Parkour Vision

Ask anyone who practices parkour why they do it, and you’ll hear plenty of answers. Some will tell you they do it for the fitness and strength aspect, some will talk about the challenge, the camaraderie, even the spiritual aspect. But there’s one thing every traceur will tell you: it changes the way you see the world.

This phenomenon is what we like to call “parkour vision.” Once you realize what your body is capable of, you start seeing the world as a big obstacle course, figuring out how you’d get over or around each object, scale each wall, get through each window. It becomes instinctual, and in the zombie apocalypse it could very well save your life.

Imagine you’re being chased by a horde of zombies, and you come across this building:

Building corner

Thanks to the power of panoramic-photo-stitching

To most people, there are three options: down the street to the left or right, and up the stairs. Each is perfectly viable, but none will actually improve your situation: no matter which path you choose, every single one of those zombies is going to follow you.
To someone with parkour vision, though, there is a fourth path:

four paths

That wall would be fairly easy to run up and climb over. It’s very fast (would only take a few seconds) and once you’re up and over, the zombies not only can’t reach you, but they can’t even see you. You could sneak off in either direction, losing all those zombies on your tail in the process.

Here’s a similar example:

Again, the stairs are an obvious choice, but to a traceur, running up the wall and climbing over the rail is just as obvious. If you move your approach out wide, most of the zombies won’t even see the stairs.

Parkour vision isn’t just about running up walls, though. Consider this setup:

Whereas most people see a table and chairs, and the path along the left side, a traceur sees a launching platform and a nice patch of stumbling blocks to trip up a zombie chasing you. It’s not going to stop a dozen zombies, but it might take out half of them, making the rest that much easier to evade.

I found half a dozen other examples just walking home from work, so I’ll probably revisit this topic again later, but you get the idea.

I’ve made the argument before but I can’t stress it enough: when you’re being chased – especially by zombies – it’s not just about getting to a safe place, it’s about putting distance between you and them, and every second counts. And when you’re proficient in parkour, you start to see escape routes and avenues you wouldn’t have even considered before.

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.

Run Like You’re Being Chased (Because You ARE)

The single most important thing to know when running from zombies is -wait for it- how to run effectively.

I’m not going to talk about the standard running form here. Nobody runs right, in general, it doesn’t really matter. Instead, I’m going to talk about running while encumbered. Specifically, encumbered by a heavy, over-the-shoulder duffel bag with a fairly loose strap.

Why so specific? Because this is the only type of encumbrance that will truly hinder your running. A handheld object can just be carried, even a two-handed one only takes a second to get the rhythm down. A backpack will usually have an easy way to cinch the straps up tight.

But a duffel bag isn’t designed to be run with. Its strap is usually pretty loose, it’s bulky, and it throws off your center of gravity as it bounces around on your hip. Sometimes you can cinch it up tight so it rests across your back, but not always, and sometimes you just don’t have time. So how do we run with it?

There are two effective methods, which I’m going to call the ninja and… the push. I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but nothing’s coming to me right now. Anyway, they both take a little practice, but the actual techniques aren’t that difficult. Picture the classic image of a ninja running through the woods: sword drawn, straight out behind them while their free hand is either up and obscuring their face or, more likely, pumping vigorously. You’re going to do the same thing, only with the bag strap instead of a sword:

Ninja Carry Pose

I’m looking at something INTENSE on the ground just off screen

Hold the strap out as taught as you can. The bag itself should follow the length of your arm. When you run, hold this arm out and behind you, and pump with the other arm.

Now grab the strap with your other hand and push it out, down and across your body:

Push Carry Pose

It’s hard to tell from this angle but my left hand is about in line with my right shoulder

The bag should be across your back. Hold it there while you run, pumping with your “rear” arm.

In either form, you’ll need to shorten tour stride a little and try to keep your torso from bouncing up and down as much as possible. Be careful to hold your arm in such a way as to keep the strap off your neck (this is more of a problem with the ninja method). You don’t want to start cutting off circulation.

You may find yourself having to run with two of these bags at the same time. Most people’s first idea is to wear them on opposite shoulders, crossing the straps over their torso. It distributes the weight more symmetrically, and prevents one shoulder from getting too sore. This is great if you’re walking to the airport terminal, but running from zombies thus way isn’t going to work very well: neither of the above running methods work well if you try to double them up, and you risk scissoring the straps across your neck, choking you and forcing you to slow down or stop and readjust. Instead, pick whatever side is most comfortable and implement both methods, one with each hand:

Double Carry Pose

Seriously, sorry about these crappy pictures

You can also try holding both straps with the same hand in a single pose, but this is difficult unless the straps are the same length, which isn’t going to happen very often.

