering from mental illness.

The process Madeleine utilises in her Seleen Parkour method put emphasis on the feedback process in parkour, group and partner experiences and the use of cool down and reflection time. The feedback process feeds emotional development, using the tools and resources that you gain through practising Parkour. Group and partner experiences strengthen the social connections that can be gained in Parkour, empowering the participants and building up the realisation that asking for help is good, helping each other is good. Cool down and reflection time develops the sensory processing tools, allowing participants to analyse how they dealt with challenges.

The Seelen Parkour approach presented a lot of ideas to think about and a wealth of useful concepts to apply to personal training as well as coaching. It was also wonderful to see a coaching method that directly tackled mental health in such a positive way.

During our elongated lunch break a few groups spilt off to discuss certain things and others started finding things to climb around on and jump off. Games of Ukmei sprang up, as well as various movement challenges. Once everyone had finished their food and dangling off various walls we made our way to our chosen Deep Dive talks.

My final scheduled talk of the weekend was presented by Alice Popejoy on Evolution, Psychology and the Culture of Gender Dynamics in Parkour. A superbly presented talk that generated a lot of discussion and educated everyone in the audience.

Alice brought our attention to data on female participation in the US parkour community and moved through the potential reasons for the significant gap that exists between male and female participation figures in most parkour communities around the world. We went over cultural, social, environmental and biological factors for the differences and engaged in discussion about how much biological difference there is between men and women statistically, looking at the scientific perspective on gender and biology. This led to broaching topics about female empowerment and the way society doesn’t encourage strength and power in women.

As part of the talk, Alice also went through some a whistlestop tour of human evolution and psychological history to link into the issues she was presenting to us, building an understanding of how our genetics and our environment affect our development. Alice also talked to us about a blog post she had written in 2017 that discussed recommendations for increasing the number of women and girls in Parkour that appeared to have largely been ignored by people in Parkour research circles and highlighted that this was a symptom of the problems that need tackling in the wider community.

I can safely say we all came away with significantly more knowledge about human development over the course of history and its relevance to us today, as well as having useful discussions about where gender participation issues stem from and ways to improve.

Over the course of the rest of the afternoon we were treated to impromptu talks from Skochypstiks, a panel of ‘reluctant architects’ and a talk between various community leaders about FIG and it’s related challenges.

As one of the event sponsors, Saša from Skochypstiks clothing had some time to talk to us about his company. He told us about his life and how it eventually led to him creating a clothing company tailored towards people who move. He also had Andy Day on hand to talk about the Monumental Tour project they had collaborated on, discussing the history of the Balkans and its impact on the lives of the people living there today.

The ‘Reluctant Architects’ panel, brought together four people from the parkour community who have experience with architecture and are involved in parkour architecture in some capacity and gave them a space to discuss the creation of movement spaces and take questions from the audience.

FIG had been a regular topic springing up over the weekend but hearing about the different situations in different countries regarding FIG and each country’s Gymnastic associations was eye opening and useful to hear as someone who knows very little about Parkour on an organisational level. The situation is different in every country, with some having excellent relationships with their gymnastic federations and others struggling to develop any dialogue at all. The discussion went on much longer than I was able to sit in on it and listen but it was fascinating to gain some understanding of the global situation.

A final dinner was had, as well as final evening drinks. On Monday morning we cleared our rooms and all made our way back to the ferry to the mainland. Some were heading out on flights that day while others were sticking around to train in Glasgow or Edinburgh before heading back or continuing on to other parts of the UK to train. On Monday afternoon, Andy Day held a Parkour photography workshop that many AoR attendees either participated in or acted as models for.

A wonderful weekend with wonderful people. We all learned a lot from the people who delivered their talks and from the numerous conversations we were all able to have over the course of our time on the island. An event very much worth going to if you want to meet a large number of people from the international parkour community, most of whom are in positions of leadership, and learn a lot about solving issues that face us as a whole. Hopefully the European instalment of The Art of Retreat will return in the future but for those able to travel further the original version of the event, held in America, happens yearly and should certainly occupy a place on the list of ‘Things I should consider spending money on this year’.

A huge thank you to all the organisers and everyone involved. It was a fabulous experience.

©World of Parkour 2019

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