Sunday, August 2, 2009

Friday 8th May - Present day

At the time of writing this I have spent over two months primarily without wearing shoes, both in training and in everyday life. There have been occasions where I've worn shoes or flip flops, for instance when going to the gym, as it saves me the trouble of having to wash my feet all the time, but mostly my feet have been enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Originally I had planned to spend a whole week training and living without shoes, but I thought to myself that I had no good reason to wait until that time to start, so I began Immediately.

The hardest thing about going barefoot is taking the first step and removing your shoes and socks and putting yourself in situations where you would feel awkward because of it. I think for most people it is not that they don't wish to be without shoes, or that they prefer the feeling of wearing shoes, but that it seems to break some unwritten social code, both in their own minds and the minds of others.

Although I have largely gotten used to being shoeless, there are still times when I feel the awkwardness, and I may think that I'd prefer not to draw unnecessary attention to myself. But I know inside that what I really want is to be without shoes, and that it is more important for me to face my fears, than to live comfortably, merely wishing that I could do what I want.

I had a conversation with my mum about not wearing shoes, and how that sometimes the reason for doing it may be to prove some kind of point, or something other than the fact that you enjoy it and believe that you'll be better off for doing so. What I was saying, and what I'm saying now is that I'm not anti-shoe, nor do I wish to be, but rather I prefer to be without them. For example my wife wanted us to go to a restaurant that I hadn't be too before, and she said that on this occasion she wanted me to either wear a t-shirt or put shoes on, that she didn't want to go out with me in just a pair of shorts (looking kinda homeless). In this instance I opted to go shoeless and put on a t-shirt for once, but the point is that I aspire to be flexible, instead of discovering something new and then immediately making it a rule or law which to live by.

In the conversation with my mum I said that although going without shoes doesn't harm anyone else, it doesn't mean that I should use this as my reason or excuse to be without them in every situation. For example, there will be times when people being the way some people tend to be, will be disgusted or offended by the sight of someones feet in supermarket, or on the bus for instance. And that in situations where we become aware that we are contributing to someones upset, our preference for not wearing shoes should be overruled in favour of keeping the peace. After all, the point isn't simply to stop wearing shoes, but to enjoy life without them, and how can you really enjoy that experience when you are aware that it is indirectly upsetting another, and it is within your power to change that at least in some small way?

I'm a vegetarian, but I wouldn't say I'm anti-meat. I disagree with many of the issues surrounding meat production and consumption, but it doesn't mean I wouldn't eat meat if I had to. I'd be more than happy to go to the river to fish for my dinner.

My point is that it is very useful to become aware of if, and when our ideas and ideals have a negative impact on the way we are living, and are actually serving only to keep us from the peace and happiness that those same ideals were meant to protect in the first place.

I'm down for the cause, but I'm not a martyr for it.

During my stay in London I had the opportunity to train with some friends of mine who I had first met some time ago, but had never really spent much time with - which is probably true for many people I know. I went to train in the far reaches of North London with The Saiyan Clan, who run small, but lively classes for local teenagers, practically in their own back yard!

I was given the chance to help out with one of their classes, in so much as that I freestyled some demonstrations of movements that the kids could practice to build strength as well as coordination and control. I also made it along to some of their group training sessions on sundays, where we all got together and shared ideas, but without the structure or time constraints of the class. It was good for me to spend time training with other people again, and also to see newcomers returning to sessions to put the effort in that it takes to progress.

Although the actual lessons aren't free, they are very cheap and are intended to be non-profit. Cable and Blake take the time and the effort to teach and support these classes in a way that encourages their students to do their own thing, and to me it felt more like they were one big group of friends rather than a class. I thank them for inviting me along and giving me the opportunity to share my madness and methods, and also for the honorary Saiyan Clan t-shirt!

Peace Jam

The last week of May was the week that I originally intended to spend barefoot, as I had decided to come to central London every day that week to train, and so invited what few people I know to come and join me. The numbers that came on any given were barely enough to qualify as a group, but the company was good. I spent the week training rings, weights and Parkour, and felt surprisingly fresh by the end of it all.

I spent the last day in Vauxhall with various people from the Parkour Generations off the wall jam that was being held that day, and the place was literally swarming with people jumping swinging and vaulting off of everything in sight as there was also another big jam scheduled on the same date. I managed to get on and do what I wanted, although there were so many people out that day you had to pay even more attention than usual as it was likely you'd be hit by someone flying through the air if you weren't careful. Group training isn't really my thing, but I made the most of it and got to see a few old faces while I was out and about. Thanks to all those who turned up, you know who you are.

Looking back over my notes, both mental and written, I haven't really practiced much Parkour as such over the last year. June 1st marked my 6 month anniversary of rings training, during which time that is pretty much all I did, and since then I haven't done much in the way of practicing any techniques either. That's not to say that I haven't been out running and climbing, but it has been more of something I just do for fun on occasion, rather than any focused training or drilling of techniques. This is partly because I've been in a bit of a state where I don't know what it is I want to accomplish, but also because I've been having fun simply training for strength alongside swimming and cycling for the pleasure of it all. I've even begun to dance again, and made a promise to myself that I will set aside the time to do so more often.

Towards the end of May I decided to do a little test to see how much extra weight I could chin up. I was at a friend's house and had been helping him devise a new bodyweight only strength training regime involving the rings he had just bought, and there he had lots of weights as he was more experienced with bench pressing and so on. With the help of my climbing rope and the encouragement of my eldest brother I went about testing for my 1RM. The only thing I was confident would take my weight plus whatever I added was the rings, which wasn't ideal as the extra instability probably meant that I couldn't lift as much as I would have done from a solid bar.

Aside from having never done any weight training before, I had completed my usual rings routine the previous day as well as various exercises earlier on the day in question, so I wasn't in the best of shape, nor was I feeling too confident. Nevertheless, I went ahead and started straight away by adding 30kg to the rope, which at this point was slung over my shoulder. After feeling how easy it was to pull up I had decided in my mind that I would be satisfied if I managed to get to 40kg, so the weight went up in increments of 2 and a half kilos til I got to 40kg. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and also close to the point where I thought I couldn't do any more, but my brother urged me on to try more, so I decided just an extra half kilo would be enough for now. To cut a long story short, I didn't make that 40.5kg lift, until I rested and begun to hang the weights off of my waist instead. After that I decided to set my aspirations higher and went on adding weight up until 50 kilos, at which point I could only pull up about halfway. So after more than ten separate lifts I settled for a personal best of 47.5kg, at a bodyweight of about 65kg. This was a very good confidence boost for me seeing how training bodyweight only exercises, if done correctly can lead to great strength when it comes to lifting weights. On that day I decided that I would again test my 1RM on weighted chins six months from now at the end of December, with the hope of being able to chin up my full bodyweight in addition, still staying away from weights and sticking to training with my rings. I took a few days off after that, and did think about seeing how well I would fair in pressing extra weight, but only got round to doing a pushup with my 50 kilo brother on my back. Regardless, it seems clear to me that what I had previously read was true; that gymnastics bodyweight strength conditioning has a good carry over when it comes to using weights, but the reverse is not true.

Self-myofascial release

I begun doing this a few years ago perhaps, but then fell out of the habit of doing it, and only just took it up again a couple of months ago, but all I can say is that I recommend it to everyone. Read the article and try it out for yourself, I've either been using a wine bottle or an old, large rolling pin, so no need to even spend any money!

For a change I had a few pictures taken of me by some other people before I returned to Finland. The first ones were taken during a session I had in a spot I had never trained at before. This particular place was right by a bus garage and main road, directly opposite a couple of bus stops and also the final destination for many buses, so it was by no means quiet and out of the way, which is what I tend to prefer. This was the reason I hadn't yet trained there, but on this particular day I had decided that I was ready to break the invisible barrier that kept me from going there, and feeling less liberated than I wished to feel. After the initial and predictable feelings of awkwardness I removed my shoes and climbed a tree where I left them along with the rest of my belongs, out of sight and out of reach, so I could focus on training, without the excess worry of having my possessions stolen.

Besides avoiding the unusually large amounts of broken glass everywhere, which in itself required good foot placement, I repeated a route across some small metal bollards, focusing on the feeling of what it is like to land with my toes gripping the surface staying well away from the middle of the foot. I also took the time to practice some underbars which I've never really liked, as well as the usual basics and other fun climbing, balancing and jumping related exercises. During my time at this spot I had two separate photographers take photos of me, and the ones by professional photographer Justin Kulaway can be seen here.

I don't usually like having my photo taken, but as long as I can just concentrate on what I'm doing naturally, then I don't really mind. It turned out to be quite a fruitful day and an overall positive experience that can be built upon.

The other photographs were taken by my infinite friend and all round manifester of interesting things Miss G Cook. For the first set we did a little night mission in the area around where I used to live in Crystal Palace, and for the second set all 3 of my brothers joined me for climbing fun and antics in the woods, which was a major milestone in our family history I'm sure of it! Some of the first photos can be seen online here.

Stay tuned for the others as they will appear on my own flickr page some time in the future when then becomes now.

The one significant thing I practiced while in London was more routes that started in awkward positions , lying down close to, and at odd angles to things that would immediately have to be vaulted upon getting to my feet. I found that by taking out the controlled and calculated run up to any obstacle made things more difficult, but more fun as it completely changed how I had to move. This way of training I used in conjunction with the games I mentioned in my previous post, and together it feels like by using them I am developing the ability to react quicker and make better use of the skills I have spent time learning in the past. Being more deliberately random and unpredictable is a good test of how well you can actually put into practice what you spend all your time learning.

The week after I returned to Finland we went on a little trip to a city called Turku on the west coast, where I met up with some guys visiting from Ireland as well as a couple of Finns who also practice Parkour.

On the day we arrived in Turku the temperature was so hot I had left the house in nothing but shorts and eventually had to resort to rolling them up, and felt grateful to be barefoot in such unforgiving weather.

Led by Tomi, one of the local traceurs, we moved slowly through the city centre to a couple of spots before stopping off in a park where Tomi later held a class. I set up my rings in a nearby tree and later on Tomi put up his slackline so we could take turns on that too. I didn't really do much that day, but it was good to have met up with Tadhg, Tony and Darran, on their visit from Ireland.

Along with Aleksi, Tomi invited me climbing the following day, a short car trip outside of the city to a place called Kustavi. I was collected early in the morning from outside our hotel on yet another hot day, with probably not enough rest, and definitely not enough to eat. After reaching a road that turned to dirt we parked up and then walked a short distance into the woods, further still away from civilization. The path led to a wall complete with huge boulders that must have been part of the same rock formation many years ago. Where larger pieces of rock had fallen away they created a network of gaps and tunnels which where ripe for exploring, and the whole area was ideal for training Parkour in a natural environment.

We came to climb though, and as I've never climbed on real rock with ropes, and heights are my number 1 phobia I wasn't looking forward to it. I watched a while as people slowly went up the impossibly flat wall, and didn't rate my chances very high. I slipped into Tomi's climbing shoes and got strapped up, before positioning myself in the shadow of the impending rock. I've never used chalk before, so that is how I did my first climb that day, feeling scared for my life pretty much from the moment my feet left the ground. There was a point about a third of the way up that I almost gave in because of how terrified I was, but at that moment the other part of my brain kicked in that said I have to keep pushing on to go past that, and push on I did until I reached the top.

On that day Aleksi had introduced me to an activity which I think has yet to be named, but could be described as primeval screaming, which is often accompanied by the hurling of large and heavy objects, sometimes from great heights, and sometimes in combination with running. Earlier that day I launched myself into this strange new world, along with a large tree branch from the top of the rocks that overlooked the surrounding area. I don't think I've ever made a sound with so much intensity and conviction as I did then, and it was liberating like nothing else. Upon reaching the apex of my first ever climb, and still feeling the adrenaline I let out a victory cry over my long standing nemesis, to let fear know that I'm here to stay.

That day I enjoyed two more difficult climbs which I persevered with and made it through, as well as more rock running, slack lining and mosquito dodging than you can toss a 40 pound log at.

Good times indeed.

On our last day in Turku we went to the beach to enjoy the ridiculously hot spell Finland seemed to be experiencing at the time, but shortly after we arrived with our suitcase in tow the rains began to fall and sent the fair weather beach bums packing. My idea was that if we sat it out long enough under our makeshift umbrella, the light rain would eventually stop, leaving the beach a lot less crowded than it was when we first arrived. But alas, it was not meant to be. The gods were angry and lashed us with rain that was truly unlike anything I've ever experienced before, it was literally as if buckets were being poured from the sky, and with so much force and determination it even worried me a little. We made it to the shelter of a nearby cafe, completely soaked through, looking like we had just been washed up on the shore like a couple of shipwrecked tourists. After dripping off and eventually changing into something dry, we both had hot drinks, by the end of which the sun had made it's comeback as if it had never gone, and we were once again ready to enjoy the sand and sea like we had originally intended.

The beach was indeed much less clogged with humans when we returned, although I was slightly surprised by how quickly people had taken to volley ball and frolicking so soon after such epic weather. Nevertheless I decided to set up my rings in the shade of a tree overlooking the water to go through the first day's strength training in a new cycle. Immediately after finishing I changed into my swimming trunks to go for a much deserved and also needed dip in the sea. I saw a girl playing around attempting to pull herself out of the water and climb onto the platform that reached out across the water and was quite someway above head height. She didn't make it with the help of her legs, but it inspired me to muscle up directly from out the water as I thought it was something that would be quite useful if you were in a situation without the means to simply step out of the water. Regardless of it's usefulness it was fun, and a nice evening was spent in the sun once again.

During the last six weeks that I was in London I did split squats three times a week with around 75lb as a sort of introduction to weight training, meanwhile continuing to work flexibility drills and practicing squatting with a barbell so that I could begin squatting with weights when I returned to Finland.

For the past three weeks I've been on a beginners training program for weighted back squats that initially starts out using an empty barbell and then progressively adds 2.5 kg every workout, providing that the previous workout is completed successfully. This is a 5x5 program, meaning 5 sets of 5 reps at any given weight, and the reason I chose this was because I didn't want to immediately jump in and try to lift as much as I could without the experience of lifting weights beforehand. And although I had been doing various exercises and stretches in the months leading up to beginning squatting with weight I didn't want to rush into things, and took it as an opportunity to learn something new entirely from scratch with as good form as possible, something that I would rarely if ever get the opportunity to do when practicing Parkour.

