Trace Gathering 2008

Trace is a Parkour gathering in the peak district organised by Jason Matten and Dave Sedgley. The first proper one was last year (Trace Gathering 2007) and we had a smaller one the year before called the Northern Parkour Gathering 2006. I came back a few days early from my trip to the Spanish Pyrenees for this event and it was well worth it. This year was HUGE as there were 250 places available as the entire campsite at Edale was booked out for us, so there were about twice as many attendees as last year (and about 5 times more than 06), which I felt played against us at times. It was too big. The rain fell throughout the week which left us unable to perform the training we would like to be able to do, but nevertheless we had a great gathering and did the best we could to train in the wet, which is simply a matter of working on smaller-scaled jumps and making them much more controlled, which is an integral part of parkour training. (What’s the point only training in good weather? What if we needed to put our skills to practice and it was raining?)

We all arrived on Monday to pitch our tents at Edale and meet and greet the traceurs who had mostly come from around the UK but some from Europe, America, even Australasia! I made my way by train from Sheffield and found a huge bunch of young people in tracksuit bottoms with big bags and camping equipment that happened to be getting the very same train as me. While waiting at the station in Sheffield the group were looking at a sizey precision jump across the single-train rail line which I have been wanting to try for quite some time, and I decided to go for it. It’s just about far enough to push my comfort levels, but I found it was easily doable. I think it’s about 11 feet.On the walk from the station to the campsite I saw my good friend Jin, who recently returned from a year in China, so we hugged and had a quick catch-up on the way to the gazebo that had been set up on entrance, where my good friend Blake from South London’s Saiyan Clan (see their awesome-but-not-frequently-enough-updated blog here) was ticking names off the list, and spotted me out of the crowd and came over to shake my hand and say hello, it was great to see him again, so we had a chat once the crowd had died down. We trained a bit on the park round the corner that night and got settled in before being grouped for the next two days. I was to be in Jin and Liv’s group with a mix of guys (and 3 girls) from all over the UK, none of which I knew at that point.

The first day was a late start and we warmed up and trained on a wet and slippery Padley Gorge for a few hours before heading to the other peaks in walking distance from Grindleford Station. We got the train to Hope to go to the shop to stock up on supplies for the week, and with about 100 other traceurs with the same idea, we packed the shop out and formed a queue that actually filled the shop, so on entering the shop, you had joined the queue and basically had to pick things up on your way to the front of the queue, which took about 45 minutes. We missed the train and a group of us decided to walk back rather than waiting 2 hours for the train. It was only 1 stop on the train and was a 7 minute journey that took well over an hour if you walked it.The next day was an early start which began with us trekking all the way up Higger Tor in the pouring rain, where we ate some food before doing some weaselling while the weather passed. Some of the gaps we had to force our bodies through were incredibly small, some even crushed your chest making it hard to breathe in and out. One of the guys there said that this was useful training as if you got caught in a building on fire or under terrorist attack or something and needed to climb through a vent to get out, you might have to force yourself through an awkward gap. This gave me reason to try some hard ones. One of them made you force your chest through a gap and struggle through upwards with little to push off, you got your skin caught at the front and back and had to relax as much as possible, breathe in and out slowly and you had to breathe out massively in order for your chest to be small enough to fit through, which was still a struggle, especially during shallow-breathing. I managed to squeeze through to applaud from the motivating group led by Daniel Ilabaca (one of the things I love about the way Danny trains with groups – he encourages people to work towards what they are trying to achieve and applauds and congratulates them on completion or good attempt).

