Progressions In Parkour

I remember being able to feel the dirt between my toes and the heat on my back. I take a deep breath, and run, eventually leaping into a superman front. I remember seeing the water 26′ below me as if in slow motion. I initiate a tight tuck and open up as I see the horizon, coming out into a dive headfirst into the water. I surface and scream in victory. That was my first running superman one and half front off a very tall cliff and I executed it perfectly.

I was not born with an ability to execute that move effortlessly. I had to work up to it. To reach this level, I had to work on overcoming my fear of heights, practice one and half fronts in the gym. Every time I went cliff jumping, I tried a new movement or performed a move I knew from a higher ledge. I was constantly building confidence in my body so I could progress to the next, more difficult, level.

Making A Complicated Move Simple

Progressions are used to turn difficult and complicated movements that seem impossible into an achievable goal by breaking them down into steps. One of the chief reasons you may need progressions is to conquer a move that is too physically demanding for you and you may need to build up the strength or endurance. Precision jumps are an excellent example of this as you need to continually push yourself further and further. However, sometimes a movement may be too complicated or you have mental barriers you need to overcome.

When a move is too hard for your body to comprehend, it’s best to break that move down into simpler components. By combining different aspects of the movement you can perfect pieces and connect them in the end. Let’s consider double kongs. When beginners attempt this move without prep, they usually fall, clip their feet, or stop short. When teaching this to students, I break down the way the body should feel while performing this movement. First they set their hands on a 3′ block and reach in to a handstand position emphasizing the raising of their legs. After this movement has been repeated several times, they jump to the block from a small distance but into the same position raising the legs. This is a great way to simulate the take off and push of the first part of the kong vault. Finally, they jump to the block, push into a handstand position while rising vertically upward off the block, having to tap the block again as they come down. This is a great progression because it first starts with the take off, followed by the perfect co-ordination and positions of your legs in mid air, and finally the landing.

Progressions are a great way to conquer your fears too. Many traceurs have a tough time executing a monkey precision with a large drop to the landing. Some great ways to tackle this is to consistently practice the monkey vault movement over blocks of similar heights. A good way to work on the distance can be to make a game out of it. Make a mark on the ground and try to propel yourself further every time. You can return to the area that has been causing your fear and just treat it like a regular precision, building confidence in the way you should land. Through repetition and mixing up your conditions you build control in your body, and your mental strength increases as well; eventually allowing you to accomplish your goal. I’m not sure if fears can be eliminated, but I certainly believe you can keep cutting them down and replace that void with confidence.

Benefits of Progressions

While it may be fun to try a high level move there are benefits to taking things slower. Using progressions to achieve your ultimate goal is much safer. You are less likely to attempt movements your body is not yet capable of and decrease your chance of injury. For instance, when attempting longer drop precisions or safety rolls it’s smart to improve your technique and increase your strength and impact resistance as you increase the height of drop.

Along your journey you will find the end result is cleaner than if you were to just push yourself straight to the finish line. One thing to remember is to control your movements, don’t let your movements control you.

This means don’t throw a move. Be in complete control of everything your body does from the start to the finish.

Also, enjoy the ride and you’ll find that when you break movements down, other actions will benefit from the same sub-movements. By practicing certain portions you find you are inadvertently working towards other moves as well.

How This Pertains To Life

The most important thing I learned from parkour is how to overcome not only literal obstacles outside, but figurative ones in my personal life. Whenever you master the basics of any trade or goal you are much more likely to be successful. Maybe you want a promotion at work, to overcome a bad relationship or experience, or anything troubling in your life. Things can’t be fixed overnight and you can’t expect hard moves to be learned overnight either. Everything is much more effective and realistic if you break it down into pieces and build on the basics.

Be safe! Don’t give up! You will obtain your goals!

Written by

Tayler Kurtzman

Tayler started parkour in 2011 and since then has been overcoming fears. He's involved in rock climbing, rappelling, dancing, caving, cliff diving, and urban exploration. He loves new challenges and enjoys teaching his 2 parkour classes a week.