On an attempt of escaping the gloomy dutch weather, I spontaneously decided to go for a trip to Berlin. One of my favorite musicians was playing a concert and in the weekend after one of my favorite Parkour Teams was hosting the fourth edition of the Ashigaru’s Skill Competition. After 11 years of witnessing Parkour competitions, I finally had an absolute pleasure on attending this kind of events. So, I decided to write this little text and make a vlog about my time at Jump 3000 Gym with some of the coolest communities in the world.
Before I start writing about the event itself, I want to leave a quick remark about my opinion on competitions. I will be brief, once I will come back to this topic in some of the upcoming Insights.
My first Parkour competition was Barclay’s Card World Freerunning Championship in 2008, taking place in London. After that I competed almost every year until 2015. Then I finally realized that, even though the trips and experiences were great, competitions were not for me. I never took any of them seriously. The fact that I had to prepare myself to perform under pressure, in combination with being judged and comparing myself to my friends, was never appealing to me. It never motivated me to train and progress, and it was completely against the reasons why I got hooked to parkour: Fun and freedom. Until today I do not advocate any competition, though, I understand that they are an inevitable need to our discipline, therefore I understand who enjoys competitions and their own reasons. Still, I believe that Parkour is a very young activity and the current generation is passionately working on coming up with the best ideas for the future of Parkour competitions and sculpting till the perfect format is shaped.
And thanks to this hard work by many great PK community leaders so far…
Skill competition is the truest competition format to Parkour:
Ashigaru Skill Competition was the first time I watched this type of events live. I was surprised with the vibes! On the first round, the Ashigaru guys came up with 10 different challenges, neatly spread around the gym. Each one of them was very different and required an unique skill set, but I will come back to this later on this blog. Every participating athlete gets a little sheet where they get checked by the hosts if they succeeded or not and how many attempts it took them(they have max. 3 tries to earn points). The athletes are free to try them in any order they want and this round lasted for about an hour(not sure tho, sorry).
Watching this round was the same as being on a jam when people actually try challenges more than sit around or film cool lines for social media. It was a game, everyone supported everyone, they discussed the physics of how to get and try them together. On this round, the challenges were reasonably easy but very diverse, which means that only more advanced traceurs could succeed on the first attempts. 13 out of 50 athletes moved on to the next round.
In the second round, the Ashigaru team designed 5 challenges that required much more experience. The athletes had 2 minutes to complete as many challenges as possible. In this round, the competitors had to deal with time pressure and to the fact that they were the only ones trying with everyone else watching them. It was exciting and nerve wrecking for me, but the whole gym was supporting each one of them, and the vibe was so friendly and happy that I could imagine that in the end, it was a lot of fun to compete!
The final round included 3 harder challenges, the five last remaining athletes had 5 attempts to try and complete as many as possible.
As all of them used 4 attempts to complete the 5 challenges, they used a game of stick as a Tie-break. Finally, the 18 year-old Swiss beast Caryl Cordt-Moller, stuck the rail-plyo-drop-pres on his first attempt; followed by the legendary Orange Guy, Tomás Zony; and the feather weighted movement, Berlin based Pablo Wiedemann.
The whole day felt like a big jam! Lovely vibes, lovely people!
Skill competitions can only be created and hosted by community members:
This seems a bit obvious. But in the age of the rise of FIG, the fade away of big events like Red Bull Art of Motion, AirWipp Challenge, Hop the Block and even 4 The Love of Movement Summer, it comes to me with great satisfaction an event like Ashigaru Skill Competition. It was fully organized by community members, people who train and love the sport and are keen to work on the sustainable and fair growth of parkour, working with passion and dedication.
Moreover, planning a Skill Competition requires a proper good experience in Parkour. The Ashigarus had to come up with 18 different challenges, divided in 3 different rounds, having in consideration the level of the participants, making it reasonably accessible for different levels but challenging enough that only experient athletes could complete most of them.
The challenges were also very diverse and appealing. They were positioned in different areas of the small venue, in order to not disrupt themselves while 50 people were drilling on them.
It challenges the athletes to be good in everything!
Before skill competitions came around in our community we had mostly two formats: Speed and Style. After over 10 years with both formats being present in all of PK Competitions, Skill format showed its potential by its loyalty to the real training of Parkour. On a Speed course, technique, for instance, is not always a must, sometimes athletic sprinters can beat the traceurs best time once he can run down a straight line so fast! On a Style contest, the judging system is subjective and acrobatics are overweighting real Parkour or Freerunning.
Skill competitions challenge you to be good in many different aspects of Parkour. Strenght and power, balance and control, technique and adaptability, being ambidextrous, master the grip techniques, understand momentum and every other little detail in Parkour.
Every skill competition will be different, which means that every challenge will always be unique and each one of them require a different approach to be unlocked.
Besides all of this summarization of what it physically requires…
Skill Competition is good for your Inner Game of PK:
The mental aspect of this format is incredibly enriching. In the first round, you must try to complete as many challenges as possible using the least attempts you can. Which means that visualizing, being calm and trusting of your own skills, is the way to success. On the two final rounds, pressure and anxiety are part of the recipe, at this moment, it’s only you on the gym racing against the timewatch or trying really difficult challenges with limited tries. The mental control during these last rounds is key.
On the old formats, Speed and Style, I could imagine that a little shot of adrenaline can come in handy. On Skill competitions, the focus and calm have to overweight the exterior inputs once the challenges require focus, calm and control.
Furthermore, the underlying street wisdom is also tested in Skill Competitions: Being patient and aware of the surroundings, knowing when to try each of the challenges, understanding curves and angles and most importantly: RUBBING THE SHOE SOLES!
My predictions and desires for the future of Skill Competitions:
I believe that right now with the cancelling of some of the biggest Parkour Events in the world happening alongside with the attempt of usurpation by FIG, the future of the sport is in the hand of us, traceurs and traceuses, free-runners, gym-owners, leaders of associations and other core community members. Skill competitions can become very appealing and entertaining for the masses. Although, it still is and should remain an event for us who practice and love Parkour.
I expect to see more and more of this type of event around the world, organized by local communities, hopefully OUTDOOR!!! It is the apex of Parkour “gaming”, to organize an official contest in the place where it truly belongs. It will be a Jam with a scoreboard. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of our lifestyle and every day training, Outdoor Skill Competitions can be the future of the sport. They can be underground events or mainstream broadcasts.
Finally, I want to give my hugest props to the Ashigaru team for organizing such a nice event. A bit of my heart is still in that gym with that beautiful community. And another huge props to every athlete who participated in the event. You guys rock!