My first venture into the weightlifting area of the sports centre I go to was quite daunting, wandering into alien territory that was once only seen from my position on the high bar over the foam pit, or from atop the balance beam. There can potentially be 5 people squatting at the same time at the various stands and racks, and to my surprise there are plenty of men and women who do come to train their legs through barbell squats, as well as the usual hoardes of people bench pressing, lifting dumbbells and using the array of exercise machines that I can't make head nor tail of.

Overall, my confidence and technique have been steadily improving since I started, and practicing on my rest days has helped with both also. I've been trying to get to the gym as early as possible as it can get quite crowded and I wanna be able to get in and out as soon as possible.

Recently I've been going upstairs from the weights area to where there are a number of dance studios that can be freely used without booking, mixing up strength training with doing something creative and quite opposite in nature. When I'm finally done I cycle the short distance to the beach and maybe have something to eat and a swim in the sea before beginning the journey home. I've been pushing myself to do more swimming in the sea as it's something that has scared me in the past along with the power of the current, and not knowing how far or how long I am capable of swimming for is something I'm interested in experimenting with. As always the psychological aspect of the physical exercise is very apparent to me, as I can see how I perform so much better when I am able to keep myself relatively calm. The fear of the unknown and what may be below me, sometimes plays a big part in how long I swim for, but lately it hasn't even been in my focus at all, as I simply set my sights on the orange buoy in the distance and do what is necessary to get there. Without really intending to I find myself counting my strokes along the way, which I also think helps me to focus and stay calm. Just being in the open water under a wide blue sky is sometimes a scary and beautiful thing.

Before I began training at the gym I was going to the local woods to train with my rings as I had done in winter, but then afterwards I would make my way closer to the river and move downstream to a spot where I would park my bike and set my things down on a rock while I took a dip in the waters. Sitting in a river in the middle of a forest in the evening sun is not only a nice way to end a day's training but it really strikes me how so much pleasure can be had from the simplest of things around us. I think this is the thing about Parkour that sticks with me most - the ways in which through Parkour I have been exposed to and rediscovered the natural environment and the innate bond that we all have with it. That's not to say I couldn't have found it some other way, as I have done with fishing, but the combination of physical activities and just being outdoors with the elements is something that takes me back to my childhood and perhaps a more 'natural state', and stirs in me the desire to just do what I feel.

I also find that when I am surrounded by nature, often with no other signs of human life around it's very easy for me to relax, take things slower and focus better, whereas in the city this is a state that I have to actively try to recreate when I train. It's in these moments that I feel so far removed from the drama and endless struggle of trying to play catch up with whatever everyone else is doing it doesn't even matter if I train at all. I think that is partly why I've been training less and just enjoying myself more, because the environment I most often find myself in doesn't stimulate the same kind of response.

I may have briefly mentioned it in an earlier post, but here in Finland you can find wild berries growing almost anywhere, and a couple of weeks ago when on our way to a lake for a swim we found a nice patch of blueberries growing by the side of the road tucked into the edge of the forest. Getting to eat a freshly picked handful of berries reminded me of how strange it seems that you can find foods naturally growing and just go and help yourself, because our modern ways of living have separated us from such experiences. Plucking fruit from a tree or even catching a fish from a stream is so different from what we do when we go to a supermarket and just select whatever we want from the shelves, because immediately we have a direct connection to their origins and more input in the process of feeding ourselves and ultimately our own survival. That moment brought me right back to the feeling I first had when eating wild berries here, and it made me want to live a live where those sort of experiences and feelings were more common.

There's no other way you can truly understand what I'm talking about other than to actually go out and experience such things for yourself. And then you will understand the truth behind the cliche that we have lost touch with our environment.

Being barefoot for so long has shown me that it is one of the best ways to learn how to be more precise and conservative with movement as you can't afford to be lazy or careless, especially when training in more natural surroundings. It's my belief that it's much easier to train barefoot in the city where there's lots of flat, even surfaces and everything is more predictable. As an example, it can be very difficult to tell how stable the forest floor may be, or what sharp or loose objects are concealed beneath leaves and twigs just by looking. These are things that you only find out once you are walking or running across them. In the city my main concern is gravel or glass, or perhaps suspicious wet patches, but I think they're easier to avoid. If you take the idea behind good climbing technique - to put your hands and feet in the right positions first time, every time, and to make as few moves a possible, and then apply it to whatever you do or practice, you can develop a very useful habit, and fluid way of moving. This is something I'd like to work more on in the future.

It seems that the gymnastics rings are really catching on with more and more people getting into rings conditioning, and if you haven't yet got yourself some but are interested go to which is where I bought mine from. Currently I'm focusing on developing my core and pulling strength for front lever, as well as working towards strict non kipping, muscle ups without any forward lean. This is really the first year that I've been able to do a muscle up, as I started completely from scratch in December with jumping muscle ups and negatives, slowly following the progressions in order to build the most strength and best technique, long before I even try to do them on a straight bar again.

It's interesting looking back to not so long ago, and seeing the difference in the way I thought and approached training, and with that in mind it now also appears to me that in general Parkour training still seems to be quite a haphazard affair on the whole. I think trial and error is good for people who don't have any other options, but it's far from optimal. There may be some who don't want to train in the most efficient way because Parkour isn't about jumping the furthest or climbing the fastest, but it seems to me that the vast majority of people do want to excel at such things, and are simply not going about training for them in the best way.

Being someone who is primarily self taught when it comes to Parkour or dance I can say that the way I have trained in the past was in no way the best, but it was right for me at the time. I also believe that learning optimal techniques doesn't suddenly take away your freedom to create or do what you want, and in fact it probably allows you greater freedom to do so, as your energies aren't then wasted on trying to discover your own technique for the move you want. As an example if you teach someone the correct procedure for learning a back somersault and they follow it precisely they would have saved time on trying to iron out bad habits that may become unconsciously ingrained if they were just to go the trial and error route. The move is not the ultimate goal, so in any case why deliberately make learning it more difficult? Whether you do Parkour for fun or for some other deep and spiritual purpose, I'm sure you'd want to be able jump further, run faster and climb higher than you currently can.

Parkour doesn't become a competition by simply switching to optimal training methods, as it's your own motivations that determine what it is to you. If you're ever worried about any 'true' or 'original' meaning being lost, all you have to do is remain true yourself.

We went to a local swimming pool on Friday where there was a diving pool with two different heights from which to jump, the highest being 5 metres. Having never really jumped from anything remotely high into water I made sure that I jumped from them both. I think it was something that I would have normally avoided, but I knew that I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to face my fears again in a relatively safe setting. It turned out to only briefly be scary, but now my brain is still full of water.

I had started writing a book which is semi-autobiographical abstractical, but then I put it aside in favour of reading, and then drawing, and then I began writing a diary in Finnish. I'm a few days behind at present, but it's been going ok and I think it should help me get to grips with the language more. I'm contemplating whether or not to begin posting the pages from my book that I've finished so far, because my original plan was to upload the whole thing in one go once it was complete. But as completion dates are a rare thing around here and there's probably only so much of my handwriting and writing style that one can handle at a time, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to post it in installments, perhaps weekly. Anyway, keep an eye on my flickr page as usual.

Nothing much else to report really, unless I've forgotten something really important, in which case I won't sleep easy. I applied for a local evening job, but have yet to hear a final response, so I shall continue looking, or finding, depending on your philosophy.

It took me absolutely ages to even bring myself to begin the task of writing this, as is always the case, so forgive me for not updating sooner.

I've also been adding things to my favourites on youtube at long last, in order to highlight videos that aren't so well known and are sometimes quite random. You gotta start digging up those gems!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Resetting Standards

Rings Training

Letting Go

Having learnt early on the importance of control and deliberate movement, I have become more aware that this way of practising isn’t always beneficial to me. I feel like my desire to have every move and the conditions in which I practice under my control, has now become a limiting factor in my training. By that I mean having a choice over how, where and when I move has meant that my progression up until now has followed a path that in some ways has been the one of least resistance. Parkour is (arguably) a free discipline that allows practitioners to determine exactly how and what they practice. So ironically, when you are the one who determines your own way, it is easy to be unknowingly held back by your own subconscious ways of viewing things, and the patterns of behaviour that you may be living out and naturally gravitating towards.

When you initially start out it can be the case that everything feels unnatural and awkward, but soon we find something that we like and then spend more of our time working on it. Thus, using our likes and our strengths as a guide to what we practice creates or reinforces a way of being, a way of thinking, and a way of moving that is a reflection of those strengths, but also in a more subtle way a reflection of our fears and our weaknesses. And in this way our training supports our old beliefs, both positive and negative, instead of creating new ones.

For me the problem is that I have felt I have been too controlling, and fooling myself that I am simply ‘going my own way’, and that perhaps I wasn’t meant to do certain things, when deep down I think it has just been part of an elaborate excuse to avoid facing my real fears. This same idea can be applied to anything, and now that I look at it I can see other areas in life where I have made those excuses before.

Part of my new approach to training has been to use my fears as a blueprint for what I should be practicing, rather than what I should avoid. I have spoken about this before as being a potential method of training, but it has only recently begun to be set in motion as the primary driving force behind what I do.

Again I am unsure of what sparked this revolution inside me, but this week alone I have done things that at one point I believed would take me months to build up the courage to overcome.
I started out by climbing a tree that didn’t have any branches low enough to reach either from standing or jumping, and then climbed progressively higher until I reached the top. In my mind I was clear that by frequently challenging and facing my fear of heights, it would over time become the norm for me to be in such places, without worry. In a similar way I knew that if I climbed to a height at which I became scared, but then stopped and waited around for long enough, my fear would subside and enable me to go higher. Using this technique, and given enough time I could potentially climb to any height. The only limiting factor being my desire to confront those fears head on, time after time.

A thought that I had in relation to all this was the way that if you are travelling along a motorway at high speed without interruption, you soon become accustomed to the speed and it no longer feels fast until you speed up again. The point being that whatever you view as being normal is whatever you experience and expect to experience on a frequent enough basis. It sounds so simple that I may be a fool for writing it, but this is the idea that lead me to the belief and solution for freeing myself from my fear of heights, or any fear for that matter.

Up until this point I had it set in my mind that some people were naturally afraid of such things, and that some people weren’t, and I was just someone who was unlucky enough to be lumbered with these sometimes irrational thoughts. Now I see it as being something within my control, only if I choose to actively do something about it, instead of resigning myself to the idea that it cannot be changed.

I had spotted a branch that reached out and across the roof of some garages, and had thought about hanging from it when I first made it up into the tree, but was too afraid to even test it. After climbing down from the very top I had committed myself to making it along the branch, and although I wasn’t so nervous I was still stuck with my familiar worries, unable to take the first steps to grabbing the branch where it joined with the trunk of the tree. Ignoring or going against my fears, I eventually had both hands wrapped unnecessarily tight around the branch and gently lowered my legs to a hanging position in mid air. Immediately I felt a rush of relief as I was now aware of how irrational my fears had been, and how in fact there wasn’t anything worth worrying over.

I climbed across to the garages and then down to the ground again, the first part of my mission was over. Knowing that balancing at lower heights would seem less of a worry after being where I was, I had planned in advance to go straight to the support bar on a swing set in the children’s playground next to where I was. Once again, feeling uneasy and unsure of myself in this new situation I decided for the time being I would be ok with just crouching on the flat bar which was about 5cm wide. Shortly after I found the courage to stand up, and then upon taking my first step I said to myself that if I can step with one foot, then I can step with the other, creating a snowball of confidence. In the space of a few minutes I went from literally shaking with fear just from being crouched at that height, to walking confidently back and forth. I repeated the route a few times to solidify in my mind the feeling of confidence and the idea that it is something I am more than capable of doing.

The next day at the end of my session I walked the same route with double the repetitions this time, noticing how quickly I could walk without having to rely on looking down at my feet.
The following day that I trained, I set my sights back on what I had already planned to confront, but had ignored after an initial promising period. Without much commitment to the task I had at some stage given myself the challenge of being able to walk across the top bar of the football goal by June. I had spend a few occasions just sitting on the bar getting used to the height, once for an hour, slowly traversing from one side and back, stopping to let go with my hands and hold them above my head, in front and behind me. This time I had to push further though, knowing that I had already walked across the swings which were at a similar height, but this pole was rounded and progressively unstable towards the centre. I first took a few unsteady steps using my hands and feet, and then slowly let go and stood up halfway, and back down again. Knowing what it felt like to half stand up gave me the confidence to go further and stand completely, and eventually begin walking.

I got to a point where my confidence lacked towards the centre of the bar, and I allowed myself to fall to a waist position instead of trying to regain balance. The reason for this was that I was worried if I tried to balance on one leg leaning far out to either side I would slip off. Recognising this as just a fear and not necessarily the truth, on my next try I refused to let myself fall and did everything I could to stay up. I didn’t slip, and my confidence in my footing meant that I was more stable and therefore actually less likely to slip, and so I made it all the way to the other side. I did fall off once during that session, and to my surprise I landed safely without any worry about the fall, which was interesting considering the height was not something I would normally jump off, let alone want to fall from.
The next day I went back and repeated the route a further 5 times, gaining confidence all the time.

The most interesting thing for me was discovering that if I choose to listen to the worries I go nowhere, but if I go against them I expose them as being unnecessary and blown out of proportion. Of course there is a possibility that I could fall, but this is an obvious fact and not something worth thinking about while I’m in the middle of trying to do the exact opposite. So I have been introducing more positive thoughts and affirmations in these situations, and it is like whenever I accomplish something new I see how I am split into two different people. The voices of fear, and the actions of confidence that defy them. I am now choosing to walk in a new direction.
The good thing about overcoming and challenging these fears is that when my confidence goes up a notch I don’t have to spend hours, days or even months repeating the movement, as the actual ability or skill is already there, hidden beneath the surface of doubt.

I have committed myself to training in this way and to do things that scare me on a regular basis as part of my basic practice.

Yesterday I went back to a set of rails that I have been on a number of times before, and noticed how much my perspective and confidence on them had changed due to my training this week. It was as if they actually appeared lower, and walking on them was immediately more similar to walking on the ground, without having to spend time adjusting to them first.
I then went to a higher rail which I had never been on before as I always considered it too high, and walked easily up and down it with my new found confidence. But knowing that what I was doing wasn’t really scary, and therefore too easy, I chose a tree and began to climb with my bag still on my back. Using the same start stop method as before, I got to a point where I stayed for some time before coming down, feeling cold, but that I had sufficiently pushed myself to go further again.

