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There was a moment that just happened only a couple weeks ago, completely unplanned, but I think most if not all great moments in life are unplanned (except maybe babies, depending, but if that’s your case then good luck my friend :D)

After our regular Saturday morning QM, there were two events happening afterward; one group was heading to zip lining up in the Poconos and my group was taking a journey to Mordor up the mountain on the Applachian trail I believe it was called.

We had begun our expedition up once others met up with us, some new faces, some old.
Everyone was in good spirits, our shenanigans soon began as they always do. We played in this aqueduct slope (not sure what they are called but this makes sense to me so I’m gonna roll with it) found some snakes, threw rocks at each other, you know, the good times were happening.

As we moved on from the spot, right next to it, was a metal bridge or lookout over a large area of water (there’s probably a word for this and I know it’s not a pond but we can settle on pond for now). This metal bridge had a door you could access to get to the end of the lookout, but this door was locked so we settled on a mini challenge of a climbing up and walking to the end ourselves. It was an interesting climb on the side of the bridge, thin pieces of metal make for a very unique feeling on the hands.

Once we had gotten up we walked to the end of the lookout, and there is where I saw the jump.

A jump into the water from the lookout

A look over the bars blocking the way of the jump, you could see it was roughly 20 feet or so down. I had mentioned it to the group and so we had done a little rock test. Meaning we grabbed a rock from below the bridge and tossed it to the depths. The rock was swallowed up after a few seconds of fall time; clearly the water was deep enough for a human. So the next part…was to simply do it.

Simply. That was a funny word. A little this and that later, it was getting time to move on so that we didn’t lose the day for the rest of the hike. So I told the group that if I hadn’t gone by the time they descended back to the ground then I won’t do it.

Funny thing though. Josh had stayed behind to be my clothes retriever if I had gone (shirt off, no shoes or socks for water deployment) but as my comrades left me, I felt naked and alone. As if it was just me and this colossal boss I was ill prepared for, no upgrades, no party to back me up; so I walked away and climbed down with Josh and continued on our path.

The rest of the day, that jump plagued my mind. Thoughts simply invaded.

“I felt it, it was right there”
“If you don’t do it, you will regret it when you go home tonight”
“Why couldn’t I just let go”

On and on, a cycle continued through my head. I tried a couple conversations with some of the guys to distract me, but I just ended up losing what they were saying

The walk to the top felt long, it felt like a walk through my own little forest of doubts in my mind

When we reached the top however, a thing of beauty waited.

A view.

A simply nice moment of clarity, sitting on the edge of a mountain with those closest to you in life. Whom like you, want to be stronger for others just as much as they do for themselves.

I felt rich.

And like myself that day, Melissa was challenged with a jump on the mountaintop. A drop precision from one rock to another, a simple jump on ground level, but with the added height makes for a great challenge. In my head I told myself that if she made the jump then I will go back to the bridge and do it. I did not make this vocal because I didn’t want to influence her decision to make the jump.

Making the jump through your own resolve is stronger than doing it for a prize in my opinion.

She eventually made the jump and so my fate was sealed.

After some shenanigans through a cave which in itself is a story on its own. We headed back down to the cars and along the way, the thoughts started coming back, the only thing different this time was that I was not only one being invaded. Austin, Katie and Adam had expressed they would like to join me on the jump and so we made a pact to jump together no matter what.

I vocally expressed this promise that I will jump from that bridge.

Back at Rendevouz in Boston, Max Henry had taught that if you make your intention vocal, you have now bound yourself to it and must commit. I thought that was very interesting and helpful habit to keep, especially for me.

As the bridge approached I could feel the adrenaline kicking and my heart rate rising as I knew what was coming and what HAD to be done.

Like the rise before the drop on a roller coaster.

We climbed up and hopped over the bars and looked out to the depths below us, I felt stronger with others beside me ready to commit to the jump I once looked at alone.
As a collective I could feel what they felt.

And it was reassuring

Adam began the countdown from 5

4

3

2

Right about here we had leaned over leaving only our grip on the rail keeping us on the bridge.

1

Through my peripheral I saw them lean and found myself leaning with them

Finally

I let go

And let out a yell through the fall and entered the water

There are some memorable moments and I have too many to name with this crew, but this one was one for the books for sure

I found that
Fear is a choice
and that some challenges can’t be taken alone

Which makes sense because life would be incredibly difficult going through alone. I guess that’s why we have loved ones to share it with :).

