Respect the Path of the Lone Traceur

May 4, 2013 in , Explaining Adam , Parkour by Adam Dunlap

For years I’ve been trying to find the words to explain a simple idea that has caused me so many problems in the Parkour world. I don’t know why I couldn’t find the words before now, but deep down I was also hoping I wouldn’t have to explain this. Deep down I was hoping the negativity would dissipate all by itself and people would ‘wake up,’ learn respect, and recognize the clear difference in training preferences.

Unfortunately, years have now passed, and the criticism is continuing from the same masquerading and hypocritical culprits. It is clear to me now that some self-righteous “leaders” in our Parkour world won’t ever understand this concept unless I write about it and call them out (I won’t use names, but they know who they are). Thus, now having found the words, I am here to explain the idea:

Your way is not the only way. Respect the path of the lone Traceur.

From my experience I’ve found there are two types of Traceurs in our world:

  • There are Traceurs that like moving and training in groups.
  • There are Traceurs that prefer to move and train alone (or in very small groups of 2, 3, or 4 at most).

From my experience the first group characterizes the vast majority of Traceurs, while the latter type of Traceur is the vast minority. For the sake of this article I’m calling those in the latter group the lone Traceurs. In my opinion they are the most powerful Traceurs of all, but I won’t go into that today.

I happen to be a lone Traceur. Not because of ideology, self-appointment, or even out of choice. I am a lone Traceur because of circumstance. Outside of Parkour I have always kind of been a person who found his own way, didn’t follow the norm, and thus was kind of stuck doing things alone. I didn’t like this all that much, but it was what it was, and this propensity of mine was solidified and magnified when I got into Parkour because I was literally the first one in my city to begin training. When I started Parkour in 2006 I either had to train alone or not train at all – there were no other choices.

When I started Parkour I had no idea what I was doing, and I would very much have benefited from a teacher, from help from a more experienced Traceur, or even just from someone else who was equally enthusiastic. I  had none of the three, and we didn’t really have YouTube back then either. Suffice to say the path for me was slower and more difficult than one any new Traceur will most likely encounter today.

Through that difficulty I found strength, and I quickly became accustom to the solidarity I found in training alone. I got used to following my own rhythm, and not talking, watching, stopping for, or applauding others. These ideas didn’t even exist for my first year and a half of training. For the entirety of that time there was only me and the jump, me and my training. It was absolute focus on what I was doing and what I was thinking, and just as there was no one to encourage me there was also no one to distract me. Although I desired to progress, it wasn’t about getting there quickly. It was about getting there through my own determination, my own training, and my own focus and confidence. Parkour became a very personal quest for me in every way, and it still is to this day.

To give you some perspective, the other end of the training/Traceur spectrum are those Traceurs who have literally told me, “I can’t train unless there are other people training too!”

I thought people would see this difference in approach and respect it – some prefer groups, some prefer to train alone. Cool, right? Wrong. For whatever reason many have not recognized nor respected this difference. The result was that when I started teaching classes in my city in early 2008, my propensity to train alone became the foundation and also the driving argument behind the hate and negativity that other “leaders” spread about me and drove towards my organization, Revolution Parkour. They published and shared ideas saying:

  • Adam doesn’t care about the community.
  • Adam doesn’t want to be involved in our organization.
  • Adam never comes to our jams.
  • All this shows that Adam only cares about teaching his own classes and making money.

Not much has changed over the years – even in the last month these same people have gone public and used their positions in the Parkour world to share these same ideas. And using the same language as before, they have publicly criticized me, my journey, my work with David Belle, and most prominently they have criticized Take Flight. They have even gone as far as to say I’m not part of the Parkour community which in my opinion is pretty much the biggest insult you can pin on another Traceur. You might as well say I’m a poser that can’t land a precision jump.

With their egos leading the way, what these haters (yes, they are haters) failed to understand all along was that for me it wasn’t about any of the things they were claiming. It wasn’t because I didn’t care, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to be involved, and it wasn’t AT ALL because I cared about the money. In fact, money was and still is the furthest thing from my mind in all my endeavors. Simply put, I just didn’t like jams and meeting or training in big groups. That’s all! I preferred, and still do prefer, to either train alone or train with very small groups that are concentrated wholly in the moment on the training, the strength pursuit, and the inward self and focus. The joy and laughter that comes from moving together in groups just doesn’t appeal to me as much. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that preference. Do you?

I’ll add an interesting tidbit to this idea. Do you know who the most famous lone Traceur of all time is? David Belle. That should give you some insight into him and some insight into Parkour.

I don’t believe that either perspective  – neither the lone Traceur approach nor the “must have a group with me” preference – is either good or bad, better or worse. They are simply different. And I see both approaches as bringing equal amounts of wonderful things to the Parkour world in their own unique ways. Thus my purpose for writing this article is two fold. First, I want encourage the lone Traceurs to continue following their paths – there are other Traceurs like you, and it is ok to not want to participate in big group movements or big group gatherings. That’s not selfish and that’s not wrong. It’s just your path, and it’s your Parkour :-) Second, I want to call out all those people who have criticized me over the years and those who continue to do so. My message is this: you’re not as hot as you think, and in your pride and arrogance you have completely missed the point and failed to comprehend two of the most basic and important philosophically ideas behind Parkour: respect and choosing your own path. In short, there are equally valid ways to be a part of the Parkour community even if those ways don’t exactly resemble yours.

If you claim to be a Traceur then a central characteristic you must demonstrate is respect. If you don’t do this then in my mind you are the quintessential poser and you might as well stop acting like you care for Parkour because you don’t. All you breed is negativity and hate, and you have no place in our world. If that’s not who you are and you want to stay, then ferme ta gueule and show it by respecting the path of the lone Traceur. We respect yours.