US Summer Jam Review 2009

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By Alissa Bratz.

Summer 2009

Locations: All over the USA

Colorado Jam. Photo by Sandar.

The US saw a huge increase in the number of large-scale, “national” jams this year. Many, such as (B)East Coast, have some history of being annual events for several years running, but even so these jams also experienced a marked increase in attendance. More and more women are attending these jams, enabling us to make connections with other traceuses around the country—a difficult task when we are fewer in number, and spread across a large land mass!

The following is a list of national jams that went down this summer (some have yet to happen!):

  • Beast Coast: May 22-25 (Washington DC)
  • Philadelphia: May 30
  • Midwest: June 12-14 (Minneapolis hosted the Midwest for the first time this year)
  • New York: June 19-21
  • Texas: June 25-28
  • Pittsburgh: July 9-12
  • Chicago: July 17-19
  • Toronto: July 31-Aug 2nd
  • Colorado: August 7-10
  • Washington: August 28-30
  • Ohio: September 7
  • Michigan: September 25-27

Beast Coast has always been traditionally held over Memorial Day weekend (end of May), as sort of the unofficial “kickoff” for the national jam “season.” This year was no exception. I was unable to attend Beast Coast this year, but would love to hear from some of the traceuses who attended. Over the course of the summer I have seen quite a few photos and comments flying around on various sites, from traceuses who attended Beast Coast and other jams.

The Chicago jam this year was a blast. We had the opportunity to train on the UIC campus and also downtown. It’s a testament to traceuses that we can be so laid-back about the often Spartan sleeping accommodations at large jams. With so many people in one place, it becomes necessary for the jam hosts to share couches, floor space, and every nook and cranny for lodging. I enjoy how traceuses regularly defy the stereotype that women need to spend hours getting ready in the morning, or are “prissy” about accommodations. We were right there on the floor with the guys, in sleeping bags. Tanya of Indiana Parkour commented, “This is how I imagine it must have been like when armies of the past were on the move: large groups of people, laying out bedrolls, carrying their food in their packs, sharing sleeping space and food.” It was an interesting point.

Chicago Jam. Photo by Sainaa Sabol

More important than the sleeping arrangements, of course, is the training! The first night we trained at a place called Oz Park, which is a beautiful, massive wooden playground structure. It was just a great night to train some light stuff, meet up with everybody, and play. The next morning would find us on the UIC campus. UIC is a beautiful place to train and as usual everyone was there in the spirit of parkour: sharing, building community, learning from one another and enjoying movement. The Chicago jam was attended by well over 70 people. Traceuses were still the minority, of course, but there were more of them there than I had seen in the past two years. Laurie Jennifer (of Chicago, Missouri, and a host of other places…she’s kind of a nomad!) made a surprise appearance in the middle of the day and amused us with her puns while we trained.

One small disappointment did arise on an otherwise amazing training day, however, it certainly didn’t ruin the day! I have been working on unsupported hanstand push-ups for a while. I can do two next to a wall, and I’ve been working on relying less and less on the wall, as well as increasing my max to three. I happened to mention this offhand to Brittany of Virginia Tech parkour, who was standing nearby, and she offered some encouragement. A nearby traceur overheard, and said to me, “I don’t believe you can do one!” I couldn’t tell if he was joking, or just trying to egg me on, or what, so I asked him if he was serious. He replied that handstand push-ups “are a men’s movement, and women can’t do them,” and he wasn’t joking. It was so out of left field, because as we’ve all experienced, traceurs tend to be incredibly supportive of us in our training. It was a very awkward situation, and it still kind of bothers me to think about it, but as mentioned, it didn’t ruin the day. Patrick of Indiana Parkour more than made up for it by spending time with me working on my speed vaults (they aren’t very speedy, unfortunately!). Improvement was made, and fears were conquered!

Ladies at the Colorado Jam. Photo by Carolyn Steele.