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What Parkour Gave Me

The car pulled into the driveway of the Brookline Teen Center. There were people standing outside, looking cold. I noticed a sculpture made out of metal bars sitting on the fake green grass. The people were standing in a circle around it, and moving their arms in furious circles. My father saw the worried expression written on my face and said, “Ling-li, there is nothing to worry about. You’ll do fine.”

I sat there for a minute or so, working up the guts to get out of the car and join them. I had been getting restless at home and wanted something fun to do. After searching the web for awhile, I finally found what I was looking for: a parkour class near my house. I had always watched videos of people jumping from roof to roof and doing other types of parkour movements, but never thought that I could learn to do what they were doing.

As I got out of the car, the chilly wind whipped my face and left me breathless. I started walking toward the people and noticed that they were all males. They looked very intense and intimidating. There were seven of them and they all looked to be about 5’7’’ at least, and most of them had big bulging muscles. My heart was pounding because of how nervous I was. I turned back toward my dad, but he opened the window and encouraged me to go. My stomach was jittery and my hands couldn’t stop shaking. I walked up to the nearest guy and stuttered, “Is this the parkour class?”

He smiled and said, “Yes, go up to the main desk and sign in.”

I did as he said and ran inside, mostly to get away from all the eyes starring at me, but also because I was already freezing. The woman at the desk gave me a sheet to sign and then told me I was all set to go. I made my way back and the same guy who greeted me gave me a sheet of paper and told me to give this to my parents to sign. I looked back to where my dad had parked, but he had already gone, so I stuffed it in my bag instead. The guy, who was clearly in charge, asked us to gather around him and the four of us did. He took a step forward towards me, singling me out, and said, “Welcome to the family. These are your new brothers, and, guys, this is your new sister.”

I was so shocked that he would use that term to describe the total strangers to me. He took my arm in a grip with his fingers surrounding my forearm. He told me that this was the parkour handshake and that from now on we would greet each other like this every time we saw each other. At that moment I was embarrassed and nervous about being the youngest and the only female there, but as the class progressed I started to feel more comfortable.

The people there were all so nice and I realized that I shouldn’t be worried about fitting in because they already accepted me. I was blown away by my first class, not only because I loved learning new ways to move, but because it made me feel free. During that first class I learned how to incorporate multiple movements together to create one single movement. I was taught to use my background gymnastic skills and to apply them to my environment. I would see a rail and realize I could do a cartwheel or a split on it.

One of the most important skills I have learned from doing parkour is being able to see opportunities. Whenever I walk around I don’t just see rails, walls, benches, or trees; I see wall runs, balancing tricks, vaults, latchets, jumps, etc… I now know many more types of moves and techniques and am able to look at the world and as a big playground, which makes my life so much more exciting.

The people from my first class have become like family to me and have changed my life so much. They have taught me what a loving and supportive community feels like and how to be my best. We train together as much as possible and are constantly trying to expand our knowledge of parkour and movement in general.

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We didn’t know what we were doing but we did it with all of our hearts. Understanding technique, methodology, philosophy was piecing together forum posts in multiple languages, downloading obscure and infrequent videos, and doing our best to physically understand what makes this process possible. We jumped until we couldn’t, we walked tiptoe for miles, balanced on train tracks and visited athletic tracks in the middle of the night. We practiced our vaults, we made up progressions or dealt with the consequences. Things taught in a five minute interaction now took months, or years to hone. Our first handstands were barely a second, “Kong vaults” were three months of being afraid of hitting our knees, every jump was critiqued for silence, every crawl was further, faster than the last. We wandered, looking for possibilities, pushing boundaries in the city and in ourselves, hanging, climbing, sometimes bleeding, and sometimes painting our faces with car grease. We trained all night, we slept under bridges, the city became our teacher, our home, our challenge. I have never felt so alive, and I feel it again, every time I train.

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“Lemons” [Chapter 7 from Vincent Thibault’s book, “Pakour & Art du Déplacement”] simply reminds us that sometimes we need to make lemonade from whatever lemons we find before us.

I am acutely aware of this aspect of Parkour; This searching what is right in front of me for something to do. Initially I felt like a one trick pony. Every time I’d be faced with some little area, I’d stare at it thinking, “I can only do, literally, a step vault. What am I going to do here?!” Yet somehow, I manage to force myself to stand in the face of my ineptitude and to search for inspiration.

Eventually I came up with a sort of “wedge” for the problem. I would seize on, literally, the first thing I could think of. Often that would be something even I felt was ludicrous. But this first ludicrous movement, got me moving. (That’s the wedge.) From there, I invariably saw something else.