Another method I have briefly touched upon in my previous training has been to choose a route and then just run it as quickly as possible using whatever methods come to me as I go along, with the emphasis on always attempting to be fast, instead of focusing on technique. The reason for this is that when I sprint or try to move as fast as I can, I get a rush of adrenaline even before I begin to move, brought on by my own anticipation. This adrenaline has already proved to be a barrier when battling fear of heights, but I also have to face it when I attempt to release control and move faster than normal. I have described this way of training as being for me possibly one of the most realistic when it comes to emulating things like real life escape or reach situations, as the effects of adrenaline are the same whether the danger is real or not.

Building upon this idea is a game I conceived some time ago, but had only ever tried on my own until training with other people this year. The idea is simple; choose a route involving as many or as few obstacles as you want, and then choose a starting and finishing point. The player has to lie down either on their front or back with arms at their sides in a relaxed position and eyes closed. The player should then attempt to relax as much as possible and think of something other than the game they are playing, and also to try and forget their surroundings altogether. Someone will then shout or clap loudly as a signal to go, at which point the player gets up and traces the route as fast as possible.
Having someone else decide when you go means that either you will be nervous with anticipation waiting for the signal that could come at any time, in seconds or possibly minutes, or you will be relaxed and then have to spring immediately into action, having to move instinctually without time to assess or sum up your movements and surroundings as usual.
Having played this game I can say that it is unlike anything I have practiced before, as you must place a certain amount of control in the hands of someone else, and get used to the feeling of just moving on command, from a state of relaxation to a brief but intense period of action. It feels like the very opposite of what I have been doing for years, and it seems to be a good way of seeing how well you can really perform when called upon. Learning to act and react quickly without the room for analysing or overanalysing the situation. Introducing a signal to change direction is just one of the ways the game can be adapted and changed to suit these principles.

Visual Motor Rehearsal
Sometimes when I imagine doing a certain movement, mostly with climbing, I physically feel sensations in my hands as if I were actually climbing. It’s usually when I see a video of someone climbing something really high or doing something that makes me nervous just by watching, and then I imagine myself in the same situation. This brings to mind the experiments in which athletes visualised exercises in their minds and the results showed that their bodies reacted as if the exercises were real.
If you think that a message has to travel from your brain to your muscles to make them work whenever you want to move, then something similar must happen if you simply imagine moving. I don’t think the brain sees much, if any difference between a thought of wanting to actually move, and just imagining moving.
It’s as if anytime we do anything, even just walking for example, we are on some level imagining ourselves taking each step immediately beforehand, but in the case of visualisation, the period between the imagining and the moving is usually a lot longer.
To be honest I haven’t done much visualisation in training, at least not of the positive kind, as it’s the thoughts of things going wrong that have played the biggest role when it comes to avoiding things. Now if we look at the other side of this, and begin to practice using our imagination as a powerful tool I think it is possible to strengthen your imagination and become more adept at using it, and in turn accomplish things that you had previously thought impossible, both physically and mentally.

I wonder whether I have ever been able to do anything that I wasn’t capable of imagining first.

I remember that when I spent more time dancing and trying to come up with new moves, I would take an idea for something and then go about seeing if it was possible by trying over and over, instead of trying to rationally analyse the physics of it for example. I think in this way my focus was more on the imagine in my mind of what I wanted to do, rather than on any thought about not being strong or capable enough in any way. I believe that if you maintain your focus on something you want instead of the obstacles in your way, you will only ever find a way of making it possible.

You have to prove your negative thoughts wrong, by acting in opposition to them.
I’ve seen people say that they can’t do such and such, without repeatedly trying, and sometimes without ever having tried at all! In those situations it is very clear how having a positive mindset can make a huge difference to what can be achieved. I have been one of those people who condemn themselves to failure before beginning, and now I feel I have come to a turning point where I can’t allow it to continue any longer, as my desire to progress is greater than my desire to stay in my comfort zone.

Einstein said: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Training with my rings has brought a lot of attention from other people in the park where I have been using them over the past couple of months, more noticeably from young teenagers and small children as they have been less reluctant to approach and talk to me. For me it’s been a great experience being able to share advice and play with groups of people who aren’t afraid to express their interest and get involved.

What struck me was the lack of basic strength and coordination in some of the boys who I met, all around the age of 16. Many of them couldn’t even do a single pull up, let alone skin the cat! The differences between children who are around the age of 5 and the older generations are easy to see. It brings me back to a point I have written about before; that as we age we become less spontaneous, active and enthusiastic, and more inhibited. And perhaps our inhibitions contribute to those other factors, leaving us less confident and out of touch with our bodies.

I thought to myself that there seem to be some fundamental things that underpin what it is to be human:

The need or desire to be physically active - to run, jump, climb, balance, explore and dance.
The need or desire to express ourselves through language, music, singing etc.

All of the physical activities can be viewed as a means of self expression, where dance is simply movement with the deliberate intent of expressing one’s self, with or without music.

Dance, or movement seems quite different when done to music, or in synchronisation with either another movement or sound. For example, jumping up and down in time to a piece of music is different from just jumping up and down, that is unless you create your own rhythm with your jumps.

I believe that everyone initially wants to do these things, but it is our conditioning and inhibitions that wear us down over time, alienating ourselves from our true nature.

I think that during our early years at school, as we are mostly introduced to competitive sports and not much else, we are cut off from the limitless opportunities to explore physically, and nurture this creativity, spontaneity and enthusiasm for movement that is our birthright. Sport seems to promote the idea of training in order to win, for some greater goal, whether alone or as part of a team. But human movement is something far greater than winning, losing and being better than anyone else.

I have fond memories of physical education as it was in my school during the late 80’s and early 90’s, with less structure and more freedom to do things however we felt. For example, I remember our teacher putting on a cassette and we got to run around and move in whatever way we felt fit the music. Strangely, we also had ‘country dancing’ lessons, which upon reflection, resembled a cross between Morris dancing without the bells and sticks, and American line dancing. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who was taught that as a child, besides the other (un) fortunate people at my school.

I would like schools and governments to do more to promote and support a wide cross section of physical activities, as it seems that the prevailing attitude of society is that there are things that are acceptable for a child to do, but not for a grown adult. I don’t believe that an adult ever truly loses their interest in such things, but rather it is hidden beneath various layers that all amount to fear in some form or another. But it is easier to avoid your fears than to challenge or even acknowledge them. What seems to have become the norm, seems far from natural or optimal in my eyes.

Meeting young kids and children has made me realise even more the importance of play, the need for everyone’s individuality to be catered for, and the similarities that we all share as human beings.

I hear people of all ages complain that there are a lack of things to do in their local area or maybe even in life in general, but I believe that people simply haven’t learnt how to use their surroundings to their advantage or enjoy whatever it is they do have. Parkour is a good example of how people are going against this trend.

Resourcefulness isn’t being stimulated in our current environment and situation, and I believe that technology breeds discontent. The more means we have for instant gratification the quicker we find ourselves tiring of our lives, as the moment we satisfy one desire, we are immediately faced with a new one. Caught in a cycle of simply looking for the means to fulfil these desires, all the while missing out on long term happiness and contentment.

Being surrounded by endless distractions makes it easier for us to avoid our real fears and be present to the underlying feelings that drive us. When you can download music for free, faster than you can even listen to it you begin to take it for granted and value it less. There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting anything for free, but it seems that it is hard for us to remain appreciative of what we have when it all comes so easy.

I think this is one of the reasons why people like to work hard in their jobs and during training for example, as if appreciation of anything can only really be achieved through blood, sweat and tears so to speak. For me there has to be a middle ground - to develop an appreciation of all things, no matter how they arise in our lives, and at the same time believe that hard work is not a necessity.
Modern living hands us everything on a plate like never before, which is good in the sense that by having access to everything we want so freely, it gives us a greater opportunity to become aware of our addictions. Instantly getting everything you desire should in theory bring with it the realisation that although you wanted all of those things, in the end it only brought you momentary pleasure, and not the real happiness that you need to fill the empty spaces in your life.

How long can you go on satisfying your addictions before the pleasure you get from them begins to diminish and you are faced with that hollow feeling?

I’ve been through that process with various things before, and it all adds to the evidence that living a simple life, one in which we can derive appreciation from simple living and simple acts, is in many ways a step forward, and not a regression as some people may suggest. The existence of ever-expanding technology in itself doesn’t mean that we must buy into it and integrate with it in order to live better lives. And at the same time I don’t believe that technology should be shunned, if anything we can choose to opt out of it in many cases.

I see no need to stand in opposition of anything, because if something doesn’t serve you in any way then you just need to find a way that suits you, even if it means doing something that hasn’t yet been done. The school system is a good example. In the UK it is a legal requirement for children aged 5-16 to have an education, but nowhere is it stated that they must attend a school establishment to receive that education. If schooling as we know it doesn’t suit you or your child then there are other options if you decide to look.

I personally don’t agree with or wish to try and fit myself to the many standardised models for human life that exist today. I don’t wish to work a 9-5 job all year round, going against my body clock and my natural instincts in order to earn money to exchange for food and other sustenance. There appears to be an unnecessary middle man involved in this process, which is money and all its associations. To me the money system is a step backwards in the history of man, and not necessarily an inevitable progression.

Nobody places the same value on anything, so for example, if you produce a painting with a few hours’ easy work, you could exchange it for something you really need, with someone who values your painting higher. This concept is easy to see when you discover how cheaply materials and labour come in order to produce the clothes we wear for instance. The fact I know how inexpensively my clothes were produced doesn’t mean that I automatically appreciate them less. A shirt on my back is still a shirt on my back, and the skills of a tailor are not something that I possess.

I believe that everyone out there has something to offer, something to exchange, a skill to utilize and a trade to be made, for something that they need in return. In theory this may constitute a job, but the problem is people are being fitted, or trying to fit themselves to jobs and lifestyles that simply don’t work for them. How many people when looking for work honestly say to themselves ‘this is what I want to do’ and then go about looking for that job, or if need be, formulating ways to create that job?

The fact is we are settling for less than we want because we believe we can’t have it.

My problem is that I need more experience trusting faith, and walking through darkness. I feel that I must see the path in order to make it to my chosen destination, but when reaching for new things, when creating new ideas there only exists this infinite space, an unidentified, uncertain future. But the unknown is only ever really one thing. Infinite possibility. Either this unknown is scary, because we fill it with all the negative, worrying possibilities that we can think of, or it is the most exciting blank canvas onto which we can sketch out our inspirations.

Once again, if we look to what has gone before, or what other people are currently doing as guideline for the possibilities that are available to us, we immediately restrict ourselves to ideas and ways of working that may not suit our needs and will only limit us in the end.
If you use your past accomplishments and failures (or anyone else’s) as parameters by which you create or imagine your future, your future will inevitably be just a regurgitation of the past. More and more I am trying to imagine and then accomplish things that I never thought possible before.
First I must dare to believe, then dare to achieve.

In some ways I’ve simplified my idea of what Parkour is to me. When I have recently been asked what I’m training, or what Parkour is I simply describe it as a combination of running, climbing, balancing and jumping. How and why any combination of those elements is used will then always be determined by the individual.

I feel that what separates the different arts is whether or not they produce a physical end product. If you take music for example, there is nothing left when the song finishes, unless a completely separate action of recording has taken place. Dance is the same; you have your physical body and the means with which to move, and when you’re done there is nothing, like there was in the beginning.
With music and dance, the art is in the action and not any product or bi-product. With still photography and film making the art seems to only be tangible through the end results.
In the past I’ve wondered what photography would be like if you were to go out and snap away at things with no film in the camera. Just releasing the shutter, knowing that you would never get to see the image again as it was at that exact moment. Would it still be photography? Would it still be art?

Coincidentally, having watched The Human Machine during the writing of this piece (as reccomeneded by Brad), what David Goggins is saying about being able to visualise himself before racing is exactly what I have been talking about. His explanation about hitting many walls during a race is very much what I have been experiencing when facing my fear of heights. He says that if you choose to leave the door closed you have essentially decided to quit, but if you open it up and then step through, everything gets reset and you can continue to push further on. In the same way, when I choose to do something scary I eventually hit a wall where I need to go higher, or challenge myself in another way in order to open up the realms of possibility. For me the battle is more obviously one of mental endurance, constantly testing the limits and my will to break them.

Something I have experienced when playing sports in the past is that when I am aware of my score and I am ahead in something like a game of table tennis for example, I underperform and find it hard to maintain my focus.
Recently I have noticed something similar when it comes to counting repetitions during training.
Knowing where I am in relation to my goal, whether it be at the beginning or close to the end, seems to draw my attention away from what I am doing. And like I discussed before, it is easy to slip into a pattern of doing things just for the sake of getting them done, and not paying attention to how and why it is you are doing them in the first place.
Although it may take hundreds or thousands of repetitions to become fully accustomed to something, that doesn't mean that we can afford to sacrifice quality for quantity at any time.
This is one reason why I favour the idea of regular training as opposed to attempting to condense hundreds of repetitions into any one session. To some extent, the more you break up such a task into smaller parts, the more you will be physically rested and fresh, and able to give your full attention to your actions.
Parkour is like learning a new language where lots of movements make up the vocabulary, which can be overwhelming if you try to learn it all at once.

I feel almost like counting certain things goes against the idea of what I am actually trying to achieve, as it's not a list of statistics about my accomplishments, but rather the actual feeling of confidence and real competence with what it is I am doing. It's not the actual number of repetitions that will determine when I move onto something else, but the shift in vision and attitude towards the task is what underlies progress.

At this point I personally don't see much that can be gained through conditioning with high reps, or doing many exercises for endurance purposes. If you intend to gain some kind of 'mental toughness' through doing hundreds of push ups for example, what crossover if any will that mental toughness have? In this example I don't think that it will serve to do anything but give you the confidence that you can repeat such a task at a later date, and perhaps push yourself further with it. But aside from that, how will it benefit you in the rest of your practice? I think that repeating something over and over will only directly affect you in relation to that particular exercise. The one thing that I think has the most crossover is training to face and overcome your fears, and fear of heights more specifically. In my experience gaining confidence at greater heights carries over into almost every aspect of Parkour.

