Common Misconceptions About Parkour During the ZA (part 2)

Last week I talked about this thread on the Zombie Survival Wiki, and how I noticed a lot of misconceptions about the usefulness of Parkour during a Zombie Apocalypse. I read the entire thread and distilled it down into several common concerns, addressing each one. I made it through about half of the arguments in my first post, now here are the rest:

The GTFO Argument
Parkour might be useful in the city, sure, but in a ZA your primary goal should be to GET OUT of the city. Once you’re out, it’ll be useless.

This is fundamentally wrong on so many levels.

First, parkour is definitely useful in the wilderness. Fallen trees, rock outcroppings, creeks, can all be traversed faster with the techniques and body awareness learned through parkour training. Admittedly, you have to be more careful, as surfaces will surely be looser and more slippery, but this is true of running, climbing, even walking.

Even if you couldn’t use parkour outside of the city, it’ll be immensely useful during your trips back in. I’ve already discussed bacteria and infection. Where are you going to find antibiotics in the wilderness? Pain medication? Sterile bandages? You have to go back into the city. What happens when you get low on ammunition? Unless you can make more, you’ll need to scavenge it.

Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say that not only would you never need parkour outside of the city, but you’d also never have to go back in. You’re discounting parkour because it will only be able to save your life once or twice. Really?

The Everyone Argument:
Parkour is only helpful if everyone in your group is trained in it, otherwise it’s completely useless.

This is a really easy conclusion to jump to: You’re not about to abandon loved ones. The group is only as agile as their least agile member, so everyone would need to know parkour for anyone to be able to use it, right? There are actually quite a few instances where parkour is going to be useful even when you’re part of a group, but I’m only going to talk about two for now.

The first situation plays off the original concern directly: you’ll help the group most often by using parkour alone. That may seem nonsensical at first, but bear with me. It’s true, parkour isn’t likely to help get your family out of immediate danger unless everyone is trained, which they inevitably won’t be. Once everyone is relatively safe, though, you’re not going to spend every moment huddled in a circle. Tasks will be assigned and smaller groups (or even individuals) will break off and go on isolated “missions,” to scout, scavenge, or locate other survivors. In that situation, one or two people trained in parkour isn’t going to risk abandoning those around them.

The second case might only make sense to the parents reading this, but even during the initial flight from the city, a single person trained in parkour will benefit their entire group, by allowing them to act as a decoy.

I know I’d gladly sacrifice myself to save my children, and I’m sure any parent would agree. So if my family needs a diversion to get away safely, I won’t hesitate to draw the attention of nearly zombies, leading them away and providing a diversion so they can escape. And in that situation, being trained in parkour will help ensure I, too, can escape once I know my family is safe, and meet up with them again later, increasing everyone’s chances of survival.

The Climbing Argument:
Why do I need parkour when I can just run and climb normally?

Short answer: Because it’s faster. A lot faster.

When you’re being chased by zombies, seconds matter. If I can go straight over or through an obstacle the zombies have to shamble around, that gives me a several-second head start. Three, five, even ten seconds doesn’t sound like much, but how long toes it take to bar a door? And each obstacle adds more seconds, more breathing room.

Consider this transit platform:

Transit platform from below

There are four switchbacks here, with about eight feet from the top of the rail on each landing to the platform below:

Transit Platform from above
Here’s a view from one of the landings

I went out with a stopwatch (well, a stopwatch app) and timed myself from the top of the platform to the bottom of the last switchback. It took me 13.38 seconds to run down the ramps. I was able to climb over the two large rails and get to the bottom in 11.62 seconds. Then I went over those same rails using a safety vault, which is the very first vault most traceurs learn. It took me 4.98 seconds.
Five seconds to get down that landing. Twice as fast as climbing and over eight seconds faster than running (and I was even running the right way). By the time a zombie horde gets to the second landing, I’ll be long gone. Oh, and I did it like this:

Me in business casual
Ignore the creepy guy in the background. He’s making me nervous, too.

No gusseted athletic pants or shirts, no special shoes, just my everyday work clothes, and normal dress shoes. Oh, and a heavy laptop bag slung all the way down by my hip.
Not only are parkour techniques faster at getting you past obstacles, but parkour training will strengthen all the muscles needed for climbing the way no amount of weight training ever will. So even if you’re just climbing something, practicing parkour will make you a better climber.

The Bacteria Argument:
During the ZA we won’t have access to the same level of medical treatment, and cuts and scrapes are more likely to become infected. If you cut yourself on something doing parkour, you’ll be in trouble.