Usually the second thing was also ludicrous, but sometimes it was better (whatever “better” might mean to me at the time). So I’d change to doing the second thing. I’d throw my shame and ego to the wind and start doing repitions of whatever that first ludicrous thing was, then the second thing if it was better, and so on. Sometimes, I could only see a single thing which I feared, and so I’d start with ludicrously simple progressions to the thing I feared.

In my mind, I called this “busting rocks”. Pick the biggest, ludicrous rock and smash it. Pick the next biggest rock, and so on. As I smashed, I’d remind myself of something I’d written years ago: “Parkour is the grueling work of self destruction.”

One day, I participated in the most surreal jam session. On a sign. It was just a slightly sloped, big flat sign with a map on it and four skinny legs into the ground. One person did something near it, “interesting,” I thought. Then a second person did a little sliding thing across it. And I thought, “I wish I could do something on there.” And the wedge happened automatically and I thought, “I can try this ludicrous move.” And I tried it, and someone said, “Craig, what are you doing?”. And I failed. And someone else said, “OH! That’s totally a thing!” And in the blink of an eye a dozen world-class traceurs — people whose abilities all boggle my mind — LINED UP to play on this little sign. And for what seemed like eternity, we all took turns trying crazy stuff on a sign, at night, in a busy public square. And passers-by stopped and some even applauded or cheered. And we all ate ice cream and drank milk-shakes as we waited our turn and pondered our next go. And I for one wanted it to never end.

It was the greatest lemon pie I have ever tasted.

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All names stated have been changed and locations will not be mentioned to protect the author and their anonymity.

Alright so it’s story time.

A couple of months ago I opened Facebook to find that I had a new friend request. Now, I normally have a rule where I only accept requests from people I actually know or have met. However, I saw that this guy, let’s call him Arnold, did parkour. At the time I had been going to many different parkour events and figured it was possible I could’ve met Arnold and have completely forgotten. (I’m horrible at remembering new people). So when I saw that we had many mutual friends, I figured, “Why not?” And accepted his request.

A few days later I got a Facebook Message from Arnold. He just wanted to say hi and say how cool it was that I was a girl who trained parkour (insert facepalm here). Naturally, I decided to be nice and replied. For a while we talked about parkour and training and the conversation was pretty normal.

Things started to get mildly creepy when Arnold invited me to come visit him. He wanted me to meet his family and train with him. A part of me wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, I’ve parkour-floored it with many people who I haven’t always known. Still, the guy does live on the opposite side of the globe, so I did my best to politely decline without hurting his feelings. I didn’t want to seem like a complete jerk, after all it could’ve been normal in his culture to do things like that.

And then, inevitably, Arnold asked me if I had a boyfriend. Keep in mind I now know that I have never met Arnold and he also lives in a completely different hemisphere. (AKA no way for us to even meet let alone date). I told him, no I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I was too busy with school work to focus on having a relationship.

This is when everything starts to go downhill.

Arnold proceeds to shower me with flattery saying how smart I am, how beautiful I am, how it’s such a shame I’m single and I need to find someone who appreciates finding a girl who trains parkour. (My internal feminist wanted to reach through my phone screen and give him a piece of my mind, but I refrained). I told him I appreciated him compliments but asked him if he would stop, since I 1. Was not interested in any way whatsoever, and 2. The only things he knew about me was what I was studying in school and that I trained parkour. It was at this point I was beginning to get seriously creeped out.

Arnold apologized and that was that. My school year started up again which meant that I was buried in homework, assignments, projects, and enough papers to keep me busy until Christmas. During the school year I have a habit of ignoring messages and emails that don’t seem particularly urgent. Arnold didn’t like that.

He began to tell me that he wanted to speak to me, he wanted to hear my voice. He started asking me for pictures and videos. (Naturally alarm bells are going off and I refuse to give him anything). I tried to remain as polite and distant as I could, never saying more than necessary and trying not to let on any information about my personal life. I hoped he would get the message and leave me alone. Of course I was wrong.

Then, he started using Facebook Messenger to try and call me. I never answered, of course, and he said he just wanted to speak to me. He thought my feels about him would change if we started talking. I said no. I wasn’t about to pick up the phone and talk to some random creepy guy I had met over the internet. No thank you. I’ve had enough lessons on stranger danger to know that was a colossally bad idea.

