All posts by Jonathan McCarver

Jam Plan March 23 2019

Keep up via the facebook event here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/386422008838011/?active_tab=discussion

Saturday the MPK Kids class will happen as usual from 1pm to 2pm at Overton park where the Pavillion is. Here is that location:

https://goo.gl/maps/9MuPfwuKXNL2

So from 2pm till we all decide to move we can jam in Overton. Probably by 3 or 4 we will be ready to change locations.
Second Spot: University of Memphis Campus – Ramses Statue

https://goo.gl/maps/o1cwKpzuNom

There is a ton of parking across the street from the statue. This will be the meeting point and there are a few cool walls here but Jonathan will direct the group to some really good training spots around campus.

Saturday evening, Skatepark:
We can run by the house to regroup depending how late we are at U of M and then there is a great skatepark open till 11pm

https://goo.gl/maps/bpgHP9nGKtF2

If you have a board or blades bring them but if not nbd. We may or may not make it to the park

Sunday Morning:
Breakfast: Kroger on union ave – https://goo.gl/maps/tPypZzbDTP62
New store actually has some fun walls to mess with. Lots of food options.

Downtown training: New Movie theater at the train station

https://goo.gl/maps/VWmjF5VbuUv

I have not trained here yet and don’t know how fast we may be kicked off of the new building but it is a great starting point for us to explore downtown. There are also some covered areas if it rains.

Upper Body basic strength routine

This is a simple basic upper body strength building plan that is well suited for beginners that don’t know their strength training options or techniques well yet. These exercises will serve athletes at every level but as strength improves some of these motions may be replaced with more advanced body weight techniques.

Frequency: 3 times a week to build strength, twice a week to maintain
Sets and Reps: 2 to three sets per exercise. Find a weight challenging enough that you can only do between 5 and 15 repetitions per set.
Skill/Strength: Beginner
Equipment: Dumbbells and optionally cable machine

  1. Curls
  2. Triceps Kickback
  3. One Arm Row
  4. Overhead Press
  5. Strait Arm Dumbbell Pullover
  6. Dumbbell Bench Press
  7. Cable Row

1) Curls

Execution: Standing with one dumbbell in each hand and palms facing forward lift the weights to shoulder height and back down trying to limit movement only to the forearm/hands (articulate at only the elbow).

Purpose: Directly strengthen the biceps and improve overall elbow and shoulder stability. Aids all pulling and climbing actions.

2) Triceps Kickback

Execution: Leaning forward on a bench with one knee and one hand on top of it hold a dumbbell in the free hand. Keep the elbow lifted as high as the shoulder and then straighten the arm to lift the weight backwards. 

Purpose: Directly strengthen the triceps and improve overall elbow and shoulder stability. Aids in pushing and supporting weight with the arms.

3) One Arm Row

Execution: Leaning forward on a bench with one knee and one hand on top of it hold a dumbbell in the free hand.  Let the weight hang as far down as it can with you back straight and then pull it up to the side of your body so that your elbow goes behind you.

Note: Once you’ve learned the form for this technique you should be using heavy weight for it. At least double the amount you would use for curls.

Purpose: Develop ability to recruit the lat muscles and then strengthen them. Also builds core strength, stability and improves confidence in using heavier weights. Aids in pulling and climbing as well as stabilizing the whole body.

4) Overhead Press

Execution: Standing or sitting with a dumbbell in both hands raise it such that your arms are bent and the weight sits comfortably in your palms resting at shoulder or neck height. Press the weight overhead straightening the arms but making sure to look forward the whole time. Do not let the back arch (if you cannot stop the back from arching this indicates deficient core strength).

Purpose: Develop overhead pushing strength and comfort holding weight at full extension. Aids in handstands, handsprings and pressing objects and people up above you.

5) Strait Arm Dumbbell Pullover

Execution: Lying down on a bench hold a single dumbbell with both hands directly over your chest with both arms straight. Without bending at the elbow lower the weight by sending your arms over your head. Do not extend further than feels comfortable to your shoulders.

Purpose: Expose shoulders to high load at full extension and teach the body to recruit the pectorals, lats and shoulder stabilizers simultaneously. Aids in climbing and pulling actions and prevents common shoulder injury from the stresses of hanging.

6) Dumbbell Bench Press

Execution: Lying down on a bench hold dumbbells in each hand. Let the weight rest in your palms with the elbows away from the sides and pulled back so that the weight is at the height of you chest. Press the weights above the chest letting them meet in the middle and lower again. Remember to keep your feet firmly pressed into the ground.

Purpose: Develop pushing strength and stability. Aids in pushing and supporting weight with the arms.

7) Cable Row

Execution: Use Cable attachments for handles such that both arms can pull at once. Sitting on the ground or on a bench facing the cable machine hold both handles. Keep the back straight and vertical as you pull from arms fully outstretched to hands at the belly and back.

Note: If you don’t have access to a setup for this exercise it can eventually be replaced by standing barbell rows BUT that is an advanced exercise. In that case wait until you’ve developed good pulling power from one arm rows before attempting it.

