I’ve been thinking recently what I was really needing back when I started out with parkour and while there were are few things, one main aspect was advice from experienced practitioners. With that, I’ve decided to ask some advanced athletes for their insight and advice for the beginning traceur. Read on for a fantastic interview with Chris ‘Blane’ Rowat, a professional parkour coach for Parkour Generations in London.
Who are you and why do you train parkour?
My name is Chris Rowat but most of my friends call me Blane, a nickname I picked up when I first started training. I have been practicing Parkour for 9 years and currently coach Parkour full time with Parkour Generations in London.
I practice Parkour because it teaches me a lot of about myself, my limits and capabilities and also allows me to meet thousands of people around the world to share experiences. I’ve met a lot of very good friends through Parkour.
How did you get started with parkour?
I was practicing martial arts and although I enjoyed the training, there was always something missing for me, and I wasn’t sure what it was. When I found Parkour I realised that this had been what I was looking for, and that I wanted to train in something that forced me to ‘fight’ myself, rather than other people.
I’m really interested in that internal struggle and overcoming fears and doubts through action.
What’s the number one thing you would recommend to beginners?
I’d recommend that any beginners spend a lot of time working on the basic techniques first and make sure they don’t get too carried away too quickly, as this inevitably leads to injury.
Find someone more experienced who can give you advice and guide you along the way, and a group who can answer any questions you have.. but don’t be afraid to think for yourself too.
And lastly, I’d just remind beginner’s to enjoy the process and don’t be in a huge rush to reach a great level. Parkour should be fun, as well as rewarding!
What is a parkour specific skill you are particularly good at and how do you recommend beginners train to be good at that skill as well?
I think one of my strengths when it comes to Parkour is accuracy when it comes to landing on small objects. I really enjoy searching and training for the ‘perfect’ jump, where one can judge different distances and heights with well, land quietly, softly and under control every time. It’s a basic skill and one that’s easy to train, but next to impossible to perfect.
I’d recommend that anyone wanting to improve their landings, especially precision landings on rails and other small objects, just simply spend a lot of time training them. Train jumps going up, across, down, over things, under things etc. The more variety, the better.
A great way to measure your progress is to find a challenging jump for you that involves landing on a small object and see how many attempts it takes you to land 30 with perfect control. Maybe it’ll take you 50 attempts or more.. but next time you train there you can try again and maybe make it in 40 attempts. Repeat this until you don’t miss any more then move on and find a new jump and repeat the process.
Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you had to start over?
If I could start again at 17, I wouldn’t change too much. I’m really happy with where I am now so if I changed something then, I wouldn’t be here now.
But if I had to choose something, I would stretch more from the beginning and I would start lifting weights sooner.
How would you recommend a beginner best avoid injury?
Parkour itself will make you very strong, but it’s not a well balanced practice on its own. You need to spend time rebalancing muscle groups, stretching and taking care of your body with good nurtrition and plenty of sleep to keep it healthy.
Listen to your body and if you feel any small problems then take care of them whilst they’re small, before they become a big issue. Rest when you need to, train a wide variety of techniques, compliment your technical training with strength development and conditioning work.. and don’t be afraid to take a day off when think it’ll do you good.
And if you plan to do this for a long time then as a general rule, avoid regularly taking big drops. They don’t impress anyone, and they’re impossible to do without doing irreparable damage to your skeleton and tendons. Work on the basics and when you piece all of those together, you’ll be able to add your own style to your movement and be very, very good at Parkour.