In a previous article titled The 3 keys to getting the most out of parkour I mentioned as part of one of the three keys that you need to work on improving the technical aspects of your movements in order to achieve the flow and efficiency that yields progress. Repetition is a significant piece of the quest for better technique, but it alone will do you no good. If you simply repeat the same movements over and over, you may be committing improper form and poor technique to muscle memory.

I have isolated four areas to analyze in order to help perfect your technique. To be able to analyze your own technique and identify which areas need improvement, you may wish to film your maneuvers or arrange to have fellow traceurs and friends break them down for you. Regardless of how you go about analyzing your technique, you will most likely want to know the four areas that I have suggested you focus on in order to better your technique.

AREA ONE: Object proximity and redirection of momentum.
The term ‘object proximity’ is used to reference how close you are to the object during your maneuver. If a traceur performs a vault with the intent of maintaining their speed, they will redirect their momentum as little as possible: just enough to get over the object; being closer to the object means that less energy has been wasted in redirecting your momentum. The opposite of a vault utilizing an efficient object proximity and momentum redirection would be an example where a traceur jumps excessively high in order to clear the object; this means more energy has been wasted pushing the traceur up, and the speed has been greatly diminished if not lost completely by the incompetent redirection of momentum. This effect applies to all forms of movements; as another example picture a traceur attempting a wall run. The most efficient means would be for the traceur to wait until their weight is over their foot before pushing up, keeping closer to the wall and generating more of an upward push thus maximizing height. In an example of a poorly executed wall run, the traceur would kick off a little early, forcing themselves in more of an angular direct away from the wall, diminishing the height of the wall run and risking missing the grab at the wall’s top.

In order to improve in this area: work to stay closer to your object (obviously without hitting it). The use of gauntlets or circuits also promote efficiency, since the traceur is working with less energy each lap; thus energy conservation through object proximity and momentum redirection is the primary focus in order to better continue the circuit or gauntlet.

AREA TWO: Angle of approach.
In order for a technique to be useful in a real life situation, you have to be able to utilize it under a variety of circumstances. In the event of a traceur escaping a threat and coming across a familiar obstacle in an unfamiliar positioning, it will be their training in the various approaches that allows them to surpass it. A traceur who has not dedicated time to working various angles of approach will stumble, and lose time or ground in a real life situation because they have only practiced a technique with the intent of approaching from the right or a similar fault. On the other hand, a traceur who has dedicated their time to learning how to pass objects from a variety of angles, positions and circumstances will not falter in their movements, but continue to their goal (or away from a pursuer).

In order to improve in this area: attempt each maneuver from a variety of angles alternating with both the dominant and non-dominant sides. While obviously not all of the maneuvers will be practical at certain angles of approach, your training them will allow you to instinctively and automatically integrate the most appropriate moves in real life scenarios.

AREA THREE: Control of movement.
Someone once asked me why hands are used in vaults, asking if they aided by boosting the traceur upwards or forwards or if they were just there for safety. Both those assumptions are partially correct, but the main reason is to control your movement. If you were simply in the air while vaulting over an object, you have no control of your vault and especially your landing. If a traceur does not learn how to control their movement, they may injure themselves on an uncoordinated landing, or end up facing the wrong way and thus wasting potential energy correcting their mistake among many other possible outcomes. A traceur who can better control the direction of their movements can better use their momentum and energy, and is also safer. In a real life situation they can make sudden changes that a traceur who has not worked on controlling their movement is unable to. Once again I must note that while I use vaults for exemplars, this is applied to all techniques even balancing and precisions (falling or missing versus continual balance and definite precisioning).

In order to improve in this area: you should work on your ability to control where you land, the directions you face, how prolonged a movement is, the rotation or lateral movements and such related things. These can be done by simply repeating a technique over and over, deciding each time where you want to land or step, how fast or with what lateral or amount rotational movement as well as the previously listed.

AREA FOUR: Overall flow.
You can identify a good traceur from their flow and movement patterns; they seem to slide gracefully from one maneuver to the next with very little noise or effort. The flow and lack of noise and effort comes from practicing the techniques endlessly while perfecting the other four areas. The flow from one move to the next is what ties all the visual/physical components of parkour together though it is more than just eyecandy. The ability to move so gracefully from one movement to the next is a sign of mastery, but it is also the sign of energy conservation. Jerky and blocky movements take energy, be it in the original movement or the following moves that are required to compensate for the faults caused by those prior (examples include over rotation and hitting the rail on an under-bar). When a traceur moves with deliberate flow, they use only the energy required to overcome an object.

In order to improve in this area: practice and repeat each move generously. Work the other areas to their optimum, then practice the maneuvers working them until the moves are soft, deliberate and quiet as possible, and then repeat it again. A real traceur doesn’t practice until he can do something today; they practice until they can not fail it tomorrow.

Obviously this will only work to optimize the technical aspect of your maneuvers; you still need to work on the physical and mental portions in order to make the most of your parkour progression. Remember that repetition is essential, but only if it is deliberate and measured repetition.

1 comments and questions

  1. Evan // 27/8/08 23:30  

    In your post you should try to give practical tips that new traceurs could take away from the article. In the first area you could add that the use of gauntlets or circuts force efficency because you are working with less energy each lap, trying to conserve energy to continue through the circut. Compared to most new traceurs that just practise single vaults alone one at a time.

    Also don't forget to mention in the 2nd area some techniques are very unpractical or useless at certain angles and training from different angles will teach the body to instinctively integrate certain techniques in certain situations.

    Good luck with your training.