Purpose: Develop pulling power and learn the recruit the full potential of the lat muscles. Aids in pulling and climbing as well as lifting weight from the ground or by rope.

 

Purists and Angoleiros, how Parkour Paralells Capoeira

capoeira

I’ve spent many years doing parkour and many years doing capoeira. As in many other disciplines I have seen in both of these activities a rift in ideologies. Some people are firmly attached to their discipline being authentic, preserved in its original form and not tainted by the need to compete and outrank one another. Others feel the need to adapt to the world and embrace growth and change so that their art won’t fade away and to make it easier for new people to be exposed to it. Capoeira is a little bit older than parkour and so it has had its time to sort of solidify those roles, but the real value of that is the fluidity and openness of people that practice either to see the value across that division.

Capoeira groups tend to be labeled as Regional or Angola. Angola is a name rooted in the slave trade that capoeira grew out of. People tended to call all africans Angolas in Brazil even though many were not from the angola region. It’s a label probably older than the word Capoeira, the etymology of which I’ll spare you from as that is worth another whole article. Regional (pronounced Hey-Jo-Nal ) is a name that was initially applied to the style regional to Bahia Brazil and more significantly it comes from one man who reinvented much of how Capoeira is played and taught, Mestre Bimba. Regional is the new school and Angola is the old school.

Mestre Bimba in the 1920’s began to formalize how capoeira should be taught. He came up with sequences of movements for students to practice and started a school to teach it in. It’s crucial to note two things about this time period. One is that capoeira was illegal. No joke, the country of Brazil, and especially its police, had had enough of bandits and thieves who were so fit and nimble that they took pride in beating up police officers. Capoeira was so closely linked with crime that it was outlawed and there were many efforts to purge it out of existence. The second thing to know about the time period is that those efforts almost worked.

When Mestre Bimba began teaching in the early 1920s Capoeira was almost gone. Only a few tough old neighborhoods in the poorest regions of the country still had anyone playing the game, maintaining the music, and teaching new generations. This was a very hard time. Bimba was able to reinvigorate the art of capoeira through his new teaching methods and his willingness to break the mold and adopt outside ideas.

A ranking system with rope belts that let people more easily compare it to asian martial arts, a renewed emphasis on fighting and being useful in combat and finally exhibitions, and competing in martial arts tournaments. Bimba went around and beat people up. His students beat people up too. Not people on the street, and not in violence but Mestre Bimba entered himself and his student in lots of competitions to prove that capoeira is legit and they won almost everything they ever entered. The newspapers wrote sensational stories about him and the government took notice.

Finally while it was still illegal to practice capoeira at all in Brazil Mestre Bimba was invited to perform for the governor of Bahia and that event led to the end of the ban on capoeira. I feel like there is no exaggeration in saying that he saved the art from disappearing. But what about the other people in capoeira? He was not the first Mestre, he certainly wasn’t the only Mestre in his own time either.

Other capoeiristas complained about Bimba taking this radical direction. Some said it was too violent. Many complained that Regional lost the ritual that made capoeira what it really is. To this day Mestres across the globe greatly differ in their definition of what is capoeira.

I was trained in the school of Nacao Capoeira which is considered Regional but the grand Mestre of the school was an Angoleiro. I’ve met people from many different groups and I’ve trained with Angolas. Some people feel like there should be no cordas (the ranking belt) and that capoeira should happen naturally. Some feel like it should be taught in schools and respect the refined quality that lessons can bring. Some focus mostly on music and ritual while others just want to brawl. Some want there to be leagues and formally ranked competitions and some wish the game to only be played traditionally where the energy of the Roda decides the winner.. And sometimes there isn’t a “win”. I’ve seen hard fighting turn into samba like ritual in an instant and come right back. It’s all in there at once and the community is all the richer for it.

What does all of that have to do with parkour? If you’ve read this far and you really are ingrained in the community of parkour I’m sure you can already see the parallels. Parkour has a lot of traditionalists. Maybe Purists is the best word to use for now. A parkour purist wants all training to be on the street. Many want people to learn naturally through trial and error in a community setting and also through long nights of running and jumping and self discovery. It is common for the purist to reject competition, commercialization and even to reject the idea of dedicated spaces for parkour. These purists are bound to be at odds with the progressive part of the parkour community.

I learned parkour on the street and I had to teach myself. I got to meet a lot of great people in that time but not too many stuck around. I found myself reluctantly taking on a leadership role that I didn’t think I deserved and that at first I didn’t think the community actually needed. Now I have a gym. I teach all the time and 95% of my training happens inside the gym. It’s totally different and the experience that new people have is nothing like what I had starting out. This is what the new wave looks like and I’ve met many other gym owners who say the same things. A generation from now there will be owners who started only in the gym space and never had to find their own way outside. That will cause a distillation of the original discipline.

