Running From The Walking Dead – The Why and the How & Character Introduction

A few weeks ago I listed five reasons we wouldn’t want to see parkour on The Walking DeadI still believe all those things, but I also believe there’s a way it could work. I think a character proficient in parkour could add a lot to the show. In fact, I’m going to try my hand at writing that character in.

In case you’re a time traveler reading this from the far-flung future, as of this writing we’re currently waiting for season 3 to start. The farm has been overrun, the survivors are headed toward the prison, and we just caught a glimpse of sword-wielding, zombie-domesticating badass Michonne.

Season 3 is obviously already written and shot, so I’m going to skip right to Season 4. Since I haven’t seen season 3, I have to make some assumptions about what happens. I assume:

  1. The group will have to leave the prison by the end of the season, and be back on the road, probably near a city.
  2. Rick, Glenn, and Maggie are still alive by the end of the season.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Our primary cast is approaching double-digits, and there just isn’t screen time to devote to another one in a single season (especially a half-season of thirteen episodes like TWD gets). So if we’re going to introduce a new character, it has to be a secondary character. They’ll get some screen time, sure, but the stories shouldn’t really ever be about them.

At the same time, they’ll also have to serve a purpose. I don’t want a token character, one who’s only there to fill a demographic. This character should be a tool to drive the story, to force one of the main characters to grow and adapt, and introduce an additional layer of drama.

Introducing the Character

The scene would open with the main group of characters making their way along the outskirts of the city, presumably looking for a safe place. Cut to a shaky-cam shot of a man running through the same city. Back to the group, Darryl hears something and holds up his hand to stop them. Back to the man, we now see he’s being chased by eight to ten walkers. Continue cutting back and forth between the group – who’s listening, hiding, and trying to determine the source of the sounds- and the fleeing man – who’s jumping, swinging, and rolling through the street as he evades his undead pursuers.

Finally someone spots him and we get a better look: he’s in his late twenties, athletic, and generally attractive. He’s using parkour to evade the walkers. Somebody states the obvious – “We’ve got to help him!” – but too loud, and one of the walkers turns to look. The man shouts at it, and it turns back and starts chasing him again.

At this point the group notices he is losing the walkers one by one, as they get stuck in trash, fall off cars and ledges, or are blocked by fences and walls. Maybe one manages to get a little too close, so he pulls out a telescoping baton and dispatches it before continuing on. After he seems to lose the last of the walkers, the group continues on.

Soon after, the group hears something again, only this time it’s close, and coming for them. Weapons drawn, they wait as our character emerges with a hands-up-don’t-shoot moment. He assures the group he’s lost all the walkers, and introduces himself as Andrew. He mentions that they look like they need a place to stay and offers to take them to a safe place he’s been hiding out. He explains that he’s been hiding out here for a few days, making runs out to to gather supplies. Maggie asks if it’s safe for him to go out alone, to which he makes some sort of arrogant remark about how, “anyone else would just slow me down.” Maggie looks impressed, Glenn looks jealous.

Now we’ve set up Andrew’s primary role in the story: someone to seriously threaten Glenn and his usefulness in the group. Up to this point, Glenn has been the party’s go-to guy to retrieve supplies, provide recon, even act as a decoy. But it’s very likely that Andrew is better at all of those things than he is, and he’s also better-looking and more confident. The more time Andrew spends with the group, the more Glenn is going to second-guess himself and question his own value.

We don’t have to see Andrew much after this for a while: He’ll slide into the background as  the group focuses on whatever the primary arc is for the season, only to show himself when needed to continue Glenn’s character arc.

This should be enough to pique your interest. I’ll talk more about that next week. See you then!

Safety First

The safety vault is one of the first vaults a person learns when they start training in parkour. It is easy to learn, and one of the safest, fastest, and most versatile vaults in any traceur’s repertoire.

Vault over the vault? Huh?

