Be kind to yourself

I just finished listening to an interview with Stephane Vigroux (see, 123, and 4) and one of his take-aways—the point he ended with actually—was that your parkour practice should make you happy. If I may unpack a bit: That you should be kind to yourself.

Stephane teaches a drill which has many variations, but is roughly to spend 30 minutes balancing on a rail. One finds something reasonable to balance on, like a simple railing or a low bar, where falling off has no consequences and where it’s easy to re-mount. When balancing, simply stand as still as you can. Switch legs and positions as you need to, but mostly, simply stand still and balance. If you fall off, simply get back on, and be kind to yourself for the duration.

Go do this drill. Seriously. If you cannot balance on a railing, scale the challenge down to fit your ability; Find a narrow wall, a curb, something the size of a shoebox, a bench—whatever, and alternate balancing on one foot at a time.

I’ve had the chance to train with Stephane a few times. Once, in Évry France (right in front of the Cathedral) a large group was being led by Williams Belle through a long sequence of ground movements. I had arrived at the event from another week-long event, in the middle of a summer after I had recently given up a year-long physical challenge that had my left shoulder with an aching weakness. It was only mid-morning and I was grinding my way through the physical training. There was a tremendous group spirit of support and encouragement, with everyone—absolutely everyone being pushed to their own personal limits. There was shouting and cheering and a good bit of laughing.

I could have continued. It’s possible that every other time I had ever done physical training I did continue. I had struggled through the, “this hurts I want to quit,” rationalization much earlier that morning. But for some reason, at some random moment, I stood up and walked off to the side where I sat down on an outdoor chair in the shade. At that moment, it felt right to choose to be kind to myself rather than persevere.

After a few minutes, Stephane also stopped, walked over, sat down in a neighboring chair, and asked how I was doing. It wasn’t an, “are you injured, why have you stopped?” visit. Just a friend dropping by to see how I was feeling.

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Novice and Expert Learners

http://skochypstiks.com/novice-and-expert-learners-the-impossible-rift/

There are two important takeaways from this idea. The first is that this is a sliding scale not a pair of absolutes. Almost everyone sits somewhere between. Secondly, by virtue of their position, teachers coaches and educators will always be experts. They have deep domain specific knowledge about an issue and understand it in a very different manner from the novice learners they are invariably teaching.

~ John “Hedge” Hall

I am not a parkour coach. But John most definitely is. He gave a wonderfully lucid and thought-provoking discussion at the last Art of Retreat which has left a permanent idea/mark/lesson in my mind about the “journey” each of us goes through in our learning process. (Just because I feel I learned the lesson, doesn’t mean I’m necessarily any good at passing it along.)

Anyway, John has a lot of really good thoughts on inclusivity in practice!

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Knuckle walkers

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-humans-knuckle-walkers.html

Walking on your knuckles is absolutely as odd as walking bipedally, a very peculiar way to get around. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s bothered anthropologists for years. Only chimps and gorillas do it. No one has come with the reason why—until now.

Having done quite a bit of walking on all-fours (aka “quadrapedie movement”, QM) I consider myself well-informed on this topic. Here’s my take:

Walking on knuckles sucks, but it is almost far superior to walking on the flat, open hands. Why does it suck? Because we humans are missing the fat pads (check the balls of your feet, and palm-side of your hand knuckles) that the Great Apes have on the back of their knuckles. When I walk on my knuckles in QM — and I do do that — I have to be very careful not to injure my knuckles. But in grass, it is delightfully more comfortable then flat, open hands. On your knuckles, the wrist is neutrally positioned and the wrist muscles are naturally activated, but not overly strained. The upper arm is easily kept inwardly rotated keeping elbows rotated/tucked rearward for a strong shoulder position. Meanwhile the forearm offers a nice range of rotation allowing comfortable hand placement.

Take a few steps on your knuckles and you cannot help but feel like a gorilla. rrr rrr RRR!

