How to Run a Non-Competitive Parkour Event

How to Run a Non-Competitive Parkour Event

Sat Sep 29 2018By David Banks 9 min read

Run a Parkour Event

Understanding the options you have when managing a parkour event can have benefits for both the client and the community. In recent  years parkour has grown massively and will continue to do so. Whether  you regard it as a sport, an art form, lifestyle, philosophy,  performance skill or all of the aforementioned we have benefited as a  community by finding more than one way to share it. As a result, we  ultimately receive it in many different ways too.

Often these come in two categories;

  1. Activities that primarily benefit the participant – jams, classes, seminars, and gatherings.
  2. Activities that primarily benefit the viewer – computer games, tv, performances, and competitions.

When approached to run a parkour competition we began by contacting  community leaders for feedback. Expectantly we quickly found that  running a competition would be extremely divisive and needed to come up  with a solution. We decided to attempt including every activity in category 1 and the live elements from category 2. Our goal was to create something that would benefit the community, satisfy an audience and fulfill our client’s aims.

These requirements gave us three distinct challenges;

  1. Running a parkour event for an audience without making it competitive.
  2. Creating a spectator event that benefits the community.
  3. Presenting classes and jams to a crowd.

Parkour Speed Runs

A speed run is an event that is about pure efficiency. Tantalizing  even for traceurs on the traditional side of the spectrum it presents a  beautifully clear challenge – get from A to B to C and so on as fast as  you can. The measurement used to test your efficiency is time and that  time is compared to others in order to decide who the winner is.  However, it is not the measurement that makes it a competition it’s the  comparison. In order to remove the competitive element of the event, we  chose to shift that comparison to something more useful.

Here is how we did it;

  • The route was completed in groups as a relay. When one finished  the next person went and so on until the whole group had finished.
  • Each groups time was added and everyone went again. The challenge was to beat the combined times.
  • Between  attempts, groups would be told there group time and individually there  own time. It was then the group/individuals choice whether or not to  share that.

This method worked really well from both a participant and spectator  perspective. Each group was interacted with differently. For the  audience, our MC was instructed to focus on athlete Saskia Neville – Saskia set the route and provided a display run for the audience to  understand the challenge. Then after the first attempt from each group  they were asked to shift the focus to the challenge of beating the  overall time. The group runs would last around 2-3 minutes apiece with 5  athletes completing the run in each group. This was a good length which  worked well for our audience.

The participants were able to get behind each other and provided a  nice platform for people to get on a stage for the first time. They  wouldn’t have to do it alone and they were doing it for the group rather  than themselves. Techniques were shared, everyone cheered on each other  and practitioners who may not have had the chance to do the speed run  in front of an audience (due to anti-competition views) were able to  participate.

The crowd prepares themselves for the first performance of the day.

Community Parkour Jam

A community jam in many ways is performative by nature. From the  behaviors we display to the techniques we drill a jam is laden with  performance potential. If we did a durational performance (a show  lasting many hours) though it may have only appealed to other traceurs  or performance art enthusiasts. The variables we needed to work with to  make this section enjoyable to an audience was staging, intensity and  time.

The stage was designed to include as much space for movement as possible whilst maintaining clear sightlines for the viewer and the  jam was broken up throughout the day in shorter intense bursts. These  bursts were 3 x 30-minute sessions throughout the day with the odd  10-minute one thrown in for good measure during an event transition.  Each burst was high energy which was really enjoyable to watch as well  as participate in.

What was really special was how well the jam sections communicated to  the audience aspects of the practice that is otherwise rarely shared  during live parkour performances. They got to see someone break a jump,  fall and get back up, group learning and how everyone’s achievements are  celebrated. Regardless of the level when you see someone try something,  again and again, you share in the elation they feel when they get it.

Parkour Competition Runs

We started off by renaming this event to performance runs rather than  competition runs. Using the word performance communicated a lot of  aspects of what makes competitions so exciting without the competitive  elements. The participants wouldn’t be going up against each other but  it was clear to them that the run was a chance for them to show what  they can do and try new ideas.

Similarly to what was done with the speed runs, we invited an athlete to open section. Pip Anderson went first in order to demonstrate to the audience along with the MC  what was coming next. From there the rest of the athletes had the chance  to do a run of there own.

  • Runs can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • You can do it on your own or at the same time as someone else.
  • There are no categories, anyone can enter.
Pip Anderson Performance Run

The mix included traceurs who had competed before and traceurs who  would never enter a competition. As a result, we got to see a huge  variety of styles and stages of development.

