Traceuse Crush Tuesday: Renae Dambly

Welcome back to another Traceuse Crush Tuesday where I showcase an incredible female parkour or freerunning trainer, and geek out over how powerful and talented they are.

This week’s traceuse has a special place in my heart because she is the first one I saw compete in-person. She was at the 2018 North American Parkour Championships at Breathe Parkour in Vancouver, BC, and she placed 1st in the Women’s Speed and Skill competitions, and 2nd in the Women’s Style competition.

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Photo from Facebook.com

Renae Dambly, born and raised in Denver, Colorado, began taking parkour lessons at age 14 at APEX Movement and, at age 16, became the youngest APEX Movement coach.

In addition to parkour, she has experience in a wide array of sports, including soccer, swimming, rugby, volleyball, diving, karate, track and field, rock climbing, and dance.

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Photo from RenaeDambly.com

In 2014, Dambly took her passion for parkour and movement to the next level with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science – Physiology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, working towards a Doctorate of Physical Therapy with a specialization in ankle and knee injuries.

A neat fact about Dambly is that she is a dual American and Canadian citizen, so we Canadians can sort of claim such an incredible athlete as our own.

For more Renae Dambly photos and videos, check her out on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as her website renaedambly.com.

Until next time, remember, “I believe there is something in all of us, a passion, that we have that can lead us to discovering ourselves. For me that is parkour” (Renae Dambly, 2017).

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Parkour vs Freerunning

Thus far, I have almost exclusively used the term ‘parkour’ (right down to the title of this blog), but ‘freerunning’ is another, related term, and sometimes they are used interchangeably . However, within their respective communities, there are recognized nuances between them, and I wanted to delve into this a bit further.

As far as some practitioners are concerned, parkour and freerunning have the same referential target of interacting with the urban environment in new and novel ways. More stringent definitions, however, distinguish the two disciplines based on differing primary motivations for movement, origin, and philosophy.

Disclaimer: Distinguishing the two disciplines is not something that the communities really like to talk about, and this point of contention often leads to debate. This post is purely a component of my understanding, and I have no real opinion on the matter. 

Parkour is often described as a movement discipline in which trainers develop physical and mental strength in order to navigate from point A to point B in a complex urban environment as quickly and efficiently as possible. Comparatively, freerunning, while also a discipline of movement, focuses on the art of movement, so to speak, and the creativity with which trainers can explore their environment. Thus freerunning often features flips and acrobatics, while parkour focuses on the natural movements of running, jumping, and climbing.

The two disciplines may also be distinguished by their origins. The movements of parkour are rooted in parcours du combattant, that is, military obstacle course training. Conversely, freerunning is the brainchild and English translation of parkour first used by Sébastien Foucan, one of the original nine trainers of parkour who brought the discipline to the UK, and emphasizes self-expression and the development of self-confidence through physical and mental training.

Lastly, parkour and freerunning differ in their philosophies and mindsets, an aspect of the movement disciplines that is not often discussed outside of their respective communities. Parkour focuses on overcoming and adapting to both mental obstacles and physical barriers, optimizing efficiency of time and energy. A more recent element of parkour philosophy is reclaiming what it means to be a human being and augmenting the natural movements developed from infancy, referred to as “human reclamation.” In contrast, freerunning personalizes movement, making it a subjective experience in an objective environment.

In short, the main distinction between parkour and freerunning is efficiency vs artistry. While both are intense full-body physical pursuits, the former focuses on efficient movement from point A to point B, and the latter prioritizes creative expression and freedom to move in unique ways. However, the communities are very much interleaved, and there appears to be a sense of camaraderie between trainers of both disciplines. Trainers of parkour and freerunning may train together, and may train both disciplines, bringing elements of each into their movements and influencing the changing semantics around the disciplines.

Until next time, in the words of Alister O’Loughlin, “when you work with Parkour you can work simultaneously in the imagination and real world and that’s quite a rare thing to find outside of the arts.”

Why Do Parkour Gyms Exist?

In the last 15 years or so, the establishment of parkour gyms and online searches for them worldwide has been a major cultural shift in parkour and freerunning communities.  And, like all major changes, the existence of parkour gyms has become a source of controversy.

