Elevation from today

This is just something which I have been thinking about recently, and I have tried to articulate some of those thoughts here. There is more which I want to say but I simply don't want to write any more right now.

There has been a big boom in the emphasis on conditioning reasonably recently in the parkour community. This is really a great thing in itself, but I don't think anyone can improve through just this and technique practice without understanding concepts that lie behind these things.
Something which is as, if not more important than physical condition, something very elusive, hard to measure progress in, is the mental ability of people. Its something that I think will be a constantly evasive thing for my whole life. I know how a lot of people, me included, can be introspective about their ability in Parkour, questioning how to progress and looking to others, in Parkour and other activities. A lot of the time its thinking about things like why I took so long to try a certain movement, and when I finally did, it was so much easier than I thought. Or why I didn't feel good in myself on a particular day. I’m sure others get it too, when you feel a bit disembodied and don't quite feel as light, powerful, balanced or whatever as you’re used to or at least as you think you ought to be. Maybe sometimes when for instance I go to another place to train with people and I won’t try certain movements and will be very reserved, like something is holding me back. Even in everyday life, like when you think 'argh why did I say that', or 'I really should've gone to X place to do X activity', or 'what is wrong with me today?' or blah blah.

With Parkour, I think there are 4 big types of fear which can hold us back from reaching closer to our potential.

Fear of pain: This is the most basic and fundamental aspect of fear, that we are sometimes afraid that we may hurt ourselves. Oftentimes this fear is very irrational, especially if it is about something which you know you are fully capable of. When I am afraid of hurting myself, I try and objectively look at the reality of there being a chance that it could happen. Also I think about similar things in the past I have done, and things which I have messed up. You can sit there and theorise about what could potentially go wrong, but even if you tried to fall badly, a lot of the time you can save yourself from any real damage. I’m sure most of us have had that experience, when we go for something and mess it up but come out of it fine, and when we look back it at we think...wow I really would have thought I would have hurt myself more than this! There are falls which can be seriously damaging though, and the risk of this is increased by height, distance, inexperience, environment etc. All this means is that it is all the more important to drill the small things time and time again, developing you ability at a safe level before testing it. The mindset for drilling movements and doing the small things can save you from injury in the future.

Fear of anticipation: This is for those times when you have maybe been looking at a particular thing and putting it off for weeks or months, but you have reached the level where you know you are fully capable but still don't want to try it. The fear of anticipation is the knowledge that you can do something but don't want to commit to trying it because of the nervousness or anxiety which comes before even attempting it. It’s being nervous about being nervous. It can happen for example you are walking to an area, but on the way see something that catches your eye. If you go over and really look at it sometimes it turns out to be something rediculous, but on thinking about it more a switch goes in your head that says 'this is possible'. At that point you have made a subconscious commitment to coming back and looking at it and in the future trying to do it, because if you walk away and try and forget about it, you will feel like a coward. So from then you have anticipation building up about it. It can equally be the anticipation of a hard conditioning session, or even going to the dentist. Some people find this anticipation uncomfortable. It has to be looked at positively and you need to learn to enjoy the anticipation, knowing that you have a battle ahead of you and that you will be the victor, making it all the more satisfying when you accomplish it. Treat it as a challenge and something to be defeated, to see it as a mark of progression.

Fear of Failure: The fear of letting yourself down, not succeeding. This can hold us all back from exploring outside of our current limitations, which are more often than not, self imposed limitations. Doubt plays on our minds when we are uncertain about something. Scenarios of what could happen flash through the head, scenarios of failing. Its nice to do things which you are comfortable with, things which you know you can do, to just repeat your most familiar movements, be it strength training or more technical movements. Why not? They make you feel good, you can do them without giving it a thought, they are familiar and you have worked hard to be able to do them. It’s satisfying. Fine if you don't want to progress, but to advance in any activity new things have to be tried, and when trying new things there is the risk of failure. If you have this idea that everything has to be done comfortably, slowly, bit by bit building up, then there will be progress. But if you really want to learn, to push beyond your current ability, then you need to acknowledge that mistakes will be made, be willing take lessons from these mistakes and analyse them, then you can really try new things without being afraid of failure. Don't let it hold you back, new things have to be tried and failed in order to learn and advance.

Fear of embarrassment: Sometimes people don't try things because they are aware of the people around them. We all have to some degree a self-imposed image of ourselves, created partially consciously and also unintentionally. We have limitations imposed on ourselves which abide by this image of ourselves, setting ourselves unconsciously limits on what we should do, how we should behave, how to react to people, what to wear......These can lock us in tram lines which are in themselves a limit on our potential, it caps the limits on what we can all achieve. When training, people want to appear in a certain way, perhaps not consciously. No one really wants to look incompetent or inexperienced, but if we can set aside this self-imposed image of ourselves, to look at ourselves objectively as human beings here to learn, then new things can be tried without thought of embarrassment. The beginner who has no preconceptions of themselves or what they are learning progresses ten times faster than the experienced person who is reserved and unwilling to compromise their self-image. A lot more can be done with a blank canvas than one which already has marks on it.

