Limen – Part 1: Filling the Void
Part 1 – Bridging the Gap Between Parkour & Industry
What Is Limen And Liminal?
- Limen is ‘a threshold below which a stimulus is not perceived or is not distinguished from another.’
- Liminal relates to the threshold between conscious and unconscious, it relates to the word ‘subliminal’ which describes a brain reaction too faint to be consciously experienced.
Limen is the threshold between which two, or more, different things can co-exist. However, if you place yourself on one side of a limen (or threshold) a stimulus is perceivable, on the other side, it is not. Using these concepts you can engage in a working process to create ideas, discover use cases and identify opportunities. Finding the space between things and injecting them with the core values of your discipline – for us at Ukemi Project this is Parkour. Creating spectacles without the competition, toys and games that don’t involve sitting down, and innovative design that invites the user to transgress and re-define its function as we, traceurs, do so with our environment.
How Does This Apply To Traceurs?
An analogy for traceurs would be; Imagine you are in a long corridor with an endless amount of doorways. The corridor is representative of Parkour; it’s history, philosophy, practice, culture and all the sum of its parts that make it a whole. The other side of each doorway cumulatively makes up everything else – except everything else has been atomized and divided between the different rooms.
The first room you come across contains the smallest change possible that would make them distinguishable from the corridor (parkour) and the further you get the bigger the changes. The frame around the door is limen (or threshold). You, as the traceur, carry a liminal perception (or vision) when looking through each door way. When deciding to enter you carry your perception and as you step across, the point where one foot is in each room, you create temporary liminality where ideas begin to flourish and when you enter the new room you are the only one there with knowledge of the corridor.
As the popularity of parkour soars worldwide it grows more accessible and more diluted in tandem. This is divisive for the community but creates an ‘in between’ that can be occupied to bridge these divides. It represents an endless framework of things to respond to – formed by cultures, societies, businesses, artists and the innovators who came before us.
Traceur Vision & Values is all the Stimulus you Need to Make New Things
When you engage in new ideas and projects, however, try to not make your immediate instinct to think ‘how can this become Parkour?’ The word Parkour draws too much of your attention with its multiple identities pulling the conversation towards how it’s being represented as opposed to what it actually is you are creating. Instead, look at it with the mindset of ‘what would a traceur do?’ “Being strong to be useful”, “Adapt and overcome” these aren’t just phrases, but philosophies – they are the building blocks that created everything that came after Parkour. Philosophies that when applied to a range of contexts can extend beyond the boundaries of what Parkour is.
In short, Parkour as a whole has always been very easy to misrepresent and cause friction in the community and when it is broken down it’s also very easy to apply it to pretty much anything.
Taking the First Step Down the Corridor
There are two ends of the corridor in the analogy; the end that shares more in common with Parkour than it doesn’t and the other end where it has almost no resemblance. It is the former that as a parkour coach, athlete, entrepreneur, etc. you are likely to most frequently engage with. It is also this side of the corridor where you are likely to encounter the most scrutiny from those in observation mode. Ukemi was created in 2018 and it’s then that we took our first steps down the corridor. We found ourselves in a spot that was primed for scrutiny from the Parkour community.
We took on the management and delivery of the Parkour section of an event called the Youth Urban Games. Our brief was to create a park and put together a competition as well as attract elite movers to share the stage and compete alongside Scottish traceurs under 25. After contacting our peers and community leaders for feedback, expectantly, we were told that running a competition would be extremely divisive and damaging to the scene. On one hand we agreed with all the community leaders we spoke to but on the other, as a new startup, the opportunity felt too big to pass.
The key was to identify liminal spaces to occupy – in this case the space between parkour and competition. Our aim was to create an event with positive outcomes for both the client and the community. We listed things that we felt would most benefit the community; jams, classes, seminars, displays and gatherings. Then we set about making these work at a spectator event.
We had to find a way to;
- Run an all day parkour event for an audience without making it competitive.
- Create a spectator event that benefits the community.
- Presenting classes and jams to a crowd.
When considering the space between parkour and competitive sports we looked at how aspects of theatre, circus and performance art could be integrated to allow us to occupy it. We were able to retain positive qualities of competition; such as team building, pushing boundaries and high level athletes. Whilst also eliminating things such as barriers of access, the conflict with parkour philosophy, professionals having to compete for a payday.
