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Unnatural naturalness

In Parkour, most rules and techniques are things you need to put aside. At least until you finish training. This is not because the discipline is rebellious by nature, but because only playing by the rules does not come from nature… your nature.

If something were to happen to you unexpectedly, your response would not look like gymnastics, you wouldn’t start flipping around in double gainers. Even after years of training, it would look casual and efficient. Parkour is not stylized. It is not dance, or form – it is the natural response to the requirement of the situation.

This discipline should practice form in a manner that encourages the body to follow instinct and respond naturally. Traceurs (Parkour practitioners) simply tinker with the shape slightly and then pay attention to the biomechanics required to produce the desired movement. This is a way of teaching you body to respond in unnatural situations in a natural way.

The term unnatural naturalness was first described by Bruce Lee, in an interview he gave to Pierre Berton. Asked about what he thinks of the strict rules in other disciplines, he explained:

Here is natural instinct and here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony. If you have one to the extreme, you’ll be very unscientific. If you have another to the extreme, you become, all of a sudden, a mechanical man – no longer a human being. So it is a successful combination of both, so therefore, it’s not pure naturalness, or unnaturalness. The ideal is unnatural naturalness, or natural unnaturalness.

These words sound like they were spoken by a traceur, even though the interview took place in 1971, two years before David Belle was even born.The philosophy behind this is that in Parkour you can’t rely on technique alone. Most of you know how to train your body, what conditioning works for jumping higher, running faster or vaulting more efficiently. But at the core of Parkour there’s an instinctive side that you need to learn how to control.

You must first teach your body to react in unnatural situations. Indifferent what they are, training under all situations and letting your instinct guide you, is the best way to be prepared. The more closely your form follows the natural inclination of your body, the more likely you are to use the lessons it teaches in actual situations.

Because you need to remember, you are not training to impress, you are training to improve. The accuracy of form must always pertain to the spatial parameters of groundpath, the strength of good alignment and skillful body use.

How do you achieve unnatural naturalness?

This is one of the easiest answers to give. You are finding yourself in a situation you need to react, and you respond. Later, it may be possible to consider what you did and identify movements that are form postures. Or, maybe not. That doesn’t really matter, because the movement must be subsumed by your instinct and your instinctual response must be shaped by the movement.

Only then you will have become naturally unnatural or unnaturally natural… be water my friend.

  1. FlowLikeWater

    May 31, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    I agree. I feel that traceurs nowadays tend to try to do what the other traceurs around them are doing. Though it is not bad to have a little competition, they should focus on more of what they want to practice to improve their flow throughout their environment. In a real-life dangerous situation, you would not remember what vault your friend was trying to perfect, and even then you wouldn’t practice it; you would want to escape from the danger. Also, you wouldn’t take the time to decide what vaults and tricks you would want to do over certain railings and certain drops. You would do all this instinctively. Even I should focus more on this, and I was thinking to challenge my friends to races where we hadn’t practiced before. Thank you for putting this article up 🙂

  2. Liam

    July 14, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Agree completely. I watched a “show” today with guys doing parkour, and it was utter rubbish because they had a set routine. They were trying so hard to follow a routine that it was extremely boring and pointless.


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