NOTE: This is probably the last time I’ll talk about “double-bagging” on the site. You don’t really need to know any more about it than this, and since it takes both hands it’ll make any other evasion techniques impossible. If you’ve got two bags like this, either take a minute to cinch one up tight around your torso, or adjust the straps so they’re the same size and hold them both with one hand. If you don’t have time for that, you’re stuck on the ground.

This is all going to feel awkward at first, so practice whenever you can. Which method you use is largely a matter of comfort and preference, though it’ll be more important when we talk about vaults.

Keep Surviving.

Common Misconceptions About Parkour During the ZA (part 1)

Alternate Title: It Seems the Zombie Survival Wiki Disagrees with me.

I happened upon this forum thread on the Zombie Survival Wiki the other day. It’s worth reading, or at least skimming, but it was essentially an argument over whether or not parkour would actually be effective in a zombie apocalypse. The thread has had fairly continuous activity for nearly two years, so it’s fairly obvious this is a heated topic amongst survivalists, but, frighteningly, most of them seem to have come to the same conclusion:

Come Z-Day, parkour will generally be useless.

*shudder* Hopefully I can shed a little light on the subject, and use this as a way to discuss the philosophies of ZET, answer questions, and illuminate some misconceptions about parkour, and it’s use in the ZA. There are a lot of concerns raised in the thread, and it’s going to take several posts to address them all, but you have to start somewhere.

DISCLAIMER: Obviously, I’m a little biased about the benefits of parkour vs zombies. That said, I’ve done actual, genuine research to find the most (and least) effective techniques, and explored the possibilities of carrying items and heavy bags while performing them. So while some of my answers will be similar to those already posted in the thread (and there have been some great responses so far), hopefully they’re a little more thought out, and I’ll back them up with examples when possible.

People get hurt all the time doing parkour. If you break your leg, you’ll be an even easier target.

Well… yes, if you break your leg, you’re pretty much dead. But in parkour we- no, you know what? I’m going to tackle the first part of that question first.

Is parkour dangerous? Sure. Is it more dangerous than, say, martial arts? No way. It’s also no more dangerous than football, track & field, or soccer, but those aren’t really pertinent to Z-Day. I really wish I could find statistics to back this up (and if you have any, please link them in the comments), but in my own personal experience, I’ve sustained no major debilitating injuries practicing parkour, which is more than I can say for any other sport I’ve done. I broke my toe playing soccer (out for a month), had a nasty hamstring pull pole-vaulting (out for half a season), sustained two concussions playing football, and dislocated my shoulder in Tae Kwon Do, a procedure requiring surgery and years of physical therapy (to this day). Worse, these all happened over the course of five years, when I was between 16 and 21.

In the seven years I’ve practiced parkour, I’ve sustained a sprained ankle (out for two months) two sprained wrists, some shin scrapes, and a nice road-rash on my forearm (none of which kept me out for more than a day). And this is from ages 23 to 30, when I should be much more prone to serious injury.

Why so few injuries? Because practicing parkour the right way means never doing something you’re not ready for, and slowly expanding that. I didn’t jump off a 10-foot building my first day, It took me six months before I was ready to try that.

Is that to say that serious injuries don’t happen at all? Of course not. A friend of mine broke his collarbone. I’ve seen a broken wrist and broken noses from other practitioners around the world. But you can get seriously injured doing anything if you do it wrong.

I don’t blame people for thinking this way. One look at YouTube will show people doing absolutely insane things, and many, many people falling and hurting themselves. And if you start out trying to do the same things as the pros, you’re going to kill yourself. But there’s a huge difference between what the original poster is saying (People should learn parkour to be better prepared for the zombie apocalypse) and what safety detractors are reading into it (People should do parkour with no prior knowledge when the zombie apocalypse hits to help them get away). The former is great advice; the latter will get you eaten

You can’t do parkour under pressure / fast / in a “real” threat situation

This is (mostly) just plain misconception. That would be like saying that you can’t use martial arts when facing a “real” opponent, or throw a football spiral when there are “real” linebackers about to tackle you. With practice (again, with practice), these techniques become muscle-memory and you can do them without thinking. Also, you start to see the world in terms of parkour obstacles, so you won’t have to stop and think about how to get over something, you’ll do it instinctively.
Now to address the “mostly” part. Utilizing parkour in an area you haven’t scouted ahead of time is, in fact, dangerous, particularly if the area you’re in is run-down. You have to be careful not to jump off/over anything blindly, and avoid putting all your weight on a surface that might break. But this is the same with anything: you have to be careful of your swing with a bat in certain situations, lest you knock something onto yourself, or accidentally hit a member of your own group. But that liability doesn’t make the bat any less useful. Having the tools and knowing when not to use them is better than not having them at all.

