Most people go through life feeling powerless.
They feel marginalized, unimportant, defeated by their circumstances, ‘less than’: like they cannot truly create change in the world around them, like they are not good enough, like they are subject to someone else’s system. Many will find that personal success is measured only against the success of others, and there is always someone more powerful than them, exerting, controlling. We can see this manifested every day, for example, in harsh office politics, in school work & test anxiety, in unforgiving sporting competitions, even in our imperfect social lives & families.
And this is why parkour, and other inherently non-competitive athletics such as lifting and climbing, have the potential to resonate deeply with so many people, especially those who regularly face stress and externally-driven competition in their lives. When you face and overcome a particularly difficult mental or physical challenge in parkour, when you lift something very heavy when you send a problem you’ve been working towards for hours: you feel powerful.
Think about it for a moment.
Think about that exuberance, that exhilaration of achievement that holds in your chest when you overcome the physical or mental challenges encountered in your practice—your jumps, climbs, and lifts. You feel strong, capable, and satisfied. You are not only ready but eager for the next! And the best part is, with parkour you can go out and feel that any time you want.
Through the practice of parkour, you begin to deeply understand that YOU have the tools and the power to overcome your obstacles & challenges by
- The consistent training of your body and mind,
- Embracing failure as a healthy part of the process of growth (and subsequent patience in those failures)
- Seeking reconciliation with yourself & others in those shortcomings, and
- Creatively and openly seeking new paths to old problems.
…And that power you feel? It is gold. It is clean and honest. It is not the power you find through the domination and control of others, but rather the domination and control of yourself. This personal power is more than an attitude or state of mind; it is a sense of vision, of personal generosity, creativity, and self-assertion.
These critical skills, this positive mindset: This is where the magic of parkour really happens.
Through the emergence and nurturing of your personal power and your practice of parkour, you will eventually also start to realize you have the power and ability to face any of the obstacles in your life with a similar mindset. The skills and sense of power developed originally by jumping on things can spill over into other areas of your life: work, love, family, finances, etc. If you can learn to channel that power and repurpose those lessons from parkour, you will be unstoppable.
…Ok ok. So let’s just be real here for a second.
No, the world will not change because you are doing parkour, climbing, or lifting, or whatever it is you do to get to this place. The obstacles you will face will still be real, painful, ugly, brutal, and sometimes unjust. Your boss might fire you, your work might be unfulfilling, a coworker might take advantage of you. .Your exams may overwhelm, your student debt might feel crushing, your peers will still compete against and compare you. Your family may fall apart, your lover may cheat, and your health may end up failing. The people in your life, including those that you love and trust, may end up judging you, belittling and marginalizing you, betraying and abandoning you.
So don’t get carried away. Parkour cannot change the world.
But it can change your world.
Parkour can give you a new mindset, a deep, personal sense of power to overcome obstacles in your world—where you will be able to approach those obstacles not as fearsome walls blocking your way but rather opportunities for growth and learning. You will be prepared to face a challenge from a place of patience, calculation, self-honesty, and love: and a knowing that you will succeed—even if it is not how you expected.
Because you are powerful. You are strong, capable, focused, in control of your emotions, and creative. Powerful is not a state of being but a way of living and thinking.
So there it is. Finally, I understand. This is why I want to share parkour with others. This is why I run the Women’s Gathering and The Art of Retreat, why I helped found The Movement Creative and Studio Madefor. Why I run around like a crazy person, working 80, 90, 100+ hour weeks. And it’s also why I don’t compete against others, and encourage everyone as well to find and accept ‘their’ parkour, and accept parkour as others choose to define it for themselves.
Everyone should have a way of living that empowers them.
I want to help them find their power.
This is my calling.
Illustrations © Andrew Obenreder