Parkour and pull-ups

Sometime last year a friend told me about a bunch of people who attempted 1000 muscle ups in a day. Initially I thought he was talking bollocks, but googling led me too the blog of one of the participants, who laid out in painful detail the 24 hours himself and a couple of friends, all traceurs, spent doing such a feat of madness.

I ended up subscribing to the blog – I liked the fact that author Chris Blane wrote about the bigger picture and the sport as a whole, rather than about weekend trips along the Southbank or whatever. It’s interesting to see the parallels between what he does and what we do – in many ways there is a lot of crossover, although both groups have yet to go in for the full-on love fest that they probably should ;)

His most recent post laments the move from the quality seen when the scene first started…

  • An elite few with a quality of movement and attention to detail in every action that is only achievable through thousands of hours of deliberate practice and training.
  • An unyielding warrior-like spirit in training and in approach to any challenge faced, whether physical, technical or mental.
  • A flourishing, positive community inspired by those who went before them.

…to what he sees now:

  • A massive increase in the amount of people training around the world.
  • Big jumps.
  • Bad landings.
  • Competitions.
  • A precious few holding on to the old ways and doubting their reasons for doing so…
  • …and ultimately, a shift in what is valued in Parkour.

The rest of the article, several pages long, is well worth a read. He talks about how it’s become more about the glory…

It is now largely seen as a stage for the talented, an opportunity for people to show the world how they can jump further than everyone else, and how they flew half way across the world to do the same jump that some other guy did in that video he made last year, but wait, you can side-flip out of it.

…and less about the process of getting there.

To an extent I guess that’s partially the same in the bar game, although really the strength required for many of the techniques (muscle-ups, levers etc.) does prevent people from being able to do things that they’re not yet ready for, although I’m pretty sure peoples haste to get those moves increases the chance of injury (not something I’m guilty of, ohnosiree). The only thing you do see a lot are silly tricks – spinning round the bar, “moonwalking” (cycling the legs is much easier than keeping them still, regardless of the fact it makes you look like a French mime artist climbing some invisible steps) and quite a lot of pure explosiveness without the finesse and refinement to make a technique truly outstanding.

Luckily, the bar scene is full of guys who have been in it for a very long time, most of whom place value on learning the basics, building your skills and executing all techniques with an emphasis on quality over quantity. One of those people, and one of the most respected bar athletes in the world, is Zef Zakaveli of the Bar-barians. The Bar-barians are known for their perfect form, and Zef’s the one who really sets that tone and who strives to ensure the perfection of the people who become members of the team, as well as himself. To become a member you don’t have to do flashy tricks, bar hops, one-armed levers or any other tricks (regardless of the skill they take to pull off), but just execute a high number of reps with perfect form. These requirements are in many ways harder, taking a lot of consistent training over a long period of time to achieve – no shortcuts. This attitude does get some crap from some people, but in my opinion they’re missing the point.

Going back to those what Chris Blane wrote about being evident in the early days of parkour, it’s clear that what Zef does “is only achievable through thousands of hours of deliberate practice and training” and that he posesses “an unyielding warrior-like spirit in training and in approach to any challenge faced, whether physical, technical or mental”. Recently he completed a personal challenge that he’d been working towards for many years – an unbroken set of 50 strict pull-ups.

Head over to his blog to read more.

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1 Response

  1. Thanks very much for the acknowledgement and the support