Stephane and I discussed many different things that day, and over the following week, including David Belle, Parkour in France, the difference in the public reaction in different countries, Stephane’s ligament injury, my injuries, life in Thailand, doing Parkour all over the world as a profession, alcohol consumption, sushi, promoting Parkour, where Parkour is heading etc.
He gave me some great insights and advice though.
Basically the things that come to mind are:
1) When doing strength training, always do the full movement.
For example, if you are doing push-ups, do them slowly and make sure your chest touches the ground, if you are doing chin-ups, make sure the bar touches your chest and go all the way back down until your arms are straight, once again SLOWLY, pausing halfway down and holding for about 5 seconds.
Stephane said: “I am quite a lazy person, so I don’t do as many as some others, but I do them slowly, I can’t be bothered doing too many without getting the benefits”.
2) Small injuries are good.
Small cuts, abrasions, bruises, are good teachers, they let you know that you are not concentrating enough, or getting sloppy. He said: “This is the sport we are invloved in, it is dangerous, it is a contact sport, like rugby, you are going to bash yourself and hit the ground. Sometimes I see people (traceurs) that have no scars on their arms, knees, shins, and I think they are not training enough.
It’s just the big injuries, torn ligaments, tendon damage, broken bones, that you must avoid.”
He also explained about his torn ligament incurred when doing a deep jump, late one training session, when he was fatigued and thought “Well, I’ll just do it one more time,” and upon landing WHACK torn ligament, intense pain. Then the original operation didn’t work, his body rejected the graft, and he had the operation again. After about 2 years he still couldn’t walk properly and the doctors kept disagreeing with each other and basically saying that he would be lucky to walk again, let alone intense exercise like Parkour. But after 2 and a half years he found Forrest who told him to just use his leg, start doing parkour, and train through the pain(which Stephane found hard because he was used to trying to avoid pain, not push himself through it). Anyway it took like 3 and a half years before he could train properly again, but now he is back to 100%, but is wary about deep jumps.
But he can jump very high and far, about the same distance as Chau who is much bigger and stronger (but shorter, about 5,9).
3) And the most important piece of advice, told to him by David Belle, was this: ALWAYS DO EVERY MOVEMENT/TECHNIQUE, PERFECTLY!
This may seem obvious, but he told me this when we were jumping a small 5-6ft gap between 2, 3ft walls surrounding 2 flower beds, in the park. He made the jump 3-4 times, every time PERFECTLY!.
I mean always landing on the balls of both feet, both feet perfectly in line, he didn’t have to use his arms to regain balance upon landing, he just stopped still, with no movement at all, then repeated the act, flawlessly.
When I did the same jump 4-5 times, I made it every time, but with small, stumbles, overbalancing and having to step foward, falling backwards once, and flailing my arms to regain balence upon landing. Stephane watched these attempts, then I did one jump that was close to perfect but landed one foot slightly in front of the other, and was just a little unsteady. Stephane said “See, it’s still not perfect”. “You must always do every move, no matter how small, perfectly. You have to know what you body is doing the whole time, even in the air. You have to do it over and over maybe hundreds of times until it is perfect! That’s what David taught me”.
I now understood what he meant.
That was the reason in my 3 or so years of Parkour, I had injured myself seriously about 5 times, including broken bones.
It was because I was happy to simply perform huge drops, rail gaps, SDC’s into deep concrete environments etc, but not to do them perfectly.
I would leap over a railing, into a carpark and just go on instinct, not really thinking in the air, just clearing my mind and only focusing on the rail, then the ground.
But Stephane stressed the fact that you must be constantly aware of every moment of the technique, speed approaching the rail, hand placement, once in the air be aware of your body position, weight distribution, whether your legs are tucked enough, lowering your legs at exactly the right moment for impact, foot placement when landing, hand placement for the roll etc.
Another example, if doing a gap between 2 rails, no matter how far, you must try to always land on the balls of the feet, bend your legs just enough to cushion the momentum, use the arms in one fluid motion to regain balance, and that’s it.