Once the weather had cleared up we did some parkour runs over the rocks. Danny came up with a run with no preparation, he simply went forwards and came up with appropriate movements as he went along, and got us all to try and follow suit – it turned out to be a great run that everybody could do (some faster and smoother than others) and we had great fun fine-tuning and perfecting it. Later on in the afternoon when everyone was starting to get tired out, Danny asked who wanted to do some barefoot training, and those who did took off our shoes and socks and followed him on a course of keeping to the rocks and off the grass, all round Carl Walk, until we jumped to a massive rock where the path ended, and once three of us had got to where he was stuck, he asked the rest to find new paths. Danny decided to come up with a team activity where the four of us helped each other to get back from the big rock (impossible to do individually) so he formed himself into a bridge across the gap and I had to climb up him to get to the next rock, then help the next person up and then between us, pull Danny up to join us. We managed it and Danny asked for another team of four to work together to do the same, and three or four groups had a go. I think all but one made it back, and one with a little cheating, and Danny was trying to emphasise the importance of the task, to try and make it more real and more desperate so that we should treat it like we had to do it without falling and take it deadly seriously as if it was a matter of working together saving our lives. Some disregarded this but some took it on board and took the exercise seriously.The fourth day, and third full day of training, we had the choice to do what we wanted, so I trekked up to Higger Tor with a small group of other traceurs (most people just stayed at Padley Gorge out of laziness, some because they genuinely preferred it) and when we arrived there it chucked it down with rain and all we could do was take shelter and wait for it to get better. It only got worse, and we were given warnings of more bad weather, so we walked all the way back to the gorge where it was wet but some of the people were training. I joined Will and Blake on a tree/rock manoeuvre and added my own ideas to the route they were trying. They loved my idea (it was a sweet movement involving getting from one rock to another by means of a dive to a branch, swinging to another branch and swinging off onto the landing rock) and the three of us tried out our different techniques and took note of what we liked about each other’s way of moving and choices of methods, and were all getting close to landing it with different methods, but then Blake swung from the first branch and it snapped off completely. It looked as if he landed flat out on his back on a big rock, so I went over to see if his back was ok, which it was, minus a bit of a scrape, but he’d actually taken a chuck out of his arm on the way down! He had cut the skin on the inside of his arm at the elbow level, right where the bone sticks out, and the skin had ripped apart and looked quite deep, maybe to the bone. I rushed to get my first aid kit (the best of which is still making its way back in a trailer on a minibus from Spain with the rest of my kit) and cleaned the wound up and bandaged it and used some of Will’s tape to hold the cut closed so it could heal easier. He was ok and will be getting it checked out when he gets home.

Then we headed back to Edale and to the campsite where we had been informed flood warnings had been issued, and Dave was making plans to move the group to the village hall for the night rather than risk it at the campsite. Seeing as I live in Sheffield, I thought I may as well just pack up and go home, since the gathering had finished and people were only staying to go home the next day. I packed up quickly and found out the train times and just about had time to help Will pack away and say goodbye to some people. It amazed me how many mini-Ilabacas there were at Trace. Soooo many people with the same hairstyle and dressing habits. I actually witnessed (on several occasions) people picking up tips from Danny and telling their mates about them, and trying to copy every little thing that he did because they thought that it would make them better. One guy a few of us were helping with his cat pass technique actually admitted that he wanted to do it a different way just to be like Danny and that he thought it was justifiable to copy him merely because if Danny did it then it must be the right way. Apparently Danny’s years of practising and downright natural ability and skill don’t come in to it! I didn’t get many photos as I was too busy training. Thanks to Jason and Dave and all the reps for the event. And to Blake and Cable – please update your blog! I look forward to reading your version of events at Trace soon! I also hope we can arranged to meet up to train together soon. All the best, guys. Stay safe (and I hope your arm is ok, Blake!).

Us On BBC Inside Out

It all started with an email from Jamie Coulson. He asked if I could set something up to film parkour for his programme, Inside Out, for the BBC. I told him about the (then upcoming) Trace Gathering and he was very interested, so I arranged with Jason Matten, the organiser, and arranged for Jamie and a cameraman to come along for one day of the event.

We met him at Grindleford station and walked up to Padley Gorge where he filmed a warm-up led by Jason, and as the day went on the two BBC guys followed the groups around the peaks and filmed bits here and there.

