Usefulness. Everyone wants to be useful don’t they? A fairer statement may be that no one wants to be useless. What is useful? Different people have different definitions of the word useful. A traceur should have one definition, helpful in any situation that requires physical stamina, strength, balance, or agility. Our whole discipline evolved from a desire: Etre fort pour etre utile.  “Be strong to be useful.”

In parkour we train to overcome obstacles. We train to make the 10 ft rail precision with confidence, we train for one second climb ups and clean speed vaults. We build our entire body to be in top shape to propel us over whatever’s in our path. What does that translate to in the real world? Something special.

All those squats you do to protect your knees build lower body strength. For an army medic this means getting your buddy out of a dangerous situation faster and easier so you can perform emergency procedures that may save his life.

Those hours of drilling speed vaults, for a police officer that could be the difference between catching a bugler and “better luck next time.” Check out the Galveston Police department obstacle course.

A good climb up could be the difference between a search and rescue technician reaching a stranded person or waiting for someone else.

It could mean all of those things or it could simply mean carrying your injured dog home, carrying all the groceries yourself so someone else doesn’t have to, or even helping an old lady cross the street. Hopefully you will never be faced with dire situations. That being said if you were I hope everyone reading this would be prepared physically for the event.

What can you do to be useful?

It all comes down to proper training. Just doing parkour isn’t enough. Technique, repetition, conditioning, and safety are all important aspects. Do you train with any sense of urgency or do you take frequent breaks to sit and watch others. Do you treat parkour like a martial art or like a game? No way is perfect and no way is better than the other. I would encourage everyone to try training like they were training for an emergency every so often to get a feel for it.

Don’t Stop

Try to train for an hour without stopping. While some emergencies last minutes some situations caused by natural disasters can last weeks or months. If you can’t keep moving, running, jumping, or vaulting for an hour  start there.

Imagine yourself in stressful situations

Have you ever had something just out of reach, A wall run that you could touch but not grab? Picture yourself running from zombies or to save a loved one and try again. It might not always work but it could help push you farther than the desire to get this wall run by itself.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

Practice makes perfect right? Wrong. Perfect Practice makes perfect. If you want to be ready for an emergency you will need to have practiced enough so that techniques are all second nature. If you make the wrong technique habit when you need it, you will do it wrong. Practice often, practice correctly, and practice outside. Train proper technique, strength, and endurance. (Which you should train most is beyond the scope of this article. You know yourself better than anyone else, you decide)

Learn Useful skills

The US Army has a useful acronym; S.U.R.V. I. V. A. L. The ‘L’, for survival novices, stands for Learn Basic Skills. If you want to be useful in an ‘everyday emergency’ you might not have to learn anything. If you want to be useful in more extreme situations you should learn basic and maybe some advanced first aid, learn a martial art (the type is beyond the scope of this article) to defend yourself. If you want to be ready for disaster scenarios (zombie or otherwise) you should learn wilderness survival, first aid, basic construction, search and rescue techniques, scavenging and have a ‘bug out bag’ at the ready.

Be Safe

All the training in the world means nothing if you get hurt training before a disaster or if you get hurt during a disaster. Paramedics, the people on ambulances with the most training and abilities, are taught to stay back until the situation is completely safe regardless of the emergency. Why? If the people who can save your life are hurt than they’re no good to anyone.  Always train within your limits and use common sense in an emergency. If you can’t hit a 10 ft jump at your best don’t go for a 12 foot jump when you’re tired. Find another way.

Why does it matter

What does this mean for you or me? Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it means everything! We do something amazing. Everyone of you has made the choice to make yourself a better more useful person. It doesn’t matter why you started parkour it just matters that you do parkour. People see what you do and say ‘wow.’ It’s our responsibility to change that stereotype. It’s true that not everyone that does parkour is some super hero figure capable of chasing down bad guys and ending their terrifying reigns, but it would go a long way to ending that stereotype if everyone who did parkour was truly as useful as everyone says they are.

Do you want to get more useful? Check out these resources below to Learn some new skills.

American Red Cross – First Aid, CPR, disaster.

FEMA Community Emergency Response – Disaster preparedness, Search and Rescue

Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have any great links or advice.