Finally, and here’s the punch line: Arnold said he wanted to tell me something. Figuring it can’t get any worse from here I tell him to go ahead.

Arnold told me he wants to marry me.

Yep.

You might want to read that line again.

Marry. Me. A girl who he has never even met. Someone who was just trying to be nice and talk about a common interest.

And he wants to marry me.

Why?

Because I fucking train parkour.

Yep.

Just let it sink in.

Because somehow that fact that I enjoy jumping on shit means that I would love to jump on his dick.

Yep.

Somehow part of me wasn’t all that surprised. And that’s pretty damn sad.

Immediately I’m on high alert, borderline panicking, because holy shit this guy is a creep and what if he tries to stalk me, what if he flies to where I live and tries to kidnap me. I barely know the guy but now I’m going back to everything I’ve said to him, trying to figure out if there’s any way he could possibly track me down. I don’t know what he does for a living. He could be involved with some illegal activity, he could be a drug dealer or a human trafficker. Do I fear for my safety? Should I contact the authorities? If I did, what would the authorities even do? What if I’m making a huge deal out of nothing? But what if I’m not?

Yes, I know that most of these fears are completely irrational but you never know what people in today’s world will do. And that’s the worst feeling in the world. Thinking that you’ve made a new friend, you share a common interest, that this person is someone you can trust, you can have a fun light hearted conversation with. And then shit like this happens. You begin to question and fear and watch over your shoulder for anything suspicious.

Of course I blocked Arnold on all my social media and I am warning my friends who have had contact with him to do the same. As someone who is somewhat paranoid like I am, I don’t want to brush this off as something insignificant. Better safe than sorry and all that shit.

My point is this: just because it’s not happening in your community, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And yes, yes, I have officially learned about the dangers of the internet and blah blah blah. And yes, I am probably never again going to accept a friend request from someone who I haven’t met before. But here’s the thing, I shouldn’t have to go through all this. No girl, who trains parkour or otherwise should have to go through this.

The amount of guys I meet in a year who want to date me simply because I “do parkour” is well into the double digits. I mean, I get it. We parkour girls are pretty bad ass. But we also put up with a lot of shit we shouldn’t have to.

I’ve been cat called and hit on and flirted with when I go out to train. I actively avoid going to local training spots alone out of fear that something will happen there. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So, there’s my story. If you take anything from it, try to learn that this shit does happen. I’m lucky enough to have found a community that doesn’t treat me any differently because I’m a girl. In fact, they push me and encourage me to be the best I can possibly be, and I am eternally grateful for that. But others aren’t so lucky. And my experience goes to show that it really can happen to anyone, even those who have an inclusive community.

Shit like this is what turns females away from parkour, and I don’t blame them. If I wasn’t as experienced as I am when it comes to dealing with sexism, I would walk away from parkour. Luckily, I’m too stubborn for that.
So please, men, keep it your pants and tell others that don’t that they can kindly fuck off. Cause if you don’t, I will. Someone has to, and if it’s not going to be you, than it’s damn well going to be me.

How has your practice affected your life?

Parkour has effected every part of my life. Embracing the philosophy of parkour has caused results that I never imagined for myself. I took up Parkour in my late thirties simply as the next fad to try out. I expected it to last for a short period of time and then move onto the next thing. I had several discoveries that changed everything for me.

At first I discovered a physical challenge. I wasn’t as fit as I thought I was and took this training on with a passion. I had self esteem issues where I needed to be the best in the class I took so that I could convince myself I was worth something. I trained hard to pass a “trial” invented by the first person I met in the parkour world and compared my progress to those around me. In that training, I met passionate people that placed no importance in comparing themselves to others. I discovered an attitude of self comparison that was profound. The idea of simply being better than i was yesterday shook my value paradigm.

I learned that parkour is about challenging yourself to discover your own boundaries. And from understanding your limitations you get to fully know yourself. And then you get the choice to grow or simply be present to yourself.

This philosophy not only manifested physically, but mentally for me. I embraced it fully and obtain extraordinary results in my life. My results at work excelled, my family relationships grew, my friendships deepened and even my love life expanded. My practice of parkour is now how I practice life itself.

How has your practice affected your life?

Parkour did a weird thing where it just seamlessly assimilated into my everyday life, and it ended up feeling like I had always been doing it. I guess it did replace skateboarding and rock climbing, but most of the changes that came from parkour were pretty subtle. However, there are two things it changed.

Since for a long time I was the only one in my high school/college peer group who practiced parkour, it always fell on me to mentor new people who wanted to try. I ended up taking a heavy leadership role as a result.