I believe that your goals as an individual will determine what it is you need to train in order to be 'complete'. Being complete doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement or progression, but it means that you have the attributes suited to your chosen field. A sprinter is complete if the are able to sprint over a relatively short distance, therefore as a practitioner of Parkour, how complete you are all comes down to what you are training for. For me I don't think there is much benefit in focusing on endurance exercises as my goal isn't to be able to run a marathon or set the world record for sit ups. I see Parkour as being a way of training to overcome obstacles that are ever increasing in size and difficulty, and not training to pass longer and longer groups of similar sized ones. Perhaps I might reach a stage where I'm so good at overcoming these challenges that I simply need the stamina to keep going, but it seems unlikely. I think Parkour calls for high levels of maximum strength and power that enable you to quickly cover vast amounts of space that someone with less strength would not. In many cases being stronger will negate any need for having high levels of endurance, but in Parkour it seems that the opposite is rarely true if ever.

My voyage into the world of strength training has already brought me further than I imagined I would ever go, and I have even opened up to the idea of using weights, in particular learning how to back squat. I have been practising over a number of weeks with bodyweight and a barbell, working on perfecting my form and increasing my flexibility in the areas needed, with the intention of eventually adding weight once I have ironed out my physical creases. I noticed almost instantly the shift from feeling squats in my quads, to feeling them in the hamstrings and glutes as I struggled to maintain my form down to parallel.
I think that even if people don't have access to weights or wish to use anything but bodyweight, simply learning correct squatting technique will be of great benefit over time and will probably save many people from injury. There is a very good guide to squatting here on YouTube: with an accompanying blog that may also be of interest.

Not only do I have a new found love of squatting, but my interest in running has been reignited once again. In my early school days I enjoyed sprinting and long distance running among other things, but my quest to improve my all round physical well being has led me to begin almost re learning everything from scratch again. I feel that up until now I simply continued doing what I was doing without much thought given to my overall posture, flexibility and running technique. This little revolution of mine is intended to put right many things which have been neglected over many years of training. I think I believed that it was too late for me to begin again, and that I had resigned myself to being stuck with what I had and who I was. But now I feel different, and I know that it will be of greater benefit to me in the long run. I think one of the hardest things to do is to admit to yourself that perhaps your way and habit of doing things is not the most productive or efficient in relation to your goals.
I have been watching videos, reading articles and practicing techniques that relate to the pose method of running. The technique is something that I came across years ago and at the time was of little interest to me, and I believe that only now are these things coming into my life again because I am ready for them.


On a different note, over the past 3 months I have been baking my own bread entirely from scratch, and in a standard electric oven. I think I originally began baking bread because we had ran out at home, but we did have the ingredients to make some, and since then I haven't stopped. I have bought bread on only a few occasions, but bake my own at least 3 times a week; just enough for me to eat and not have it sitting around getting stale. I managed to buy 2 kilos of seeds from Holland and Barrett; 2 500g bags of sunflower, and 2 500g bags of pumpkin seeds for a total of just over £5! I have been adding them to the dough, along with various other things like grated carrot, garlic and herbs, finely chopped onion, grated spinach and tomato. It's been a real treat making my daily bread and being able to regulate what goes into it, leaving out unnecessary additives and preservatives and using a minimal amount of salt.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A story of infinite sides

Vegetarian body building - from mung beans to muscle!
I was originally planning to buy myself a climbing rope as I wanted to increase not just my pulling and grip strength but my confidence in those areas as well. At the time my first experiments in training for these goals were just simple endurance tests to see how long I could hold a straight arm, or dead hang for. I would go out and aim to reach a full five minutes of hang time in as few tries as possible. In the first week that I trained in this way and recorded my results for the first time, I saw big improvements and managed to reach two and a half minutes in a single try. There was also another benefit that I hoped to gain from all the hanging which was to stretch and help release the tension from my tight shoulders and upper back. As a side note I bought my brother a pull-up bar for his birthday and it is currently set up in the hall at our house and I find that each time I pass it the urge to do some pull-ups or to swing is hard to resist. But having access to a bar has meant that I have been able to continue hanging as an effective way to help loosen up.

I’m not sure exactly when the changes in my training began to come about, or how long I experimented on my own with various exercises, but reading discussions, books, and articles online was certainly the place where my new found interest in strength training stemmed from.

One website that I found useful for my own development was It was there that I first read about the benefits of rope climbing, and on the message boards continue to find useful perspectives on ways of training that are quite new to me. At the time Christopher Sommer who runs the website was in the process of publishing his first book titled Building the Gymnastic Body, The Science of Strength Training, and for me this seemed like the ideal tool and reference point, as I could take from it whatever I needed to design my own training program and ultimately remain my own teacher.
Extracts and exercises from the book showed people sometimes using a set of rings for the exercises, and although initially I wasn’t interested in rings training, shortly after pre ordering a copy of the book I decided that a pair of rings would be a good investment in the long term, perhaps more so than a climbing rope would have been.

After receiving the book and reading intently I went about structuring my training program, which happened to be a lot simpler than I thought. I selected exercises from each of the different areas; pulling, pressing, legs, etc. and then threw them together into a five day plan that I was to follow through the next three months, along with training of a static hold, which would be back lever in my case. The reason I chose back lever was that it occurred to me as the least enticing due to my inflexibility and inexperience of such a seemingly odd position.
I began my training at the start of December and decided on the number of repetitions I would do as I tried out each exercise for the first time. Using the training method I had chosen, the number of reps and sets of any exercise I did would remain the same throughout the entire three month period. This would mean that in the beginning everything I did would require a great deal of effort, but as the weeks went by I would adapt and become confident in each exercise by the end of the cycle.

I decided that as I was to be my own coach it would be useful for me to film my training so that I could analyse and correct my form if necessary, which proved and continues to prove a big help as it is often difficult to notice subtle differences in technique and form merely by the way an exercise feels to you. I put together a compilation of the things I filmed and saved as a way of looking back and to see my progression over the first two months. During these times I would cycle to the woods near my house and set up my rings among the branches of a tree, sometimes contending with minus 10 degree temperatures, icy winds and snow so deep that it would otherwise discourage a sensible cyclist.

One of the things I struggled with during those first three months was not doing so much as to over train, because I found that my enthusiasm seemed to greatly outweigh my ability to recover. That’s another one of the big changes that has happened to me recently, I have completely embraced this new way of training so much so that I haven’t been concerned with practicing techniques or being physically creative or expressive in the other ways. I have been dancing, but it has been more spontaneous, free and fun than it ever was when I struggled to fit everything together around my weekly and daily routines and habits.

Here's a little video I put together of my recent training as a demonstration of some of the things I've been doing.

6 x 10 seconds straddle back lever hold.
3 x 5 bulgarian pullups.
3 x 5 tuck planche dips.
3 x 3 straddle front pull negatives.
3 x 5 hanging leg lift negatives (90 degrees)
3 x 5 glute ham raises

Basic Conditioning:
3 x 75 toe raises (3 angles)
3 x 75 calf raises (3 angles)
10 dorsal pressups
15 fingertip pressups
10 fist pressups
2 x 5 wrist pressups

Another thing worth mentioning is a conversation I had with myself and consequently with a friend, which was that after years of training in how to move, and exploring things mentally and also from a spiritual perspective, I wasn’t worried about spending all my time developing purely physical strength as I feel the experiences I’ve learned from, and skills I’ve gained are not things that I will lose, at least not at any rate comparable to how quickly strength could be lost without training. I think that people can go for years without gaining a deep or deeper understanding of what they are doing, whether it be Parkour, dance, or martial arts, but once you have that understanding of yourself and what it is you do it’s not something I believe you can lose. Of course I’m sure my views will continue to change and I will continue to improve, but my fundamental understanding of things will only be built upon and not destroyed with the passing of time. These ideas are significant to me because I think that with the understanding that you will only ever improve spiritually you become free from the worries about your own physical progress, and can relax into the moment instead of almost trying to force progress.

Although I think I am at a stage where I train more often than I ever did, I feel at the same time that I am enjoying the ride more and am becoming even less concerned with what anyone else is doing. I still appreciate the things other people choose to train or spend their time doing, but I no longer feel that my own development is determined by these things as if they were reference points from which I should perceive and judge myself.

Every cloud is a silver wrapping
I watched the Jet Li film Hero for the first time the other day and it reminded me of an idea or conclusion that I have come to before from various starting points. This is the idea that behind the physical arts and disciplines the driving force or purpose is to bring the student or practitioner closer to fundamental truths, or to a higher state of consciousness or awareness about everything. As an example, in the early stages of learning the student will not be able to see anything beyond the physical movements themselves and perhaps the secondary benefits that result from training. Later the student will begin to see the relationship between his or her own mind and the movements, as well as any other actions, which eventually leads to insights into the minds of others and the way in which microcosms exist as examples of how all things in life work and interact with each other. In the later stages the student views their physical training as simply a tool or a pathway that allows them to reach this greater prize or higher purpose. At these higher stages the student is able to appreciate all the benefits that the training brings, but it has changed in perspective from a very narrow and self centred motivation to an open one of almost limitless possibility. For example, from my own experience I have over the years met and interacted with many different people because of what I choose to train, and each one has been an opportunity for both of us to learn and grow in more ways than those that are specific to just Parkour. In this example I’m talking not about those people we might consider friends, but more specifically those people that we do not get on with, who may be the sort of people that we would rather avoid. If you use difficult obstacles in order to get better at Parkour, than why would you avoid difficult situations or people when you could learn from them in the same way?

I’ve often felt that the purpose of training is to transcend and go beyond the moves to a place where movement is no longer necessary, which is the reason I’ve also thought that there will be a time when I don’t practice in the way I do now, or perhaps at all.

I just finished reading Way of the Peaceful Warrior for a second time and it was just as enjoyable as the first. In the book I found a section that talked about those same ideas I mentioned above. Socrates is telling Dan, the main character in the book who is a gymnast, that the reason why he is drawn to gymnastics so much is because it enables him to experience ‘satori’, a state of being perfectly focused in the present moment without thought. Socrates says:

“You imagine that you love gymnastics, but it’s merely the wrapping for the gift within: satori. The right use of gymnastics is to focus your full attention and feeling on your actions; then you will achieve satori. Gymnastics draws you into the moment of truth, when your life is on the line, like a duelling samurai. It demands your full attention: satori or die!...that’s why gymnastics is a warrior’s art, a way to train mind and emotions as well as the body; a doorway to satori. The final step for the warrior is to expand his clarity into daily life.”

I see the concept of satori as being relevant to many things in life, one of which is fishing. My older brother and I were introduced to fishing from a young age, unlike many of our friends, and the many generations of children that came after us. My head is full of fond memories of fishing, being out by rivers, lakes and ponds, in touch with nature and immersed in the stillness and tranquillity of the outdoors. People have often remarked that fishing seems like such a boring activity, just sitting by a lake with a rod in your hand. But it never really occurred to me that way, and now that I look back on the past 20 years or so, I see that it was like an introduction to meditation, and a glimpse of how beautiful life could be just sitting there. My brother and I both share the feeling that during those times it was as if nothing else mattered, and that we wished to stay in that state forever.

Being born and growing up in south London, I’ll remain eternally grateful to my parents for taking us out to such beautiful places, to experience weekend walks in the countryside, and for the feelings of freedom that came with each of those family excursions.

Can of bookworms
I’ve been doing a lot more reading in addition to researching training online, as I’ve been given plenty of books and have been inspired to lose myself in the writings of others once again.

Born on a Blue Day
The first book I recommend to everyone is called Born on a Blue Day, and is the autobiography of a man named Daniel Tammet.

“Daniel sees numbers as shapes, colours and textures and can perform extraordinary maths in his head. He can also learn to speak a language fluently from scratch in a week. He has Savant Syndrome, an extremely rare form of Asperger's that gives him almost unimaginable mental powers, much like the Rain Man portrayed by Dustin Hoffman. Daniel has a compulsive need for order and routine - he eats exactly 45 grams of porridge for breakfast and cannot leave the house without counting the number of items of clothing he's wearing. If he gets stressed or unhappy he closes his eyes and counts. But in some ways Daniel is not at all like the Rain Man. He is virtually unique amongst people who have severe autistic disorders in being capable of living a fully independent life. It is his incredible self-awareness and ability to communicate what it feels like to live in a unique way that makes his story so powerful. Touching as well as fascinating, Born On A Blue Day explores what it's like to be special and in so doing gives us an insight into what makes us all human - our minds.”

Daniel was also the subject of a documentary called Brain Man which you may have already seen, in which he travels to America to meet researchers and scientists as well as Kim Peek, the man Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man was based on. It’s an interesting insight into the mind of someone who seems quite different in many ways, yet I was still able to relate to much of what he says he felt and feels.

Ask and It Is Given
The second book I’ve read, and whose teachings I’ve learned more about through DVDs and videos on the internet is by Esther and Jerry Hicks called Ask and It Is Given, which is about the law of attraction. Esther appeared in a version of the film The Secret, which is about the same subject, and I had seen some time ago before being given this book.
When I read the inside cover I was immediately put off as from what I understood ‘a group of non physical beings’ going by the name ‘Abraham’ spoke through Esther, and consequently this was how the book and it’s teachings came about. Although being sceptical of that idea and the idea of channelling spirits for example, I gave the book a chance and became more enthusiastic as I read on. Although I don’t necessarily believe the ideas about where the information is coming from I have learnt that truth is truth no matter where you find it, and this was just another reminder of that fact.

For those unfamiliar with the law of attraction the basic idea is that whatever we focus upon and spend long enough thinking about is what we get in our lives, whether we focus on positive or negative.

As the book was a new perspective on life it allowed me to bring certain things into focus. I had for some time been aware of the ways myself and more particularly other people would create negative outcomes by talking about and focusing on unwanted things, but I had never considered the other side of that until after reading the book. It made me realise that if I believe people can create this negativity in their lives through thoughts, then surely the opposite would also have to be true - that people can create positive things in their lives through thought. This was something quite powerful for me and during the reading of the book I began to make small changes to my life as a result of what I read and now saw.

