It'll soon have been a year since I started parkour though it's hard to imagine that there was I time I found anything as enjoyable to do with my free time as training. At times I still very much feel I'm a beginner, and as this is something I hope to continue to do for many many years I definitely am just starting, but I also feel I've matured my mindset about the training and general mindset of the discipline.
Early February last year I decided I would go and try out my first parkour class; I found the class online, emailed to confirm the location and ventured to Waterloo to the spot I know just know as IMAX1 and nervously met Chima, now a friend that has continued to inspire and help me ever since. I had spent the year prior sorting out my diet and losing 16kg of excess bodyweight acquired during a lifetime of an entirely sedentary lifestyle but still had an incredibly low level of fitness and strength, which still persists in some areas but this is something I'm now forever working on, so found that first session a shock to the system!
All I really remember of my first lesson is working on some small jumps and strides at the now boarded off area at oxo whilst being nearly overwhelmed with advice on technique and knowledge of plenty of warmup/cooldown activities, but the feeling I definitely won't forget is struggling to walk for the rest of the week! A feeling I'm now used to, I found myself very self-conscious being aware of my strange walking due to my burning aching muscles, but it felt good to have actually worked my muscles and so I couldn't help but go to the next lesson, and the next, and the next hundred or so...
After a few weeks I started hanging around doing a little bit after classes and a few more weeks passed and I ventured out myself looking for a place to train near me. I found a single wall which I trained at a few hours over the next few weeks working on my touch and soon I was hooked on training for my own goals, not just the demands of a lesson. I've since discovered that I was clearly blind at the time to the MANY good spots just around the corner from that single wall, but it still holds a special place in my heart whenever I pass by.
As time passed fellow traceurs in lessons became my friends and we started to train together outside classes and the number of hours of my training shot up to crazy amounts, training nearly daily, a trend which has only continued lately as my plans now don't include training: training is assumed at all hours outside work and anything ELSE must be planned.
Overall the year has been amazing and my life has changed completely, I'm now in much better shape but this is only a side-effect of training and a desire to be stronger to help with my movement. I've met some great people and made good friends, the parkour and free running communities are universally friendly so I've met people from all over the world and across the country. July saw me heading to Paris for a large international jam during which I couldn't help but head to Evry and the Dame du Lac (the rest of the pilgrimage to Lisses will come another day in the future) and throughout the many jams before and since I've been exposed to so many great people and inspirational practitioners that I can't help but look forward with excitement.
The latter half of the year has unfortunately been riddled with injury, first from an awkward landing on unconditioned ankles followed by an injury still affecting me, a sprained wrist from a minor fall as I was protecting my face. Unfortunately these things have stopped or hugely affected my training but my wrist at least hasn't stopped it at all. I'm very careful to not anger the wrist knowing a few months of being mostly unable to use one hand is still tiny compared to the lifetime of training and enjoyment of movement I hope to maintain, but these months have still been fantastic, despite winter weather, as there are no areas of training which will ever have no room for improvement!
I've also been lucky to have the chance to train with and hear the advice and words of some of those inspirational to me within parkour, most notably Daniel Ilabaca, Sebastien Foucan and some of the Yamakasi/Majestic Force guys as well as, of course, Chima.
I was going to make a video with clips giving an idea of my general ability for archival reasons and to judge improvement in the future but generally training > filming and along with the weather / injuries that have prevented doing much anyway I've not been too bothered about a video. I've still thrown together some clips that I'd started to get in the past few weeks but as I expect will be the case with any video I make I'm not too happy it showcasing anything and definitely doesn't display the fun I have overall!
Here's to the next year, hopefully an even better training year! I'm hoping for more trips up and down the country as well as abroad but also to continue exploring areas near me and working on creatively using any obstacles around.
- Matt, Jan 2011