Three words to describe your practice?

Craig: One final question. Can you describe your practice in three words?

Adam: Three words? I’m going to cheat. I’m going to cheat. I’m going to use [00:28:00] what we commonly refer to as The Three Pillars of Parkour. I can’t even tell you where I learned this. I know it goes way back, but I’m not exactly sure from whom. The Three Pillars of Parkour we define as strength, touch, and spirit. I like that because pillars are supports. They are things that if you take one away, the thing that you’re holding up may indeed fall down and topple over. So, I think pillar is the perfect word to describe these three things because you could remove one of those, and you would still have something, but it wouldn’t quite [00:28:30] be parkour.

So to me, strength has a shallow meaning and a deep meaning, and I’ll be pretty brief about this because I could talk forever.

Craig: Some people rattle off three quick words, and then I have to say “Could you unpack those a little bit?”

Adam: Let me save you that trouble. There’s an obvious meaning to strength that I don’t have to really walk you guys through, but strong muscles and strong joints and being able to withstand the impacts and forces of this physical practice that we [00:29:00] are a part of. So you need strength to so that. If you take away that strength, you’re going to give yourself a whole lot of injury. So you need it.

Of course there’s obvious deeper meanings to strength as well. Strength of mind and strength of spirit. Having strength was the original goal of the practitioners in the first place, not just physical strength. Many of them already had that more so than either you or I have right now, but they needed a deeper strength. They needed a strength of identity and a strength of community and a strength of spirit and a strength of confidence that’s inside [00:29:30] them. So, you can get all those things from parkour, and you should seek them through parkour because parkour can give it to you. So strength is important.

Second one is touch, and touch is a weird word. Certainly when you tell it to kids, they giggle because they’re like “Will you stop touching me?” That’s obviously not what we mean. Touch is a word that implies the difficult-to-describe element of sensitivity and control and balance and carefulness in movement, [00:30:00] because you can have strength or power in your movement, but if you don’t have a sense of touch, either A, you’re going to create injuries for yourself. You’re going to be blasting through every movement that you can, but you need to be able to control it. You need to be able to be completely in touch with that movement so that you know exactly what’s happening, and you can make adjustments if you need to, or whatever.

So that sense of touch in your movement is what separates parkour from football. Maybe not all of football. There’s probably some football players out there that have great touch, but I [00:30:30] think it should be a requirement of the element of parkour. You need that sense of touch in order to refine your movements.

Of course, there’s a deeper element of touch. To me, touch is being in touch with yourself, being in touch with the people around you. Just as you need sensitivity and control with your movements do you have sensitivity and control with your community? Are you treating the people around you well? Are you offending them or inspiring them? Are you making a difference in your town, or are you scaring your town when you’re jumping off of those walls? So being in touch and having that sense [00:31:00] of touch … Sensitivity is probably the best synonym. Having that sense of what is happening around you is crucial because otherwise we’re going to run into the problem I described earlier, which is that we’re bounding off stuff, and we’re not realizing the effect we’re having. So you need that sense of touch and community.

Of course, last, is spirit, the third pillar. When you say spirit, people often either think magic voodoo spirit, or other people think school spirit. I kind [00:31:30] of mean both, but not in the voodoo way. The most shallow definition of spirit is having willpower, basically. It is having that spirit, just like when you’re cheering for your football team, do you have spirit? Do you have energy behind it? Do you have the desire for them to do well? Do you have the willpower to succeed? That’s spirit, and that’s important to have. If you don’t have it, then you’re just going to be mindlessly and emptily doing your practices of touch and strength.

There’s obviously [00:32:00] a deeper element to spirit as well. There’s your own personal spirit, your character, your development, the deeper parts of you that you have the opportunity to develop as a person. As you can change your body in parkour, you can change your awareness and your senses in parkour, your strength and your touch, but you can also develop you, your identity, your spirit through parkour because there is so much to learn and so much to discover. So, if you take away that spirit element, I think it’s a much more [00:32:30] empty practice. It becomes more of a sport and less of an art. While both of those things are good, it’s so cool to combine both into one practice.

So strength, touch, and spirit are a great way to define parkour in my mind.

Craig: Well, thank you Adam McClellan. We really appreciate your time and energy today. It’s been a pleasure.

Adam: Thanks, Craig.