I recently wrote an article for www.girlparkour.com about my experience teaching women during the 6 months i spent in London.
In order to share it with as many people as possible, i'm posting it here too.
This is it :
Parkour has been spreading like the wind to all the corners of the world - in a worryingly uncontrolled way some would say - but bringing together nonetheless more and more practitioners. Among them, a community has started to emerge, rapidly growing in numbers and talent to the point that it must now be seriously taken into account if mentioning the global community, I speak of course about the female Parkour scene.
I've spent several months in London and have taught at nearly every Parkour Generations Women's Jam and Class, thus getting a good idea of what the ladies are up to. I've also trained with very dedicated women from England but also different parts of the world such as Canada, Brasil and other places, and I hope to train with a lot more in the future. In many regards, I found out that my evolution through Parkour has been very similar to that of many women I've encountered : I started out with a huge motivation, but also a great lack of confidence that I had to fight through. I've seen this in beginners as well as more experienced traceuses but I can say from my own experience that self-doubt is no more than a phase in one's progress, with practice and dedication, one's mind becomes clearer. As Antoine de-St Exupery would have put it : "He who confronts himself to the obstacle discovers himself", and who more than Parkour practitioners confront themselves to obstacles? Just in the same way that where there is light there can be no darkness, where there is awareness there can be no doubt, therefore there will be confidence.
Absolutely everyone has a potential waiting to be unleashed. Male or female, tall or small, weak or strong, etc... all this is irrelevant. What matters is not where you start from but how far you want to go.
I understand that many women still feel ill-at-ease in an environment that was exclusively populated by males just a few years ago, and that although several traceuses have started to show the path by expressing the women's potential through Parkour, the female "way" remains a big mystery: traceuses have bodies built in different ways than those of their male counterparts, therefore they must move differently.
Some inspiration could be drawn from the women practicing rock climbing, by adapting to their morphology they've developed their own way of climbing, which is less powerful but extremely technical, and they can now rival with men in what was a seemingly "male-reserved" discipline...
It has happened many times while I was climbing in Fontainebleau (a bouldering heaven in France) that I was completely outleveled by women, though I had the big advantage of superior physical power, and I'm not a total beginner in terms of technique either...
In the same way, I know that there will be a women's way of doing Parkour and it will be develloped in the upcoming years. It must be very exciting to be a traceuse in this particular time, drawing a path that so many will follow after them!
If, based on my observations, I had to list the main things that traceuses have a hard time dealing with (in general of course, these are not universal laws), it would go like this (in no particular order):
They think too much and too rationnally, and forget to trust their sensations.As human beings, we have instincts, and Parkour being based on natural human movements, our instincts are perfectly adapted to Parkour training. This is why it is very important to be aware of the sensations that our body gives us, it's the way it communicates and closing our eyes on it would be (with a little bit of exaggeration) like putting our hand in fire and not realizing it's hurting us! This is a subtle notion and is much easier to explain in the field, but to summarize: our body will tell us if it is ready for a particular move or physical exercise by making these moves/exercises "feel" right or wrong. Too much rational thinking at this stage would just blur that signal and could lead to the traceuse hurting herself, or not trying anything at all.
They tend to be overwhelmed by their emotions.Because of the lack of confidence that i metioned before, many women tend to become very emotional when training Parkour, either when they bail or when they don't manage to overcome a mental barrier. Parkour is bound to be emotional because it makes us face our own fears and weaknesses, it's like this for everyone, from the complete newbie to David Belle or others. Very few people have never shed tears because of Parkour... You could very well stay at home and do something easy and comfortable, but you go outside and deliberately place yourself in challenging situations, it's a very brave thing to do and really not everyone does it, precisely because it is hard. Nothing worth doing is easy, and Parkour, because of the many great things it can bring you, is worth doing. So express your emotions : cry, scream, get angry if you need to, but don't let them conquer you and turn you down, ever... Giving up is never a solution. In the long run, efforts are always rewarded.
They have trouble trusting themselves and tend to underestimate their capabilities.
I've already explained this, but i will never insist enough : all human beings have an enormous potential that unfortunately, most don't use to the fullest. I'm sure it has happened during your training or in other areas of your life, that you found yourself facing an obstacle that seemed so imposing that you thought maybe it wasn't for you, and that you ended up overcoming only to find out it wasn't that bad.
Well that's what happens 99.9% of the time, we build our own demons, we mentally transform the obstacles that we face, the limit is one's imagination! But in the end, it is only an illusion, like those fake facades on buildings in old cowboy films that make a rundown tavern look like the Playboy mansion. Very few people make the effort of seeing things as they actually are.
So next time you are in such a situation, ask yourself: am I really trying to see what is rather than what my mind wants to see? And am I confronting this obstacle with my most positive state of mind, or have I given up before really trying?
If you still can't overcome the difficulty, it's fine, take a step down, go for something easier and work your way up step by step. There is no wrong or right, no win or lose, only feedback. Don't think that because you are a woman, you are less capable than men, not only because it's not true, but also because by doing so, you would be subconsciously building a barrier in your mind to your own progress. Don't set yourself limits, because no one (including you) really knows where they are...
These 3 points are linked to each other, so if you experience one of them, there's a good chance you also experience the other two. And the other way around : solving one is not far from solving all of them!
I see some very good spirits and very good energies among the female community which has convinced me since a long time that women can bring to Parkour at least as much as men have. One of my dearest wishes at the moment would be to train a very motivated traceuse on a regular basis, but because of my travelling plans, this is a project that is on standby for now.
Though the real point in parkour is not be able to do incredible things, but rather to explore ourself and conquer our demons on the our way to pure inner peace, I hope to see the female scene express itself and shine ever more among the Parkour world.
To all the traceuses in the world, I give you my best wishes and hopes!
© Parkour Generations Ltd.