A couple of weeks later we arranged a filming session in Sheffield City Centre to capture parkour in the urban environment as well as rural. We did some stuff around the Crucible and Hallam University mainly. They also filmed some interviews on both filming days which were an integral part of the programme. Dave Sedgley talked about working towards parkour being taught safely by qualified coaches, Daniel Ilabaca talked about what he understands parkour to be about, and there were other good talks from Blake (Saiyans) and Jason Matten.

The video, as was shown on BBC One Yorkshire & Lincolnshire, can be seen on the You Tube:

Here’s Paul’s Trace Gathering video, he’s only just got round to editing it but it’s well worth the wait:

Trace Gathering 2007

This week, Fieldhead Campsite in Edale in the Peak District held host to 115 or so traceurs for the Trace (or TRACEur) Gathering 2007. An absolutely brilliant few days of hanging out with over a hundred people who live for parkour – camping together, talking about parkour, and training in the most amazing natural areas of the Peak District.

Day One, Tuesday, we all arrived at the campsite at different times, pitched up and then just hung around playing catch with a ball, trying to catch frisbees in our mouths, etc. before all heading to the local play park for some getting-to-know-each-other light training. It was great fun, we had one of those “let’s see who can make the cat pass past the line”-type exercises which are always fun, and there was a tricking demonstration from Daniel Ilabaca, who was watched by many awestruck contingents, often interrupted by someone who would think “oh, I can do that trick almost a millionth as well as him, I’ll show him my feeble attempt”.

Day Two was the first full day of training. My group, led by Daniel, started at Padley Gorge (which, by the way, Jason told me last year he loves and thinks is better than Lisses!), and after getting ice-cream (chocolate knickerbocker glories) moved onto Higger Tor and surrounding peaks. Danny (Sheffield) and Paul (Manchester) were in my group that day, which was cool.

On the long trek to Higger Tor a few of us listened to what Daniel had to say – it was so inspiring hearing him talk about his philosophy on life, youth, and passing on the message of parkour to anyone who was looking for the thing that was formerly missing from his life until he found it in the art of movement and related activities. He’s such a sound guy and I felt privileged to be training with him and that I had the chance to listen to what he had to say.

The day finished by us being sorted into new groups for the following day and then a presentation by Jin’s Dad about their charity: New Foundations, who provide medical and surgical services to areas of the Niger Delta where there is currently no present provision. We raised £581.76 for the cause.

Day Three started off with an oddly-coordinated warm-up led by Jason at Grindleford Station. Oh and a few weeks previously I’d been asked about doing some filming for the BBC and I’d told the guy about the gathering and he expressed interest in joining us and filming so I got him in touch with Jason, and anyway, he turned up to meet us at the station, which was a promising start.

I was meant to be in a group with Shane and Scott (one of the guys I’m going to Lisses with), but in deciding which way would be less boggy, two groups got mixed up, and I was with no-one I knew, which sucked at first, as I was stuck with a big bunch of people who interact with others on WorldWideJam, which for some unknown reason I’ve always been rather skeptical towards, anyway, these guys all knew eachother and had no intention of including me in their discussion, so I was doing my own thing on Higger Tor and then joined in with Blake (from the Saiyans), Brad Moss (the guy who was part of ‘The Freerunners’ on Britain’s Got Talent) and Moses, who had travelled all the way from Austria just to train with us, I got really into the stuff they were trying and we got on really well and I ended up training with them for the rest of the day. The guys from the BBC found us up there and filmed some parkour. We then headed back to Padley Gorge and had some fun on the rocks and in the trees and headed back to the campsite.

I think it’s worth mentioning that it was very useful getting on the train with over a hundred traceurs, as the conductor has no chance of getting round you all, and often decided not to bother charging anyone. What we did was wait to see which end the conductor was positioned, and get on at the opposite doors and create a barrier of more gullible traceurs between ourselves and the conductor in case he made the attempt of getting blood from a stone.

After tea and a rest at the campsite I headed to the park again to do some parkour with the Manchester guys who had decided to drive home that night as no training was planned for the last day. We got there and quickly realised we had neither the energy, manoeuvrability nor the motivation to do any physical work so we went for a session of “let’s film amusing things for Paul’s video” which mainly involved purpose bails. Then pretty much everyone from the campsite arrived at the park for Jason and Dave’s conditioning session, which turned out to consist of 30 push-ups followed by “that’s it for conditioning” and everyone pounding on Jason and almost successfully removing his trousers.

