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terça-feira, 18 de maio de 2010

An open speedway

For the set up of this article I suggest a wall, one as tall as we are, somewhere in an empty space. It can be as long as we like, spreading out to the infinity in both directions, it doesn´t matter… and say, one or two feet wide.

Not too long ago, while browsing through the blogosphere, I came across some unexpected thoughts. They surprised me because they oppose, in a way, a notion that was, and still is, pretty well settled in my mind about how to understand Parkour. Those thoughts relate to the way we deal with an obstacle that challenges us and takes us to the edge of our abilities. There´s a wall we want to leave behind, so what’s the right mindset to do it?

In his trip to Tours, Blane had the opportunity to train with the French traceur Thomas Couetdic, someone who is part of a very restricted group of people that was around when Parkour was first coming to be. Blane then wrote in his blog some short notes about his trip and it was this publication that caused my surprise and, ultimately, the very article I now present. Beside of a description of his stay in Tours, Blane also dedicates part of his article to some thoughts on training methods and the way Thomas encouraged him in dealing with a more challenging obstacle or a more perilous jump, what mental mechanisms were employed here in order to achieve the levels of motivation and confidence necessary to overcome the challenge. By this time Blane tells us that Thomas helped him “to became angry at the obstacle”, and that this was the right mindset to surmount it.

For a while, this expression came to my mind in a somewhat troubling way – “to become angry at the obstacle”… it didn’t feel right, it didn’t fit. I thought this might be some misunderstanding and I wrote a comment in his blog asking for further explanations. After a while the answer appeared confirming that I had got it right the first time. To Blane, using frustration against the obstacle is perfectly normal, it’s even desirable.

During training, specially if in one dedicated to repetition, we often encounter feelings of frustration in the face of some obstacle we can´t achieve, that wall spreading out to the infinity, for instance. After repeating again and again without any immediate results we usually notice that the lack of patience increases in the same proportion to the number of times we´ve tried. Ultimately, when frustration takes over, we kick the obstacle, angry at it for not letting us through. What Blane asserts is that we should channel that frustration, and the high levels of adrenaline thus created, in order to face the obstacle with enough fury as to leave it behind or, if we like, to overpower it.

It is precisely this idea, this concept of overpowering the obstacle that I don´t recognize myself in, simply because I don´t think it´s fair. I don´t think it´s fair for me because I´m allowing aggressive and destructive emotions to take over my state of mind but above all I don´t think it´s fair to the obstacle. That wall spreading out to the infinity is made of stone, a colossus when compared to the fragility of our body. It´s not about overpowering it, it´s about taking advantage of it. In it´s presence I feel humbly enraptured by the indifference it shows to my assaults, I understand there´s nothing I can do against it. I respect it.

By understanding this I began to look at this kind of difficulties from a different angle. On one hand I try to cultivate patience and calmness when I´m not achieving the results I intended, I try to correct what I´m doing wrong in a way that is both systematic and organized looking inside in the search for the right answers instead of looking at the obstacle as the reason of my failure. On the other hand I began to feel that the word “obstacle” itself was inadequate. An obstacle is “something which prevents progress”. Now, we all know that Parkour is precisely the discovery of paths, passages and progress where there were none before, therefore the objects we choose to cross are the instruments necessary to that discovery, are the paths themselves and not the obstacles, are the solutions and not the problems.

The vision of Blane and Thomas is indeed different. Blane is a survivalist, he has in his blog links to web-sites on how to survive in the woods and how to transform contaminated water into drinking water, how to survive in an urban scenario in case of environmental disaster and things like that. To him Parkour is another surviving tool (not only that, of course, it wouldn’t be fair to state it so bluntly), something useful for him to be prepared for the unexpected future. What he tells us is that in a situation in which we have to make use of our techniques in order to survive, it’s very likely that the range of emotions that will haunt us stand in the domain of frustration, anger, fury, etc. Thus, in a complete training we should subject ourselves to these emotions so that we can maintain control over our movement and over our body in extreme situations. This perspective, of course, isn’t wrong, I simply see things differently. To me, training should be a moment of tranquillity, of emotional stillness, that’s what I seek to achieve and it is in those moments, sometimes rare, of true conciliation that I feel in harmony with space, with time and with movement.

It is that harmony that I speak of that enables one to transform the obstacle into a path and the path into an open speedway to the other side.

This article was first published in March of 2008. It can be found in portuguese here.

Este artigo foi publicado pela primeira vez em Março de 2008. Pode ser encontrado em português aqui.

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