Archives for posts with tag: jesse danger

This past week, Jesse and I gave an interactive talk at The Feast. This was followed by a short demonstration and workshop lead by members of our community.  Here is the rough transcript from that talk with photos and videos that were taken during and after.  You can see more of the photos in this album here. Enjoy!

“Can we have a heart to heart for a second? Exercise can suck!  I’m sure many of you agree that getting fit and staying there can be a pretty tedious task. Running on the treadmill for hours can be mind-numbing, as can strapping into exercise machines, and lifting weights…over and over, day in and day out, all in the name of meeting some unrealistic standard of beauty…

When approached like that, yes, fitness is absurd.   When we are forced to do such repetitive and simple movements, that sometimes are so physically enjoyable, of course we just  zone out, stop paying attention, and try to just get through it.  We find ourselves counting down the minutes, the seconds, until we can leave the gym and just go home!

workout

We miss out on all the joy movement has to offer. and to me–that’s whats absurd.

The human body was designed to move, and designed to enjoy movement. Our ancestors ran through trees, climbed over rocks, and play games. Movement was a defining part of life. And somehow over the last century we’ve redefined it as a chore–no more important than doing the dishes or taking out the trash or mowing the lawn, if you’re lucky enough to have one!

So I’m here today to change the way you think about exercise–to give you an alternative to the fancy gym memberships, expensive equipment, and ultra competitive team sports. I’m here to give you a tool that can turn the hard work of exercise in to play… and that tool is Parkour.

Parkour is a discipline focused on natural human movements.  Movements such as crawling [action] balancing [action] jumping [action] swinging [action] and vaulting [action] Beyond the movement, Parkour is a discipline of overcoming obstacles, both mental and physical.   You can be both creative and critical. You learn the difference between good risk and bad, and how to cope with the uncertainties in your life. You can begin to understand your capabilities and where your limits lie.

I’m sure at least a few of you are wondering–How can the practice of Parkour teach you these things? Well–lets take a closer look:

1. You can first practice Parkour in its safest form–by staying low to the ground and focusing on control, patience, and building an understanding of your body in space.

Jonny teaches Parkour

2.  With time, you can advance and begin setting yourself isolated challenges that are either more physically demanding, which requires a deeper understanding of your abilities, or more mentally demanding, forcing you to face fear and trust in yourself

Parkour can be mentally demanding

3. Alternatively you can utilize dynamic movements and focus either on: (a) building greater efficiency, which forces you to problem solve and quickly resolve a path over under through or (b) fluidity, which gives you space to be creative and innovative with your body.

The movement creative shows off its Parkour Skill

4. You can even just opt to practice Parkour through games, which lets you to think less on the technique and focus more on just enjoying movement.

The list goes on.  There is no right or wrong in Parkour, for utlimately you set the rules.  We have no standards of success or gold medals to win. You need only to come out and try your hardest.  Because in Parkour we celebrate effort over achievement.  It doesnt matter if you cant balance your first day or jump.  Maybe you wont be able to get up and over your second try or third.  Inevitably you will fall but you will also learn to get back up and to try again.  This is because you are not working to be better than everyone else but better than yourself.

And therein lies the first, and most important thing you need to know about Parkour, and movement in general, and that is–that there is no barrier of entry.  There is no such thing as being too old, or too weak, being too busy or not good enough!

But I dont expect you to completely believe me when I say fitness can be fun, especially after 5 short minutes. As Buckminster Fuller once said that “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them.  Instead, give them a tool the use of which will lead them to new ways of thinking.”

So, after a short demonstration by members of our community, I’d like to invite you all over to play, and, perhaps, pick up that tool that will change the way you think about fitness and yourself.

Parkour demonstration making the case for movement at #Feast2013

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From Obstacles to Opportunities
Parkour and the City
By Caitlin Pontrella & Jesse Danger

We all have our own map of the city in our head.  For most it remembers where our favorite places are to eat are, where our friends live, where to get coffee, where to hang out, and so on.

Our map, however, remembers where the best places are in the city for an adult to play; Little dots light up across the mental landscape pinpointing locations of sturdy scaffolding and rough concrete barriers, with play-friendly public spaces, and large oak trees with branches that hang low enough for jumping on.   It records every physical challenge we’ve completed and all the ones yet to be.  It knows the difference between public spaces that tolerate and ignore play and those that embrace and encourage movement.

This map is a unique map of textures and temperatures and human activity, of tested and untested public and private relationships, of enjoyment, tolerance, and rejection–and it is a map that could only come to be through Parkour.

What is Parkour you ask?

II.

Parkour is a discipline of movement and self-improvement that teaches one how to overcome any obstacle both efficiently and creatively, using nothing more than the human body.  This playful platform of movement encourages interaction between yourself, others, and your environment.

Traceurs, or individuals who practice Parkour, thus know the city like no other. We study textures, we grip, we feel how sturdy our obstacles are. As we walk through the city we are compelled to interact with it; running, jumping, climbing, crawling, swinging, and balancing. The mere act of walking around becomes an adventure, leading us to look for new challenges, new ways to improve ourselves.  Can I jump from this curb to that one in a single bound?  Can I slip through this scaffolding without touching the bars?  Can I balance along this rail without falling once?

