Monday, August 31, 2015

Movement Discrimination - How to deal with it...

I first heard the term "Movement Discrimination" 4 years ago, while discussing some of the challenges within the Parkour community with my training/business partner Corey Romines.  I was a bit taken aback, the first time I had someone approach me and tell me I couldn't climb a wall.  This wall was about 10' high, sturdy, made out of cinder blocks, and as far as I could tell, was perfectly safe for me to climb, wall run, and walk upon.  At first I was a bit embarrassed - I hadn't been scolded like this since middle school...

This experience was the first of many, I have been scolded by many people since I started training in Parkour, and it's never welcoming.  Generally it's someone with no authority approaching you and telling you how unsafe you are being, and how you need to get off (such and such wall, or rail, or step, or tree). 

The first thing to remember, is that NO ONE has the authority to tell you how to move your body.  The next thing to remember, is that most people have NO IDEA what you are doing or trying to achieve, so it's important to remain calm, and respectful, and take this opportunity to educate and enlighten the person with NO AUTHORITY or KNOWLEDGE on the matter.  And most importantly, Know Your Rights.

Someone tell this kid to sit down and stop skipping rocks!  Throwing is unsafe and unacceptable and people shouldn't do it!  Tell this kid he's a bad kid and the only thing he should do is sit and watch, because interaction is not a human thing to do!!
And I don't mean get on a soapbox and start preaching about the importance of movement, and how Parkour has completely revolutionized the way people view and approach the human body in terms of function, capacity, and training methodology...ect... What I do mean is to take that moment to make a connection with this person. 

One thing I like to do is ask questions.  Whenever there is a challenging issue in society, it's important to start asking questions. And the folks who have assumed authority, have in fact placed themselves in a position to answer such questions.  After all, if you are going to try to control any person, or govern a territory, you must be prepared to answer some basic questions to maintain that authority.  Here are some ideas for matter of fact questions (remember to be sincere - do not resort to sarcasm and seek to humiliate the person - as this does not help you or them - but it's okay to be secretly amused.  This is inevitable.)

1) I see this space as an opportunity for growth.  My movement may seem counter culture, and look differently than how you would interact with this space, but is my diversity in movement offensive or criminal?
2) I saw this wall here and wanted to challenge myself by climbing it.  Is it against the law to do so?  Is this something I could go to jail for?  Are you going to call the police if I continue climbing this wall?
3) I enjoy running, jumping, and climbing rather than simply walking... it stimulates my mind, and I enjoy it.  Is there a reason why such activity is unacceptable and prohibited?
4) I'm attempting to connect with my environment, what types of activities and movement would you suggest I do?  (If they proceed to give you ideas like... walking on the pathway, or sitting), you can educate them on the challenges of biomechanical disorders that stem from sitting too much, walking on flat surfaces, so on and so forth... and how you have chosen to avoid and prevent those disorders by moving in a primal and functional way that is backed by Science, and widely accepted in a variety of movement communities across the globe.
5) I believe I have the right to move through this environment.  I choose to move through this environment using a variety of mechanical functions that strengthen and stabilize my body.  Would you like to join me?

The point is, open it up to discussion.  Let's actually hear what the person has to say.  It's likely, in some instances, they'll have a really good explanation of why you shouldn't be there, doing what you do, but much of the time, they won't have an explanation, and their controlling nature stems from a very limiting belief that humans shouldn't move.  That's the belief we need to question, and resist.  With that said, I'll share a personal story from this weekend:

This past weekend we went up to Oregon City for a wedding.  We took the kids up along the Willamette River, skipped rocks, climbed boulders, and found our way to a nearby park, that had a swing set, ducks, geese, and pigeons. 

There was lots of open space, big trees, and lots of room to stretch out, run, move, and climb.  No one was around except for us, which made the park even more spacious.  We had a cartwheel relay race, the kids played on the swing set, and my brother climbed to the top of the swing set and busted out some pullups, because he's awesome like that.  My husband practiced some skin the cats, and I practiced some lemur locks.  The swing set was sturdy, the trees could handle our loads, which were light and minimal.  We weren't doing any damage, and we were having fun moving and connecting.  Within a few moments, a man rode up on his lawn mower (but he was not mowing anything) and scolded us, telling us "We were setting a bad example for the kids" and that "We shouldn't be doing any of that stuff".  We assured him we were trained and that this was how we liked to move.  He went on to say "Well not in these parts you don't".  He then went on to ride away on his lawn mower, leaving a trail of exhaust, to tell our kids who were about 25 yards away that they were being unsafe, to NOT run, and to stay away from the trees because the limbs might hurt and stab them.   I wasn't quite sure why this man would think the tree limbs were so threatening.  After all this, I felt it was safe to say, this man was clearly disconnected from his environment and didn't have any logical reason to tell us to stop.  So we didn't.  We ended up having a cartwheel contest, and then proceeded to do what we do.

Someone tell these flying birds to settle down, because they're making the other birds feel bad.  Look at those giant wings taking off and flying up so high in the sky - as if that's something special, and something to be proud of.  Those other birds have wings too, but they choose to not use them because it's obvious how unsafe it is to fly.  Be a good bird and do nothing but watch, observe, and listen, because that's what they are supposed to do.  That's what they are made to do. 

So there you have it.  If you're new to Parkour, and you train outside, you're going to have people tell you to stop, get off that, don't do that, you're being "bad", and all that.  Just remember that it's important to be mindful of others, and your environment, but ultimately, you get to decide how to move your body.  And we encourage you to connect with your environment and your surroundings. It's what humans do.  There is nothing bad or inappropriate about it; rather it's healthy and it's awesome.

Train Hard and Play Safe!
- Miss Elle