Definition, rendezvous: a meeting, a gathering, an assembly.
It was a very non-British sun that blazed down on my bike and I as we raced down to the London Docklands to join the small group gathering for the 13th International parkour event, ‘Rendezvous’. Bang on Traceur o’clock, the small gathering started to grow and the usually sleepy docklands became suddenly alive with the raucous chatter of traceurs from every corner of the globe, all bouncing with excitement for the three days of intense parkour training ahead from some of the world’s most experienced traceurs.
For those of us still wiping sleepy dust out of our eyes, a few muscle-crunching challenges from the fearsome Swedish coaches, nicknamed ‘The Vikings’, were enough to fire us up.
Then discarding our phones, fears, food boxes and anything else that could hold us back, we split up into groups depending on how much we wished to destroy ourselves and sprinted off after our assigned parkour guru to follow as best we could for an hour the wisdom of his teachings.
LESSON: TRAINING EFFICIENCY
So perhaps you frequent the gym now and again. Have you ever wondered at the logic of why you walk over to the machines rather than pick up the weights or vice versa? Or why you stick to reps of three and ten rather than say, the strangely odd-sounding four and nine? These were the questions posed to us by Italian coach Marcello Palozzo, an experienced traceur and academic with a library of knowledge stored under his curls detailing how to condition with maximum efficiency and minimum effort.
Marcello’s lesson really hit home for me and for others; I know there are many aspects of my life in which irrationality rules my decision-making process. I think we all need reminding of the importance of thinking twice about everything we think. (Who knows, with enough self-reflection, we may even realise that truth is not truth!)
LESSON: THE FLOW STATE
The scientific method can also be applied when training the mind in parkour. Forever a devoted endorser of ‘Flow,’ coach and lead-organiser Dan Edwardes explained to us how experienced artists (parkour being a form of extreme art if you like) can enter a psychological state of concentration and calm known as ‘Flow State’. This mental space allows them to perform almost unconsciously and at their peak ability.
Max Henry, parkour legend and bestselling author of ‘The Parkour Road Map’, delivered our final science class on training the mind to ‘commit’. He took the common phenomenon in parkour of a practised traceur who has been standing on a wall for a while, contemplating a jump they fear yet are certain is within their current physical capacity. His solution, to my surprise, was just to walk away.
In his lesson, we learnt the importance of categorising jumps into levels of difficulty; and working habits into our training which our brains can rely on as a resource when we wish to commit to jumps that we fear.
For all the parkour nerds that attended (which was most of us), it was a great honour to receive teaching from Stephane Vigroux, a student of David Belle often credited for his contribution to the founding of the Parkour discipline. He told us with an air of reminiscence of the days before the cat-leap and kong-pre (can you even imagine?!) when the spirit of parkour was all about finding your own solutions to physical challenges – not getting likes on Instagram for the biggest double-kong-side-pre-backflip.
LESSON: WHY DO WE TRAIN PARKOUR
Many of us agreed that the most intensely physically and mentally demanding teaching came from Danilo Di Gregorio, or Ghost as he is known in the parkour world. Originating from a small city in Italy far from the suburbs of Paris, Ghost, like many of the other first-generation traceurs for many years made his ‘Parcours’ alone. He told us that for those years he knew nothing of the ‘what’ he was doing; the only answers he could find lay in the ‘why’, and that is the essence of parkour he tried to share with us.
He taught us to ask ourselves why do we train parkour; who are we doing it for. Is it for ourselves, for our family, for those we love or those we hate? This is what should go through our minds when we want to commit to a jump.
CONDITIONING (AND ICE CREAM)
The shadows were starting to grow in Wembley Stadium square as on the final evening, the groups slowly started amassing again, flopping exhausted in piles on the benches. But the rest was brief- no parkour training is complete without conditioning! And of course this would be no ordinary conditioning; it was an old-school parkour event after all!
Thirteen years may not seem like a longstanding commemoration for an event but in a discipline, as young as parkour it encompasses an entire history. As such, it became clear to me finally as we sat, exhausted but happy, munching away at our ice cream reward that ‘rendezvous’ was not just a mark in the calendar for a meeting of old-school traceurs. These coaches were the founders, the ones who poured decades of sweat into giving parkour its birthright, those whose philosophies run deep in the roots of the parkour we practice today. For me at least, this was a ‘rendezvous’ with the discipline’s near-forgotten past.
“I enjoyed how applicable the event was, to traceurs of all ages and abilities. Also, the focus on the philosophy of parkour meant that much of what we learnt was directly applicable to other daily aspects of our lives.”
Michael Tijsterman, Netherlands
“I would recommend this event to anyone who believes that their life could be benefited by movement. And to those that tell me it won’t, I would ask them: ‘So why did you decide to stop?’”
Kiefer Piccio, Philippines
©World of Parkour 2018