Day Four consisted of nothing more than packing up our tents and stuff, saying goodbye and going home. Shane had gone home the night before so me and Danny bode our farewells to those remaining, mostly Trace Reps. I wished Jin an awesome year, as he’s going to China as part of his Uni course in a couple of weeks, I spoke to Moses about my plans to travel next Summer and hopefully pay him a visit and train with him in Austria, I spoke to Blake as I had a great time training with him and I’m certain it won’t be the last time, I thanked Daniel, Dave and Jason and left for the station to get the train back to Sheffield.

Many thanks to Jason and Dave for organising and running an awesome week of meeting people and training in a fantastic atmosphere. Also thanks to all the Trace reps who made it what it was. Roll on TRACE 08!

Most of the photos courtesy of Shane Rounce. Check out his photographic display at Flickr.

There’s more to come on TRACE 07 – there’ll be a feature in the Sheffield Star soon and I should have more info on the BBC thing – all I know at present is that it’s for a programme called Inside Out and should be shown in September. They’re also filming some more parkour in Sheffield soon.

Apex Challenge

This weekend I’ve been on the Apex Challenge, which is a competition for teams of four (this time in Castleton in the Peak District) where the teams involved have to navigate through a large geographical area racking up points from taking part in various activities at bases set up all round the mapped area. My team, Team Toe, went out to try and win the competition, and got off to a great start…

Friday night was the start of the competition, where we had to all compete in a mini competition in order to decide the starting positions (i.e. the team finishing first would set off first, the second team a minute later and so on) and we finished third, which was a good start. The activity was called The Glow Company Challenge, where (in the dark) we had to throw glow sticks to a member of our team to catch in a fishing net, and they had to catch one of each colours. We finished in under 3 minutes, and came third, so we were given our starting time of 10:02 for Saturday.

Saturday’s event, the main part of the competition, which was to last 7 hours, from 10:02 to 5:02 (points deducted per minute late). We planned our route and completed a variety of bases and made our way to several control points along the way to rack up the points total. At 4:00 (and hour before we finished) we came across a guy who had broken his leg in a gully between the hills. Since our team consisted of two qualified lifeguards, another one in training (all 3 trained by Richard Garrett, a senior member of Woodseats Venture Unit with us), one with an SPA for climbing, and we all have general first aid qualifications, so we sorted him out, got him into some warm clothes and put a survival blanket round him, gave him some chocolate for the sugar and checked his leg out. His ankle was quite bruised, so we carefully removed his shoe and sock, and gave him another sock.

We phoned the Mountain Rescue, as he needed to be taken out of there, and got cut off after reporting the incident, without having told them our position, so we tried to reach them again, and after unsuccessful attempts, a member of our group headed to the closest base to inform an organiser so that he could contact the main Apex people on the walkie talkie and they could ring Mountain Rescue with our grid reference. While he was gone we called 999 to try to get through to M.R. but for some reason they said they couldn’t put us through to them. Anyway, we had been talking with the casualty, he was a first year student called Liam, studying History and English at Sheffield Hallam University, originally from Nottingham. He was in shock, and shaking quite badly, so we ensured he was warm enough and had the sugar inside him. He seemed alright under the circumstances. The M.R. guys came along with their stretchers and sorted him out and took him to hospital.

We must have been waiting with him for over 2 hours, so we were obviously late returning for the competition, and had missed out on a fair amount of points in our final hour of that part of the contest, but they didn’t penalise us for being late, and thanked and congratulated us for stopping to help him out. We found out later that we were 2nd in the leaderboard up to then, so we did very well considering we lost an hour!

Everyone else had had a long rest at the finish site before the Saturday night part of the challenge, but we had to set off straight away when we got back, we did ok in it, but would have done much better after a rest.