On one side of the debate is what I am going to call the purist parkour community. By this I mean that some trainers believe the true, and really only, way to train parkour is with no equipment in dynamic urban environments to strengthen both physical and mental resolve. In addition, indoor facilities arguably offer unnatural training simulation, which does not translate perfectly to outdoor training, potentially offering oversimplified environments.  Furthermore, parkour gyms are expensive to both attend and maintain, making them inaccessible for many people who do not have the financial resources for continued indoor training.

All that being said, the existence of parkour gyms has several circumstantial and cultural functions. The most paramount of these functions is safety, as indoor training facilities offer a controlled environment for both new and experienced trainers to learn and develop basic movements with reduced likelihood of serious injury. Indoor training facilities are also particularly useful in countries like Canada with a very distinct winter season, offering a space to train during weather-non-permitting months when the ground and major urban structures are covered in snow and ice. Gyms also provide a central locale for connection and relationship development within the parkour community. In many cities, gyms offer a central hub for the organization of classes, workshops, and jams that bring together trainers of all different skill levels and foster trust and friendship between all.

In short, the controversy surrounding parkour and freerunning gyms is an issue of respect, understanding, and preference. Indoor training facilities have many merits, including offering a safe, year-round, community space, but it must be acknowledged that parkour is an outdoor endeavour that was founded to solely exist in outdoor urban environments. Thus, indoor facilities are reasonable alternatives and serve to foster growth and development of strength and skill, but cannot replace the execution of physical and mental feats in ever-changing urban environments and natural elements.

Until next time, “work on your ability to grow, to open up, to trust more in yourself so that you may trust more in others as well. Work on your ability to reduce your fear, to know yourself better so that you may know how to react in life” (Williams Belle, n.d.).

Traceuse Crush Tuesday: Lynn Jung

While parkour, like many other disciplines, appears to be male-dominated, there are numerous talented women who train parkour (referred to as traceuses). Once my boyfriend showed me a few of them on Instagram, I was blown away by their skill, and proceeded to Internet deep-dive to find as many traceuses as I could.

So, the newest segment on this blog is a spin-off of the viral trend Woman Crush Wednesday or #wcw, but instead I am doing a Traceuse Crush Tuesday to showcase some of the incredible women training parkour and freerunning around the world.

It was such a no-brainer when picking the traceuse to start this segment with because she is one of the most well-known and successful parkour and freerunning athletes in the world, and I just can’t get over how flipping  amazing she is (pun completely intended). The day that I meet her is the day all my dreams come true.

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Photo from LynnJung.net

With 8 years of training experience, and 5 as a professional athlete, Jung has become a world-renowned freerunner, and an XDubai sponsored athlete. She is also the only female member of the esteemed UK-based freerunning team, Storm Freerun.

Unlike many freerunners, Jung comes from a gymnastics, dance, and choreography background, making her movements efficient, yet creative and graceful. She makes freerunning look so effortless which, I can assure you, it is not.

lynn jung storm freerun
Photo from StormFreerun.com

Some of her accolades include 3rd place at Apex International Women’s Style Competition 2016, highest ranking female athlete at Vigo Street Stunts 2016, and Best Female Athlete at Red Bull Art of Motion 2016, the world’s most popular freerunning competition.

In addition to training and competing, Jung has done a lot brand work, appearing in ad campaigns for Puma, Zalando, Audi, and Tele2, as well as live performances for Adidas, Plein Sport, and Swarovski.

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Photo from Facebook.com

For more incredible Lynn Jung photos and videos, she can be found on Instagram, FacebookPinterest, and her website LynnJung.net, which I highly encourage checking out.

Until next time, remember, “You must be capable of doing it; you must become stronger because if you want to be capable of doing great things, you must be capable here and now of doing this” (Williams Belle, n.d.).

Why Backflips Are So Fascinating

One of the main things onlookers say when they see people training parkour is, “Do a backflip!” As mentioned in my post 5 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Practices Parkour, asking if trainers can do a backflip is a really weird question that no one wants to be asked. Let me spare you the awkwardness and answer on behalf of (almost) all parkour trainers: Yes, they can do a backflip.