Around this time I had been watching films such as the new edition of Zeitgeist which lead me to videos of Alex Jones and conspiracy theories and so on. Films which had good intentions but were ultimately negative, and were only highlighting negativity and perpetuating it. This cycle is nowhere more apparent than on the internet. One question that I began to ask was what benefits if any were there to watching, reading, talking about or otherwise focusing upon anything negative? In all instances my conclusion was the same, that it benefited nobody, least of all myself. After reaching this conclusion it became easier to see how I and other people were drawn towards negativity and discussing it, perhaps out of habit and the vague idea that it might somehow make a positive difference. I took it upon myself to overhaul things even further by removing videos and articles that I had interest in, but could see nothing positive in from my huge list of favourites.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that I have lived primarily without watching television or reading newspapers and news articles for perhaps the last 5 years or so. I might watch TV if I go to someone else’s house, but each time I do I am reminded why I am glad to be without one. Because of that fact in some ways I’ve been living in a bubble, which is only apparent to me when I return to the world of television, newspapers and advertising outside of my home and my routine. This is not a bad thing though as you can only see the absurdity of it all from a perspective of having lived outside or separate from it for a significant period of time.

Cleaning up my habits and patterns of behaviour was an eye-opener because it enabled me to see how if I chose to stay focused on anything negative, the thoughts would snowball, especially if I started up a conversation about that particular subject. But at the end of it all, after all the attention and talking about a negative subject I would be no better off, and would have only reinforced my negative ideas if anything.

I found the book a very positive read and a good reminder of things I’ve been taught, learnt or even just felt and thought to myself over the years, so although the ideas may be familiar it is still definitely worth the read, and even more so if they aren’t.

One particular idea in the book rang true with things I’ve often felt but never discussed or had seen discussed anywhere else, and that was the concept that if the universe can inspire a idea within us, then the universe is also capable of bringing us what we need in order to turn that thought into a reality. For example the book talks about how fresh and alive you feel when you have inspiration, and that your thoughts are not on how you will accomplish something or the process and steps behind it, but your focus is entirely on the idea as if it were already true. This is something I’ve definitely experienced before, along with how the feeling fades once you try to rationalise or plan out and predict how it is exactly that you are going to manifest what you have just thought up. This seems to be a prominent theme, that in order to achieve or reach something you must put your faith into the unknown, the unforeseen future, and trust that by remaining focused on and in the present, you will always make it to your chosen destination.

Another issue raised by ideas in the book is that if you are concerned with and focused upon getting what you want from somewhere specific, it’s highly likely that you will miss other opportunities to get what you want, simply because they are appearing in places you are not looking or do not recognize as being opportunities. This is a critical point, as most of the time we are so concerned with fulfilling our own desires in familiar and specific ways that we often miss these opportunities for new and more rewarding experiences, involving people, places and activities we may have previously ignored. I personally have experienced both sides of this coin and the way in which it occurs as a mist clearing in the moments when you decide to take a different route and open yourself to a different viewpoint.

I found that although the film Yes Man with Jim Carey, was meant to be funny and entertaining (which it was), the concept around which the film is based is a very good example of how sometimes just saying ‘yes’ to something can make radical changes in anyone’s life. How often do you avoid situations because they are unfamiliar or perhaps uncomfortable to you at least in your mind?

Something I recognised as happening under the surface during the times I’ve delved into the science behind training and the mechanisms of the body, is that the more I read, the more I seem to become dependent upon the information. It’s as if there are two truths; the theoretical one of science, and the actual, practical truth of my own experience. And that by believing in whatever you read, you open up a scientific can of worms, containing theories and ideas, most of which we have not, and will probably never have any actual experience of. I can directly relate to what it feels like to have tired muscles for example, but I have no experience of what it is like to absorb nutrients from food, although I may be able to in some ways experience the end results.

At some point during the last year or so I got it into my head that I had to make an effort to get more or even ‘enough’ protein in my diet, which changed the way I viewed food and shopping for food. I became somewhat preoccupied with the protein content of the things I bought, whereas before I wouldn’t pay any attention to what it said on the back of the packet. I don’t think that this has benefitted me in any perceivable way, and instead it has only dulled the enjoyment and experience of food. It’s important to note that it was the idea, and not the feeling or actual experience of not getting enough protein as being truth that lead me down that particular path. How many people start taking supplements because they feel they need them and are missing out, as opposed to believing they are missing out because some expert or news article has said so?

As I’ve read and looked into this scientific approach it seemed to detach me further from what I know, into a sterile, one-sided, theoretical model of life, instead of improving the relationship with my own body. I feel, and felt then that instead of looking inside ourselves for the answers, it is easier to subscribe to someone else’s truth, even if it doesn’t benefit us as much to do so.

I began to see science as almost being like a religion, albeit quite a different one to the religions we are most familiar with. This view stemmed from the idea that the way things in life behave and appear is inseparably linked to the perceiver. Quantum physics points to the same principle, and hints that the result of any experiment may be as much due to the person conducting the experiment as it is to any other factors.

Mainstream science appears to seek only prove its own theories correct, instead of simply looking with an open mind, and it’s my belief that whether you set out to prove or disprove something, you will always find what you are looking for. Therefore science doesn’t appear so much as a set of laws and truths that have been discovered, but more like a group of interpretations that have permeated throughout society to become the truth of everyone, without question. Science seems like just another religion to me is because it appears so rigid that it’s destined to only ever produce results based upon ideas that were formed hundreds of years ago, without space for input from anyone. At the same time, I am aware that this is merely my own interpretation of science, and that it’s not a very constructive view to have.

Perhaps there is, or will be a meeting point between the theories and ideas, as well as the direct experience, all within a single human. Maybe it is possible to actually experience and be aware of the process of something such as absorption of nutrients for example?
History repeats itself

I would like to take a moment to give my perspective on a subject that seems to affect practically everyone at some point. These ideas can be applied to any situation, but it is within the context of Parkour that they have been brought to my attention again more recently.

The basic worry or concern that people seem to have is that other individuals, groups or organisations can and are negatively affecting the things we have become passionate about. From Parkour and art, to the environment and even life itself. And so we find ourselves with the feeling that we must take some action in order to protect, uphold and preserve the purity of those things in accordance with our own beliefs about how they should be. One of the things we often don’t realise at this point though, is that by fighting, campaigning and pushing against those with different opinions, we are not just attempting to change their views in order to align them with our own, but at the same time we are reinforcing the struggle and idea of separation that exists between the two. As if being caught in a Chinese finger trap, the more we try to force our way out, the more we become stuck.

Some thoughts or concerns may go like this; ‘they don’t know what it’s really about’, ‘they’re misleading people into thinking it’s something that it’s not’, ‘they’re wrong and what they’re doing is wrong’, ‘it’s not meant to be like that’. In the case of Parkour, the overall idea appears to be that both groups and individuals are misrepresenting it, and therefore the perspective of newcomers and the public will be tainted by these ideas. There are two things to look at here, the first is that no two people will have the same perspective on anything, which means that right from the conception or birth of a discipline like Parkour, those involved will all be seeing things differently, although they may have agreed on a common name for what it is they practice. This idea underlines and underpins everything due to the correlation between the way we perceive things and the way we then act or react. The implication is that no matter what we do, we are never really doing the same thing as anyone else, because our motivations and ideas that are continually present in the background of our consciousness will always be different for each individual. As an example, when I was at school my teachers appeared to be hung up on the idea that all art was to have some deep meaning or significance for the artist, when all I was concerned with was drawing pictures that were beautiful to me, and not metaphorical in any way.
Although within a group of artists, dancers or musicians there may be common ideas or reasoning between them, it doesn’t necessarily follow that those ideas are therefore fundamental or critical in any way.

To summarise, whatever you do is relative to your own ideas and not some universal truth that exists.

The second point is that we need not worry about preserving tradition or continuing to practice in the way that people did ‘originally’. Even if you disagree that everything is subjective and you believe that there is a universal truth which you know and practice, what anyone else chooses or doesn’t choose shouldn’t have any impact in relation to your own life. The reason being, that the preservation of something doesn’t lie in the hands of others, but with you and only you. It is your duty to stay true to your own beliefs, not by trying to change the minds of others, but simply by practising what you preach and passing on your views to those who are ready and willing to listen and learn from them.

Think of how much more successful we would be if we maintained our focus upon doing what it is we want and believe to be right, instead of trying to persuade other people that it’s the truth or what they too should be doing.

All it takes is one seed, one person to hold onto and nurture a concept in order for it to survive.

Something I ask myself when I’m in that place where I feel that I would like to change what people do or think is this; ‘what would I get if I had the power to change things, and would it make me any happier?’, and ‘how could we possibly live if everyone were to change everyone else to suit their own ever-changing desires?’

All anyone is ever doing is supporting what they believe is right from their own standpoint, so although what we are actually doing may appear to be two complete opposites, the driving force behind them is often exactly the same. Once again it comes down to perspective.
If instead of taking someone else’s idea and not exploring any of the possibilities themselves, people stood up for their own opinions and individuality, then maybe what we have wouldn’t be so contrived, and defined, and might instead grow faster and in more directions than what people are currently viewing as possible.

I think that it can be difficult to maintain any long term focus on what it is you feel and do, and have belief in your own ideas and methods, when only a limited viewpoint is shown. In this case I think that newcomers to something like Parkour, especially the younger ones feel an unspoken pressure to conform, and somewhat have their creativity and freedom stifled by it. For instance I’ve seen people take up Parkour with an open mind and approach, but eventually they appear to succumb to the trends and fashions of whatever it is the majority seem to be doing or practising. If a wide cross section of views and opinions are being publicly expressed and represented, then it would support and encourage people to pursue their own paths and ideas. I believe that having an honest and diverse pool of experiences, opinions, and perspectives enables people to see that they are in fact all different, even though we may appear to be practicing the same activity. Someone who has access to this wealth of information can then make better informed decisions than someone else who has only been given a limited outlook.

In my own experience, when I am passionate about something, I want to talk about it, write about it and share it with those who I care about, and anyone willing to listen. In the case of Parkour I feel that this sometimes translates as people telling others that they’re wrong, and then sometimes forming alliances with a group who share similar philosophies. The desire to be understood and heard distorts what are simply opinions into more rigid structures that conflict with each other, creating a false perspective of ‘right’ and wrong’. It’s a great feeling to be passionate about anything, and it can be an equally bad feeling to have that all seemingly thrown in your face when someone tells you that you’re wrong.

For me I don’t see expressing my opinion as telling or even subtly suggesting that anyone should think the same way I do or believe what I do, but rather, I feel that by conveying my own ideas in public I give another side to a story of infinite sides, and that people are then free to pick apart my ideas and take for themselves anything of value. To me that is the nature of inspiration and perspective. My idea is that we simply express ourselves openly about our own standpoints, and only seek to be inspired by new perspectives without trying to change anyone else’s. Play your part in the melting pot of life.

This leads me to a thought I was having; I wondered whether what I write is too long-winded or understandable, and whether it will be of any benefit to anyone, but as a friend pointed out, that isn’t for me to decide. So I am committing to writing my thoughts, and leaving it up to the reader to decide on an individual basis what is valuable and what isn’t.

The Three laws Of Performance
Most recently I finished a book titled The Three Laws of Performance as recommended to me by my dad. It appears to be centred more on the idea of improving performance within the context of business, but as I discovered, the principles within the book have far more applications than simply improving employee performance, and can be applied in any area of life, by any individual, group or organisation.
The three laws stated in the book are as follows:

1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them.
2. How a situation occurs arises in language.
3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.

As an example of the first law in action, take a situation in which you feel de-motivated for example, it could be at work, school or during training perhaps, and begin to look at and explore how that particular situation occurs to you. Maybe you feel the situation or task is too difficult, uncomfortable or complicated, maybe it occurs to you as pointless or a waste of time, or possibly you feel that too much is being asked of you by yourself or others. Take another situation in which you feel positive and optimistic, and note how well you perform in that instance.

Once we are aware that there are thoughts and ideas happening in the background as a conversation about any situation, we can then look at the second law - how a situation occurs arises in language. I’ll use an example taken from a situation that occurred recently, which may sound familiar. People had been training at a spot and there were a number of onlookers which dispersed once people began to move on and stop training. At this point the community support officers finally decided to come over and tell people to stop. One of the arguments from the police was that rails and walls were not meant to be jumped on and were there for the purpose of separating one thing from another. But as my friend pointed out, if that was the case, then the police officer should stop using the rail as a leaning post. The point here is that we give labels to things that in turn have their own associations about them; take the object ‘wall’ as an example. ‘Walls are for keeping people out, they’re made from bricks, you shouldn’t walk on them, they’re solid, you must go around them’ and so on. All of these associations exist mostly without our being aware of them, for example I would automatically take off my shoes when going into anyone’s house as from my point of view it is just what you do.

In the example of a wall, it is something that doesn’t exist outside of language, that’s not to say that there isn’t an ‘object’ there, but the labels we give that object and associations we then make with it define how we see and act towards that object. And as can be seen in the previous scenario there were two different perceptions of the ‘wall’- the way the wall occurred to the police is quite clearly different to how it occurs to anyone practising Parkour.
Another example of this as given by the book was the way in which a dog may occur to different groups. Western culture associates the word ‘dog’ with things such as ‘pet’, ‘companion’, or ‘friend’, ‘not to be eaten’, when this is not true for other parts of the world.

My understanding and experience of the second law is that in life there are only things that are ‘true’ or ‘not true’, and that the way we interpret these things is through the filter of the language we use to describe them. Yesterday I walked to the library and it had been raining on and off as well as remaining very windy. Shortly after leaving my house it began to rain again and the wind picked up. I was thinking over this concept to myself of life without language or labels, and began to look at how the rain occurred to me. ‘Rain is cold ’, ‘uncomfortable’, bad or ‘depressing’ and so on. I then stopped labelling the rain and my experience of it, and for a brief second or so I experienced the situation without words, unfiltered, as just something that was happening, neither good nor bad. As soon as that second was over I chose to label the whole experience as ‘amazing’.

The book isn’t about how to slow or stop your stream of consciousness and labelling, but rather it is about becoming aware of the process and then using it to your advantage which leads us to the third law.

The book suggests that there are two types of language, the first of which is descriptive language and the second is future-based or generative language. Descriptive language is used to describe and predict things based on the present and past experiences, whereas generative language is used to make declarations and commitments that are rooted in the future. The basic idea behind transforming a situation and how it occurs to people comes from clearing out the past and all of the unsaid ideas and conversations that people have about the situation, and then committing to, and declaring a new future that people can relate to, one which inspires them.

The book talks about every person, company and organisation having what they call a ‘default future’. This default future is formed of people’s hopes, fears, resignation, cynicism and lessons learned from past experience etc. These ideas are mostly unsaid but still communicated in one way or another, and cause people to live into the future they see coming, not the actual future they’ll get.

