2017 In Review

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2017 In Review

This year has been a wild ride. It is strange to think about where I am now, compared to where I was at the beginning of 2017. Some of the changes seem natural. Others were out of left field. A year ago, late December 2016, if you had asked me where I would be today... I don’t know what my answer would have been. Mostly I was thinking about what school I would go to after Columbus State. There were a lot of events that were just over the horizon that were gonna throw me for a loop.

January went about as I had planned. I was dancing 3 or 4 days a week, doing martial arts 3 days, enrolled in 20 hours of school, and working three jobs. In mid February was when things started to go haywire. First, my uncle got sick. We got to visit him him a few times, but within a month he had passed. Right around the time of his passing, I met a woman, LeNora. LeNora changed everything. Suddenly leaving Columbus was far less desirable. I still want to leave Columbus eventually, but the timeline has changed. I started looking at Ohio State as an option for the next step in my education.

The month of April I spent focused on a new relationship, classes and my clients. In May I finished that semester and started the summer semester. The load over the summer was supposed to be lighter, but it wasn't. I ended up focusing more energy on developing my business as well. At this point I was locked into going to OSU, so I was taking some classes specifically preparing me to start there.

June is always a good month for me as it’s the month I started working as a personal trainer back in 2014. I had some good moments with my clients that month, getting them to achieve new goals and moving the needle forward. Those sort of moments help to sustain me through the tough times with the work I am doing.

July I spent mostly grinding through. I did the Westerville 4th of July 5K as Captain America, and I went to the Spider-Man premier as the same. However, the work needed done and I was doing it.

August may have been the highlight of the year. I graduated from Columbus State with an Associates in Exercise Science, my first college degree. I went on vacation with LeNora to Panama City Beach. The first vacation I have taken in years. On that trip we took time to talk about our plans and future. We played in the sun and relaxed. We ate rich food and drank delicious wine. We visited my family, some of whom I have not seen in a while. Finally, we saw the full eclipse on the way back to Ohio.

In the time after we got back from Florida, things have been moving along quickly. I started at OSU and have been focused on my business as much as possible. LeNora started a grad program at Ohio University in Athens. OSU has been a learning experience--the school is massive and unlike anything I have experienced. My business has had ups and downs. There have been some excellent times when I got to really celebrate my clients. However, some personal things happened to me that have affected my mental health.

One of the struggles of being in business for yourself is that things like that can have a greater impact. Having LeNora in Athens has also strained our relationship. We are still doing well. I think we are more in love now than we have ever been, not being able to see her everyday is hard. I know it’s hard on her too because she doesn’t have as much of a support system down there.

By December we both had survived our semester without being too much worse for wear. I took a week long, intensive 60 hour, Wilderness First Responder Certification right after the semester ended. Then LeNora and I went to her family’s for Christmas. Our year was going to end with a winter camping trip in Michigan with my friend Jon, but she has gotten sick. This is not at all what I expected my December to be like, or really any of the year. It’s been a wild ride, and I for one am super excited for 2018.

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The Roll

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The Roll

I first learned to roll not in a Parkour class, but in a bushido class. In that class our warm up was rolling. We would spend about 10 minutes in the beginning of the class working rolls. We did front rolls, back rolls, side rolls, and dive rolls. We trained rolling over things. We trained tripping into rolls. We even trained side rolls where we would try to maintain eye contact with a target. In bushido rolls are used to either safely exit a grapple, protect against an unpredicted fall, or cover a small distance in a tactical way. In parkour we use primarily front rolls. From time to time we will train back rolls, but we rarely apply them. Rolls in parkour are used for passement (passing), covering a gap, moving quickly under an obstacle, and are most known for distributing force in a big landing.

 

All of rolls we teach are the same movement just applied to different situations. The rolls are similar to a gymnastics front roll but performed on a diagonal. We use one arm as a guide that leads into the upper shoulder. Then a line is traced down across the back to the opposite hip. This line is the path of contact with the ground. We come out on the far side of the roll in a low crouch. In a dive roll we dive out the hands make contact first and then we complete the roll maneuver. In a passement roll the size of the obstacle dictates the way the roll is performed. If the obstacle is smaller the hand and arm guide may be skipped and we transition straight to the back across the body. On a larger obstacle the roll will be done in the same way as a dive roll. The most ubiquitous application of the roll is the roll landing. The roll landing is applied to a big drop. If the impact from a drop is going to be more force than the body can safely absorb in a two-footed, three-footed or a slap landing, a roll is employed. For the roll landing, we land with two feet and continue to fall until the body is at roughly a 45 degree angle to the ground and the legs are bent 90 degrees at the knee. Then the upper body is tucked and the roll is employed.