But this got me thinking about why backflips are so fascinating. I think there are several reasons, and I wanted to delve into each in turn. (Warning: physics stuff to come)

First of all, to start rotation, arms have to be swung with enough force to give initial angular momentum. Unlike normal momentum, which is the product of mass and velocity, angular momentum is the result of rotational mass and angular velocity. This rotational mass, i.e. the moment of inertia, is dependent on both the mass of an object, and the distribution of this mass. In short, generating enough force to fling yourself into the air is a feat in itself, one that I am scared to try even with supervision for fear of over-doing it and falling.

Once in the air, legs must be pulled in close to the chest to decrease rotational mass and increase angular velocity.

Finally, landing feet-first and maintaining stance despite momentum is the final hurdle of performing a backflip.

Overall, a backflip requires an appropriate power-to-weight ratio and rapid responsiveness which, for many years, was possible only for humans. However, in November 2017, a robot named Atlas, created by Boston Dynamics, became able to achieve this.

This just goes to show that, while a backflip serves no useful purpose, we as humans are fascinated by them as a marvel of physical prowess that now we’re building robots that can do them too.

While some argue that backflips are not a part of parkour, i.e. efficient movement from point A to point B, backflips are often featured in lines of the more creative movement discipline of freerunning.

Overall, parkour and freerunning are amazing physical disciplines that require equal parts skill and determination, both of which I admire in trainers, and are made up of more than just backflips. Keep that in mind the next time you see people training, and don’t be that person who shouts out, “Do a backflip!”

Until next time, remember, “the way of the parkour is to continue, not to stay here” (Sebastien Foucan, n.d.).

Parkour Grammar

Alright, here I go again down the rabbit hole of parkour grammar.

In one of my previous posts, 5 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Practices Parkour, I touched upon how parkour is an irregular verb and why me calling someone who trains parkour a parkourer was just plain wrong.  Well, I may, in fact, have got it wrong again.

If you aren’t a language nerd like me, this might not be nearly as exciting, but it turns out that parkour seems to be exclusively used as a noun, and robustly resists derivation to another part of speech category, a process referred to as functional shift.

Why is this important? Well, if you love language like me, then going through various sentence types and evaluating what category of speech a word seems to belong to is utterly fascinating. On a more practical level though, as a girlfriend of someone who trains parkour, it’s good to understand how language surrounding parkour should and shouldn’t be used.

First of all, parkour is not a verb, as shown in the following examples:

  • Resists the -ing ending of a progressive verb
    • We will be parkouring later if you want to join us
    • We will be training later if you want to join us ✓
  • Cannot be used as an infinitive verb
    • Do you want to come parkour with us? X
    • Do you want to come train with us? ✓
  • The word ‘do’ cannot be used to support parkour as a verb
    • We should parkour together soon. X
    • We should do parkour together soon. X
    • We should train parkour together soon. ✓
    • We should practice parkour together soon. ✓
  • Cannot be conjugated in the past tense:
    • She parkoured down the street. X
    • She did a line down the street. ✓

Parkour is also not an adjective, as demonstrated by the ungrammaticality of attaching the comparative -er or superlative -est endings to the root:

  • That was a parkourer flip than last week. X
  • That’s the parkourest flip I’ve seen all week. X

In fact, the word parkour does not seem to carry any descriptive value:

  • She parkours better than him. X

Parkour refers to human movement in no particular sequence. Thus, this sentence is essentially read as, “She is better at human movement than he is,” giving no concrete comparative measure.

In short, parkour is a noun used to refer to the practice of physical movement that tests one’s physical and mental limitations. It cannot be done, or taught, or learned better or worse than anyone. Literally in the words of Max Henry, “Parkour can only be discovered.”

On a bit of a side note, I learned that most trainers do not reference the indoor location where they train as a parkour gym. Within the community, it is assumed that if you are going to the gym, you are training parkour, so it’s almost redundant to specify. I don’t know if this means that no parkour practitioners go to the weightlifting gym, but if you tell someone who trains parkour that you’re going to the gym, they’ll likely say, “Hey, I’ll come with you!” and fully expect to be at a parkour gym.

Until next time, remember, in the words of David Belle, “Obstacles are found everywhere, and in overcoming them we nourish ourselves.”