You can’t do parkour while carrying a weapon

As it happens, you can. You can also do parkour with a bag slung over your shoulder, and I’ll teach you how. Keep an eye on the site for instructional posts and video tutorials that will show you how to do exactly that. Or talk to me about a workshop, and I might be able to teach you in person.

I’d rather be able to jog carrying a shotgun than backflip over a wall with empty hands

The previous sentence was taken verbatim from a post on that thread.
Oh, where do I begin? Now we’re talking about parkour vs. freerunning. Parkour is about speed, efficiency and access, freerunning is about creativity and expression.

Backflips are flashy, but useless when being chased. In fact, the best way to determine which category a particular move falls under is to use the Zombie Test:
If you wouldn’t do it while being chased by a zombie, it’s freerunning.

Have fun with that. I’ll stick with [insert alternate survival technique here]

You’ve heard this before: Somebody smiles condescendingly, snickers and says, “have fun with that.” They then walk away, knowing in their heart that their preferred survival skill is vastly superior, and that you’ll be the first one to die.
I have three things to say on this subject:
Thing the First: this argument assumes that learning parkour must be done at the exclusion of all else, which isn’t true. If you want to be a master practitioner, sure. But even a few months of basic training will make you better at navigating your environment.
Thing the Second: this argument implies that your decision not to learn parkour invalidates its usefulness. If there is a zombie apocalypse, it’s going to take a diverse group with complimentary skill sets to survive. Having one or two people trained in parkour can only help the group, even if everyone else isn’t as agile. I’m not particularly interested in learning to use a rifle, but I’d sure love to have a trained sniper (more on that later) watching my back from a rooftop nearby.
Thing the Third: Parkour is complimentary to nearly any other skill set. How is that sniper going to get her rooftop perch? She could take the stairs, but every floor is a risk of a locked stairwell, or zombies, or both. Fire escape? Okay, sure:

Fire Escape

That’s about eleven feet off the ground

Can you jump straight up and grab that? Or what about a single-story building? I know I can’t. But you can bet i can wall-run up and grab either one.

Even with a rifle on my back.

Okay, that’s it for this post, but there are plenty more to address, so you can be sure I’ll be back.

Keep Surviving.

Role-playing

If there’s one thing we all know to be true about the zombie apocalypse, it’s that you’ll have a much better chance to survive in a group than on your own. Successful groups will specialize, allowing each member to play to their strengths, and capitalize on individual skill-sets.

While everyone in the zombie apocalypse would benefit from the agility that comes with parkour training, there are three main roles that benefit the most:

Scout / Sniper: The scout is very much a support role, getting eyes on the Zombies’ movements and numbers, and (in the case of the Sniper) possibly provide some cover fire. You’re going to need to get as high as possible, so lots of climbing skills will be necessary. Wall-runs, Dynos, Cats, and Tic-Tacs are your best friend. Also rolls to help you get down.

Scavenger: Your group is going to need supplies, which means they’ll need somebody who can get in and get out, without getting eaten. Emphasis should be on asymmetrical vaults (safety, speed, gate), wall-runs and rolls are key. Practice while holding things in your off-hand, or with a bag slung over your shoulder.

Decoy: This is probably the most dangerous role, but if you’re in a group without another traceur, it’s easily the most valuable. If you can lead the Zs through town, always staying twenty feet ahead, the rest of your group can gather supplies or get to where they need to go with relative ease. Decoys need the most well-rounded experience, and while most every type of vault or maneuver is going to come in handy at some point, speeds, rolls, dive-rolls, and wall-runs should be your bread and butter.

A well-rounded traceur should be able to jump into any of the above roles with relative ease, but if you don’t have the time or ability, pick a role and focus on training for that role.

Keep Surviving,

– Jesse

Welcome, Survivor!

This site isn’t ready for prime-time yet. at this point it’s mostly placeholder stuff. But coming soon I’ll have all the tools you need to survive and evade the walking dead in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Here’s what I have planned:

  • Video Tutorials: Explanations for how (and why) to do the many common parkour maneuvers you’ll need to escape zombies. These are the essentials: vaults, rolls, climbing, etc…
  • Modifications: I’m going to talk about how to execute these maneuvers while holding something in one hand, or carrying a bag. These are important things to learn, people!
  • Roles of Parkour in the Zombie Apocalypse: As a Traceur, your skills are going to be valuable in a number of different capacities. I’ll detail each one, and talk about which maneuvers are going to be most useful for each role.
  • Book Classes: I teach several workshops that discuss these tactics, and feature in-depth explanations and games. I’ll have information on scheduling and pricing available here.
  • Merchandise? I’m not sure about this one yet. We’ll have to see what happens.

Stick around, and see where we go! The Zombie Apocalypse is coming. Will you be ready?