Pyramid Schemes

Nobody’s ever going to accuse me of being a quick learner when it comes to parkour. Not only that, but I often have trouble with standard progressions – whereas many people could, say, learn to vault sideways onto an object and progress fairly naturally to a turn vault, I won’t. I will stare at you blankly, and perform a Fuck You Step Vault (at which I am an expert. I may not display technical perfection, but nobody puts intent into that step vault like I can). I’m not unwilling. I just don’t learn in that way, and the way I see it, I had three options – continue to be confused, quit, or figure out how I actually do learn, because no matter how good coaches are (and PK Gen coaching is brilliant) they are not psychic, and because I am ultimately responsible for my own learning.

Nobody’s ever going to accuse me of being a quitter. That left me with continue or figure it out, and being a bit bored with step vaults, I started to consider the learning process.

I have noticed that I am very easily overwhelmed. When it comes to an explosive movement like a turn vault, I am likely to experience brain freeze when trying to figure it out. There’s a place you take off, and there’s a bit in between when you’re up and which leg goes up first and what happens to the other one and then my hands are meant to be somewhere and I DON’T UNDERSTAND OH GOD JUST STEP VAULT. It’s just too much. I needed to break it down somehow, and that’s when I started thinking in pyramids.

At the top of my pyramid is the target skill (in this case, a turn vault). You can’t just stick the top of a pyramid in the air and expect it to float unless you’re telekinetic, so I need to look at what supports a turn vault. From my point of view, I needed physical capabilities and mental ones. So far, my pyramid looks like this:

Turn vault (yay)

Physical ability     Mental ability

Layer three – To physically perform a turn vault, I needed jump strength, timing and the ability to hold myself in the air with my arms. All of these were fine. Brain-wise, I needed knowledge, proprioception, and confidence.

Turn vault (yay)

Physical ability                           Mental ability

Jump strength Timing Arm strength Technical knowledge Proprioception Confidence

I was unsure of my proprioception – without much vault experience, I didn’t really understand how airtime felt and so was confused about how to vault (catch 22!). This kind of rules out having any confidence.

While I could happily side vault onto something and then jump off, which should indicate that I could turn vault, I hadn’t built the confidence and the ability to control myself in the air. This was like a missing block in my pyramid, and fixing that became my new target.

This is the embarrassing part. The only way I could think of to do this was to bunny hop over a knee-high block over and over, holding myself up as long as I could in the air. This does not look impressive, particularly when everyone else is training ridiculous backflips and wallruns up a seven foot wall. Guess what, though? It worked. I got more experience of airtime, and when I went back to the turn vault, it was no longer a completely overwhelming idea. For the first time, I found myself able to do turn vaults at just about hip height.

This doesn’t just work for turn vaults, or even just for parkour. What do I need in order to be able to get on a longboard? Physically, I need balance, some strength, coordination. Mentally, I need the confidence to try, to be able to deal with moving at speed without panicking, the technical knowledge of how to make the thing go. These are the bricks in my pyramid. Are any of them a problem? If so, what do I need to do to fix them?

This may all sound cheesy, but it prevents me from becoming overwhelmed by a complex-seeming skill. It’s not a single movement that I am incapable of. It’s the peak of a pyramid made up of simpler skills, all of which are buildable. Do the basic supporting skills sound too overwhelming? Okay. Break those down into another pyramid layer.

Nobody’s ever going to accuse me of being a quick learner. But I’ll always find a way.


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