This week, we went all Jackie Chan on the bit, with an in-depth look at the local parkour scene. If you haven't read it already, we recommend you do so now, before you find yourself chased into an alley by Asian gangsters and have NO IDEA how to escape. Just remember to stretch first (READ IT NOW).
During my time with the Twin Cities Parkour crew, I had the opportunity to see some of the most incredible acrobatic feats I've ever witnessed in person. Watching these dudes fly through the air effortlessly, turning even the most unassuming locales into their own never-ending playground got me to thinking: I can totally do this. How hard can it be?
That's why I decided to get a crash-course in parkour from Mitch "Skinny" Andrejka during one of the Gleason's open gym nights. Here's what went down:
[jump] I had just finished watching a bunch of the regular traceurs (parkour-jargon for "dudes who do sweet flips and jumps without dying") before Chad Zwadlo, the group leader and head parkour teacher at Gleason's, hollered for everyone to circle up for some quick instruction.
"Okay, if you're a first timer, Skinny is going to do a quick little class to make sure you don't kill yourselves," Zwadlo said, reinforcing my decision to spend my Saturday night in Eagan. "Everyone else, please be smart and don't try anything you haven't tried before. If you want to try something, talk to me and let's figure out if it's a good idea first. Thanks."
With that, the group dispersed with about 12 of us staying behind for our beginner's instruction. Looking around, I assumed I was clearly the most acrobatically inclined, based on the fact that I was the only one wearing a headband (headbands = aerodynamic. Trust me).
The first thing we did was some basic rolling, in order to understand the need to roll off of your shoulder and avoid injury. I figured that this was no more than a formality, and that in no-time I'd be leaping off roofs and fighting Asian gangsters in alleys with Chris Tucker. On a related note, I have no idea about my own physical limitations.
From the moment we started rolling, my 6'1" frame decided it wasn't interested in "staying straight." Instead, I was flailing my limbs all over the place, nearly smacking the tiny female gymnast next to me on more than one occasion. Still, I managed to survive the rolls and it was time for some leaps.
Next, Skinny showed us how to perform the basics of a Lazy Vault, which is basically just placing your hands on an obstacle (in this case, a well-padded gymnastics pommel horse), and slinging your legs over the side. While the rest of the group was able to execute the move effortlessly (even without headbands, somehow), I managed to smash my feet into the pommel horse and, at one point, nearly fall completely on my face. This was not as awesome as I had anticipated.
Finally, it was time for our final lesson: the Kong Vault. This is a variation of the Lazy Vault, in which you place your hands on the obstacle and kick your legs straight forward as you launch your body over the object. Most of the group looked pretty confident in their abilities, based on the ease of the past few exercises. I officially hated all of them. Especially the 95-pound female gymnast. She may not have been saying it, but I knew she was judging me.
After a few sad, nearly disastrous falls, Skinny called an end to the class and invited everyone to practice their new moves independently. Sadly--but realistically--I realized that parkour was not my calling, and that I would need to find a new way to defend myself in the case of an Asian gangster attack (hint: I totally carry a broken bottle in my man-bag. It gets the job done. Don't you judge me).
That night, after about eight Coors Lights (the official beer of J. Chan), I decided that I wouldn't let myself become a victim of parkour failure, and that I would nail one huge roll over my couch and across my living room floor. I moved the other furniture, backed up, and took off running. After about six steps I realized I was about to bust myself up in a bad way, but it was too late. I rolled off the back of the couch and on to my tailbone. It hurt, but I totally didn't cry (go ahead and prove otherwise. Thought so).
As I got up off the floor, I finally realized just how much skill goes into becoming a parkour practitioner, and also why booze and acrobatics don't mix.