After recently giving a talk on Inclusive Practice at the Art of Retreat, I agreed to release the material in a series of short blogs.
The blog will be split into a number of sections:
- Definitions of Inclusive Practice
- Why Be Inclusive?
- Inclusive Practices for the Budding Parkour Business
- Inclusive Practices for the Budding Parkour Coach
These will be most easily read in order, but each will also stand alone as individual posts.
An inclusive practice is a practice that recognises diversity and makes sure everyone is able to access that practice and fully engage with it regardless of background or circumstance.
But, as we saw in the first chapter. Parkour seems to be a practice that promotes equality. Which we define as treating everyone the same. In general, that isn’t seen as a negative. Being inclusive is not a requirement and it’s important we don’t attach stigma towards groups that are not inherently inclusive.
This naturally leads on to a very important question: Why should we strive to disrupt our existing community and practice in order to make Parkour more inclusive and accessible?
It is by no means a given that we should disrupt the status quo and what we have built in order to appeal to more people. We aren’t required to. And we should take a moment to ask ourselves not only, why do we want to appeal to more people, but what about Parkour is unique and deserving of being spread to many other people?
For me, inclusivity boils down to a simple goal: I wish to help as many people as possible lead happier and healthier lifestyles. I think Parkour is a powerful tool whose teachings can help many people better themselves. By exposing people to some of the teachings of Parkour I think we can help improve a lot of lives.
In order to do this, we need to be able to present Parkour, or something like Parkour, in as inclusive a manner as possible. To do that, we need to understand how we go about creating an inclusive practice.
But, a more inclusive Parkour Practice must, by virtue of appealing to more people, compromise something.
Personally, I feel that the main loss we see in the drive to make our art more accessible is a loss of the unique experience. We replace a personal journey of discovery with a slightly safer, more sanitised version of the same thing. One of the unique aspects of Parkour is the very personal journey we each travel on. It explains the very diverse approach different countries and cultures have to their parkour practice.
Parkour participants tend to be those attracted to their own unique, personal paths. It can be considered a lifestyle sport. Therefore the unique experience could be considered to be a very fundamental aspect of Parkour and it’s practice.
Within a classroom environment it makes sense that we will, to an extent, sanitise that practice. As we are consciously removing the mistakes we, and others have made in their own journeys, we provide a more standardised pathway – with fewer errors and mistakes colouring the journey we can bring the quality of their movement practice forward quickly and efficiently. We try to make them fitter, happier and healthier. But in exchange we certainly lose the individual journey.
This will fundamentally alter the start of someone’s parkour training. My first experience of Parkour was going out to meet a group of strangers on the dark streets of Edinburgh in the middle of winter. In future, the first few years of someone’s parkour practice is most likely to occur in a class or a gym.
If we imagine the journey through movement of the original parkour practitioners, we can think of their journey as an exploration of what was possible. A curved line slowly heading upwards towards more impressive feats and abilities. Some discoveries made them healthier and stronger, many more were mistakes or led to injury. Learning from these experiences, they found a healthy practice that made them strong and in doing so they explored a wide range of potential human movements.
The 2nd generation of practitioners learnt from them. Avoiding their mistakes, they were able to progress their training faster and push themselves beyond what their teachers were capable of. But in doing so, they found their own pitfalls. Our 3rd generation of practitioners are progressing even further, avoiding so many mistakes they eventually find themselves on their own personal journey, exploring a range of movement unimaginable to the first generation.
As each athlete learns from the previous generation, moving past them into new territory, they then begin their own unique practice coloured by mistakes and discoveries of their own. While you may consider the mistakes to be a negative, you could also consider them part of a more personal experience.
We’d therefore expect the future pathway into Parkour to be through coaching. The coaching should be inclusive and introduce many of the principles of Parkour. This coaching practice should try and engage as many people from different backgrounds as possible. Some of them will go on to become incredible athletes and forge their own unique experiences. Others will enjoy the exercise but focus on other aspects of their lives.
This model is encouraging. Because this doesn’t really change our practice. It’s just that the Parkour journey starts after some groundwork has been done in building strong, healthy movement that allows the next generation to miss many of the pitfalls we fell into. Discovering how to optimise this coaching practice to make it most useful to most people will be the focus of the 4th chapter.
And it also leaves open the possibility for people to reject the coaching pathway and still engage with Parkour. Making their own mistakes might mean they develop slower, but perhaps they are more interested in the journey than the destination. And maybe they’ll discover a whole new path none of us had even considered before.