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How the brain really works, butterflies

http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/09/05/book-review-surfing-uncertainty/

The key insight: the brain is a multi-layer prediction machine. All neural processing consists of two streams: a bottom-up stream of sense data, and a top-down stream of predictions. These streams interface at each level of processing, comparing themselves to each other and adjusting themselves as necessary.

~ Scott Alexander

This seems to be rocking my world. There’s an actual theory of how the brain works?

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/18/proposed-biological-explanations-for-historical-trends-in-crime/

So we are likely getting more lead, more omega-6 (and relatively less omega-3), and less lithium than people in 1850. If there has been an increase in crime and other undesirable/impulsive behaviors, I think these biological insults are at least as worthy of examination as political changes that have occurred during that time.

~ Scott Alexander

…and my brain thought that this (aside from the actual data and science in the article) seems like a very compelling look at the big scale; tiny changes making subtle tidal shifts at the hundreds-of-millions-of-people scale.

Butterflies and radar: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/butterfly-blob-mystery-weather-radar

…and this popped up today, right before I saw a Cosmopolitan (aka Painted Lady) this afternoon.

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Presenting at Art of Retreat

Next weekend I will be moderating a session about the state of global parkour organization. Please follow the link and submit any questions you feel would benefit the discussion.
http://artofretreat.com/governance/

This session is happening at the Art of Retreat (a parkour leadership and education retreat) in New York City. The event itself is full, but there’s great information on their web site about the speakers, and presentations to inspire you to attend next year.

Meanwhile, this year the event organizers are working to produce more take-aways for the participants and the parkour community at large. As part of the preparation for the Friday session, we are producing a detailed report about the current state of global organization efforts. It will be made publically available as a PDF.

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From Primal to Bipedal

barefootstrongblog.com/2017/08/09/from-primal-to-bipedal-why-we-need-to-get-off-the-ground-and-walk-more/

From the medial rotation of the ilium creating the lateral fascial line and allowing single leg stance to the abduction of the foot’s 1st ray creating the spiral fascial line and lateral fascial line allowing the stability for a rigid lever – everything – I repeat everything favors locomotion – and we need to train the body as such.

~ Emily Splichal

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A Philosophy of Coaching

danedwardes.com/2017/08/04/a-philosophy-of-coaching/

All coaches carry out their role based on combination of their experience, knowledge, values, opinions and beliefs, likely with most unaware that they are doing this at all. This melting pot of factors amounts to what can be described as the coach’s philosophy. The question is – do you actually know yourself well enough to understand how these elements are combining to produce your own philosophy of coaching? Do you understand what your core coaching approach and methods are?

~ Dan Edwardes

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§1 – Introduction

(Part 1 of 5 in Travel Gear)

This series covers all the physical things I’ve discovered which make light-weight traveling easier and more fun. (My thoughts on the philosophy, etiquette, and mindset of traveling are in a separate series.) This series of posts is only meant to give you ideas; I certainly don’t expect you use the exact same solutions. For me, the challenge was not to pack as light as possible, but to pack as light as is reasonable.

I’ve read countless articles on travel, written by everyone from ultra-light hikers to seasoned business travelers. Sometimes, I stumbled over useful ideas and then figured out how to apply them. At other times I went searching for a solution to some specific problem I was having. Over the years, I’ve come up with a collection of items, and related tips and tricks, that I find extremely useful.

It’s obviously important to know what to pack, and to be able to pack well. But I believe the most important part of traveling “light” is developing two habits: unpacking and reviewing. Unpacking ensures I’m always ready, and reviewing ensures I’m always improving. The next two parts of this series will go into these two habits.

Why

But first, why travel lightweight? Why not simply grab the largest bag I have, stuff it with everything I might need, and head out the door? Why spend time and money fiddling with travel gear and solutions? I found my answers to those questions by sorting out the following: I’m most free when I have just the clothes on my back, but I will be unhappy, stressed, or in physical danger when I don’t have whatever-it-is that I happen to need. So at the most basic level, packing light is simply the balance of freedom versus preparedness.

