When do you stop?

I’m away at a parkour event this weekend, lots of walking and playing and jumping. One session was a discussion of fear, and of consequences. And one particular question for discussion was, “When do you stop?” People raised lots of ideas—good ideas, wise ideas… lots of things I was in agreement about.

But I was also thinking, “Wait. Why do I have to decide that?”

I know I’ve certainly faced decisions about stopping. Work, play, relationships, sports, parkour practices (ask me about the time I climbed across a train station outside of Paris,) … yes, deciding if, when and why to stop is an obvious question.

If I think about two paths—perhaps diverging in the woods, if you like that imagery—an hour’s hike along the path of one choice, I might decide I’m going the wrong way. There’s one of those when-to-stop decisions. But the mistake was an hour before, where the paths diverged.

This business venture: what if I had truly been committed, and had planned clearly the way we’d know when to stop? The question is gone. This relationship: could it be planned, or could two people be so honest, that the question doesn’t appear? This parkour jump, at the end of an exhausting day of training: why am I standing here, right now? If I’d planned better, could I have gotten all the same benefit, but a few minutes before right-now, I’d have moved to something else?

Might it be possible to still have challenge, commitment, growth, love, spontaneity, and humor… without ever having to decide, “should I stop this now?”

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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

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

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

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.

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

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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How “tuned in” is your nervous system?

barefootstrongblog.com/2017/03/26/how-tuned-in-is-your-nervous-system-advances-in-barefoot-science/

With the foot as the only contact point between the body and the ground – much of this “noise” enters our nervous system through the feet. If this foot “noise” is tuned out or unable to be sensed by the nervous system inaccurate movement patterns and delayed time to stabilization (i.e. injury) is the result.

~ Emily Splichal

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