Sunday morning’s activity was from 10:00 ’til 1:00-ish, which consisted of a race completing two bases; one canoeing (canadian open boat), which was cool, with 3 keen canoeists in our group (well…kayakers, near enough) and then a walk back to the man base to complete an assault course, and since parkour means that I practise that sort of thing (on different terrain lol) all the time, I was loving it! An assault course made up of ladders, rope and things in between piles of bales of hay. Great!

Anyway, we came 6th in total, out of 36 teams, which was pretty good, all things considered. We were completely knackered on Saturday night and Sunday morning, so we couldn’t really give it our all. Regardless, we had a fantastic weekend, and although we came home prizeless, we enjoyed it and actually dealt with a real life casualty in an actual real situation, which will add to our experience.

I’m off to the Yorkshire Dales next weekend for my Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition, which I’ve been looking forward to for some time, it’ll be a great way to spend the half term. We start at skipton on Sunday morning (I’ll be in Southport on Saturday for my Gran’s 90th birthday! :O ). See this page for a write-up (and vLog) of the 4-day expedition.

The Apex site has now been updated and now includes all the details of what happened on the event, including an article about the rescue.

Here are some links to the media coverage of the incident:

Autumn 2006 Event – Report” – Apex Challenge website
Hitting the Headlines” – Apex Challenge website
Scouts Praised after Rescue Drama” – UK Scouts website
“Scouts in Mountain Rescue Effort” – Community Newswire
“Scouts in peak rescue drama” – Sheffield Star, page 5
“We Were Prepared” – Doncaster Star, pages 1 and 2

Northern Parkour Gathering 2006

Thursday in Sheffield

It’s Thursday night now, I’m about to go to bed ready for tomorrow’s day in the Peak District.

Today was a brilliant day of parkour; Will and I met up with Jin, Jason and two other traceurs from Cambridge, we trained from 1:00pm till about 8:00pm, it was fantastic. The four of them had a mound of camping gear with them, including a six-man tent and all their necessary items for the whole weekend, we split the load between us and headed up to Hallam to start warming up.

I just happened to bump into my older brother on Hallam as we were warming up, which was nice, and he enjoyed seeing some parkour in action. We moved on to the Odeon shortly after, where we must have spent a considerable amount of time training, within which, Jason unfortunately clipped his knee awkwardly on a wall on his way back from attempting a sizey kong-to-precision (or…’cat precision’ I think they call it…), which kept his mostly out of action the rest of the session, but he still got to see the Sheffield spots, and took particular liking to one in particular, I’m sure he’ll be out there giving it his all when he next gets the chance.

We went all round from Hallam to Sheffield Uni and the English Department, hitting the spots we knew we could train on without causing any grief, as it was a weekday. Jin owned everything. Need I say more?

It was great to train with Jin today, he’s great to watch and learn from, and is very inspiring. He’s a nice guy to hang with too, I look forward to training with him on a regular basis. Sheffield has so much to offer him over the next four years lol…

Tomorrow is training in Hathersage and Grindleford. I’m training from about 2:00pm when my school trip (in Grindleford…) is over, and everyone else goes home, I get to join the group, tag along and get on with the rural training.

Saturday will be awesome, and better still if it’ some of those amazingly summery days, like 03/03/06. That was fantastic. It will be nice to show others around Sheffield, see what possibilities they see and what they think of the sort of thing we do here. We love it, so will they.

Friday in the Peak District

Yesterday I joined the group at Padley Gorge, we did some training on the rocks along the stream. It was fantastic, I was so impressed at what that part of the Peak District had to offer in that respect.

It was nice to meet those I know from Northern Parkour, but have never actually met; Lee and Psi. They were both very pleasant and I noticed that after introducing ourselves to each other, in both cases, we were immediately able to interact in a way that you would expect we train with each other all the time, it was just that we were both able to train and discuss techniques etc as if we knew each other well and trained regularly together, but I literally just knew their names, nothing more, and we were able to share the love for parkour straight off. A bit long-winded, but you know what I’m trying to say.