Does that mean we shouldn’t pick up a machete to fight zombies, because we might cut ourselves? What about a hammer and a nail? Smashed thumbs and cut hands are common in construction, so does that mean all our buildings post Z-Day will be held together with duct tape?

This argument assumes that a person is more likely to break the skin doing parkour which, generally, isn’t true. In fact, parkour training enhances your balance and reflex, as well as bodily and spatial awareness. So in reality you’ll be less likely to snag your hand on a jagged edge, or scrape your knees climbing up a wall.

Now, I have to admit that there is a certain pride associated with “parkour hands,” among traceurs: broken, bloody calluses and scraped knuckles. And while I can’t honestly say that these things don’t happen, I have a couple caveats to add:

1: These types of cuts and scrapes happen most often for beginners, particularly beginners who don’t have a lot of previous experience working with their hands. You have to form those calluses, and the process does require a little bleeding. This type of thing usually diminishes significantly after only a few months, and previous athletes who’ve already worked their hands never experience it at all. Remember the context: for a lot of traceurs, parkour is the first athletic activity they ever try (if you don’t believe me, watch them run).

2: For traceurs with even moderate experience, those cuts and scrapes only happen under specific conditions: only certain techniques, of a certain scale, on certain terrain bring them about. Generally, these ultra-specific situations can be avoided or circumvented. After all, that’s what parkour is about, right?

The ROI Argument:
Parkour takes years and years of training. I don’t want to devote that much time to something that’s only going to have limited usefulness during the ZA.

t’s true, it can take years to truly master the many techniques of parkour. In fact, I believe that – much like martial arts – you can never really master parkour. There will always be more to learn, something to improve. And while you certainly can devote many years of your life to the discipline (and many do), even a few weeks of training will yield improvements in mobility.

You don’t have to be running up ten-foot walls, or jumping across rooftops. Just knowing how to quickly clear a high obstacle, or drop down more than a few feet, could very well save your life if you’re being chased by a horde of zombies. The technique I mentioned when talking about speed above is called a Safety Vault, and it’s literally the first thing you’ll learn if you try parkour, either through a workshop (like mine), at a gym, or even a local meetup. You can learn it in a few hours, and considering it saved me eight seconds up above, I’d say the benefit-to-time ratio is extremely high.

Most people who bring up this argument are forgetting something very important: the same can be said for nearly any survival skill. I mentioned in part one that I’d want a trained sniper watching my back. How much training does it take to consistently, accurately fire a sniper rifle? Snipers go through a ten-week course in the US Marine Corps, above and beyond regular combat training, they have to have 20/20 vision to even apply. If you think you can just pick up a rifle with a scope and start racking up head shots, stay the hell away from me.

The Calorie Argument / The Stealth Argument:
Parkour burns too many calories. You’d need to eat more and food will be scarce.
Running and jumping will attract too much attention. I’d rather sneak past the zombie(s).

I put these two questions together because they have virtually the same answer. I’m going to avoid being snarky (this time) and just explain why neither neither of these arguments really make sense.

First, they jump to the entirely wrong conclusion: that we (proponents or parkour) think survivors should use parkour in place of all other forms of locomotion. This is patently false. If you can sneak past a zombie or three (or fifty), do it. If you’re being chased down a wide, clear street, sprint. But if you have to navigate uneven, obstacle-rich terrain, the ability to move fast in a straight line over those obstacles could save your life. It’s the same argument I’ve made before: parkour isn’t useful in every situation, but it is useful in a lot of situations, and it’s better to have the training and use it when the need arises than not to have it at all.

Now, to specifically address the calorie thing: I haven’t seen any data to confirm or debunk this, but I doubt parkour actually burns any more calories than running at the same speed (again, if anyone has this data I’d love to see it). Further, I expect that even if you did burn more calories per foot of movement, the amount would be miniscule and would be offset by allowing you to travel a shorter total distance to get to the same destination.

The Baseball Bat Experiment

Try this: take any argument here and replace “parkour” with “a baseball bat.” Now check if 1: it makes a nonsensical argument, or 2: it would make you less likely to reach for a bat come Z-Day.

In most cases, the answer to both these questions will be no. Parkour isn’t going to be useful in every situation. Neither is a baseball bat, but they’re not trying to be. Like a bat, parkour training is an extremely useful tool when the situation calls for it. And like a bat, you’ll be better off come Z-Day if you’ve got it.

I think that’s everything. If you think I missed an argument, or you have one to present yourself, leave a comment below and I’ll try to address it.

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