You’re going to see me use the word vault in two different contexts throughout this and future articles. The first is as a technique for getting over or around an obstacle (like the Safety Vault). There’s another use, though. A common training tool for practicing vaults is called a vault box, which is commonly shortened to just vault:

Vault Box

This is also a vault (Image courtesy of Sturdy Parkour Labs)

So in this case, the word vault is actually standing in for the obstacle you’re trying to circumvent. Granted, outside of a gym you’re not going to see vault boxes, and I probably should use obstacle all the time, but it might slip in out of habit, and besides, obstacle is way longer.

*Ahem* Moving on…

The safety vault is an asymmetrical vault, which means you’ll mostly be using one side of your body. You’ll jump off the ground with one foot, plant on the vault with one hand, and land with one foot. The safety vault differs from a lot of other vaults in that you also plant a foot on the obstacle on your way over.

The order progresses like so: Whichever foot you jump off the ground with:
– Plant on the vault with the same hand and the opposite foot, on opposite ends of the vault.

Takeoff form

It’s blurry, I know.

– Move your same foot through the empty space between your same hand and opposite foot on the vault, and land on the other side with the same foot.

Foot Placement

So if you jump off the ground with your right foot (like most people), your right hand and left foot will touch the vault, and your right foot will pass under your body and land on the ground in front of you. If you jump off the ground with your left foot (like me), it’s just the opposite: plant with your left hand and right foot, land with your left foot and keep running.

Safety Vault Landing

That last part is one of the things that’s so great about the safety vault: it doesn’t have to slow you down much. You can jump at the vault from a run, and continue running on the other side with one fluid motion. It’s not quite as fast or as smooth as a speed vault (which I’ll talk about a little later), but it’s fairly close, and much, much better than running around or scrambling over that same obstacle.

Uses

The most obvious, and most common, implementation is to get over an obstacle in front of you. The ideal obstacle is from knee- to waist-height and relatively shallow (anything deeper than two or three feet would be better served with a roll vault or kong vault – more on those later). The obstacle is preferably level (that is, the top runs parallel to the ground), but it can work at an angle, too, if it’s oriented so that the tallest part of the vault is on the same side as your planting hand (so if you jump with your right foot and plant with your left hand, you’d want a surface that’s level or that rises to the left). If it rises the other way, you’ll want to use a turn vault (again, more on that later). Same goes for direction: you can use a safety vault to go over an object straight on, or to one side, as long as it’s the side you plant your hand with (again, use a turn vault for the opposite side).

Fast and versatile

If you’re not going to go deep into parkour training, you need to have a few vaults that will do a lot for you. The safety vault is extremely versatile and definitely fills this need. In addition to being able to vault over a normal obstacle this way (like a low wall or a picnic table), you can use a safety vault to get down from height. If you can get your legs below the ledge before you drop down, you decrease the height of your fall by the length of your leg. Suddenly the ten foot drop is only seven feet, much more manageable.

using a safety vault technique to assist in a drop

Same hand and foot placement, same motion.

Safety While Carrying

If you’re carrying an object in one hand you don’t need to do anything differently. Just make sure it’s not in the hand you plant with and you’re fine. A bag isn’t much different, either. I’ve already told you how to run when you have a bag: pull the bag itself across your back and hold the strap taught with one hand. For the safety vault, just keep that position, raise your hand up to keep it out of the way, and plant on the opposite side.

Safety vault with a bag

It’s that simple folks. The safety vault is easy to learn, fast to execute, and extremely versatile. Learn it, and you’ll survive a little longer.

I’ll work on getting a video tutorial up soon, so keep your eyes open for that. I’m also going to go back and tweak the running rules soon: they’re a little too complicated and I think I’ve improved the method anyways. See you soon!

This is what I’m talking about

A while back I put up a few posts talking about common misconceptions about parkour and its usefulness in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I brought up a lot of points, and I feel like I illustrated them all pretty well.

