There are at least thirty people milling around Jacob’s Ladder when I arrive. Only two are female and their ages range from 12 to their mid-30s. While most are young men in their late teens and early twenties I don’t feel like some strange 30-something trying my hand at an activity usually reserved for teenagers.
A young man in his late teens greets me and asks whether I’m there for the first timers’ Parkour class. I confirm that I am and am ushered over to meet Tony, the instructor who is taking our consent forms and money. I heard about the Brisbane Parkour through a fabulous local blog Friday’s Five Cents, which I stumbled across recently. The classes are held most days of the week regularly in the Brisbane CBD and only cost $10 each for outdoor classes / $18 each for indoor classes.
The group is split into first timers and beginners. Our first timers’ group has about 20 participants. We set off up Jacob’s Ladder. At the top Tony tells us about the philosophy of Brisbane Parkour’s teaching style – they focus on teaching students how to cross a particular space efficiently. He starts our training by teaching us how to run efficiently. The key is to strike with the forefoot instead of the heel. This is consistent with the way I have learned to run barefoot but contrary to what most of us were taught in school athletics. I find this exercise easy. It will be the only exercise I find easy this afternoon.
We run back down Jacob’s Ladder and cover about 500m to Cathedral Square where our training continues. Under the watchful eye of the new Cathedral we wake our bodies with some stretches and squats. It’s hard work and I’m sweating profusely by the time we are done. We walk over to a patch of grass where we do our warm up; yes, there’s a wake up and then a warm up. We learn how to cat crawl efficiently on all fours. By the time I’m done with my lengths of the grass patch my body is starting to get sore; a good sore.
After our crawling we return to the tiled part of the square where we all line up on the edges of the garden beds to practice landing from jumps. The garden edges are about two feet high and we spend the next twenty minutes jumping off them, learning how to land softly and strongly. We learn how to bend our legs, tuck in our hips and land on the front of our feet. We also learn that we have to keep our eye on the spot where we want to land. I do well at this activity.
After the jumping we move to a large open area of tiles where the instructor shows us how to do rolls. I find it mentally challenging to bring my body down into a roll from a standing position on tiles. But the instructors teach us in steps: first we practice getting up and then we practice the entry to the roll before we put it all together. I bump my head against the ground a few times but it doesn’t hurt and it teaches me how to keep my head safe in future. I’m going to need a lot more practice on my rolls but am determined to become more confident with the technique.
After rolling on the ground for at least twenty minutes we move near two six foot high walls, which we learn to scale. This is another technique that I’m going to have to practice. Unlike rolling, I can see the benefit in learning this skill because I will need to scale the Berlin walls during Tough Mudder, Sydney.
We finish the two hour session with strength work before walking back to Jacob’s Ladder.
I enjoyed the session. I can see that Parkour skills will be beneficial both to my Tough Mudder and trail running training. It will build my upper body strength, flexibility, confidence and ability to traverse obstacles. I’ll have a look at the training calendar on Monday and decide which session I’m going to attend this week.