16 August 2014

FAMJAM 2014: International Parkour/Freerunning Jam

Traveling Ninja: Munich Edition

I am completely exhausted and my body is in desperate need of rest, but I am absolutely loving life.

Earlier this month, I spent four days in Munich for FAMJAM 2014 hosted by Free Arts of Movement (FAM). I took the train in from Paris without knowing a word of German or a single person going to the jam. And it was one of the best decisions I've made this summer.

... even if things did not always go as planned. Upon arrival Wednesday night, I attempted to figure out the trains but I soon gave up and took a taxi with a driver who spoke no English. Of course. I had written down the address but something got lost in translation because he pulled up next to an old gas station and told me we were there. No, I tried to explain, I don't think this is it... I pointed at the address again, starting to feel a bit desperate at the thought of being abandoned in a foreign city but he seemed to have a moment of clarity and took off driving again, yelling at me in German for the rest of the ride.

Somehow, we arrived at the correct street but we couldn't find the building. Luckily, I saw a young man in sweatpants. Sweatpants = parkour. English? Yes, he answered. Thank God! Where is the gym? He pointed me in the right direction and I took off running after professing my love for him for saving me from the angry taxi man.

It was quite overwhelming at first but I met a nice guy from the organization who introduced me to some other girls and coaches. Soon after I arrived, it was time for "night's rest" and I was happy to collapse on the thin mat between me and the gym floor.

Thursday was the official start of the jam. After check-in and an opening speech, we dove into workshops for the day. In the morning, I joined a group of about 10(?) girls for a "Girl Power" workshop. The workshop was led by two very talented traceuses—Daria (Russia) and Katie McDonnell (UK). We had a lot of fun jumping around and working on bar flow, specifically focusing on listening to your body and moving in a way that uses the least amount of energy. Later in the afternoon, I spent some more time playing on the bars and working on connecting movements with Thomas & Thomas (Czech Republic).

Day Two's workshops were quite different but just as fun. In the morning, I went "buildering" (which I learned is a real word... I just thought people were mis-pronouncing bouldering... awkward) with Andy Day (UK). This was a lot of fun but the bridge we were climbing was covered, I mean saturated, in spiders. The spiders scared me more than the height of the climb. Sigh.

Climbing somewhere in Munich!
The afternoon workshop was much less scary. Led by Daniel Ilabaca (UK) and some of his friends, we talked about the idea of connecting through play and experiencing the positive energy of movement. We played a few different games to warm up with some slackline thrown in, and then we tried out a really fun game as a group. All you need is a soccer ball and a vault box. For those of you who were at (B)East Coast 2014 at Great Falls (or read about it on my blog), the game was similar to our improv game of frisolleyoccer. Basically, we stood in a circle and passed the ball around but every time you touched the ball, you went over the vault box and filled in the circle somewhere else. It was a lot of fun and there were a few moments where you could really feel it— everyone was in the moment and as free as a child at play.

When there were not workshops going on, we were lying around stretching outside, playing games like add-on, challenging each other and just hanging out.

I wasn't thinking about taking photos or videos most of the time because I wanted to be in the moment and just have fun with everyone but here's a short clip of things from when I did remember to take a few videos:

I spent most of the jam by the gym but I did get to train in a really cool spot over the weekend when I stayed at the house of one of the coaches (Thank you, Nadja!)

The spot is called Red City and it is hands-down the coolest spot I have ever seen. I went with Katie and Josh and there were a few other traceurs there but it was still pretty empty so we spent a couple of hours just jumping around and climbing on the walls. It was absolutely perfect. I was in great company, the sun was shining, and the concrete jungle in front of me had endless possibilities. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Munich, go to Red City.

Me & Katie McDonnell (aka one of the coolest traceuses I know) hanging out at the Red City!
Getting ready for a precision jump @ Red City
Josh taking a break (and making weird faces) @ Red City
Climbing around @ Red City
There were traceurs, freerunners and movement artists from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland, England, Belgium, Spain, Russia, Denmark, Poland, Italy, and so many other countries. I also found a couple of Americans! I saw a kid wearing a PK Visions shirt and I was like Hey, that's in Seattle, right? and we got to talking, realizing we had a few mutual friends back in the States. Small world! The only other American I found there was Josh Yadon from Tempest Freerunning. I saw him a lot throughout the weekend and I had a lot of fun training with him and watching him move. I don't know if it was his skill or lack of fear but some of the things he was trying were crazy to me. He actually landed a gainer (it's like a back flip but you're going forwards while you do it) off a mini tramp onto a rail. Yes, landing on a rail and staying there is as difficult as you think it is. There were lots of people trying crazy tricks like this or other super powerful moves so if you ever needed to take a breather, there was plenty of cool stuff to watch!

I loved meeting all of these interesting people. Katie and I had a blast jumping around and exploring Munich together; I loved spending time with and learning from the people I met through workshops like Andy and Daniel, and the others I met randomly throughout the event like Josh, James (UK), Bryan, Jack (Ireland), Nadja, Mona (DE), Kim (Singapore), Chris (DK), and Drew from Team Storror (who were constantly being asked to apologize every time anyone climbed a roof they weren't supposed to... but they were good sports about it!)

Team Farang also stopped by for a few hours one night when we were having the Q&A with the coaches. I was sitting talking with a couple of guys and one of them said, "Oh, Pasha is here," nonchalantly. The other guy (a huge fan of Team Farang) said, "Yeah, okay..." turning around to look. He whipped his head back around and whisper-yelled, "GUYS, PASHA IS HERE." I guess he didn't believe us. Pasha came over to say hi to everyone and then this kid ran off to find the rest of the team since they were the reason he got into freerunning. It was fun to see him so excited and able to meet the people who inspire him.

It was a really great environment at this jam. It didn't matter if it was your first day out or you'd been training for ten years, if you had 1,000,000 views on YouTube or didn't know how to use a camera, everyone was equal. We all share the same parkour spirit. This is what I saw at FAMJAM. A community. A family. A group of weird and crazy-talented individuals getting together to have fun.

I learned so much in just four short days. New skills. New techniques. New ways to move. I met some amazing people. Learned new ways of seeing things and looking at the world. Got into some really interesting discussions about movement and the parkour lifestyle. And most importantly, I had the time of my life.

It's taken me so long to write about this because I've been traveling and I was having trouble finding the words for such an amazing experience. I want to share this experience with you and this is the best way I know how. To write. To pour my thoughts out onto a page (or several). And to encourage you to go out and explore the world.

Travel. Meet new people. Attend an event where you don't know anybody at all.
Workout with people from other countries and new perspectives. Connect with people.
And most importantly, play. Never stop playing.

Thanks for sticking with me for such a long post! Believe it or not I've cut this down a million times... sigh. So much to share! And so little time to write these days. Oh well... until the next adventure :)

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