“Why aren’t you not scared?”
Most people who watch Parkour videos don’t actually see the mental preparation and battle the athletes go through before attempting the impressive jumps. The truth is, we’re not fearless. We face fear all the time. Fear is important, as it keeps us safe. How we handle fear, is the true test of one’s mental strength.
I am a huge advocate of mental training. If you’re only working on physical training, you’re limiting yourself from the vast array of possibilities out there. I believe that your mental game hugely determines your physical game. It’s impossible to jump to your true maximum if your head is not in it like your body is. But there is also a danger to being way too overconfident than your actual skill level. Getting both your physical and mental selves to be in sync is the key to progression.
If you haven’t watch my Vlog regarding how I overcome fear, you should watch that first! But if you the type that prefers to read rather than watch/listen, please proceed.
Here are the top 10 things I would like to share about getting over your mental barriers:
1. Knowing one’s capabilities
Before you push yourself to do something scary, the most important thing is that you KNOW for sure that you can physically make the challenge. If there are severe consequences to the move that you’re doing, the last thing you want to do is to push yourself senselessly. Injuries are a sure way to impede progression, so learn to be aware if you’re making the right choices. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds. After all, it is a very fine line between pushing yourself too far, or if you’re just giving an excuse to not make the challenge.
Technique, power, and control are absolutely important and it should be our foundational skills that we work on initially. Once you’re much more comfortable with the moves, you can start pushing yourself to go a little bit further what you’re used to. Learning to know what that fine line comes with experience and practice.
2. Assess your fears
Fear knocks on your door for a reason. It makes all kinds of scenarios in your head that holds you back, but take a moment to find out if they are rational or not. What are the chances of you completely missing the rail? What are the chances of you clipping your feet? If the answer is ‘pretty high’, then maybe fear is right. You might get hurt. So maybe you’ll have to work more on your technique/power first. If the answer is ‘pretty low’, then find out how you could make it even lower (stated in the next point), and then actually face the challenge.
Once you clear out of external sources of failure (like making sure your surfaces are dry and not slippery, shoelaces tied, obstacles are sturdy, etc.), and your internal sources of failure (like finding out if you physically can jump the distance/knowing what exactly you need to do), then it’s between you and the obstacle now. You decide who’s boss.
3. Finding your own progressions
Be creative. Use your environment to find challenges similar to the scary one you’re aiming for. Work towards knowing you’re 99% sure you are able to make the distance with technique on point. It’s usually a way to warm your body up and tune your mind in for the actual challenge, but also know that some jumps may not necessarily have suitable progressions.
4. Know what your bail options are.
Learn about the landing continuum. Basically, the concept is about being comfortable with all the smaller progressions before your eventual end goal. Learning to build up safely is a good way to keep yourself safe and more confident to put a little bit more power each time.
I usually work on my bail technique by finding a jump that is around 80% of my max distance and I’ll purposely try to undershoot it. I still focus on having control in my bouncebacks/bailouts, and this is a safe way to build up your reaction skills.
5. FATA; First Attempt True Attempt.
I heard this somewhere from Brandon Douglass/Dylan Baker – the idea is that your very first attempt for the jump you’re eyeing at should your true proper attempt. You should treat it like you have already done this before, giving it your all in your first go. In other words, focus on getting all jumps done in ‘One Bang’. This is important once you bring your jumps to higher levels, where you don’t necessarily have any safe bail-out options or progressions. This also makes you highly aware of your actual capabilities and it’s one way to train your instincts to react accordingly to falls if you were to overshoot/undershoot your landings. This increases confidence, which in turn, helps you get over fear quickly.
Of course, it takes a bit of practice to reach this stage of confidence, so try this concept out on easier, smaller challenges, so that it becomes ingrained in you. Another way to do it is to work on it is having your Second/Third/Fourth attempt be your ‘True Attempt’, and then gradually making cutting it down to just one attempt.
6. Commit 100% – Don’t Freak Out!
Most injuries come from half-committing to a challenge or freaking out halfway in the jump. This happens when your mental and physical self is still not in sync, and despite going for the jump, the physical self is still holding back because the mind isn’t fully ready yet.
Commitment starts from the run-up, from the initial arm movement, and most importantly, from your mind. If there’s something holding you back, ask yourself why. If you clear all your doubts and decide it’s go-time, then turn on the ‘switch’. Fully focus on the important points (your run-up/footing, your take-off point, your landing point), VISUALISE (super helpful) yourself doing the actual move, and tell yourself you’re going to commit 100%, and then go. No holding back.
Again, learning to fully commit to something scary requires practice. It is normal to take some time to get there. But keep in mind, you’re probably much safer with a full send than anything less.
7. You are in charge! Don’t rely on external sources.
Gym training is amazing! It’s safe, you can change the distance of the blocks, you can put mats, you can have spotters, etc. However, do realize you don’t have such luxury in the outdoors. If possible, once you’re sure of the technique of the movement, remove the mats immediately. I say this from experience – I’m fearless of kong gainers in the gym where I know I’m super safe, but once you move it outdoors with hard walls and grass (not even concrete), it scares me so much. It’s one of my biggest struggles to this day.
Even outdoors, training with the use of extrinsic motivation such as having support from friends or doing it in front of the camera can be limiting/dangerous sometimes. Learn to rely on yourself, because only YOU can overcome YOUR fear.
8. Overcoming fear is a skill. Make it a habit!
Do something scary every time you train. As much as you work on your technique, your control, and your power, don’t forget to work on your mind. Put it to the test. If you’re dreading something, or not really wanting to face your fears, it’s a sign you need to work on them.
Also – facing different types of fear at different spots makes you better at adapting your ways to overcome fear.
Much as we should learn how to face our fears head-on, we should also learn to know when to back down. Longevity is key in this sport, and unless you’re travelling, the challenge will be here to stay. There’s no need to force yourself to finish it by today.
9. Respect the fear.
As mentioned before, fear is important to keep us safe. It’s easy to get so sucked into a challenge that you don’t even want to back out anymore. As
A simple way to do this is to give yourself a comfortable time limit. Once the time is up, you should know or not whether we should save this challenge for another day.
10. Translate your newfound confidence to your life.
Personally, I felt that the confidence I gained through Parkour has greatly impacted how I face fears in my daily life. This may be an assumption, but a person who is naturally confident with themselves would usually commit to new moves pretty quickly (unless they have a phobia from the past). Conversely, a person with a ‘weaker’ mind would probably hold back in a jump and conjures up mostly negative possible outcomes in their head.
It is not an extremely direct correlation, but there is some correlation nonetheless. As a fond believer that confidence comes with practice. So yes, Parkour has made me generally less fearful of scary things, but I still need to put in extra work to fully become more confident overall as a person. This can be seen when I socialize, teach classes, run events, and most recently, make vlogs.
There you have it. There’s a lot more to it, but it also differs from person to person. So take what you think will help, and let me know what else you think I missed out!
Let me end off with some last words:
If you treat easy challenges as hard, the hard challenges become easy.
– Words from Wise CP