Skill in Parkour

April 4, 2013 in Articles by indianparkourassociation

jn

What exactly is Skill in Parkour?
I’ve had this question crop up frequently in recent discussions, so I thought I’d explain a little more in detail and clarify misconceptions.

Skill in Parkour is NOT about how high or far you can jump, the amount of guts you have to attempt things at higher heights, or how many advanced/technically difficult moves you can perform.
Skill can be many different attributes. But before we go onto those, let’s read two important definitions from two well-respected traceurs first.

Mark Toorock:
Now as for what Parkour is about, I personally feel it’s incomplete if you don’t include all of these elements -
Capability
Speed
Safety (immediate)
Safety (longevity)
Situational Awareness and Decision Making
Understanding Your Limits and If/When to Take Risks

Rafe Kelley:
At Pk Visions, we define effectiveness in Parkour as the balance between – Safety (making the right movement choices, finding safe paths and having control over the movements you use), Fluidity (the capacity to transition between movements without breaking momentum), Speed (how quickly you can execute a given movement), Running Speed (picking the fastest course), and Mental Strength (the courage to fully do what your body is capable, and the mental focus to be completely present in each movement and not slip because of misplaced focus or excessive thoughts).

Notice how Rafe and Mark are both more or less on the same page, and have listed out the same points?

I would like to add the following to the list of factors that qualify for the presence of skill:
Precision
Control
Power
Spatial Awareness
Bailing

So the complete qualifier list for Skill in Parkour would look like this:

1) Capability
2) Safety (immediate)
3) Safety (longevity)
4) Fluidity
5) Precision
6) Control
7) Speed
8) Running Speed
9) Power
10) Bailing
11) Spatial Awareness
12) Situational Awareness and Decision Making
13) Understanding Your Limits and If/When to Take Risks
14) Mental Strength

1) Capability - The broad range of abilities of a person. This also includes your knowledge and proficiency in the performance of basic techniques of locomotion.
2) Safety (immediate) - Immediate safety is about making the right movement choices and finding safe paths in addition to and in preference to finding just the fastest and most efficient paths. Immediate safety pertains explicit injury and accident prevention.
3) Safety (longevity) - Long term safety is about making the right movement choices and finding such paths that protect the long term interests of the traceurs and their ability to be and to last. It pertains to joint damage and injury prevention through taking sensible movement choices which avoid high impact that builds up joint and other damage over time.
4) Fluidity - Fluidity refers to the capacity to transition between movements without breaking momentum.
5) Precision - Precision is about how precise you are in your movements, without making any wasted movements or ending up where you do not want to be, but only moving where you want to move.
6) Control - Control is all about how much control you have over your body and your movements. It is closely related to the attribute of Precision.
7) Speed - Speed refers to how quickly you can execute a given movement.
8) Running Speed - Running Speed is about picking the fastest course (but not at the cost of immediate or long term safety).
9) Power - Power refers to the ability of the body’s muscles to generate a large amount of force very fast. This is what determines how smoothly you can overcome even the most difficult of obstacles, in the lack of which you would simply end up fumbling over the obstacles instead of overcoming them. Power is closely related to the attribute of Speed.
10) Bailing - Because there are so many things that can go wrong in Parkour, the ability to bail out of a situation well, save yourself, and come up-tops is a highly prized commodity, and an important attribute in being skillful enough. This is closely related to the concept of Immediate Safety.
11) Spatial Awareness - The ability to be aware of your body with relation to space, of where your body is in space in relation to your surroundings. Lack of spacial awareness causes disorientation, leads to confusion in movement and wasted movements, and can also be a potential for injury or accidents.
12) Situational Awareness and Decision Making - This is more of a mental attribute, and requires the practitioner to be aware of different environmental, bodily and other situations, and the ability to take decisions accordingly, and not always accordingly to a learned/conditioned response to a particular type of obstacle. It also means the ability of the practitioner to think on his feet and make quick decisions according to the demands of the changing environmental variables.
13) Understanding Your Limits and If/When to Take Risks - This attribute is more or less self-explanatory, and is also closely related to the attributes of Safety.
14) Mental Strength - After all is said and done, Mental Strength is the courage to fully do what your body is capable, and the mental focus to be completely present in each movement and not slip because of misplaced focus or excessive thoughts. Mental Strength means to not be overwhelmed and intimidated by the myriad of other skill attributes present to ensure safety, and requires you to step out of your comfort zone to do what you are skilled enough to do.

Skill is always subjective, and varies from person to person according to degree. A person can be classified as skillful if he meets all the requirements in the list above even though they may be in varying degrees. How skillful a person is in Parkour would depend on how much he has of the above-mentioned factors taken together.
But if a person only ever masters the performance of a few techniques, even if he gets better at performing those particular techniques, and can do them powerfully or fast enough, he still cannot be classified as skillful in Parkour because he lacks the above attributes that define skill.

And always remember, skill is something that can only be enhanced with constant, regular practice.

- NOS on May 16, 2011 

This article was written by Parkour Mumbai Reproduced here with permission.