Looking forward to today’s jam in Sheffield. I set off in about 10 minutes. Should be good training with Dave and Paul there again, as well as Jin, Jason, Liv and the others.

Sam Corbett from Leek Parkour is coming to stay over as I offered to accommodate him for the night so that it was possible for him to come to join the action. He’s getting the train with me to Manchester tomorrow too.

Photos courtesy of Jin’s blog:

Saturday in Sheffield

Today didn’t go as well as it was meant to, but nevertheless I got some good training in with Paul. Dave and the others at the campsite got up at 5:30am to go train at Padley Gorge, so they were all exhausted by the time they got to Sheffield and weren’t up to much at all. Also, Jason did his knee in again that morning, unfortunately.

Manchester tomorrow should be good. Hopefully there’ll be a nice selection of people there, none of that messing about sort. Paul really wants to split tomorrow’s group into groups so that we all get more done, he says there’s some other stuff he wants to show me that he hasn’t taken me to yet.

I was telling Will 2 (from York – ‘Razorhelm’ on the forums) of how much I love training with Paul, and that we’re really on the same level of ability and skill, and how I realized that I go off and train and learn in Sheffield, he trains and learns in Manchester, and then we meet up every now and then and just…synchronize. We show each other what we’ve learned and the styles we’ve picked up, the tips we’ve found out and all that sort of thing, and just help each other out in that respect. It works really well.

Me, Sam, Danny, Will, Will and Will will be meeting Will at Manchester station tomorrow, we’re all getting the train together tomorrow and Wings (the fourth Will I mentioned) is meeting us at the station in Manchester to go to UMIST with us.

Me and Sam have been watching all the parkour videos on my computer since we got back.

Sunday in Manchester

A fantastic day of training today!

Parkour in Manchester is a love of mine, and I got the chance to train in a small group of dedicated practitioners, which is ideal, including Paul, Danny, Will, Will and Will. I think four straight days (Five out of the past Six days) of solid training is more than I am used to, but it didn’t kill me, it made me stronger. I feel like I was achieving more and more right to the very end, even as people were thinking of going to get the train, Will (original) and I were still practising and gaining more out of the day, oh and Paul was with us at that point too (it seems so long ago…). I was going for a standing rail-kong to precision round the corner from the main meetup with the benches at UMIST, I hit it two or three times and bounced back, but I’m certain I can make the distance fully next time. After all, it was at the end of four days’ hard training.

Where there’s a Will there’s a way!

Well we had four Wills with us, so we were alright in that respect. Will (original, from Sheffield), Will 1 (York) and Will 2 (York – Razorhelm) came with us on the train, and we met Will (Wings) later on in the day. JK and Sam Corbett came on the train with us too.

The day’s parkour started with some wallruns at Castlefield (videos to be posted) after a warm-up at the Spar. Will decided to go for the wallruns with minimum run up, which I joined him in doing, which was successful, to the extent that we could get the top hold with about three/four steps.

We visited some nice spots (thanks for that, Paul!) and did some funky shit between the few of us. I personally enjoyed my standing rail-kong to precisions all over the place, as I’ve been practising them for some time now, I rather liked the look of Danny’s kong-to-cat attempts, I actually branded that as a no-go, but he was getting close! Everything of Will’s was supernatural as usual, but I particularly liked his running kongs, and of course his bail! Yes, really. Will couldn’t quite get enough of himself onto the ledge after a rail-kong over a gap, and fell backwards into the gap, using his arms to break his fall on both sides of the gap, which resulted in him landing softly enough to have not done himself any harm. He got back up and did it again.

The other Will (Razorhelm)’s speeds were impressive, and I was moved by his catleap onto the rock at the Geological gardens. Speaking of which, I did my dash again, after about 30 attempts! It took me soooo long to actually get myself over the wall and perform the vault. I was really showing tiredness by then.

Thanks to everyone who turned up, especially the ones I trained with today, it was a superb group.

An uber huge thanks to Dave for organising this whole gathering weekend. I know all the people I spoke to enjoyed it and learned from the other attendees. Well done, Dave. It was a fantastic event! Thanks.