I just saw a great parkour video that shows a lot of what I’m talking about in action. I’ll go into more detail down below, but watch this first:

Imagine those guys going through the same movements while being chased by zombies. Even the fast kind wouldn’t stand a chance. Here are some reasons why:

They’re not trying to be flashy. I stressed the difference between parkour and freerunning in my article, and this are pure parkour: There are no flips, no flourishes, no wasted movements.

They’re using the fastest, most efficient method possible for each situation. These guys are doing a lot of straight-up running in this video. They’re not jumping over cars when it’s faster to run around them, nor are they vaulting over a rail when the stairs are right there.

They’re always cautious and alert. You don’t see any huge roof jumps here, or unnecessarily high drops. In most cases, they’ll drop over the ledge quickly instead of leaping straight off (the exception being around 3:30, but in that case it’s onto a loose, relatively soft surface). They’re always looking around for the next place to go, always surveying their surroundings. When Anthow is on the roof, notice he never steps in any of the puddles, instead skirting around them. Akmao’s spider-slide thing cuts his drop distance in half. They’re putting safety first, and still managing to be extremely fast.

They’re highly specialized. If you pay close attention, you don’t actually see a whole lot of variety in the techniques each traceur utilizes. They found a suite of three or for moves that work in multiple situations and got really  good at those moves. If you aren’t going to devote a huge portion of your life to parkour training but still want to be able to use it to survive post-Zday, this is going to be crucial.

This video highlights what’s really great about parkour, and how utilitarian it can be. Applying these lessons to a survival situation is straightforward, and highly illuminating. Well done, gentlemen.

Need Something? I Can Get it.

In one of my first posts, I hit on the concept of roles. The idea is fairly obvious: different techniques are going to be more or less useful depending on what you’re doing. I’m going to go into more detail on each of the roles, starting with the scavenger.

A scavenger’s role is simple on paper: get into the city, find supplies, and get out. A scavenger might also be tasked with running supplies from one base to another. In either case, the key is to move quickly through the environment while attracting as little attention as possible.

In addition to parkour, a scavenger will most benefit from stealth/infiltration tactics: being able to hide, move, and open doors and windows without being seen or heard. They’ll also want to focus their parkour training on asymmetrical techniques, with a lot of emphasis on running with a duffel bag.

Safety Vault

Image courtesy of ZombieFit.com

The Safety vault is going to be your bread and butter (Editor’s Note: I don’t have my safety vault tutorial done yet, hopefully next week UPDATE: Here it is!). It’s useful indoors and outdoors, in fairly close quarters, it’s fast, and it doesn’t use a whole lot of energy. Plus, it doesn’t take much modification to do it with a bag, which is crucial, since the whole reason you’re there is to gather supplies.

 

Like any traceur, a scavenger should be proficient in rolling, though it’s less important for them than for, say, the scout (which I’ll talk about later), or even a decoy (which I’ll talk about much later). Scavengers stick mostly to the ground, only going higher if there are supplies on an upper story in a building. That said, sometimes the best path away has a drop, and you’ll need to be able to roll out of it. It’s also useful to recover if you trip or fall. Rolling is a little more difficult with a bag, though possible with practice.

parkour roll

Image courtesy of el-parkourisinmyblood.blogspot.com/

Climbing and wall-runs aren’t going to be as useful for a scavenger. It’s certainly useful for a quick (if often temporary) evasion, but it’s difficult to mount a ledge or wall with something in your hand (bags aren’t much different than normal, though).

A scavenger is probably going to want to stick to these basics. Most other techniques (kong vaults, underbars, precision jumping/landing, turn vaults, etc…) are more trouble than they’re worth for you: they tent to be slower, and use both hands, and you’d be better off finding an alternative route through an area if one of the basic techniques can’t be used.

That said, there is one advanced technique that could prove very useful for a scavenger: the gate vault. This is a very fast technique for climbing over fences or narrow walls, and only takes minor modifications to perform with a bag or while carrying something.

gate vault

Image courtesy of crossfit.com

So there you have it. If you want to help your group by gathering crucial supplies, these are the skills you’ll need. I’ll give more detail on each of these techniques, along with other roles, in later posts. In the mean time, good luck, and keep surviving.