3 Rad Reactions to Finding Out Your Boyfriend Practices Parkour or Wants to Start Learning

Podi.Maiku February 23rd, 2018
The statue I am forever jealous of because it got the first kiss

Thus far, this blog has been about my journey learning about parkour from my boyfriend and my own research. I found out my boyfriend did parkour the day we met when I watched him scale a giant statue near Place du Canada but, because we are in a long-distance relationship, it is entirely possible that I could not have known he did parkour until after we started dating. This got me thinking about what my reaction would be if I found out later, or if he told me he wanted to start learning how to practice parkour. After going through various reaction simulations with my boyfriend, I have come up with my top 3 rad reactions to learning that your boyfriend practices parkour or wants to learn.

“I’d love to learn more about parkour!”

When I first heard my boyfriend did parkour, I took to the Internet to learn more about it, and was shocked at the lack of resources available for people completely unfamiliar with parkour who weren’t necessarily looking to train. Hence this blog was born. I wanted to create a space that was tailored to understanding what parkour was and navigating a relationship with someone whose passion encompasses their physical, mental, creative, and philosophical being. Plus, it’s always great to know what not to say or do when going to a parkour gym or meeting other parkour practitioners.

This is not to say that you have to go out and become a parkour pro because your boyfriend trains, but it’s nice to show an interest in something your partner is passionate about, and this interest can take many forms. For me, it was reading books about parkour, like Breaking the Jump by Julie Angel (which became my boyfriend’s Easter present last year) and Max Henry’s The Parkour Roadmap, both of which gave me a solid understanding of the history and lifestyle of parkour. For more spatial learners, there are lots of great videos of people doing parkour on YouTube and Instagram showcasing parkour around the world. And for the kinaesthetic learners, there are parkour training facilities or gyms in most major cities now, and an introductory class is an excellent way to get some hands-on experience with what parkour is really like. However, if you live in an area without a parkour gym, you can usually find parkour groups or communities online, and you can learn more about when their next training session will be from there.

“I’d love to come watch you train sometime!”

This reaction falls under the broad category of being supportive. Just like how you’d want your boyfriend to support you in your decision to try something new, you should let him know that you support his quest for parkour enlightenment.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say that parkour isn’t dangerous, because it is, and it’s perfectly normal to worry that your boyfriend might get hurt. That being said, he is probably well aware of what could happen to him if things go wrong, and reminding him does nothing. Plus, the danger is mitigated by his understanding of his body and its limits. Like if he just decides to flip off a roof and attempt to land on the ground, chances are good that he’ll end up breaking something. But if he’s put in the necessary time and physical and mental conditioning behind that action, then it’s not nearly as dangerous and, frankly, it’s pretty flipping cool to watch (pun completely intended).

If you decide to accompany your boyfriend to a training session, it could be either indoors at a parkour gym or anywhere outside with infrastructure conducive to creative movement. It’s important to understand that training is not just about physical conditioning. While it is definitely a full-body workout, parkour is also a very social practice and your boyfriend may train with some of his friends there as well. This is not a sign that he doesn’t want to spend time with you; rather, he’s introducing you to the community and lifestyle of parkour, not just the athletic component.

“I’d love to come and train with you!”

I feel like for most people who do parkour, there is no expectation that their significant other will become as enthralled with the practice as they are, but I think the best way to try to understand someone’s love for something is to experience it with them. Plus, it’s a great relationship strengthener because you are helping each other overcome fears and strengthen physical and mental resolve.

And you have a great teacher. I am super lucky to have a parkour boyfriend who has been an instructor for several years and, while I have no plans to start precision jumping 14 feet or anything, I am proud to say that I can now front roll like a pro. As a perfectionist, I really struggled with not being able to do everything exactly how I wanted, but parkour isn’t about perfection; it’s about overcoming physical and mental obstacles, and slowly I am learning to vault over my perfectionism and focus on having fun and spending time with my boyfriend doing what he loves.

So these are my top 3 reactions that I think you could have to your boyfriend telling you he practices parkour or wants to start learning. You could give one of these reactions, or all three, or come up with your own, but the main takeaway from this post is to keep your reaction positive, supportive, and partner-centred. While you likely have fears and concerns about your boyfriend practicing parkour, embrace who he is and what he loves. And who knows, you might just discover that you, too, have a passion for parkour.

Until next time, remember, “parkour teaches you to be sure of what you are able to do” (David Belle, n.d.).