Author Topic: The 15 Days Challenge  (Read 913 times)

Offline 7Erik7

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The 15 Days Challenge
« on: October 21, 2018, 02:16:26 AM »
I came back to reading Stephane Vigroux story (stephane is one of David Belles former students) on facebook about one of the most difficult challenges in Parkour. It's like the ''final test'' David Belle had for his students before they could be considered a proper traceur. As far as I know, only ONE of his students have passed the test or the challenge, and that is Stephane. Stephane shared his experience on facebook for the first time in 2015, I'll give link, but I also just copy the text.


The 15 days challenge

Those who have had the chance to train with some of the founders of parkour/art du deplacement, I am sure you have stories to tell and you'll probably always remember those unique experiences.
 Spending my first few years of training under David Belle I have many stories and actual physical marks on my body of those days, but if I had to tell which one was the most intense of them all it would be the "15 days" challenge.

After a couple of years of training and following his teaching, David told me that if I really wanted to push my limits and know what is an extreme, real and intense parkour training I should go for the "15 days". He told me that only after completing such experience I would really know what hardcore parkour training is and, more importantly, I would reach my limit both physically and mentally and break. That was essential and part of the teachings, he added. Without this, something would be missing and the teaching incomplete. He said he only trained one man to do the "15 days" but that person couldn't complete it. I was young, had burning fire within, lots of pride and ego, of course I wanted to do the "15 days"! Only a young ignorant imbecile would have such enthusiasm for that kind of challenge.

The "15 days" principle was fairly simple: David would lead a 15 day training "experience" for me with one goal in mind: Break me and make me give up before we reach the end of 15 days. (Oh for the record, he is good when it comes to breaking people during training).

I was basically a 24/7 student at his disposal available at any time of the day or night to execute his commands. Most times he would be outdoor with me, giving me instructions on what to do, other times he would give me written programs that I'd have to do by myself, or he could just call me anytime and ask me to do something.

So the whole experience of course would be physically demanding because I knew I would not have rest during 15 days but the most difficult part for me was to know "IT" could happen at anytime of the day or night. While I am resting, while I thought I was done for the day, he could ask, again, for one more thing. I was both excited and scared to begin the experience.
 So the challenge began. Days were long, nights short and of course it was winter and freezing outside. David knew I could handle the pain of tough training so he knew his chances to break me and give up would be through a mind game. Not being a morning person, most of the first daily training sessions were starting when the sun was not even up around 5-6am. Most of my allowed resting times were interrupted with some random phone calls or text tasking me withmore challenges.

There were no real surprises in terms of content, actual techniques or drills I was asked to do. But the way it all had been put in order, how the build up was led in creating a very stressful situation was an actual piece of art. I found myself being afraid of what was coming next and when frequently during those 15 days.

I often heard the line "Hey Steph you want a croissant and have a rest?" as a joke when I travel and meet practitioners. That line comes from one of those days where David was determined to make me give up and quit.

We were in the woods in Lisses (were the 1000 drops challenge is), I had been out for quite some time doing some running, climbing drills, muscle ups and drop jumps etc...I was of course tired as on any one of those 15 days. It was cold, snow was on the floor and I was shirtless. After a sprinting session he told me we were almost done and will go home soon. At that stage David set a very simple drill for me...

At that stage David set a very simple drill for me...

As simple as a two parallel bars set up.

 "Go over and under the bars, in and out, 50 times, fast and without stopping" he said. So I executed. Basically vaulting over the first one and going under the second one, then back inside over and under...As I said a very simple task in appearance.

 He was there keeping the pace and making sure I was always moving, because not moving meant quitting. He increased the speed of the reps half way through and even more towards the end and kept pushing me until I reached the 50. When I stopped, something weird happened. I felt pressure on my chest and throat, I could not breathe. Something was blocked as if my throat shrank and the air could not circulate. I collapsed on the grass, covered by snow...still shirtless. It took me few minutes to recover, lying on the snow, trying to breathe normally again. I assumed (in my mind) at this stage, after the long hours from the morning, plus that incident and knowing we would have a night session later in the day, I was deserving of a rest now.

David showed a bit of compassion, congratulated me for the effort this morning (he rarely praises) and the fact that I gave all I had until I collapsed and said: "ok you're good for this morning, let's go home"! As we were walking towards my car, JUST before we reached it he said: "oh just one more thing". Bang. That's it. And the whole morning session was just turning into a nightmare now. I had no idea what he would add but the simple fact that I started to picture a shower and bed before the "one more thing" happened, was quite painful. But I did not show it. Showing weakness at this point would give him ammunition to try harder to make me quit.

He then pointed at a long line of small steps along the road at ground level. The steps were around 50cm long and 10cm with a space of about 1.5m between each of them, which went on for about 400 meters.

He added: "You will only go home once you complete that distance without falling off the steps. If you fall off one step, you start again from the beginning until you make it right".

My legs were weak, my balance and concentration gone because of the tiredness from the previous hours. He was giving me the right mental challenge at this point. All I had to do was walk in balance on those steps, for the entire distance. Any fresh day the task would have been easy. But on that day the atmosphere was different. It took me a lot effort and time. Really taking the time and being sure in between each step before I'd do a stride that I was 100% sure.
 I could not afford to fall off and start again. Each stride was intense and a long moment in my mind. I was not talking nor smiling, completely immersed in the task.