Will you stop that infernal racket?
One of the parts of the book that I found most beneficial was regarding what are known as ‘rackets’. A racket has four elements; the complaint, a pattern of behaviour in response to the complaint, the payoff for having the racket continue and finally the cost of it all. To illustrate what a racket is and how it works I will take this opportunity to be open and use one of my own rackets as an example. Firstly I would like to say when I originally read the book and decided to write down and go through some of my own rackets, it was a very liberating experience, as I felt I had opened myself up to truths I had not yet confronted. The reason for exploring rackets is to become further aware of the things that are unsaid, but nevertheless continue to affect us in our daily lives. Once you bring a racket to light it loses its power as they can only continue to operate when we are unaware of their existence.
Here’s my first racket:

ComplaintI’m too shy or self conscious to perform or express myself in public
Behaviour Frustration and loss of faith in self and abilities
Payoff I get to be right, I avoid criticism, I get to stay unnoticed or to blend in, I get to stay in my comfort zone, I get to remain unfulfilled potential, as unfulfilled potential is better than no potential at all, I retain some mystery about myself as people will wonder why I hold back, I get to keep the ‘shy’, ‘modest’ and ‘reserved’ labels instead of being seen as an extrovert or show-off, I stay separate from other people and groups who aren’t shy, and therefore I get to feel unique in my own way as well as self righteous, I get to keep my tricks up my sleeve and feel good about having skills but not needing to display them.
CostLoss of self expression and happiness, lack of or slowed progress, and reinforcement of the belief that I’m too shy.

I’ve often felt the cost of the racket without being aware of the racket itself, and it’s quite common for people to be aware of a complaint and way of behaving without realising that there are more parts at work behind the scenes. This is the reason for it being called a racket, as during the days of prohibition in the United States, restaurants would sometimes be fronts for illegal bars.

Most rackets are created in situations in which people are feeling helpless or unable to influence change, but once you become aware of a racket and root it out this will allow you to deal with the issue and regain a sense of power.

I think Werner Erhard was the person from whom this idea of rackets originated, and I recommend reading or watching any videos about him if these subjects interest you in any way.

Honesty is a fully comprehensive policy
I’d like to take this opportunity to explore more of my own personal rackets in a public light for a number of reasons. Firstly I feel that as long as I’m being completely honest and open with myself about myself, it then takes nothing for me to be open with anyone else, even complete strangers. Secondly, if I put myself in the position of the reader I would not only find it interesting to see the inner workings of someone else’s mind and behaviour, but I would also appreciate and be inspired by the honesty of it all. So with that in mind I will continue onto the second racket I have brought to light so far.

Complaint - I never finish anything / I never put all or enough of my effort in
Behaviour - Frustration, disappointment
Payoff - I get to be right, I get to remain unfulfilled potential, I avoid the risk of failing or making mistakes, I get to keep my tricks up my sleeve and I can justify myself by saying ‘it’s unfinished’ or ‘I didn’t try as hard as I could have,’ and I partly avoid criticism.
Cost - Loss of self expression and happiness, lack of or slowed progress, and reinforcement of the belief that I never put enough effort in or finish anything.

After disclosing this second racket I got to the bottom of something I have felt but never articulated and become fully conscious of. In both of these previous rackets one of the payoffs was to do with being unfulfilled potential and ‘keeping tricks up my sleeve’. After a while it became clear to me that behind these payoffs was the fear that if I finish things, put in all my effort and be fully expressive all the time, I would run out of ideas and creativity as if it was something to be used up. I’ve often had the exact same feeling when doing other artistic things, and feel that it may be one of the reasons why people can become protective over their creations and try to stop people from copying them. Upon reflection I can see how absurd it is to hold back from expressing myself fully, and that the feeling that I need to ‘save’ my ideas or energy is affecting me negatively and is what is really holding me back. So now my commitment is to continuously put more effort into my work, and to also feel free to express myself without fear or worry.

Over the past few days I’ve put some of my default future into words for the first time, and given tangibility to many different fears, some of which I had been aware of as niggling thoughts that would only crop up now and again. As part of this greater exploration of the unknown I also wrote down two lists; one a list of traits that would describe my real feelings about myself as a person, the other being a list of attributes that I would like be seen as or like to see myself as.

Who is Elliot? - Feelings
Too self conscious, worthless, unworthy, unconfident, shy, hesitant, incapable, not strong enough, passive, inflexible, too old, ugly, weird, is the bad guy, has good intentions but doesn’t follow through with anything, doesn’t practice what he preaches, has no faith, isn’t willing to commit, procrastinates too much, doesn’t fit in, envies the youth, remains stuck in the past, isn’t very intelligent, doesn’t belong anywhere, is still depressed deep down, isn’t very wise or enlightened.

Who is Elliot? - Projections
Laidback, calm, at peace, youthful, wise, compassionate, understanding, patient, intelligent, sensible, caring, grounded, helpful, strong, creative, modest, humble, nonchalant, independent, is the good guy, is happy and carefree.

It’s important to remember that neither of these lists is necessarily true, as there are no doubt people who have experienced me as any combination from both lists, but also looking objectively at the descriptions, I have at least momentarily lived the projections as if they were real, i.e. they matched up with what I felt inside at the time.

I just thought to myself that it is easier for anyone to be honest about their feelings, than it is to be honest about their projections, rackets and games that they may play. From my own point of view this is because we can say that we have no control over our feelings, whereas rackets and games seem to come from a part of the mind that is more conscious and aware, and therefore can be held accountable and responsible. It also appears that if we feel one thing and then project another, owning up to it equates to being dishonest or lying, or even worse, having lived a lie up until this point. Admitting even to ourselves that we have rackets or play games, amounts to the idea that ultimately we have more control over our lives than we have fooled ourselves into believing, and that we are the only holders of all the keys.
This is part of what is talked about in The Three Laws of Performance when they suggest that in order to create a new identity, one we wish to live into, the old one must first be erased by causing an ‘identity crisis’. Only by exposing all of the unsaid feelings, thoughts and issues can the illusions be shattered and the space be created into which a new future can be written.

It is also mentioned that particular circumstances at times in our lives cause us to make decisions, mostly unconscious, about who we are, therefore dictating how we were to act in the future. Most of these incidents occur at a young age, although it’s still possible to have events shape your life later on. As an example, at around the age of 10 a girl in my class who I really liked said I was too short to be her boyfriend, as she and many other people were taller than me. From that point onwards I remember feeling as a child that I wasn’t good enough because of my size and that I needed to do something about it. Although in this instance I don’t think it caused me to try and change myself physically to compensate, I do think it may have had an effect on how I behaved towards girls from that point on. Perhaps if I couldn’t be tall or big enough, then I would try to become more intelligent, funnier or more helpful.
Another example that also comes to mind is that as I got older I became aware that girls would only ever call me ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’, which was frustrating because I didn’t want to be either of those things. ‘Cute’ seemed like a good description for a basket of kittens or puppies - not the sort of boy any teenage girl would want to be with. So I felt in my mind that I had to shake the labels, and ‘become’ someone else somehow.

These are the kind of events that lead to us trying to compensate by changing the outside appearance of our lives, all the while harbouring contradictory feelings and ideas. Upon writing about this idea of living a double life it became apparent to me that this seems to essentially be part of the same idea behind law of attraction, and the process of allowing into your life the things you have asked for. Law of attraction states that even though you may be asking for something with all your intent, if you continually feel the lack of that which you ask for, the discord between the two keeps you from being able to receive whatever you are requesting. In the same way that your feelings about who you believe you really are will cause you to create a life that is different from the one you want and project. Sometimes the desire to be or feel a certain way is so strong that we believe, or maybe fool ourselves into believing that it’s the truth, when deep down in the unsaid our fears and worries still exist to hamper our real progress.

Observing perhaps for the first time, that my feelings and projections about who I am were often two completely different ideas, it was more evidence of the huge gap between the life I want to live and the life I appeared to be living. In fact it became clear that I had been living at least two lives. It was also apparent that the unspoken worries and negative ways in which things occurred to me was one of the driving forces behind my actions, as no matter what I projected or how successful I appeared to anyone else, the feelings of failure, worthlessness and lack of confidence would still remain.
Through these perspectives I can now see how I had been creating my future out of things that I didn’t want, and things that appeared as inevitable to me. Realising that neither what I feel inside, nor what I project as an image of myself is ‘real’, set in stone, defined, or even destiny helps pave the way for a life that is naturally fluid instead of constantly being hampered by unsaid issues that may otherwise go unnoticed.

What Is My Default Future?
I’ve divided my default future into two parts, one for the future of my physical body and activities as they’re an important part of my life and therefore my worries, and the other part of my default future relates to everything else about the life I saw coming.

My body will age prematurely, I will have long term joint problems, problems with my knees will prevent me from doing the things I wish to do, inflexibility, no more handstands, never achieving front or side splits, no power or speed, poor posture and associated problems, unable to run or use all my strength, broken bones (I’ve never broken or even fractured anything - touch wood), weak legs, bad teeth, deteriorating eyesight, permanent frown or unhappy looking face, problems with reproductive system, cancer, damage to hearing, flat feet, unable to jump or land well, unable to tumble or spin, imbalanced muscles, poor digestion, weak bladder, lack of stamina and coordination.

Non Physical
Lack of friends or close relationships, unhappiness and depression, lack of money, having to work in crap jobs, lack of opportunities to live a dream life, having to sell my entire record collection, no stability or permanent residence in Finland, never speaking fluent Finnish or improving, being shy and reserved, being scared of heights or worried about injuries, being unfulfilled potential and having wasted ideas and dreams, separation or divorce, not improving in the things I love like Parkour, dance and other arts, becoming a cliché preacher not practitioner, losing intelligence, becoming stuck in the past unable to relate to young people or modern ways and ideas, being an outcast or recluse, loneliness, bitterness, resentment, no true self expression, not travelling and getting to explore and experience other parts of the world, never really getting to know friends or family, not living a life of peace and higher consciousness.

I write this next part with the intention of closing a chapter in my life and putting things into more of a context for those people with whom I’ve never discussed these personal issues.
Beginning at the start of my teenage years right the way through until around the age of 23 I suffered from depression that seemed to peak between the age of 19 and 21. For the majority of that time I the only person who I shared this with was the girl who I would later marry, but for the most part I was living in my own world, trapped inside my own head and negative thoughts.
At the worst of times I was frequently suicidal and went through a period in which I cut myself, but eventually made it to counselling, then some time later a doctor who referred me to a psychiatric nurse. I was prescribed anti-depressants which I took for a short while before I felt like I had made a mistake, and decided I’d rather remain depressed than have to rely on any drug to live a normal life.
A number of times I asked myself what was the feeling of not wanting to let go of this depression, and what did I stand to gain from remaining in this state. It’s only years later that I can see things with clarity, when being depressed was like living in darkness in many ways. I’m not sure when I began to turn my life around, or even how, but I know that in recent years those old issues and feelings have melted away quietly as if they were never there. That time in my life has served its purpose, and I feel I have learnt all I needed to from it.
There were moments when I had the insight that it was necessary for me to experience depression and the power of my own mind, and that when I was ready to move on I would, and not a second sooner. This is something I believe to this day; that you will only learn and progress when ready, and that wherever you are at this very moment is perfect for your own personal growth.
For the sake of completeness I wrote out as best as I could my depression racket, from my current perspective, as another, possibly more extreme example of how rackets operate below the levels of consciousness, and can keep us trapped in patterns of behaviour that are ultimately destructive.

Complaint - Nothing in life is going the way I want
Behaviour - Depression
Payoff - I get to be right, I avoid facing situations and people, I get sympathy, I get to feel secure in the predictability of my life, I have something to hold onto and retain a sense of self, I get to feel loved by those who show they care, I get to relate to others in similar situations and feel part of something, I get to feel different, I have a scapegoat for not doing all of the things I really want to and avoid taking responsibility for my actions as well as for the state and direction of my life, I have something to write about, and a unique perspective to write from.
Cost - Loss of self expression, happiness, physical and mental health, loss of real love, friendships, experiences, and empowerment, and reinforcement of belief.

Don’t be a martyr
I’ve become increasingly aware that sometimes we sacrifice happiness in order to be right about something. If you take the examples of any of the rackets given already, or your own if you’ve discovered one, one of the payoffs is being right, but the cost is the reinforcement of the belief behind the complaint. It’s a common occurrence that people would rather be right about a situation, and therefore continue to perpetuate more of the same, than be open to change and allow or even try to create a different set of circumstances.

This cycle of complaints, behaviours, getting to be right, and then having the belief reinforced is something that can also be seen from the perspective of the law of attraction. The law of attraction says that we get more of what we think about, or more particularly, we get what we feel. So if we are observers of a situation in which we feel powerless, and our thoughts are tangled up in how negative it occurs to us, then we will only maintain those conditions and create more of the same feelings. Law of attraction suggests that in order to turn things around we would have to look for the positive aspects of the situation and direct our focus and energies towards them instead. I see this as a shift from being a passive observer, to taking on the role of creator and having a say in the direction that your life takes instead of being at the mercy of events outside your control.

Let her be
In the same way that how a situation occurs correlates to performance, the way in which a person occurs to you correlates to how you then treat and continue to observe that person. As we know, first impressions are significant in that they tend to be the basis of how someone occurs to us, especially if we don’t have any prolonged or regular interaction with that person from which our views can change. It could be said that the way we perceive anyone can be as much about our own perspective as it is the actual characteristics or facts about that person. Therefore if we don’t greet people with an open mind, as is quite often the case, then our relationships with anyone will be shaped and skewed by our own biased perspectives and the negative ways in which people occur to us.

Supposing that you meet someone for the first time and they occur to you as being irritating for some reason, because of that occurrence you will react to that person in such a way that expresses that belief, and in turn they too will react to your verbal and non verbal communication of your feelings in a manner that confirms or agrees with your original thought. Unless you step in to stop the cycle at some point, it is unlikely that the person will ever occur to you in a new light, because no matter what they do, or how they act, your view of them will always be through the filter of the idea or occurrence of how that person is to you. If someone is irritating to you, it’s most likely that your mind will overlook the instances in which they do not appear as such, in favour of focusing on and supporting your initial beliefs.