The second is coaching parkour is the reason why I live in New York right now.

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A week of unusual as we would more often ! And c ’ is up to us to create…

Monday : I find a lot of kibble to chat in liquidation in a store.
Tuesday : I decided to ’ to buy some for donation to the SPCA of Quebec.
Wednesday : J ’ prompt people to make a donation so I can buy more pockets for the SPCA.
Thursday : Thanks to the donations of ten people, j ’ have enough d ’ money to buy all the pockets to liquidate the store.
Friday : I'll deliver the 18 pockets, total 144 pounds of kibble to cat for the SPCA of Quebec.

Every gift made me happy, as if I was a unique and special gift.
In fact, c ’ was an extraordinary gift. A deep thank you to all those m ’ who helped support a cause which m ’ is expensive. J ’ have already adopted an abandoned cat. I couldn't adopt them. But thanks to you, j ’ could feed hundreds. Thank you from the bottom of the heart !

C ’ was a week of unusual as we would more often ! And c ’ is up to us to create…

What does your practice mean to you?

Just like any meaningful practice, “art du déplacement” is like a vehicle, or a boat. It can be used by the working people, or by the dreamers, or by the altruists (a given person can embody all three, of course) … Unless it is one of those few, very specific circumstances, the name of the boat doesn’t matter that much. You need a solid structure—sound foundations—, and you need to learn the fundamentals of navigation. But then you can get from one place to another (i.e. maintain your health on a daily basis), explore uncharted waters (i.e. push the boundaries of a specific theme you’re working on, such as creativity, during a given year or season), or carry people across a river (i.e. dedicating a time of your life to coaching, whatever specific content you believe needs transmission). Oftentimes, a small canoe may just as well serve these purposes, for scale and integrity are two largely unrelated topics (“we’re gonna need a bigger boat!”). You might even change boat one day, drop the anchor for some time, abandon ship altogether or even leave your small embarkation on the shore as an offering to future, unknown travellers—for once you’ve crossed the river, you may realize that there’s no need to carry the heavy boat all around on land.

 

How did your training begin?

I got into the health and fitness game late in life; for some reason I waited until my early 30s to think about training in any consistent way. From age 30-37 I focused on getting stronger both physically and mentally through CrossFit and the olympic weightlifting. It felt great to develop power, strength and mental fortitude, but all those skills weren’t really getting used outside of the gym. The thought of doing something like parkour or MovNat had crossed my mind, but, honestly, I had so little time between work, kids and the rest of life to learn about anything else.

In 2015 I attended a conference in Austin, Tx, and joined a friend in a parkour workshop. The movements and practice was simple, something anyone could do, yet I managed to injure myself (a trend I have yet to break in my parkour practice). None of it mattered – that the movements were simple, or that I left with a bloody toe and a bruised knee – that weekend I fell in love with parkour.

I looked up the San Diego parkour community the minute I got home, and signed on for a weekend workshop in Boston later that summer. I knew I was hooked, because I was willing to challenge any insecurities I had about being a women in a male dominated practice, or being nearly 20 years older than most of the people I trained with. It didn’t hurt that those things were never brought up as issues among the people I trained with.

What I loved and still love about the practice is that feeling of possibility: it’s being 39 and knowing I can scale a wall, it’s the grace of the movement (at least the way I picture it in my head, I’m pretty sure the reality of my movement doesn’t match my vision), it’s the fact that I can train along side 17 year olds and together we are joined in a common love, the love of movement.

How did your training begin?

A friend in my freshman year of high school kept nagging me to check out this thing that was like ‘skateboarding without the board’. I was a skater at the time, and he thought it would be a good fit for me because of that and since I was already visiting the school roof for funsies.

He finally gets me to watch Oleg Vorslav’s “Russian Climbing” video, but I wasn’t convinced until they dragged me out to the outdoor seating to try some straddle vaults on a stone bench. As reluctant as I was to even consider I’d like anything better than skateboarding, it felt awesome to try and move past something with purpose.

At the time, my dad would pick me up from school and take me to his workplace for a couple hours before going home, so I started looking up different parkour techniques on the old Urban Freeflow website and practice them out back on lunch tables.

Eventually I met up with the local community based around the University of Georgia, and through them I learned more about how to train. Until that point, I’d basically just been practicing vaults every day. They were just then going through shin splint issues, so they were very big on teaching me about conditioning, good technique, and listening to my body. This was back around 2008/2009.