Somehow after taking quite some time I made it to the end without falling once. "Now we can go home", he said, with a smile on his face. I was confused between hating the guy but also being grateful for him taking the time to share that experience with me.

Once in the car, I could barely hold the steering wheel. David looked at me and said "If this is too hard, you can quit Steph. Have a nice rest at home, some hot chocolate and croissant. And you don't have to come back tonight for the second session". I asked if he'd buy the croissant but he would not even do that he said, while laughing, so I'd rather not complain and get ready for the evening session I decided.

This anecdote reflects one side of the huge mental aspect of those 15 days. It happened near the end of week one and I was not even half way through when I discovered that I could actually stop breathing and pass out from over intense training. Good time...not. It is all about the context and the situation of course and, put out of context, a lot of those drills are way less intense. The combination of it all, and how David masters the art of making training really mental and rising in intensity, gave the challenge that mesmerising touch.
 Part of the 15 days I also recall that time when David was away and could not be there with me physically delivering his daily pain so he gave me a challenge for the day. And he meant for the day. Literally. I thought not having him around would result in some sort of a break half way through the 15 days challenge. One of those silly thoughts you have when you're young...So he left me with a note and a routine to execute every hour for 12 hours. From 8am till 8pm, every new hour I had to do that combination of exercises. And of course rest in between. The note was saying:

"Starting at 8am until 8pm, every hour do the following routine:
 - 1 running lap of your neighborhood
 - 2 Quadrupedal up and down your stairs + 10 push ups at the end of each
 - 3 drop jumps from your bedroom window
 - 5 handstands
 Have a good day :)"

The routine took about 35-40mn all together which left approximately 20mn to rest in between sets. Let me tell you there was something short about those 20 minutes rest. The cold on top of that and the fact that I have to warm up with the run every time made it harder.

I remember seeing some of my neighbors watching me through their windows every hour going out for a run and moaning, they were probably wondering what was happening with me that day. The mental aspect of it was actually the resting time. As soon as I finished a set, I needed 5-10mn to cool down and be back to normal and then it was almost time to go back for another set. I found it hard to mentally relax and chill during those 20 resting minutes. A bit like when you go to bed at 2am knowing you have to wake up at 4am and have to get the most out of your sleep and yet you wake up before the alarm goes off. I had David sending me a couple of texts throughout the day, showing me his support: "croissant?"...

Of course a lot of movement, sweat, blood and tears happened during those 15 days and telling them all in this post would be too much but there are some moments that stay in my memory more than others.

Once I had to sit on the top of "La Dame du Lac" (climbing wall on the pic) just underneath the small roof. If you look at it facing the Dame it is right underneath the roof on the right side. I had to be crouched, fully seated, feet close together in line with the edge, facing the void. David made me stay there in that position for a good 45mn-1 hour, without moving. Just staying there facing the drop. Once he told me to get back on top of the roof, I felt paralysed for a little while and it took me some time and very slow movement to turn around and get back to safe land. Weird experience.

Also those times when David called me in the middle of the night and asked me to do stuff. Most of the time I picked up and heard one word: Handstand. And that meant handstand NOW. No warm up, no thinking, just instant handstand execution. One night during those 15 days challenge he called and said the word. I instantly went for a handstand and fell smashing my legs against the wardrobe. I woke up the entire house that night.

Another time we were at the back of the gym in Lisses, by the famous staircase. There is this classic arm jump from the bar to the wall. My challenge was to try to do the arm jump and reach the other side while having David on the other side swiping my hands with his legs as I was landing and grabbing the top of the wall. Basically kicking my arms off the wall every time I landed which was making me fall off and drop. After multiple failed attempts I realized the only way to make it was to actually grab his leg as I was landing and probably get kicked in the face as a result. So I jumped, he went for that swipe kick, I grabbed his leg, got kicked in the jaw but held on to his leg and reached the wall. I made it to the other side and that all that mattered.

There are many more anecdotes like those and I might share them another time but the variety and intensity of those "15 days" made it really special and somehow engraved in me forever.

Before half way through the 15 days I considered giving up few times. I was physically exhausted and mentally suffering. It was a constant mind game and inner fight with myself but also with David who was really making sure I would get the experience he promised to deliver. Past half way and getting closer to the end I could not give up anymore and was sure to go till the end no matter what. Or die trying. But I was surely not giving up. At some point David felt it as well and started to relax and gave me slightly more quality training rather than trying to make me quit during the past two days. I somehow earned his respect at this point I guess and the whole experience changed towards the end. It is like the test was over, some sort of recognition of the effort and spirit I showed happened and he then was delivering more quality and principle-based training on the last two days.

So I completed and survived the 15 days. One of my proudest achievement in parkour. I was not sure I could do the challenge before I started but fought hard and made it. I was really happy with myself and also came out of it slightly changed. After that experience any hard and intense training sessions were not mentally affecting me that much. Whenever it got hard during other training I knew it would just last for the time of that training. And I would go home and probably have a croissant (*smile).

It took me few weeks to recover from that. I was physically tired for quite some time afterwards. But the joy of having been through such an experience was giving so much back in return.

With that story I also want to thank David for taking the time to share this with me. And all those years at the beginning where he was my teacher. I feel grateful to have had the chance to receive all those teachings from the source. It was genuine and authentic that is the least I can say.


Live Free and Move

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