We need the purists. An art, a discipline, must stay connected to its roots. We need the progressive and business minded people. If we ignore the way the world works then parkour won’t survive. To embrace both is not easy but every one of us is constantly crossing the lines. I’ve personally said in the past that “flips aren’t parkour!!1!” but also desperately wanted to learn to backflip for years (I did finally get it). The people that decry competition as evil sometimes end up competing. The leaders that create great gyms and businesses often want to run away from it all and just jump on park benches again. All of this is good.

I’m not going to invent the terminology here but we need some better words than Purist and Progressive. I feel like it’s time to make that part of our language. Maybe there are some french terms we can borrow or maybe it’s time to invent new slang, that’s all the word Parkour is after all. As we continue in the now fully mature digital age having the ability to debate endlessly across the globe about what is best for parkour, freerunning, ADD let’s recognize that in some ways everyone in the discussions we are having is right. We don’t have to perfectly agree and the conversations and arguments need to keep churning. I hope we can all appreciate our angry Angoleiros and tolerate are sometimes over eager Regional leaders.

– Jonathan McCarver
Memphis, TN. USA

Going Barefoot in Parkour

How and Why to go Barefoot in Parkour

cover

Recently at a jam many people asked me about being barefoot (since I was most of the day) and training. I didn’t have a chance to give out all the information on it then so hopefully this guide will help some people get into it.

Why?

There are a number of reasons to train barefoot at least some of the time. What it is NOT about is saying “I’m so tough look at me with no shoes on.” If you are thinking that way then you may have missed the whole point of parkour in the first place. So why does parkour without shoes make sense?

  •  To be useful – Do you sleep and shower with athletic shoes on? If not what do you do when there is an emergency? Always be ready even without equipment.
  • To stay safe – Shoes let you get away with a lot of not so great landings but if you never learn to land properly then you will not just plateau in your progress but eventually develop injuries.
  • To strengthen ankles – Most rolled ankles happen because the stabilizing muscles and connective tissues around the ankle aren’t developed well enough. Relying on highly supportive shoes  only increases the gap between the force your muscles can generate and what your feet can really handle.
  • Getting back to basics – Once the shoes come off you have to change what you are doing. If you have a 15 foot broad jump then it will be cut down to 5 and even then you have to do it perfectly to not bruise anything. Working on fundamentals, as in any sport, will greatly improve your top end performance.

What to expect

The first minute:
When you first step outside, depending on your experience, it will feel weird. One of the first things to notice is the great deal of information you get from the ground. Temperature, texture, grip, wetness, sand, all of this is immediately known to you now. Your feet have been unable to touch anything before and all that information has been lost. You will know if you are on a sharp edge or one that’s rounded and exactly how thick a pipe or rail is and what kind of paint is on it. You will also be very very slow.

20 minutes in:
It gets better. Even if your first ten steps feel like you are handicapped if you go ahead and keep carefully walking around then after 10 or 20 minutes your feet will do a lot of adjusting. The connective tissues will begin to flex and your coordination centers will have learned to cope with this change of circumstance. You should still just be walking around, maybe a little hop here or there but don’t take off running just yet and don’t go for any drops.

How to start

Light jogging is a good beginning step. Remember that you are asking your body to do something that it’s not ready for. This is like taking on a whole new sport so a 20 minute jog could be all you’re ready for at first.

  1. Find a clean smooth area. Tourism districts are often well maintained and have minimal debris. Dance studios with hardwood floors are also a good start.

    You're not going anywhere on this.
    You’re not going anywhere on this.
  2. When you break into a jog DON’T LAND ON YOUR HEEL! The heel is not capable of cushioning you when you land. Our physique is set up so that your calf muscle can absorb landing forces and provide takeoff but the calf can only move the front of the foot not the back.foot bottom editedYour forefoot should be the only area touching the ground unless you are standing still. The heel will bruise very easily and the plantar fascia can be sensitive to physical pressure. Bruising either one of those can take you out of training for 2 to 4 weeks easily. 
  3. Look where you are going. Everyone thinks that glass is the major issue with being barefoot. It’s not. Little stones will make you invent new curse words when they press up on just one toe with all of your weight. Always pay attention to whats around you.stones v glass
  4. Give it time. You aren’t just building callouses. That can happen over two or three sessions. You are rebuilding your atrophied ankle and foot muscles that have had as much as a decade to degrade. When I say build up slowly over time I mean over several months. Here is one possible timeline:
    • Month 1: 10 to 20 minute jog 3 times a week.
    • Month 2: Attempt to run a full mile outdoors once a week. Stop running if you have bad pain.
    • Month 3: Go barefoot for half of your parkour sessions. Take small jumps and learn what your new limits are now.
    • Month 4: Try going all barefoot when you train. You still have to keep it small and careful but now you should be able to last.

If you build up carefully then you should be able to incorporate barefoot whenever you want. You can supplement the total barefoot training by using very minimal shoes day to day such as toms, feiyues or anything thin and unsupportive.

Once you start jumping landing on the front of the foot is more important than ever.

In the above video you can see some proper landings on the toes. To put weight on the heel you should be only taking steps or resting. Once you are comfortable with how to move you will find barefoot sessions really focus you on technique and you top performance in shoes will show that.

Finally don’t forget to have fun 🙂