Today in parkour I jumped over and over again off a six foot platform onto a six inch mat. That may not sound like any big whup, even when I jumped backwards. But bear in mind that when I first got up on the big wooden box that served as the platform and looked down my brain said “No, don’t think so.” Still I kept jumping off, and to me that’s progress.
Funny how I used to fly trapeze but when it comes to jumping over things or off anything high (and not onto a net below) a part of me cringes. I used to jump around all the time as a kid, but with the passing years it seems that a kind of subconscious carapace has formed around me and now weighs me down. From what I can tell it’s composed of caution and the restricted movements grown-ups adopt as they move through the world, along with a self-conscious fear of making a fool of myself. Well, it’s time I shed the burdensome thing. If I want to have Layla’s physical prowess, I have to combine an adult’s strength and coordination with a child’s gleeful daring.
Anyway, I did pretty well in the jump-offs, and I only wish I could say the same about the cat jump and cat hang. They’re basic moves in parkour and an efficient technique for scaling walls and climbing down from them. Certainly they’re just the sort of moves Layla would sometimes use when getting into some off-limit places.
With the cat jump, I was supposed to jump forward at the plywood platform wall with my feet up in a crouching position, and they should hit the wall before my hands grasp the edge of the platform above me, or at least my hands and feet should get there simultaneously. But time and again my hands got there first and my feet landed a second later, making both my grip and position insecure.
For the cat hang, I needed to slip the lower part of my body over the platform’s edge, dig the toes and balls of my feet into the wall, then slide my upper body over the edge while maintaining a firm grip on that edge. (For the first part just go as far as your nipples, Jake said, clearly accustomed to an all-male class. I decided that my entire breasts should be above the edge.) That should have left me with my feet planted against the wall in a crouching position while my butt hung parallel with them and my arms were stretched out above me. But my feet never got a grip and kept slipping and making me drop off the platform.
“You should work on that,” Jake said after my multiple failures.
We ended class with the kind of workout that makes me wonder yet again if I’m nuts for studying parkour. Although we’d already had an hour and forty minutes of intense exercises, we now had to do three rounds of five chin-ups, three rounds of ten push-ups on the box vaults, fifteen sprints, fifteen jump ups into squats then dropping into a push-up, and finally fifteen broad jumps interspersed with fifteen more push-ups.
Damn, I’m tired!
I’m so tired that I’m finally acknowledging the ugly little fact that I dread going to parkour class every Saturday. I dread the exhaustion and dripping sweat and heart-pounding exertion and the constant need to summon what frayed threads of strength I have left to do a stunt one more time.
I’m so tired I’ve been counting the classes I have left to finish this ten-class course (either three or four, since I’m not sure if the National Parkour Jam counted as a class).
And now on top of being so very tired I’m also very, very frustrated. That’s because — damn it! — I’ve come to realize how absurdly optimistic my assumption was that the ten-week course would be enough for me to fulfill this particular portion of my Becoming Layla plan.
That’s right. I foolishly thought that ten two-hour classes would be enough to teach me how to climb up and down buildings, both exteriors and interiors, along with giving me the techniques to evade a pursuer across a treacherous landscape or urbanscape. Strictly speaking, I certainly could mentally attain all this knowledge in much less time because my brain works fast. It’s my body that’s the slow learner.
Say you challenged me to get into some old archives in a converted mansion in a European town and retrieve a medieval manuscript that’s locked away. Layla could do it. I, in turn, am now able to tell you HOW I would do it, but that’s light years away from actually, physically being able to perform the job And to be like Layla means just that — I must be prepared for such assignments (however fictional they may be) not only by having a solid knowledge base but by being in top physical shape. My body’s instincts and abilities must be every bit as up to snuff as my mind’s.
You know what that means, don’t you? It means I have to continue training in parkour for months to come.
That said, I still doubt that I’ll take the ten-class intermediate course right off the bat; instead I should have some individual workouts in the gym on the equipment and probably repeat a few of the fundamental classes. Then when I can finally do the vault box jumps and the hanging cat and a few chin-ups and other stuff, I’ll feel right about moving on to the intermediate classes.
And won’t they be just loads of fun.