Having spoken to the issue of confrontation with security guards and curious passerbys and how to explain what you are doing, I thought I would speak to the other confrontation: the silent one; the audience. This iss about those people simply watching you practice, or perhaps they are commenting on what you are doing, but not in a constructive or curious mannerism so much as one that instills a sense of nervousness and/or fear.
So what do you do when you are being watched?

Well first we have to understand the possible outcomes of having an audience. These are the main five I have come to think of:
  1. The first thing I would identify is paying too much attention to what you are doing. You are made nervous by the presence of an audience and you doubt yourself, you fear making a mistake and - because you are second guessing yourself - you do make a mistake.
  2. The second thing is paying too little attention to what you are doing. You think about the audience more than your technique: where to place your feet, where you should take off, how you should grip the railing et cetera. You make a mistake or a miscalculation and you get injured.
  3. Thirdly, I would say again paying too much attention to what you are doing but also paying to little attention to what you can do. You get pumped up a little about having an audience and work to tailor to what they want: a really sweet show. So you go to try some bigger gaps, a harder vault, a longer wall run, and you don't think about your limitations. Sure you might make some of them, but you can also easily hinder your performance in the short or long term.
  4. The next posssibility is that in which you are able to ignore the audience on your own and go about training as if they weren't there. You might make a few minor mistakes and you hurt your pride a little, but you end up okay in the end.
  5. You step up and confront them on your own accord.
Let us rule out the first three scenarios immediately. It is not to say that they don't happen and that they will not happen to some traceurs at some point, but rather that we want to strive to do better than that. They can be hard habits to break I know - I'm not some robot spewing out articles: I've been there too (some where between scenario one and two for myself) - but I'll suggest an alternative solution shortly that I find helps me a lot in avoiding victimization of those first few cases.

Obviously I could simply say "ignore them" as in the fourth scenario, but that wouldn't help most traceurs. Ignoring an audience isn't easy to do for most people, especially when you are training alone. Trying to ignore them can bring yourself inadvertently to becoming victimized by one of the first three cases. So I say don't ignore them, toss out that option completely unless you are confident that you can continue at the level at which you are training without interruption. If you can on your own ignore them, then by all means do if you want, but I prefer scenario five.

My favourite is scenario five hands down. You confront the audience. You're polite: say "hi" and introduce yourself, ask them if they know what you are doing, what they think of it - consider explaining it to them if they don't know. A few things can come of this: you can spark an interest in parkour; you could satisfy their interest and they may leave you be; you may find that they are an authority whom will ask you to leave that site (be nice and comply); you might get a new training partner; they can walk away before you get close enough to talk; they might make requests and demands.

Which leads us to another aspect of this confrontation. If the audience through one means or another comes to demand you do things for their pleasure, how do you deal with it? I have said that ignoring is out of the option for most scenarios – and I do feel the same toward this – but how do you confront them in a way that will have them let you be? We know that you can only say “no” so many times, but I suggest that you say it anyhow until the point comes where it is evidentally futile. If they demand you do something cool like jump that huge gap or do a backflip off of that window ledge, say no. If you can’t do it, don’t try it.

If you are continually pestered though, I offer another solution, one that I didn’t present in the above list of possibilities: you walk away. Come on, if you are getting haggled like that why should you stick around? Certainly there must be more than one place to train in your area (there always are more place to train), why not move to another one for the time being? You can return any time later.

I know this has sounded like a parental talk about stranger danger or something similar, I just want to stress that safety is key and that audiences tend to take away from the safety in an area: as lame as it sounds. Certainly with maturity and capability you can come to ignore or find means of getting around audiences on your own – these are only suggestions – just remember to play it safe out there. You can’t train nearly as effectively with a broken leg.

4 comments and questions

  1. [Alex Lee] // 9/6/09 18:49  

    Haha I think this will also help me not only during parkour but in every-day life, so thank you Charles.

  2. hamadasaid_76 // 22/1/10 10:30  

    scenario number 1
    is the 1 im having problem with

    but since iv joined a team
    it was really helpful !

    cos some of them deals with it better than me
    even they make u feel
    like they take some of the attention from people
    so u dont feel that stress much with a group

    its way better training in a group
    but before that
    i was just waking away every time

  3. Fr33style // 30/12/11 08:05  

    I used to have this issue all the time at a local park. Especially when I am practicing my flips. What worked for me was to make a really good playlist for your mp3 player that lets you get pumped up and zoned in. When i put my headphones on and hit play the rest of the worlds distractions disappear and i find myself more focused and able to ignore people asking me to do stupid things. If someone is being rude to me, i just tell them im not a street performer and put my headphones back in and carry on. Only time i find it really hard to ignore my audience is if it there are some beautiful ladies in it :P

  4. Anonymous // 14/2/13 10:50  

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