Parkour Instructor Seminar
Wed, 2008-08-27 01:49
So,the first meeting of its kind. A gathering of groups from 7 different countries at differing stages of transmitting parkour/ADD to students, ranging from the most experienced in the world (Yamak and PKGEN) to those who were just embarking upon their teaching journey and taking in everyone in between. The goal: to discuss and show some techniques and good practise for the teaching of the discipline, but perhaps even more important, to share an experience of what it is that people are now trying to pass on. Perhaps the most valuable lesson to come from the week was that before you can even begin to teach, you must really live what you hope to show others.
But before we get to the actual seminar; myself, Stephane, Johann and Thomas had to get out to Finland first. The plane journey was uneventful, but Johann and I had the slightly unnerving experience of taking-off from Heathrow whilst reading the sad and less-than-confidence-inspiring news of the Madrid plane crash. Having touched down in Helsinki we were met by Tung, a long-standing member of the Finnish Parkour Association and the man charged with making sure we made it to Jyväskylä without getting lost; no mean task! Despite being less than amused to find out that this segment of the journey was to be even longer than the plane journey, we arrived in good humour to be greeted by Perttu at the other end.
The seminar started the next day and lasted for 4 days. We began by each group introducing themselves and I was mightily relieved to discover that the week would be conducted in English, as my foreign language skills require more than a little polishing. At this point I think a congratulatory note is needed to all participants who managed to stage presentations and listen to lectures in what was not their first language (amusingly I was the only native English speaker, even among the 4-strong UK delegation)!
The first day focussed on the teaching of beginners and was lead by the Finnish, Portuguese and Italian delegations. Each day shared a similar structure of an initial lecture; some teamwork exercises in both national and multi-national groups; a further group discussion between all participants; and a more practical element, often later in the afternoon.
The second day began at the ungodlyhour of 7.30am, and even earlier for a few choice athletes (read nutters) who decided to head to an excellent set of stairs for some pre-breakfast conditioning from 5ish onwards. Stephane and the PKGen team started the formal programme with a talk about the importance of conditioning (a welcome mainstay of both training; and the seminar's schedule). This was the primary focus of the day and we enjoyed (although some may disagree!) an afternoon session that kicked off with everyone doing a monkey-walk/quadrapedie forwards around an athletics track before repeating the feat backwards. It was all very well talking about conditioning in the morning and discussing some of the more technical aspects but as Steph had told the group - to really understand what it is to condition and train properly in the discipline you have to experience it. Obviously, not everyone travelled at the same pace but an important value of the discipline is the shared experience, and concern for others and to help others: respect really. As such, those who finished first then ran over to those who were at the back of the field and helped them to complete their lap. Anyone at the last Rendezvous will have experienced that lesson from the Yamakasi warm-up.
The third day saw our first lecturer from outside the parkour/ADD community giving a talk on the possibilities of the discipline in schools. We also introduced the ADAPT certification to the groups, again, expertly done by a certain Mr Vigroux Senior. Motives for teaching were discussed and some sage advice expounded by many, but Chau and Steph especially. A reminder, in particular, that there is no obligation to teach: in order to do so you must really KNOW the discipline, have lived it and have that experience. And that is not enough; you must really want to teach and know deep down personally, that you are both ready and able to teach.
The afternoon saw an impromptu conditioning break out in the small amount of free-time we had. Some chose to train in their own way but a small contingent of French, Finnish, myself and a couple of others embarked on an arm session comprising various pulling exercises. As always (and for those who don't know already), this was done with sets of 6 or 11 repetitions, being the traditional 5 or 10 but with one extra for family or friends who aren't there: an important reminder that we don't just train for ourselves, but for the group. Feeling suitably beasted, I was mock-alarmed to discover that Laurent was inviting us to join him for a "handstand-block": a series of exercises that started with an 11 second handstand followed by 6 press-ups repeated 6 times and got worse from there! Suffice to say we all tried our best but could not keep up with a man who frankly, must be at least part machine.
"the lake outside the hotel was incredibly cold but not, apparently, enough to deter many of the guys from going for a swim"
Day 4 saw quite a few sleepy faces due to the fire-alarm which helpfully decided to make sure we were all up and ready a little earlier than was strictly necessary. Having being rudely interrupted from my slumber, I decided to take it out on those stairs again and met Martin and Laurent who had either decided the same, or managed to beat the fire-alarm downstairs. More outside lecturers began the day proper, followed closely by an excellent presentation by the Danish who were considering possible avenues of future co-operation amongst other things. After the intellectual start to the day, it was time for the French to give everyone some ideas about advanced conditioning and practise, and time for me to regret my decision to frequent the steps earlier that day as after a brief jog, we spent the majority of the next 2 hours going up them in a variety of manners. Needless to say, Laurent seemed fresher on his second attack of the stairs than most people engaging it for the first time that day.
The day and week were rounded off by everyone going to a viking restaurant in the city and enjoying an excellent meal. Despite some of the more hard core staying awake a little longer, Thomas and I beat a hastyish retreat to the hotel in anticipation of the 4.30 alarm call in order for us to make our bus to the airport the next day.
A few other vague details and memories from the week have occured to me in no sensible order:
Firstly; saunas are extremely smegging hot! Having not been in one for a number of years, I had completely forgotten what it was like to breath through your mouth because it burnt too much to try the usual nasal cavity.
Secondly; on the other extreme of the spectrum, the lake outside the hotel was incredibly cold but not, apparently, enough to deter many of the guys from going for a swim, and Thomas frequenting the water at all manner of odd hours, when the best I could manage was to stay in for about a minute holding onto the pier!
Thirdly; thanks to all who came to the seminar and shared, learned, took part and trained: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, France, Finland and, of course, the French B-team aka UK.
Lastly; Perttu was, despite his claims to have had help, an absolute trooper and star without whom the seminar would have flopped badly. A man who not only managed to stay out when Thomas and I heard our beds calling, but who then had to be awake at random 2 hourly periods throughout the night and early hours to drive people to the bus station. Thanks also go to the Finnish guys for being generally helpful throughout the trip.