I know, before talking to Stephane, I was content (especially if it was a large gap) to merely land on the opposite rail, without falling off.
Even if I had to flail my arms wildly, or stick my leg out to regain balance, I was happy to have made it and eventually regain balance and continue to walk along the rail.
Or maybe I would land it neatly without too much movement, but one of my feet may have landed on the arch, instead of the ball, but I would be happy with this effort.
But now I see that’s what makes David & Stephane the elite Traceurs in the community. They never accept less than perfect, and try again and again until they achieve perfection, everytime, every technique, on every obstacle.
Now, after less than 2 weeks after recieving this advice, I’d say my style has improved 200%!
Now if I don’t do everything perfectly everytime, I try over and over until I do.
And I find that it’s easier than I thought. A lot of the time we simply accept less than 100%, and are lazy mentally. Especially if we are becoming fatigued, or simply bored, after practicing the same manouver over and over. This is also when we are in danger of injuring ourselves.
I used to think “Well if we do the same dangerous technique hundreds, maybe thousands of times, then the law of probability says that we will do something wrong eventually, especially as we get more tired and lose concentration”. But this is only true if you let it happen.
Basically, if everything you do is as perfect as possible then you should be quite safe.
I mean if you do a SDC 8ft down to a carpark 1000 times, with all sorts of different levels of concentration, different levels of perfection, then most likely one or more of those attempts will be half-assed and different levels of injury will occur.
But, you can do 1 000, 10 000, 100 000 PERFECT SDC’s, if every one is carefully considered and done with 100% concentration!
In the old days I used to worry that more serious injury was inevitable, it was a mixture of concentration and luck that will get me through.
But NO, it is 100% concentration that will keep me safe, and allow me to do even more dangerous, bigger tech’s than I previously imagined!
I now see why DB is so crazy with his big jumps.
I used to think, when watching him jump from that staircase to that 4 storey building, that “It would only take a small error, a slight stumble, to kick his toe accidently, a slight loss of concentration, and the next minute he would be plummeting 5 stories down to the street below”. But now I realise that this is very unlikely, because everytime he does this manouver, just like every other manouver, big or small, he does it to the utmost perfection, everytime.
It gives him confidence and has kept him safe and injury free, all these years.
Well, sorry to go on and on about perfection, but Stephane has said the same thing in many interviews before, and I had heard him talking about drilling techniques 1000’s of times, until perfect, but I didn’t quite grasp what he was trying to say until he explained it to me face to face and demonstrated it first hand.
When I watched him move, after we had finished training, and observed him walk through crowded public streets, go up and down escalators, stairs, move in and out of vehicles etc., on the way back to his apartment, I noticed he strives for perfection when he moves anywhere! Even walking down the street, he does it fluidly, efficiently, and gracefully, always constantly aware of foot placement and body posture. When we were entering in and out of his elevator he would spin 360 degrees all of a sudden, and I realised that he never stopped doing Parkour. He was not the sort to ever trip up a gutter or kick his toe when walking, accidently knock over a drink, or stumble, he was always moving with complete efficiency.
So, I have learnt now that we should never stop doing parkour, except when we are sleeping.
Every waking hour, whenever we are moving in any way, even walking like normal people along our channeled routes, we should always be doing it as perfectly as we can.
Parkour isn’t just choosing the different obstacle filled route, sometimes it’s choosing the same boring route as everyone else, but moving along that route with perfection.
Anyway, I hope I haven’t bored you but I really wanted to share this advice with a fellow traceur, as it has immediately changed my style for the better.
You’re right I should start a thread about it, I probably will when I get some free time, then everyone can benefit from my experience.
Anyway I hope this advice helps you as much as it has me.
It’s weird to think at the start of this year I was sitting in a small town in OZ, now like 4 months later I’ve just finished a holiday in Thailand, and met Stephane Vigroux and Chau Belle Dinh!
You just never know what life has in store!