Play around with your movements using nothing but a wall.
Look at how children move when they play: almost universally—assuming the adults around them don’t intervene and impose restrictions on their natural instincts to play. They run, jump, climb and crawl, and they do these things at every given opportunity, exploring their space and learning what their bodies can do.
The movements of play are holistic, complex-dynamic, non-linear, instinctive and adaptive. They don’t play by repeating isolated patterns over and over. They don’t play by deconstructing movement into its component parts. They don’t obsess about alignment or core strength. And yet kids who are allowed to explore their physicality naturally and broadly tend to develop healthily, athletically and with general physical competence.
That should be a clue to us as to how we are meant to be moving as adults—or at least what we should be capable of doing. Play is an evolutionary indicator of the optimal movement patterns of any species. Making time to play is something worth getting serious about. Dust off those hobbies and pursuits you used to be so passionate about and give them some air; let them resonate with you again and you might find you are reminded of important truths you let fall away long ago in the rush and persistent demands of a modern working life.
Play will also help refresh your mental processes, giving your mind a much-needed break from the daily routines that can become all too monotonous and repetitive, slowly eating away at your resolve and enthusiasm for life. Play a little each day and you’ll notice your energy levels increase, your mental acuity improve (especially if it’s movement-based, demonstrated to increase brain function and brain cell production) and your appetite for life restored.
Of course, work—that time we commit to pursuing our calling (which can also be our chosen form of play!)—is just as important. The key is to create a balanced lifestyle that provides enough time for both work and play, so that you can bring 100 percent of your being to each pursuit. That has to be worth finding time in your schedule.
Movement of the month: tic-tac
As you begin to practice parkour you will find that you view your surroundings in a radically different way. You will come to see obstacles as opportunities for movements, barriers as gateways and new surfaces you never even noticed before.
The tic-tac is a prime example of this altered perspective in action. Effectively, a tic-tac is a step on a vertical surface to push from it onto or over other another object. You will find that you are quite capable of using walls like floors, providing you get the technique right.
It’s all about body positioning and the angle at which you strike the wall. The better you become at gauging how this should be done in any given situation, the more you will find that you can pretty much kick off or step from any object to or over another. You can tic-tac from walls, rails, lamp-posts, bollards—in fact, almost any street furniture you encounter (as long as it is solid enough and has a reasonable grip on its surface).
This is another technique that is extremely versatile and flexible, and one that can be utilized in countless scenarios to aid your movement and improve your creativity. Tic-tacs are great to use in combination with other techniques, such as vaults of precision jumps. For example, a tic-tac from a wall over a very high railing might be easier if you use your hand on the obstacle as you go, creating a tic-tac to vault combination. Or, any tic-tac that requires you to land on a slim or small surface area is working your precision at the same time.
Again, always think creatively with this type of movement and you will find endless variations which will challenge you over and over.
How to tic-tac
Step 1: Approach
Approach the obstacle from an angle and gauge the distance before jumping at the wall. You should take off when you’re about one running stride from the obstacle. Use your leg nearest the wall for the tic-tac.
Step 2: Step
As you jump, target where your foot is going to strike the wall, and make sure the foot is pointing roughly upwards. Strike the wall with the ball of the foot for control and bounce.
Step 3: Kick
Hit the wall and immediately kick off, pushing up and out at the same time. This will give you the height you need to get good distance. Your body should be leaning away from the wall. If your posture is too upright against the wall, your foot will slip due to the downward force.
Step 4: Redirect
As you push away from the wall, turn your head and body to point in your desired direction. Spot the landing, and raise your knees to be able to either land on it or clear the obstacle. Try to land with accuracy and as softly as possible.
Key Points: The position of your foot on the wall should be with the toes angled upwards or slightly upwards. Doing this will allow you to push up as well as away from the wall, which will give you more height and therefore more distance.
The higher you get your foot on the wall, the farther you can then jump as you push off it. But put it too high and you will not be able to push at all—it’s a matter of finding what height works best for you and simply practicing until your body knows instinctively where to place the foot to make the move a success.
As you push off from the wall turn your head and body quickly to site your landing and to help you reach your intended destination. Aim to bounce off the wall as dynamically as possible.
Photo credit (top to bottom): Vagengeym_Elena, Thinkstock; Andy Pearson / Parkour Generations