Competition in Parkour - Where do I stand?
I'm not sure if many of you are aware, but over the weekend, World Chase Tag 3 happened in London.
For those of you who are unaware, World Chase Tag (WCT) is basically one giant, adult, game of playground tag on a course that's set up a little bit like a Parkour park,
(Clip courtesy of WCT Youtube)
Set up by the Devaux brothers, they have no created what I see to be one of the most positive and friendly competitions to ever bless Parkour, and the best thing is, you don't even have to be experienced in Parkour to participate!
The Hertfordshire based team Marrero Gang bought home the WCT trophy for the third year running, with speedster Greg Ball performing as well as ever, he's certainly the David Beckham of the tag world!
Anyway, this competition is perhaps one of the newest to bless Parkour, but it isn't the first.
Before there were competitions like the Barclay Card World Championships from 2009, where Derby based Parkour athlete turned Vegan Activist Tim "Livewire" Shieff took the crown, adapting the course to his creative influence.
There is also various speed competitions, the Air Wipp challenge, Redbull Art Of Motion and so on.
So, where do I stand with competion within Parkour?
When explaining Parkour, a lot of people like to mention the fact it is non competitive and all about self progression, however, that doesn't stop the friendly challenges between friends of "STICK" or who can complete a course in the quickest time possible.
Personally for me, I don't mind competitions within Parkour. I've experienced a little bit of chase tag, and when done honestly, it is without a doubt the most fun in sporting competitions I have ever had, as there isn't this attitude of who's better than who. It's about applying your knowledge, navigating the environment quickly and efficiently, all within a quick 20 second time period, and it's mega fun.
The same with speed competitions. I love trying to see how fast I can do a run and try and speed myself up each time. The best part is looking back and seeing where you slow down and how you can adapt to be quicker and more efficient whilst navigating your environment. A good thing about this also, is this brings in the idea of self progression and seeing how other people navigate the same course that you are doing. Joe Henderson from Team Storm is defiantly one to watch during the speed runs, as his efficiency and technique whilst navigating the courses has made him place podiums in various competitions all over the globe!
These competitions aren't based on who can do the biggest or most impressive trick. I'm sure we can all agree that doing a smooth efficient run without pausing or messing up is technically and mentally a lot harder than a standard flip. However, to the muggle eye, you could do something so technical, but nothing is more impressive to them than a backflip.
"DO A BACKFLIP M8".
And this is where the issues start.
Redbull Art Of Motion is without a doubt the biggest competition in Parkour.
"Red Bull Art of Motion is a freerunning competition held in various countries, including England Kuwait, the US, and Sweden. Judging of the event is based on several criteria including creativity, flow, execution, and difficulty."
It happens every October & started in Vienna, Austria in 2007. Since then, it has stormed the Parkour world and brings athletes from all over the globe to witness the event.
Whilst some would see this as a good step to get Parkour into the mainstream media, I believe it has a range of complications.
It's very commercialised, and is sponsored by Redbull, the energy drink company. Many Parkour athletes will actively try and disassociate from energy drinks as they don't promote a healthy lifestyle that serious athletes would typically follow.
It's also one of those competitions that is based heavily upon points. Your run will get points for difficulty, tricks, fluidity etc.
I feel this isn't the way competitions in Parkour should be judged. Everyone's movement is different, and this points system makes me think that there is some form of standard that the athletes have to abided by.
Whilst I still think it would be cool to compete, different countries have different styles of movements. The British style is controlled, explosive movements, with a little bit of speed and technical tricks thrown in for good measure, whereas somewhere like Eastern Europe have a more broad skillset of flips and tricks.
I feel having a rating out of 10, and then getting an average score from that isn't the way for parkour competitions to be judged. This is why I feel speed contests are better, because they're timed and it's getting from A to B, like efficient Parkour, rather than this whole show of who can do the biggest gainer precision.
I am not slating any athletes skills or any athlete that chooses to perform in these contests, because I know it does take a hight amount of skill to make it into these competitions;
however, I do feel that training for a competition like the Redbull AOM brings a high risk of pressure and injury to an athlete. There have been multiple times where athletes have taken some hefty slams during competitions (Dom Tomato taking that massive height drop to the wrists springs to mind here in the Shanghai competition).
I digress however, I feel that competition sponsored by these huge companies should take into consideration to adapt the competition to a more Parkour contest, using speed, technical skills, using time and tagging as opposed to a points system.
in my opinion, that isn't the way to go.
What are your thoughts? let me know in the comments!