And it is this type of interaction with the city that there needs to be more of–this engaged awareness, this parkour mentality.  It brings new life to both popular public spaces and those leftover and overlooked.  Things that once slowed movement–benches, tables rails, walls–now become elements that enable .  Obstacles become opportunity for growth, imagination, and play.  And suddenly there is no mission impossible, there is no challenge too great.

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This playful view of the world, this parkour mindset and approach to life, is something we all once had.  At one point, when we were at our youngest, we didn’t understand the word ‘impossible.’  We believed in ourselves, we took risks, we wrestled for hours with how to get across the playground without touching the ground (it was lava, remember?).  We tested ideas and learned of our limitations.  We became the ultimate problem solvers.

As we grew older, however, we lost that unwavering resolution, that uncapped potential.  We scraped our knees, we broke a bone, our parents panicked at the sight of blood.  We were told that some problems were too hard or impossible and that either we weren’t strong enough or smart enough or old enough.  …That we never would be.

But this isn’t the truth.  This is just the world trying to tell you to grow up, to color inside of the lines, to fit the mold, to play it safe.

So I want to demand an answer: Why is this considered the right thing to do!  Why have we allowed safety to be emphasized to the point of instilling fear, insecurity, and inability in both children and adults?  Not only does this obsession with safety decrease the number of real opportunities to create and engage with your environment, it also severely limits self-exploration of personal (physical+mental) abilities and limitations.

 And if we continue to place emphasis on being overly safe we’ll end up only creating the unsafe–a world where people don’t know how to confront complicated challenges or to cope with uncertainty.

As famous playground designer Paul Friedberg explains, “[Our problem is that] We want the child to be living in a padded box. [But] A child has to have the real world, fraught with challenges to overcome.”

III.

So, there needs to be a return to play.  True, fulfilling, authentic play, where children and adults alike can seek out real challenges, navigate real risks, and begin to honestly understand their physical and mental capabilities. …Play through which they can really grow.

And Parkour is one of those few disciplines that can provide this holistic platform of play while acknowledging this already pervading atmosphere of fear.

Through the medium of games and challenges, Parkour encourages curiosity and experimentation, builds strength and self-confidence,  and of course teaches the value of risk and the importance of facing your fears.

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Furthermore, Parkour teaches creative problem solving.  A simple game of hopscotch can be transformed in an exercise in problem-solving when squares start to appear on the sides of walls, under railings, on low ledges.  In practice we learn that techniques that work in one situation may not work in another.  We are forced to explore alternative solutions, other ways over/under/through the obstacles we face, to find a way that we may not even have seen or tried.  And through this process, Parkour teaches us how to adapt to every situation, to think outside the box.

As to those safety concerns, through its practice Parkour ingrains safety.  You learn how to run properly, to jump and land without impact, to move without hurting yourself.  It teaches you not only how to assess the risks associated with any challenge you face, but how to judge it to be within or outside of your abilities.

So, forget buying expensive equipment or building one of those sterile play-structures in your backyard.  Teach your children Parkour, learn it for yourself.  With only a pair of shoes and their imagination, one can learn how to seek out challenges and games alone.

IV.

Especially, we would like to emphasize how crucial it is to teach children Parkour as they enter their teenage years.  You see, as children get older they outgrow the playgrounds they know so well.  Most  of those constructed around the country are designed for children under 12 and restrict children older. Even if there aren’t any signs forbidding play, the dirty looks of adults say enough.  ‘You don’t belong here, you’re too old to be playing here.’ Teenagers and adults alike are cast away from the only spaces their communities provide for play.

And, at a time so crucial for defining who they are, society shepherds teenagers and adults away from the playgrounds and into other public spaces, where play is no longer the apparent intention.  Rather, these public spaces and parks offer benches to watch some tourists and enjoy a vendor hot dog, a patch of lawn for a nap or cloud gazing,  windy paths that lead to no where and offer nothing but a view.  (And we wonder why obesity is an issue, hm).

Now, we’re not saying that we’re against benches and ice cream and napping on a nice sunny day, but these provisions alone clearly offer very little in return in terms of human growth.

Adults and teenagers should have as much of a place to play as children. They need to play too!  The same gains we make as children through play will only increase in complexity and magnitude as we age and mature.  Our abilities to assess risk, to problem solve, to cope with uncertainty, can continue to increase and refine themselves ad infinitum.  There is so much growth that can still be gained as we slip in to adulthood.

So Parkour provides that playground, for teens and adults alike.  It provides a world that will never run out of challenges, that has no age limitations and no skill requirements.  And if we teach children while they are young enough, they will never find themselves lost in a world without a playspace of their own.

V.

Obstacles are apart of every day life, whether it is climbing a wall, getting to work on time, or delivering making a presentation in front of a large group.  The lessons we can learn through play and though parkour--to creatively approach problems, to face our fears, to love and respect the people around us and the world we are in--are lessons that can be carried out through the rest of our lives, and are lessons without completion.

So we urge you to, right now, this very day, to start pinning your map with every opportunity for play, for every chance to grow. To always look for opportunities to become better than you are, regardless of whether you are a child or adult.