This poses a bit of a dilemma, as the suggestion is that we need to allow people and give them the space in which to change and be constantly fluid, as part of the problem lies in our own occurrences. However, we are very much used to the idea, or more accurately, it seems to be the prevailing idea we are conditioned to think, that people have a personality which defines who they are, and although personalities can change, it isn’t something that happens very often, or very drastically. It is also an unspoken belief that we are merely observers and have no bearing on the ‘personality’ or behaviour of a person. We feel that what is, just is, and may as well be set in stone. But if you take a moment to examine any complaint you have about the behaviour of someone specifically, you may again be able to see that there is a racket at work, and that among other payoffs, you get to be right about that person always acting a certain way. It then follows that it is your racket that is supporting the continued behaviour or occurrence of that person. It is then also true that if we believe someone to be a certain way, for all intents and purposes it may as well be the ‘truth’.

Not only do we need to give people the opportunity to change, and that doesn’t mean waiting for someone to do something other than confirm our beliefs, but we too need to give ourselves the chance to be, act, and live a different life. Sometimes I feel that people continue to live or act in a certain way that doesn’t benefit them, only because they feel some strange obligation to, simply because some time ago in the past they made a statement about who they were and feel they must go on living it. For example, I’ve had friends try to hold me to things I said in the past as if I should still be living by them now, and not allowing for the fact that what I said one day might not be true the next minute, let alone years later. I believe that as long as people are entirely open and honest with themselves and others, the natural course of things means that everyone will be in a constant state of change, instead of trying to conform to this rigid blueprint we call ‘personality’. There is nothing wrong with being in flux, but it seems like it breaks the moral code to be anything but predictable and ‘stable’, as if by containing life in an attempt to nail down certainties, we can live without worry or complication. When it seems that by creating these boundaries and parameters in which to live, we cut ourselves off from the infinite possibilities in life, and ultimately shoot ourselves in the foot.

The ideas found in The Three laws Of Performance have huge implications when applied to the education system for example. Instead of school life consisting of being taught things that the students have little interest, and even less say in, the new model would be a way of actively engaging people of all ages in pursuing subjects that inspire and benefit them in both the short and long term.

As soon as I finished the book I had already begun to imagine the effect of applying the three laws to the teaching, learning, and growth of Parkour. I imagined what it would be like for a teacher to explore with the students on an one to one basis, their own default futures and the unsaid, in relation to their physical bodies, abilities and practice of Parkour. Bringing each person’s own specific fears to light so that the training and teaching given will reflect the best methods and focus for each student. If for example you are aware that your student has a particular fear, or idea that it is inevitable they will not improve in a certain area, then those fears and issues can be explored and resolved before the student then decides how he or she wishes to progress in future. Giving each student the necessary tools in order to consciously shape their own futures is paramount in my opinion when it comes to teaching any subject. Ideally, teaching would involve theory in terms of philosophy and concepts, and then the practice and application of those concepts, to both the physical and non physical areas of life. It seems somewhat one sided if a student learns to jump, to move, and to be strong, if along the way they gain no understanding of why it is they jump, or the relationship to their practice and the rest of the world in the bigger scheme of things.
I’ve already given my two cents about teaching on the Parkour Generations forum, but if you are actively teaching at the moment or intend to go into teaching at some point in the future, then I highly recommend reading the three laws, even if you choose not to teach them.

The Handbook To Higher Consciousness
Another book that I want to talk about is one that I was first introduced to possibly more than five years ago called The Handbook To Higher Consciousness - The Science Of Happiness written by Ken Keyes Jr. I feel the teachings within the handbook have had the biggest effect on my life, regardless of how much I have actually committed myself to actively using them. I vaguely remember that the first time I read it, although there were ideas and insights that I connected with, I didn’t take much of it in or begin to practice any of the methods that the book proposed. But, the seeds had been sown, and sometime later I picked up the book again and read from a new angle with the intention to put ideas into action. Since then I’ve read the book a number of times and have dipped in and out of it when I felt like I needed guidance, each time further solidifying the teachings in my mind.
Repeated readings were recommended by Ken, for the purpose of understanding the processes and concepts on a deeper level. I found that memorising key extracts and principles enabled me to actively practice them with less effort, especially as I gained more and more direct experience of the ways in which they worked.

The book describes 7 levels or ‘centres’ of consciousness through which life can be experienced, made up of 3 lower centres, and 4 centres of higher consciousness. The first 3 centres in order are; the security centre, the sensation centre, and the power centre. In these centres we can never get the feeling of ‘enough’, whether it’s enough security in the form of money, food or material goods, enough nice sensations, or enough power through winning arguments or proving that we are superior to others.

In the 4 higher centres, the love centre, the cornucopia centre, the conscious awareness centre, and the cosmic consciousness centre, life is always experienced as being ‘enough’, and we no longer expend our energy in attempts to change the conditions of the outside world in order to conform with our programming.

As stated in the handbook, the fundamental idea is that it is our addictions and the ways in which our minds have been conditioned to think, that is the source of our unhappiness or our inability to love unconditionally and live a peaceful life. Addictions are basically defined as being programmed expectations, demands, desires and ‘necessities’ that we tell ourselves we must have in order to be happy. This idea is somewhat contrary to how most people in western culture at least, have been brought up to pursue their desires and wants, using the emotions as guides in order to find fulfilment. Although counter intuitive, this is a pivotal understanding that must be made in order to progress into the higher realms of consciousness.

We can be addicted to things negatively or positively, for example being addicted to your personal possessions (positive), or being addicted to not doing the washing up (negative). Something that we avoid is just as much an addiction as something that we desire. A simple example of an addiction and its effects that people should be able to relate to is the addiction to not having your belongings taken without permission. At first it may seem like a strange idea to grasp that you can have such an addiction, but as you read on hopefully it will become clearer, and even more so if you begin to delve into the book yourself.

Supposing that we have the above addiction and that our wallet is stolen, feelings of anger and resentment would be automatically triggered without our direct input, and we would be at the mercy of our emotional state. It is not the event itself that has caused the feelings, as the situation it just what it is, but it is the addiction and inside programming through which the scenario is perceived that triggers the emotions. As in The Three Laws of Performance, it is the language and unspoken ideas at work, i.e. the thought or addiction that you must not have your things taken which alters how the situation occurs and how we are then motivated.

Due to the fact that there are so many outside circumstances over which we have no control, the nature of life is that sometimes our addictions will be satisfied and sometimes they will not. Anyone caught up in merely satisfying their addictions will seek to try and limit these outside factors and therefore improve their chances. But these attempts usually bring further addictions, and as one is satisfied another one takes its place. It seems clear that if you cannot control these other factors, then it must be from within yourself that the changes come.

Many people will struggle to come to terms with the idea that in fact the outside world is not responsible for our own state of happiness, as we are so used to thinking and telling ourselves things such as ‘this situation makes me angry’, or ‘this person irritates me’. Until you remove yourself from the process of blaming these other circumstances or people, you will remain trapped in the illusion and be unable to feel the huge liberation that comes from taking responsibility for your own happiness.

You might be able to see a racket at work here. If for example your complaints are about the world not being the way you want, and you act upset because of it, one of the many payoffs you get in return is being able to absolve yourself from any responsibility about the way you feel, but the cost is always happiness in its many forms.
It just occurred to me that this concept of taking responsibility was probably the most influential idea in me changing the way I act and perceive my own life. Once again, the idea of changing your focus and becoming a player of the game instead of an observer with no power.

The law of higher consciousness is: love everyone unconditionally, including yourself.
Before I had ever heard of the term ‘unconditional love’, my experience and perception of love was that it was romance; falling in love, and at times feeling emotional hurt. Two sides, positive and negative combined in a single experience; feeling good one minute and then bad the next as soon as something doesn’t go the way you want. Having to earn or maintain this ‘romantic love’ with all of the conditions that each individual has placed on it themselves.

Until I began to experience real love for myself and other people, I was stuck with love that was as conditional as my own happiness, dependent upon the world conforming to my own expectations. It’s no surprise that most people would learn to love in this way as we are unconsciously taught it from a young age. Being shown by our parents that they get upset with us if we behave in a certain way, being punished for doing things that don’t conform to their models of how we should act, and basically being subject to the rules and regulations of the addictions our parents had when we were growing up.
Our parents would have been handed down addictions from our grandparents and so on, back into time in a seemingly endless chain. This is how I see the idea of ‘the sins of the father’ - one generation or even one single person passing on their addictions and habitual behaviours onto the next. I see this as being a doubled-edged insight. If you become aware of this continuing cycle, you can then have the power to stop it through your own continued actions, and at the same time you can begin a different cycle, one of passing on good vibes, good deeds, love, compassion and understanding in a similar fashion.

If we are living through our addictions and someone or something upsets us, we then carry those feeling around with us and pass them onto the people we come into contact with. If someone pushes us, we push back but harder, setting off a chain of events where people and their bad moods bounce off of each other in all directions, to the point where not only did we get upset because of something, but so did countless other people. The chain of events and people which these energies could pass through is potentially infinite, as long as people are reacting to their addictions, instead of acting with love and acceptance. It’s difficult for me to emphasise how fundamental I see the idea as being to not only the problems, but also the solutions for actual world peace.

If they make nuclear weapons we must have twice as many, if they attack us in the streets we will learn to fight, if they impose inhumane laws upon us we will riot in the cities, if they take away our freedom we will take their lives. Each action being the justification for another, without end.

Instant Consciousness - Now available in a clear gel
An ‘instant consciousness doubler’ as provided by the book is to “expand your love, consciousness, and your loving compassion by experiencing everything that everyone does or says as though you had done or said it”. One of the reasons this can be so effective is because we often live and judge people by double standards, allowing ourselves leeway in situations where we might criticise others for the exact same behaviour. It also gives us the understanding that our actions (however enlightened or successful) are all driven by the same basic impulses and needs for things like love, acceptance and to be understood, even if we haven’t been in the exact same circumstances as another. It is the very essence of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Without this perspective we may not be able to see that we are doing things and acting in the same ways that we criticise others for acting. You might label someone as ‘lazy and untidy’, but call yourself ‘relaxed and laid back’, or call someone ‘fussy and self centred’ while you are ‘particular and independent’. These are all things that I try to bear in mind when interacting with other people, particularly in scenarios where it may appear that the actions of someone are far removed from what we ourselves do or consider to be right.

One experience that I often get when I effectively use any of the methods I have learned, is that what previously appeared to be a clear picture and perception of life, is hazy in contrast to what I now experience through new channels. It’s difficult or impossible to describe with words, but achieving greater clarity, even if just for a few moments, literally occurs as if an actual fog has been cleared from my vision. Like wearing glasses for the first time, having a different viewpoint with which to compare you old one can be quite shocking. What you believed to be clarity begins to pale in comparison to the new ways of seeing things. This is the true meaning of what it is to be disillusioned - to have the illusions destroyed and exposed as a facade.

Natural Selection - low fat or decaf?
Recently I read a short article about the misconception surrounding evolution that it is ‘survival of the fittest’, in that the most physically healthy, strong and well-adapted are the ones who will survive to reproduce and pass on their genes due to those characteristics. But the theory of evolution actually suggests that it is not merely physical prowess or lack of it that contributes evolution, but it is also the ability for individuals to get along with each other and cooperate that also plays a role.

In terms of human evolution at this point, we seem to be on a completely different level to that of the rest of the natural world and the animal kingdom. Animals cannot simply be nice to each other in order to survive, but the same cannot be said for humans. People prosper in terms of financial success and material wealth, but it has little bearing in this day and age, on their ability to survive. People who are physically inactive and lead unhealthy lifestyles go on living due to advances in healthcare, cleaner and less life threatening conditions compared to our ancestors, even those who were alive just 100 years ago. When all manner of foods are available at local supermarkets that we can simply walk or drive to, to then select whatever it is we want and literally have it handed to us on a plate, the actual need to compete in order to survive seems to have died out.

But what do we then turn our attentions to if we are no longer preoccupied with the basic needs associated with our physical survival? Surely, once we advance up a level we should look to things beyond mere survival and ‘living day to day’ to prosperity perhaps? We may sometimes react to people and situations as if they are a threat to our actual security, but I feel we need to go beyond those ways of thinking and acting. Having so much opportunity in front of us I believe the natural course of action is to begin improving our lives in ways other than materially or even academically, as no matter how much we appear to advance in terms of technology or education, the relationships we have with ourselves, and consequently with the growing number of people around us, leave a lot to be desired.

One of the valuable teachings in the Handbook To Higher Consciousness is honesty, and being willing to communicate our deepest thoughts. This doesn’t equate to giving a running commentary on our stream of consciousness or inner monologue, and neither does it mean that we should go around name calling and accusing people just because they are thoughts in our head. What it does mean is that we should form the habit of exposing the unsaid, being upfront about our fears and worries and giving our true, unbiased opinions when asked, without blame or emotion. For example, when I have found myself in an uncomfortable situation in the past in which I did not know what to say I simply expressed my feeling and worry about not having anything to say. Communicating in this way allowed me to be liberated from the heavy feelings that came with holding onto the thought and the worry of having nothing to say. Even if what you express is just your fear of expressing yourself, the resulting effects can make a huge difference.

There have been occasions where as soon as I expressed my feelings about how I felt, or how a particular situation occurred to me, the feelings began to immediately disappear as the words left my mouth, as if letting out the words was entirely the same as letting the emotions themselves go. This is one of the amazing effects of honesty and good communication, that thoughts and feelings do not remain trapped inside, bouncing around, getting bigger, being twisted and weighing heavy on our consciousness. It is such a small change to make in the way you interact with people, but it is understandable why it would be considered quite a scary venture to undertake. But the thing is, once you begin being more honest with other people, not only can you be more honest with yourself, but the whole process reinforces itself, making it easier for you to be honest with people in future interactions. Instead of perpetuating lies, dishonesty, or being guarded and closed with your true thoughts and feelings, communicating openly in this way is an upward spiral that serves to bring clarity and simplicity into your life, in place of ever increasing complexity. When the unsaid is communicated we become freed from the web of words and associations that surround them, giving us more opportunity to see the facts of the situation without label.

So far the Handbook to Higher Consciousness has been the most comprehensive, influential and inspirational book I have ever read. Anyone reading with an open mind and practising with an open heart will benefit enormously from the wisdom contained in this book. As it was originally printed in 1972 if you want to get yourself a copy of the book Amazon is the place to look, which is where I got mine second hand, but in perfect condition.