Parkour is a demanding activity, but not so much physically as mentally. Once you are in the right mindset no matter how difficult the exercises are, you do them and feel good for doing them. Repeating exercises and movements is simple enough, but what about the things behind that? The motivation, planning, allocating time, judging what to do, sacrificing, pain, pushing your weak areas, going out of your comfort zone, researching, etc. This is one of the reasons that Parkour is a demanding discipline, there is no one there to prescribe you with what to do, what to learn, how much to do, when to rest, how to recover, who to talk to.....it’s all down to you and so behind all this has to be a drive, a reason. To rise above your current self and become exceptional, Parkour demands a huge part of yourself. No one can continually develop, practice consistently and make sacrifices in the rest of their life without a reason. A good way to explore this reason is to really ask yourself why you practice. Someone might say 'because I want to be useful and strong' why 'because it’s rewarding to me' why 'because I find the progression rewarding' why 'because I want to progress' why.......etc. It is a process of elimination which really makes you think why you practice.

Reasons can change from time to time, but at the core is something which only a certain amount of people can appreciate and share an affinity with, something which revolves around hard work and the desire to elevate oneself higher than yesterday. In order to elevate yourself, the mental mechanics behind how to go about physically doing it need to be understood.


  1. That was a fantastic read, fear is something that I'm learning to deal with slowly. I think it's mainly the 'nervous of being nervous' kind.

    I've always placed so much emphasis on physical conditioning for Parkour - that I do think it's probably affected my technical side a bit. I feel that my physical side right now is beyond my technical level which is why I'm maintaining my current strength level and exploring my capabilities within this level. There are things that I KNOW for a fact my body can do but I don't have the confidence to allow it to, this I think is my biggest weakness in Parkour right now.

    Thanks a lot for writing this all down Jin, it was a brilliant read and I'll probably comment more on it later when I've read it over a few times and had time to digest it.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend mate.


  2. Man i was just thinking something like this yesterday, but i was like - "... man you should train not think "

    I thought about the fears, and i have come to one more of them, the fear to succeed a certain thing, but not to remember anything. Maybe all of us have done something like this, and i havent learnt how to control it yet.

    I hope a lot of people will read this post of yours :).

    - harsh , Bulgaria

  3. Hello Jin,

    Nice post on fear, true thoughts I believe.

    Just to confirm some of what you said.

    I've been in fisiotherapy for the past 2 months and although my injury is but a minor thing, some guys there have huge problems. There's this guy who broke his "Tibya" (?) (the bone where the chin is) and he started fisiotherapy to literally learn how to walk again. On his physical side, he has had operation and "technically" he is capable of walking. But his mental side is in shock still, in kind of a trauma, even though unconsciously most of the times. It seems like every neuron (brain cell) is acting like a frightened dog who's owner beats every day.

    During my therapy (paradise compared to his) I've managed to learn alot, and, more importantly, bem impressed alot. The guy is imbedded (drown in) the fear you called "of anticipation". There is one particular exercise where he has to lay on his belly and the therapist pushes his leg, bending his kneen trying to reach his back. I can tell by his screams that that is a painfull exercise.

    So it's funny, and truly insightfull, sometimes when the therapist says "right, on your belly for THE exercise", he (i believe unconsciously) goes about doing everything else before laying down correctly. He starts talking to us other guys, he sits and waits or looks at the celular phone, etc. I mean, looking at him, I can tell all those scary dogs in his mind are making him do those things. They are terrified, because they know the position he has to go to is the one it will hurt, the one which will remind them of the accident, and all the pain...

    While watching him, i've often related to that, speacially while doing conditioning work. Sometimes, I see myself reacting just as he does, right before doing a set of pushups or whatever. I realise i've stopped for 5 minutes sometimes, or arranjed someting else "much fun" to do right before laying down and start pushing. This strange conflict becomes even more explicit when training with someone else. The amazing topics you can come up with when you are training in group! you could just spend the whole afternoon talking without doing one pushup if you let those "traumatized dogs" take control. Usually, when seeing myself in this occasion I breed deeply and really try to foccus, as I know this is the time for the mind to REALLY be stronger than the body and itself.

    Trully sorry for the long post and the bad english. I'm portuguese:)


  4. Thanks a lot for your thoughts, it was nice. Yeah I do find it interesting how the mind or perhaps people react to fear, and what you were talking about is a good example. Oftentimes i think the fear is much more imbalanced by the actual event, ie) It is usually a LOT less bad than our fear tells us it may be.
    Just yesterday I was training in trees and jumped from one branch to the other only for it to snap. I fell from about 7 feet onto my back, thankfully onto quite a soft ground but only my back hit first nevertheless. As soon as i landed i just got back up and felt fine, although if i thought about the possibility of that happening before i jumped to the branch, the fear of what could happen to me would have been much greater, even though when it actually happened, I was 100% ok.

  5. Hey Jin, just have a quick question which is kinda of topic...

    But i have heard from some people that flips/tricking can help you with over coming mental fears and also help build up your physical condition.

    Is this fact or false?

    Cheers, and see you in Sheffield on Saturday =]


  6. Hey jak,
    Yeah I think it definately can help you overcome fears, and as for physical condition, there are aspects which it can help for sure, but it also helps coordination and your ability to know where your centre of gravity is.
    As for overcoming fear though, I guess its the same for anything. For example, playing rugby can help you overcome fear, taking an exam, a driving lesson.....anything! Fear is universal in anything so if you can learn to deal with it in one activity, it can also be transfered to the rest of your life. Its a lot to do with confidence and being sure in yourself and knowing that if it came to a situation, you trust yourself enough to pull through and have the confidence and determination to do so.
    hope that makes sense :)