Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rooftop conversations with Parkour Generations' Dan Edwardes

Parkour has always fascinated me. If it weren't for my bad knee I'd see if I could turn the city into my own playground. What follows is a short interview with one of the world's foremost practicioners and authorities on parkour. Thanks for the interview, Dan!

Rick: How difficult is parkour? Does one have to be fit and in superb shape to engage in this? It seems that it takes more than stretching muscles to get involved. Does one have to put on any braces, pads, or even wear specific types of footwear to get into parkour?
Dan: Parkour is very difficult to do well! One does not have to START fit and strong, but the training will result in one becoming extremely fit and functionally strong, as well as confident, spatially aware, and generally much healthier than normal. No protective gear is worn, and basic running shoes will do, which make it a very accessible discipline - hence us being able to reach a lot of inner city children who have limited resources but a great deal of energy.

Rick: Is part of the thrill of parkour not knowing what obstacles lie ahead?
Dan: We do not consider that we train only for the 'thrill', but rather for self-mastery and consistent improvement in all areas. Parkour training can be hours spent in one area, mastering one set of obstacles/terrain, or it can be free movement over a larger area, just moving, getting from one place to the next using only your body and the environment.

Rick: Is parkour technically a sport? I've heard from some who express dismay when it is lumped along with other extreme sports. In this world of trying to pigeonhole things, where does parkour fit in? How does parkour technically work -- is there a time limit to it? A route with observers? Is there a competition aspect to it?
Dan: Parkour is, as of a couple of months ago, officially a sport in the UK due to the work we have done with the government and with Sport England. The title is irrelevant though: some call it a discipline, some and art, others a sport or even a transformative practice. In truth it has elements of all of these, and serious practitioners do not much care what you call it..! For us it is just about movement and self-perfection. Names and labels are for those who spend all day worrying about definitions and arguing online rather than training! How does it work? Training. No audience is required! Parkour is not done for show or to impress others, but solely to find one's limits and push them back a little further each day, and to improve one's physical control and ability as much as possible. There is no competition aspect to it no, though in the future there may well be a competition established and hopefully for the betterment of the discipline. As of now there are no recognised competitions, and within the training itself there is no competition other than with oneself and the friendly rivalry training partners may indulge in to push themselves to go further every day.

Rick: Is parkour a full time undertaking for both of you? Is Parkour Generations akin to a football school? Dan: Yes, we are a professional group and between the teaching for schools, local authorities, parkour communities, corporate groups etc and the media performances and live shows, consulting, and our own training it pretty much takes up most of our time! Parkour Generations is the largest collective of experienced practitioners in the world, and includes the world's foremost parkour film-maker and photographer in Julie Angel and Andy Day (aka Kiell).

Rick: Are there any big competitions for parkour? If so, are they organized similar to triathlon competitions? The sheer difficulty of parkour makes for something equally as demanding as triathlon.
Dan: As I said earlier, there are no recognised competitions in parkour and will not be for some time. Some wayward groups have attempted to establish 'freerunning' tournaments, but they have been reviled by the community at large and fairly farcical in their approach. The 'winner' of one of these tournaments in Austria, for example, broke his leg and yet still was proclaimed the winner... For a traceur, to be injured in that way is to fail completely - parkour is about health, endurance, being whole and complete as an individual: NOT destroying one's body through reckless jumps and performances for cameras.

Rick: Is there a term for getting done with parkour? Like 'reaching a goal' or 'reaching the endzone?' Aside from the boost in confidence, personally, how do you feel when you're done? Is parkour an ultimate workout?

Dan: One is never done' with parkour. The training IS the means AND the end. It is the one goal. There is no end, nor conclusion or perfection - only daily improvement, hardship in training and the pleasure of pushing oneself further than one thought possible.

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