Now and again
Although I am yet to read it again, I recently bought myself another copy of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, as I lent my copy out many years ago, never to see it return! Now the book is a bestseller and is praised by the likes of Oprah Winfrey (if that makes any difference to you), but now you should be able to pick up a copy for about £4.

Another book I read again recently was Illusions: Adventures of a reluctant messiah, a nice little story based around the same concepts of life and its illusions and the search for something greater in the unknown. Nothing too taxing, just a pleasant read and nice reminder that things are not always, or perhaps ever what they seem.

Onto a slightly different book now, which was probably first recommended to me about half my lifetime ago by my mother. Quite famous as far as books go, although probably not as famous as Harry Potter, The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery is the story of a boy who appears on earth from some far off planet. He lands in the desert, where the narrator of the story has crash landed his plane and is unable to repair and fly away again. Unfamiliar with life on earth, and the strange behaviour of other people, the story revolves around the little prince and his interactions with an alien environment and alien ideas.

One of the reasons this book is suitable for readers of any age is that depending on how old or from which perspective you read, you will experience the book in different ways as it is filled with metaphors and encounters that are multidimensional. Strangely enough, I didn’t actually read the book upon first recommendation, as I quite literally judged a book by its cover, but the first reading and consequent second reading some years later were still very different from one another. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time, and while I’m still on the subject of books, East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon is one of the more memorable books from my childhood, as the illustrations in our particular copy were so beautifully detailed they are almost etched into my mind. The tale is a Norweigian take on an old Scandinavian story, and was also made into a film titled 'The Polar Bear King'. If you’re in the library at any point, sneak into the kids section and see if you can find it.

Journey to nowhere
It seems apparent that we try to find happiness through things, instead of in them. Viewing things as a means to achieve happiness, instead of being happy just doing them and enjoying the journey towards our goals. After all, as soon as we reach one goal, it will be succeeded by another, and another, and so on until we die. Therefore, if we do not enjoy the journeys that lead us to these particular goals, the larger part of our efforts seem somewhat wasted. From my standpoint, it seems almost useless doing anything if we do not enjoy the process and all of its parts, instead, forever looking forward to some final reward, achievement, or accomplishment that is expected to result from it all. That being said, I will be the first person to stand up and admit that I live my life in such way, as if deep down I still feel that I can find true happiness through my actions. The way it occurs to me is as a sense of urgency, a pressing feeling that I must get done whatever it is I am engaging in, as if then and only then can I relax. But the truth is, no matter what I get done, there is always more to follow, so either I try to rush through things like a rat on a running wheel; getting nowhere fast, or I surrender my full attention to whatever I am doing. This applies to large tasks right down to the smallest of things that we would not even consciously consider to be tasks, such as waiting for the bus.

Each situation presents us with something to be done, whether it’s being focused on the work we do at school in or in our job, or simply enjoying our wait for the bus. To overcome the idea and the sometimes overwhelming feeling that we must be somewhere else, doing something else. We have all been victim to this illusion at some point or another during our lives.

A few days ago I proposed a deceptively simple challenge to myself; to only act when fully focused in the moment, and to avoid acting when I feel I am simply trying to get things done. It’s a straightforward task, but one from which there is no rest or place to hide, as there is always something to distract your attention, and there is always something to which attention must be paid. To be perfectly honest, I feel that in order to be successful I would have to dedicate all of my energy to this game, but the irony of that statement is that by paying full attention to anything, you will only be rewarded for your efforts, as focusing completely on any action and enjoying the journey is its own reward.
The cost of paying attention is disillusionment!

You may wonder what lies beyond higher consciousness or enlightenment, but in some ways the idea of enlightenment seems misleading. Whenever you reach a deep understanding or come to any conclusion about the meaning of your own life, after those insights life goes on, and in many ways it does so as if nothing had ever happened. It is said that when you reach enlightenment everything changes, and nothing changes. This is because although you will be able to see and experience the world with a deep understanding, you still remain as a physical being, with tasks to complete, dishes to wash, and buses to wait for. The endless list of things to do hasn’t grown any smaller, only now we can engage in them with our full attention, with each action being as equally important and enjoyable as the next. Just imagine, if we were able to enjoy everything, then we would never feel the need to race through life in an attempt to get to the next activity more quickly.

Gone with the wind
The law of attraction teaches an ‘attitude of gratitude’, to continually look and give thanks for all of the things in life that we can appreciate, in order to create more of the same. I believe that this is the origin of things like saying grace before a meal, as well as traditional celebrations such as harvest festival. To support the idea that no matter how bad life may seem, there are always things to be grateful for, if we only care to look.
Instead of losing something only to be faced with the feeling that you took it for granted, we should appreciate everything we have in any moment. An analogy that arose out of a real situation came to me as I sat on the train during an unexpected visit to Newcastle last year:

As I watched the different scenery pass by outside the window, not knowing what I would see next or how long a particular feature would remain a part of that scenery, I felt that it was a perfect metaphor for life itself. Embarking on a finite journey, one where we begin to predict what will come next, and in turn take certain aspects for granted, all the time not really knowing what the road has in store, or when the forests will vanish from view, finally along with our own reflection in the window itself.

Public relations and meditations
There was a time some years ago, when I would regularly travel up to London by bus to get out of the house and be on my own just walking around. At the time I felt separate from the world for a number of reasons, and this separation felt even more apparent during these visits to the centre, full of people moving as if part of some larger, unseen, perpetual process.

Crowds of people moving like water through the arteries of London streets, no one with any real direction, just loosely being carried along in the current of feet and flurries of hurried body parts. Many times I’ve been a drop in that fast flowing river, unaware, and sometimes vaguely conscious of those mysterious forces at work. I asked myself over and over; ‘what is this compulsive and nagging feeling? What is it that compels and propels us?’ An uneasy feeling in, and between each person seemed to exist that was drawing each into his or her own world, where the priority was to just get what you want and then get out as quickly as possible. Becoming caught up in this liquid mass I realised that the solution to the driving feelings, and therefore slowing down to truly experience and enjoy the world was actually just purposefully slowing down. By deliberately walking slower and sometimes as slow as I could I was able to feel more relaxed, and in turn calm my racing thoughts to become more conscious of them and their effects. Moving physically slower and more deliberately was the ends, but also at the means by which to become calmer and more at peace.

Just yesterday while tracing a very precise route for improving confidence and foot placement I recall being frequently distracted, as where I was training was opposite a police station and on the corner of two connecting roads. I made deliberate attempts to only move when I felt I had a grip on my focus, and stood relatively still if I was distracted by the sound of passing or waiting cars as well as the sight of people approaching. For example there were moments when I could hear through the sound of a car’s engine whether it was slowing down, speeding up or just stationary. Simply being aware of these subtle differences told me that I wasn’t focused enough on what I was intending to do, therefore I didn’t jump. It was at times very difficult, and I found that I made most of my jumps when everything around me was relatively quiet and motionless.

This way of training seems directly like meditation to me, because every time I lost focus my thoughts would want to wander onto something else like how unfocused I was for example, but like during meditation, the way I had to regain control was to just allow the thoughts to pass without holding onto any of them. I’ve always believed that I train with a fairly high level of concentration, but this new method was something entirely different. It made me realise that much of my practice was and had been with far less than optimal focus. Once again it is evident that seeing things from a new perspective can make old ways and views seem quite inefficient or incomplete in comparison. This method has also shown me that the majority of my own training has probably been more for the sake of completing the challenges and doing the repetitions than it has been about the focus on any one thing at each stage of the way. I’d be surprised if anyone else could say that their training has been any different, as I feel that part of the reason why people are driven to spend so much time training is because they have yet to reach a stage whereby they are able to focus their attention in such a way as to enjoy each moment.

This leads me to my next point; if Parkour is a physical method for learning mental concepts, to allow us to move and live efficiently due to the carry over effects, then with the amount of people taking up and practicing Parkour, surely we would be seeing a rise in the number of content and enlightened people, along with the masses who seem to be progressing physically? This is something I’ve probably said before, but if we really care about the mental side of things, and many people claim that Parkour is more mental than it is physical, then why is most of the focus still on the movements, whether we consider them to be flashy and unnecessary, or efficient and effective? For me this is a personal issue more than anything, as I realise that until the mental and spiritual progression is more attractive to me I will continue to pursue the physical, and what I believe will bring happiness. Because I’m aware of my own battle between wanting to progress in both areas, but finding it easier to be more physical, hopefully it will give me the insight needed to understand the actions of anyone else in a similar situation.

Paradoxically, for many years in the back of my mind there has been the worry that if I focus primarily on living a peaceful life and realising higher states of consciousness, then I will no longer spend so much time engaging in physical activities because the need or feeling of need to will no longer be there. And as if by living a happier life I will no longer want to spend so much time training - which would make me unhappy. Clearly it’s a contradiction in my mind, one which is helping to perpetuate the illusion that the true, or only way to happiness is through doing those things as guided by my emotions.

Another thought I had in relation to the balance between the different aspects of Parkour was that if someone obtains early on, or even begins training from a spiritual or mental vantage point and overall understanding of what it is they are doing and the path they wish to pursue, then are the traditional and widely taught methods used to become stronger of much benefit to that individual? It is suggested that ‘the way’ of Parkour and the methods used to condition are done so in order to train the mind and the body at the same time, and to push through those barriers. But do those methods work as best as they could to serve the huge variety of people who practice the discipline, and do they have to be the only way?

On the flip side of that scenario, if a very strong and agile person with good stamina became interested in Parkour, would there be much need for them to train in the same way, or could their time be better spent on more personal and specific mental challenges and obstacles?

What I have seen being taught and used for the purposes of conditioning seem to be almost entirely endurance based exercises, with the focus on high repetitions or long periods of time. I understand that endurance can be useful in many instances, but I think it would provide more benefit to beginners and even experienced practitioners if they were to focus firstly on building a solid foundation of maximum strength beforehand. For example learning to climb up or muscle up can be accomplished faster and safer if the relevant groundwork has already been established, as people are less likely to get overuse injuries through training high reps in order to make progress. The epitome of this idea is the way in which people will miss out steps in their training, preferring to struggle with a muscle up rather than focusing on improving basic pulling and dipping strength.
This is all something I’ve learned through personal experience, and I can honestly say that the mental toughness earned through inefficiently training doesn’t seem at all apparent to me, instead I feel as if I hindered my own development by being stubborn and refusing to try alternatives. Those are my lessons.

It feels to me as if regardless of how much experience, skill, strength, mental toughness and awareness you have achieved through your own methods, in the eyes of some it doesn’t count for anything unless you follow the old ways. Everyone knows that there are no real shortcuts to getting stronger or more experienced and better equipped, but we seem to act as if there is only one way, and that any other is regarded as a incomplete, either missing out on valuable ‘mental conditioning’ or experience. You can only ever really say what is right or what works for you, and even then your perspective on what is the best way will be limited to how many other methods and techniques you have tried or experimented in. My point again is that I feel more alternatives should be represented and offered to the growing number of students all over the world.

I used to love h.e.r
I discovered music very late on in life at around the age of 18, despite, or because of being subjected to many different styles and sounds over the years by my parents and other siblings. For many years my headphones were a sanctuary, a place where nobody else could go or reach me, and without realising it I had formed somewhat of a dependency on music to make me feel calm, and sometimes just to enable me to go out of the house or to fall asleep. In fact, for at least a year I put my headphones on and fell asleep to music, dreaming music and awakening to music that was sometimes real and sometimes just in my head. Taking my walkman everywhere with me out of habit made me forget to some extent, the anxieties that I experienced merely through being in public and around other people.

Although this was a realisation I came to some time ago, I have never completely hung up my headphones and fully faced those fears, instead I have periodically fasted on music, living without it on my journeys and occasionally going cold turkey and giving it in all together. I have left the larger part of that behind, but even now I am still aware of how sometimes the music acts like more of a comfort blanket or pacifier than a form of pure enjoyment.

This strange relationship that I’ve had with music and other methods of sedation has lead me to what I believe is a greater understanding of other people, especially in public situations. Coming from a perspective of having lived through a time where I would use music to make my journey easier, and then drink alcohol to make my night out easier, it is clear to me that a large majority of the population seem to be caught in the same trap, although not necessarily with music and alcohol.

Each person has his or her own system for coping with what appear to be uncomfortable situations, and during the times when I would remove my headphones, and thus myself from my own private bubble, it became clear, and eventually funny that everyone felt the same way. People on the train and bus were using music, phones, and newspapers among other things, to distract themselves from the inevitable awkward feelings that arise from sitting opposite, next to, and directly within the personal space of another human in complete silence.
We live as such large populations condensed into small areas, but at the same time we remain separate, refusing to acknowledge the existence of other people or the insanity of it all. We recently stayed in Brighton for my birthday and went walking along the south coast, and in one particular day at least 3 or 4 separate groups of people said hello to us in passing, which is probably more interaction than you would get living a whole year in London if you don’t count the cashiers at Tesco Express.

I feel like we are living unnatural or artificial lives, where community has been replaced by society, and society continues to live in fear of itself, suppressing its true nature of curiosity and communication. We owe it to ourselves to maintain and stay in touch with these ideals, knowing that society will only be changed from the inside out, from our own inside out.

The end is insight
It may already be evident from a few comparisons I made earlier, but during the past few weeks I’ve been more consciously connecting ideas and concepts from the various books I have read, in order to clarify and solidify them into a more coherent whole in my head. This is a process that I think has always been going on at least in the background, but I have become increasingly aware of how different approaches, terms, and methods for improving our quality of life, are all pointing to what seems to be the same thing. I’ve had the same thought before, but in relation to different religions and the fundamental truths that lie behind them, caught up in words, lost in translation, and misunderstood. It’s as if these insights have, and always will be available to people throughout the ages, practised, perfected and taught by those who choose to dedicate their lives to the understanding and implications of them.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this, but for me 2009 is definitely a year of big changes, some of which I have already begun to see. I’m committed to working harder and enjoying myself more, and more importantly being happy no matter what happens.
I’m back living in London again, at least until around the end of June, and hope to meet up with old faces as well as new ones, as I’m always open to opportunity!

Don’t be a ‘no’ man!

Handbook To Higher Consciousness - Ken Keyes Jr.
The Three Laws Of Performance - Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan
Ask and It Is Given - Esther and Jerry Hicks
The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman
Illusions: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah - Richard Bach
Born On a Blue Day - Daniel Tammet
The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery