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Teaching Through the Obstacles: Ed Parkour

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When first directed to read this post on Ed Parkour, a quick glance registered in my mind as “Ed Parker.”  The other martial artists in the room know who I’m talking about.  If you don’t, and you’re curious (and why wouldn’t you be?) you can read about him here.  Ed Parker was famous, among other things, for teaching Elvis Karate (I mean, teaching Karate to Elvis, not teaching some sort of Elvis style, where the gis are sequined or something… that would be pretty awesome though) and introducing the world to Bruce Lee at the International Karate Championships in Long Beach, CA in 1964.

But this article had nothing to do with Ed Parker.  It was Ed(ucation) Parkour.  Parkour is a method, developed in France, founded (or at least formalized by) David Belle, of getting from A to B as efficiently as possible, which often involves going over, under or through obstacles as opposed to around them.  And come now, no jokes about the French inventing the ultimate art of running away, because seriously, how awesome is this?

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I’ve been wanting to learn this stuff for years.  Just look at it!

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It’s the next best thing to getting bit by a radioactive spider.

Now I wouldn’t have bothered to go into the Ed Parker thing if not for the comparison I like to draw between martial arts and parkour.  There are ample similarities between the two as far as training and philosophy.  I really see parkour as sort of a flip-side to martial arts.  They are both trained reactions to the “fight or flight” trigger.  Martial arts cover the fight part; parkour is the art of flight.

And really, who doesn’t want to flee like this?

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Or this?

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Of course, Parkour is just as useful for running toward something as it is for running away.  Ed Parkour is certainly about running towards a goal.  The goal is the success of our students, the realization of their potential, the acquisition of the skills that will benefit them in school and in life.  But there are obstacles in the way.  Student apathy, standardized tests, inadequate resources, hostile parents, conflict with administrators and about a million other things can stall or stop your progress in doing what you believe is the absolute best possible thing for your classroom.  Unless you’re running your own school (or are just insanely lucky), these things will show up in your path and there is no getting around them.  And, like a traceur, you cannot slow down; you cannot hesitate.  You’ve got to go over, under, or through.

I’m not necessarily talking about teaching as a subversive activity, though I certainly include that in the Ed Parkour repertoire.  I’m talking about having a traceur’s spatial awareness when it comes to what gets in the way of your teaching and the creativity and innovative spirit to deal with it.  It could be a matter of finding the right text to hook that reluctant reader, or the unconventional angle from which to approach the CCSS Most of all though, it’s about the courage to try.  Because you don’t do cool stuff like this if you’re chicken.

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Or without falling on your face a time or two

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or three…
hundred.

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