5 reasons you don’t want to see parkour in The Walking Dead

Daniel Ilabaca crappily photoshopped into "The Walking Dead" cast

Images courtesy of AMC and Daniel Ilabaca

No matter what you may have thought of Season 2, we all have a soft spot in our hearts for AMC’s The Walking Dead. As a traceur and zombie survival enthusiast, I know I’d love to see my favorite discipline represented on the show. We’ve got gun enthusiasts, crossbowmen, and other survivalists, so why not parkour?

Lots of reasons, some artistic, some practical. I’ll talk about a lot of them here, but I’m not going to try to dispel them. Believe it or not, I think having a character (or two) proficient in parkour would likely hurt its image as a viable survival skill.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are 5 reasons why a traceur in TWD would be bad for parkour:

1) It’s not in the comics.
Obviously, the series has taken some liberties with the source material, but inventing a completely new character who can do totally badass things is taking it a bit too far. Especially now, when they’d be competing for screen time with the other new badass, sword-wielding Michonne.

2) Most people don’t understand. While parkour has definitely gained mainstream exposure in recent years, it’s been in the realm of sports or performance art, rather than as a survival skill. The general consensus -when it’s discussed at all – seems to be that it wouldn’t be very practical, for various reasons. We’re doing our best to dispel this misconception, but if it ever crossed the writers’ minds (which is unlikely), they probably dismissed it out of hand.

3) They’d do the “parkour” wrong. When most people think of parkour, they’re actually thinking of freerunning. That’s what you see when people are doing flips and flying handstands and other big, flashy moves that don’t actually accomplish anything. I’m not knocking it – hey, some of my best friends are freerunners – but in terms of locomotion, those moves aren’t very valuable. Still, that’s what comes to mind when most people think of parkour, and it is really impressive-looking, so we’d probably see a lot of flips and gainers off boxes for no reason, which would further cement the feeling that parkour is a useless skill to have in a survival situation.

4) The character wouldn’t get much screen time. The Walking Dead is as much about the group interactions as it is about escaping zombies. And as we’ve already discussed, you’re most likely going to be alone or in pairs when doing anything requiring the use of parkour. So you’re either off contributing to the group by yourself while the important characters are interacting in meaningful ways, or you’re in the background being useless while the important characters are interacting in meaningful ways.

5) They’d be a dick at best, a villain at worst. As mentioned, parkour isn’t generally something whole families practice together (though there are exceptions), so any character introduced would likely be a loner. It would be really, really easy to play to stereotypes here, and make the traceur a young twenty-something, rebellious youth without regard for others. This character would be selfish and disruptive and would endanger the group without pause because he knows he can get away. This would only promote the view of parkour as a fringe sport, and associate it with delinquency (much like the stigma skateboarding deals with)

Okay, but they don’t have to be a loner, you say: what about a whole group of parkour athletes? Honestly, that would be even worse. If the writers decided to introduce a group of traceurs it would likely be in the form of a rival survivor “gang” who would compete with Rick and his group for supplies. Given that they’re more mobile and likely better at obtaining said supplies, they’d instantly be branded as villains. And we definitely don’t want that.

This isn’t to say that there’s no way that a character who practices parkour could be written into The Walking Dead to cast it as a useful survival skill, or that you couldn’t make a traceur who works well in the group and the mythos. It’s just that I doubt the writers would. I’m thinking I might give it a shot, though, so stay tuned.

In other news, I think I’m going to drop down to one post a week. Work and family doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging, so unless ZET miraculously becomes my full-time job, I’m going to have to commit to a little less. I’m also about ready to start getting into the actual training part of this thing, which is going to take more time (diagrams, pictures, and more in-depth posts). Thanks for understanding, and I hope you stick around.