Parkour Chase Tag

Out of all the events we subverted for the event tag gave us the most  difficulties. Initially, we wanted to make it team vs team, as it felt  as far as we could go pacify the competitive elements. Our idea was that  we could focus on creating a more chilled atmosphere by having people  play against each other at random.

In the rules set were;

  • Each team has a set time to catch as many as the can on the opposite team.
  • Those caught during the time are eliminated.
  • The game ends when everyone from one team is eliminated.

Although this is clearly still competitive we combated this by giving  everyone at least 2-3 games. So odds were they got the chance to be  part of both outcomes and the sheer volume of matches made who was the  winner or the loser less of a thing.

The groups get ready to play tag.

Compared to the other sections of the day tag took a lot of on the  spot tweaking to get right. At first, we used way too many people on  each team. Then we had to keep on reducing the time to until we hit the  sweet spot (10 seconds). Our best match format we found through trial  and error was;

  • 2 v 2
  • Rock paper scissors to decide who starts as chaser or evader.
  • 10 seconds before reset and role swap.
  • The game ends when everyone from one team is eliminated.

It was fun but also a bit hectic at times. If any of you reading were  at the event or have ideas on how we can improve this let us know.  Careful though during our research we found that some people have taken  steps to trademark and put patents on the tag… but that tin of worms  requires another day and another blog.

Parkour Classes

More and more we are seeing weekend-long jams, competitions and  training experiences overtake structured training days/weekends. We  decided that those who would benefit the most from would be people who  came to watch the event. During our class section, we taught over 100  people with the vast majority having never done parkour before.

Coaching by Parkour Syllabus, Parkour Generations Glasgow, West Coast Shift and Access Parkour.

The children would be watched by their parents – some joined in.  Others would be cheered on by there mates. Some simply took the chance  to stand back and watch a session before having the courage to step up  and give it a go. What felt like it was going to be a very flat section  for an audience ended up being the most enjoyable part of the day for  some – particularly families. Coming at the mid-point of the day it also  gave an opportunity for the audience to invest more in the activity  before watching the live performance which came after.

Young people giving parkour a go.

Parkour Performance

We had a team of athletes perform twice throughout the event, once in  the morning and once in the afternoon. The morning performance set the  tone for the day; motivating the participants, inspiring audience  members to give parkour a go and providing a spectacle. The afternoon  performance provided a spark of energy and excitement for everyone.

The benefits of having a live performance include entertaining the crowd, inspiring future traceurs and setting aspirations for some already practicing. To be  honest all the benefits are really clear for everyone but the performers  themselves.

What is in it for them?

Why would they do it?

The answer to this varies greatly from event to event but when you  treat your performers right you can benefit them and the wider community  greatly.

Scott Houston entertaining the crowd.

How you do this is to pay your athletes to do things and not to win.  For this event, our partners have approached us with a prize pool we  could use to entice athletes along. They were very receptive to the  communities needs and instead let us use the money to pay athletes to  demonstrate, coach and perform – with leftover money used to support  others travel.

It is integral to consider what  influence extrinsic rewards have on an athlete’s performance in any  given sport and where they are located in reference to intrinsic  rewards. Thus, rightly so, parkour practitioners ought to have concern  regarding competition solely on the basis of extrinsic rewards.  - Philosophy of Sport: International Perspectives – Alun Hardman and Carwyn Jones

The options available to elite athletes to generate income is  limited. So when we took away the competitive aspect we looked at other  ways to provide work opportunities for the athletes. A community event  should be about supporting members from entry-level to elite  practitioner.

Performances delivered by Parkour Scotland and AiM Sports Academy with special guest Pip Anderson.

Don’t Say No to Running a Parkour Competition

At least, not at first. Say yes, sit down with the client, understand  there aims and propose alternatives that will benefit the community  more without undermining their objectives. You can always back out if  that doesn’t work or pass the job onto someone else. Unfortunately, when  it comes to parkour, a precedent has been set by other urban sports –  skateboarding, BMX, rollerblading, etc.

If you consider that the clients may be coming from an outside  perspective – likely influenced by competitions in other urban sports  and the fact they are the prevalent choice for spectacle – you begin to  sympathize with the fact they may just not know any better. Outright  dismissing these options cause these events to end up in the wrong  hands.

Sometimes we have to become part of what is dominant in culture in order to change it.

It is our opinion at Ukemi that non-competitive events benefit the  community more. They are more inclusive and can carry the same work  opportunities that a competitive event can have. At the end of the day  though no one owns movement, you can do whatever the fuck you wanna do.


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