There is also a deeper mental level to that balance. Do I feel free and relaxed, or am I worried? For me, it turns out that simply packing more things does not make me feel more prepared or relaxed. Rather, it’s the idea that I know I am prepared which enables me to be comfortable.

Clearly, the less I have to carry, the easier physically are my travels: In a packed car, my bag can fit on my lap. On a bus, it fits in the over-head, where it’s handy through the trip. On a plane, I can travel with just a carry-on-bag, saving me time and money on checked baggage. It’s also easier to not unpack — to just live out of the bag at my destination. It’s quicker to settle down in the evening, and quicker to pack out in the morning. It’s even easier to keep track of my stuff the less of it there is.

Certainly, there are lots of challenges and trade-offs with traveling light. It is not all champagne and roses. But by investing the time to solve problems and get better at the process, I’m able to have a lot more fun. So my challenge was to pack as light as I can, and still have everything I need.

My first task was then to figure out, “What exactly do I need?”

How

The more I dug into these ideas, the more I realized that the only way to know I was prepared — to truly feel prepared — was to thoroughly examine what I was packing and carrying. I wound up asking myself a litany of questions and exploring the answers and solutions: Why am I uncomfortable right now? What could I have brought that I could use right now? I never used this thing-i-packed, so why did I bring it? I’m exhausted after carrying my pack all day; Why does it weigh 30 pounds?

This process of examining all my worries, habits, and situations led me to search for solutions. My habits of unpacking and reviewing, which I mentioned at the beginning, are the result of all this questioning and refining of my travel gear.

Along the way, I learned to not pack based on fear or uncertainty; To not pack anticipating everything that might go wrong. Instead, I learned to prepare only for the scenarios that matter — safety items, spare cash, medication. I also learned to feel comfortable in knowing what I could obtain at my destination if things didn’t go according to plan. This became a sort of “anti-packing,” where I learned what not to pack.

Eventually, I wound up with “systems”, or “kits”, for just about everything. A sleep system, in one stuff sack, that has everything I need to sleep on a bare floor. A bathroom kit, in one zipper-bag, which has everything I need for bathing, shaving, etc. A medical/urgent kit (the “m’urgency” kit) that has what I frequently use, plus what I feel is sufficient for common urgencies.

The more I tuned my gear and systems, the easier packing became. These days, I don’t grab my toothbrush out of the bathroom, find my razor, and wonder what soap may be at my destination; I pick up the small, black, zipper-bag that is my bathroom kit. If I might be sleeping on the floor I grab my sleep system. I always grab the m’urgency kit. I grab the clothes I want, and a stuff sack to pack them. I add in various other things, (described in coming posts,) grab my favorite backpack, stuff the contents, and go!

An exercise

If you really want to get a feel for how much your packing improves, try doing a “test packing” as a starting point for future reference. Note the time, and go pack for a 5 day, 4 night Parkour trip. Let’s presume mild weather, sleeping indoors but on a bare hardwood floor. Let’s say you will be training 3 of the days. Pretend you have no idea what the host conditions are, but assume you have access to a bathroom, shower, wifi and whatever electricity outlets you are used to. (Dealing with not-your-usual electrical systems is a post in this series.) When you are ready to walk out your door, note the time again. Now weigh your stuff and write down the time it took to pack, the weight, and maybe some notes about how you’d feel carrying all that stuff while trying to board a bus, a plane or hop in a car.

Now, as you put everything away, imagine dropping all that on the floor at your host. What if they have to move it while you’re out for the day? Is their dog/cat/toddler going to get into your stuff? Maybe also note your worries: I don’t have a sleeping bag or pad for sleeping on a floor! How do I dry my hair? Look at all these clothes! What if this trip had been to a place with weather extremes, say, you had to train outdoors in freezing temps? What if you knew you’d be video recorded during one of your training days? What if your destination had different electrical power? What if someone threw, or sat on, your bag?! What if… What if…

Recall the two habits I mentioned: unpack and review? You have just done your first unpack and review after an imaginary trip!

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