Don’t Say No To Running a Competition
The event was a massive success with 70 athletes, 200 participants and a rolling crowd of 7,000. It was an opportunity to do something new that we wouldn’t have had if we stuck to our guns and turned down the hire. There was a clear space between parkour competitions and gatherings that wasn’t being occupied and we set the template on how to do it.
By sitting down with the client and understanding their aims we were able to propose alternatives that would benefit the community more without undermining their objectives. No single person solely represents the parkour community. The client won’t expect you to and you shouldn’t expect to either. By engaging in the process you get the opportunity to display what is needed without just saying it. This process gets your foot in the door, or for the sake of our analogy one step across the threshold of our corridor. And anyway, you can always back out if that doesn’t work or pass the job onto someone else.
If you take a step back and 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 can lose you the work and 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 - Aundrey Lorde
It is our opinion at Ukemi that non-competitive events benefit the community more competitive ones. They are more inclusive and can carry the same work opportunities that a competitive event can have.
Competition Isn’t the Problem, It’s How We Are Engaging With It That’s The Issue
Do you participate in competitions? Chances are that even if your not a competition parkour athlete you do compete somewhere, even if just on a small scale. Whether is other sports, esports, maybe just silently competing with a training partner? Whether competition is a good or bad thing is debatable and another blog entirely. What we do know though is that almost everyone at some point or another has done it and that competition exists everywhere from the tennis court to the table top.
To Impact Competition Culture In Parkour We Had To Put Our Own Spin On It
We’ve all played plenty of games at jams from add-on, to monkey tag and in more recent times lick or stick. We found with these games, with their lack of prestige or ‘grand prize’ was an exciting space to occupy that existed between parkour and competitions. However, what was so great about these games were also there downfall in an entrepreneurial sense. They, like parkour, require no equipment and great efforts are already being made to distribute these ideas.
Ukemi Project made the decision to collaborate with Sam McFarlane - a coach who is well known for his games with cards, dice and more - to investigate these ideas further. The goal was to gamify parkour in a non-digital way. Sam shared his ideas with us and the one that really stood out was how he would use a deck of cards to randomize movement challenges in the coaching environment.
Finding the Space Between Things To Create Something New
It was decided that the game would have three card types; Movement, Condition and Wild Card. In later versions, blank cards were also added to give the user the opportunity to add their own cards. We also decided to create a base play format. In this, the main play style, players race to ten points through sequentially selecting a card from each type.
In order to not mis-represent the community with things such as word choices for techniques, inclusion of tricks. We opted to not give the game a Parkour name. This, like one foot in and out the corridor, allowed us to occupy both the word of tabletop games and parkour without being either, instead creating a new concept entirely and ultimately a worlds first. This process of identifying an existing product or market and simply thinking ‘what would a traceur’ do as the centrepoint of your process creates the opportunity for innovation cross market.
What we’re finding as the precedent for Parkour based products and brands is very limited and pretty specific. It’s mainly just clothing, some high quality garb from some and from others Fruits of the Loom t-shirts with a poorly printed logo. There are also brands who are building parkour specific parks and equipment while other more literate folks are writing books. In regards to clothing, 10 years ago we were limited to Team Traceur joggers with PARKOUR written down the side, now however, clothing has become a bit more subtle. Like thrasher clothing, these days, being worn by people who have never skateboarded, Farang are endeavouring to break into the fashion market with their clothes by simply removing any Parkour specific traits.
We Don’t Need Any More Clothes With Parkour Written On It
However, most of the equipment and books are very much still focussed heavily on Parkour and are mainly for those who already have an interest in it. Even though the most successful brands, equipment, in Parkour aren’t even Parkour brands. They are Onistuka Tigers, Kalenjis or Feiyeus, they’re home made peanuts for mobility and the cheapest clothing that can be found because you’ll ultimately ruin it and buy more.* Although traceur fashion has moved on (a bit) I remember the day when you could spot a traceur from a mile away simply because of how they were dressed. Even today when you arrive at a jam in a new city with practitioners you haven't met you know
We think one day day that it’s indistinguishable, that Parkour brands are as huge as No Fear, or Vans. That people practice Parkour without knowing, that they buy Parkour games for their kids, that a middle aged van driver wears a Motus hat, or fashionable teenagers wear Storror 10s but don’t follow StorrorBlog.
END OF PART 1
Limen – Filling the Void Between Parkour and Everything Else is a three-part blog series adapted from a talk the Ukemi team done at the European Art of Retreat 2019.