 

The other key use of a parkour roll is in a bailout. When something goes wrong, in any manner, during a parkour movement, a roll can help. On countless occasions I have seen people I train with make a mistake in a technique and employ either a front or back roll to save themselves. This application is more similar to the use we learned in martial arts. The problem with teaching the roll for this situation is that it’s unplanned. All the practitioners who I have seen saved by rolling out on a bail were longtime practitioners. They are people who have performed hundreds or thousands of rolls, and the movement is done instinctively. For this reason I think it is vital to teach the roll as part of a bail technique. Learning to roll from kneeling following by standing then dropping is great. However, as much time should be applied to learning to do a roll in a direction in which we are not looking or on command when we don’t expect. It’s difficult to train spontaneous use of a technique; however, that does not mean it should not be attempted.  

 

Though the roll is a safety maneuver, it can be dangerous. The big problem everyone runs into is cracking shoulders and hips on the hard ground. With good technique and practice, these parts can be protected. Tips for avoiding them include making as little contact with the ground before reaching the upper back. There is an additional technique we employ in teaching of rolls now that involves rocking back and forth on the ground to find the soft tissue pathways across the body.  Another issue can be foreign objects on the ground. Always check your surfaces! Finally, backpacks. This is an issue for everyone. Everyone who trains parkour wears backpacks all the time for EDC (everyday carry). Rolling when wearing a backpack is painful. There is not much that can be done about either of these last two problems with an accessory on your back. Train your rolls in a "safe" environment. That way if you need to use them in real life, you are far more likely to execute the roll safely.

 

Rolls are iconic parkour movements. When people invision parkour, the roll is one of the first movements that come to mind. They are graceful and beautiful. Rolls can be employed to achieve many goals in many situations. They are also one of the most difficult movements to perform in a multitude of situations. Mastering a roll on any surface at any speed will enhance your skill as a parkour practitioner exponentially. Not only do they add grace and flair, but they can save your life or at least your limbs.  

 

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Parkour: it's not like riding a bike

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Parkour: it's not like riding a bike

I have been training parkour consistently for 7 years. Not even my injuries have ever really stopped me. When my knees ache, I take a few months and work on my climbing. When the tendons of my fingers flair up, I may take a month to work on rolls. The practice is ever evolving. However, even with that approach to training my movement peaked in early 2016.

At the time I was managing a parkour gym in Columbus, Ohio. I was in that gym between 20 and 30 hours a week for about 2 years. Everyday I would work on my movement sometimes for up to 4 hours. I have since stepped away from that approach. I still train at that gym from time to time, and I still train outside a lot as well. However, the consistency and dedication that I had then has waned. It's not through lack of interest or passion. I am now working and attending school full time again. Even though I still work as a parkour trainer, the same time commitment is not there for my own training. In the past few weeks I have been trying to re-establish the level of training I was at 18 months ago, and I can say with confidence that parkour is not like riding a bike.

To maintain a high level in this sport we must continuously push the limits of what is possible. To step back from that leading edge for even a moment will cause us to wane in our abilities. Parkour is often said to be a struggle to be the best possible version of ourselves. Without a continual struggle we can still be strong and capable, however something is lost. For me the first thing was climb-ups. A movement that had take me 4 years to learn was lost in just a few months of atrophy. With a few weeks of consistency, I have gotten them back and feel a tease of what I am capable of.

One of the other things that you often hear about parkour is that there are no tricks, just hard work. The only way for me to regain that ground that I have lost is through habit, through daily practice, and through working with others who see movement differently than I do and can show me their way.

I am not writing this to be depressing, In fact just the opposite. Being comfortable is what got me where I am now. Saying to myself "I am good enough" or "I have made it" is a death wish upon growth. When you have gotten there, there is no where else to go, but that is not what has happened to me. I have plenty of things to learn and do.

I turned 29 the other day, which to some may seem young and to others may seem old. To me the question of whether I am young or old is irrelevant. The real question is what else I get to do in life. If I start thinking that I have explored all there is to see, then yes that is old, but if I keep my wonder and excitement alive, then life will blossom in front of me.

To be comfortable in life is to be in a state of decline. When we struggle, get told "no," loose money on investments, or break a jump, we may not always get "better." We may have less after those experiences, less power, less freedom or less shiny skin, but we do know where our limits currently lay. We gain some idea of what we need to do to push past those limits. In my book those are gains. No matter how long your winter has been, or how much dust has collected on the proverbial bike seat. It's never too late to get it out of the garage and ride. You will crash, scrape your knee, and you will get up and keep riding.


 

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