Carolyn of Chicago was also there, along with Brittany and Tanya, and several others. Emily from Madison Parkour came down with me, and she did a great job! She’s younger, and was pretty self-conscious, but she did some nice work in smaller groups. The ladies didn’t stick together very much in Chicago; we kind of mixed in with the guys for most of the jam, but I did observe something in Chicago that I often observe among women at larger jams. Although we didn’t stick together in a little group, there did seem to be this sense that we were watching out for eachother. I’ve found that women tend to reach out to one another a bit more, or at least keep one another on radar—not for any kind of safety reason, but more to push eachother a bit, provide confidence and the like. Brittany went out of her way to invite me to work on rolls when I was kind of standing around. I noticed Emily hesitating in front of a larger group so I invited her to come with me to practice speed vaults in another area. I think as women we do get more self-conscious in training, and it’s nice that we stay mindful of that in larger jams and help each other out.

Women's Jam, Colorado. Photo by Carolyn Steele

The other large jam I was able to attend this year was the Colorado Jam. This jam also easily topped 70 attendees and had a large contingent of women, relatively speaking. We spent some time doing some nature parkour in the mountains (the altitude is great conditioning!), as well as some urban parkour in Denver and some gym time at Apex, Ryan Ford’s new parkour gym in Denver.

Brenda. Photo by Carolyn Steele

Risa S, Carolynn G and Brenda P of Colorado Parkour were present, as were Sandar A, Amanda H of Washington, D.C., Carolyn S of Chicago, Heather B, Tanya S of Indiana, Adrianne S, Janine C of Washington Parkour, and Luci Steel of Team Tempest. There was also a handful of local ladies who attended, whose names I didn’t catch. This put the number of traceuses at this jam at about 15 or so, out of 70-80 total attendees. Not bad!

There was time in the itinerary at the Colorado jam for a Women’s jam, which was nice. We headed off to Apex for a few hours to work on skills, learn from one another, and get to know each other better. All the ladies were impressive, regardless of their level of experience with parkour. I am always amazed when I see traceuses training. There is so much focus, encouragement, and courage in the room! Perhaps most impressive was Brenda, who is expecting a baby and still trained! That’s definitely something our traceur colleagues will never experience!

Part of what made this jam fun was the abundance of nature parkour. It was great conditioning to scramble up the rocks on the Flatiron hike. Not only did the uneven terrain challenge stability, balance, and problem-solving, but the altitude made even simple movements very tiring. On the final day, we spent the afternoon in a park next to a stream and enjoyed tubing/wading, as well as general tricking and slacklining in the grass during the barbecue.

Cat Fountain. Photo by American Parkour

On the urban side, we spent a day in downtown Denver at the famous Cat Fountain. Sadly, we were barred from climbing on the fountain proper, but there was still plenty to do in the park area surrounding it. Cat Fountain is so named because it seems built for cat practice! Its real name is Skyline Park Fountain. Both the police and the park authorities were present for our downtown jam. They were friendly and easygoing, simply there to keep the peace, but it did kind of put a small damper on things to not be able to climb on the fountain. That said, however, there was plenty to do in the area!

Later on we headed to Apex, Ryan’s parkour gym. The women went early for a ladies’ jam, as mentioned; but later on the whole group joined us. The spot is great for training, complete with scaffolding, an I-beam, various vault boxes and rails, and mats and trampolines for practicing tricks. Ryan and Matt pulled out all the stops, setting up a “Ninja Warrior” competition with an elaborate course throughout the gym. The course included a little bit of everything: vaults, balance, cats, traverses, and more. It did seem to heavily favor upper-body strength, but nearly every traceuse that was there participated, and made a more than respectable showing of strength and skill!

Carolyn Grigsby. Photo by Sandar.

Another day we visited the campus at UC-Boulder. We broke off into smaller groups here, after a group warm-up, and had the whole campus to ourselves for training! Carolyn and I spent quite a bit of time working on vaults and kong approaches, and I’m proud to say there now exists 15 seconds of parkour footage of me that I’m not ashamed of as a result! The weather was very hot, so we enjoyed some “training” in a fountain on campus, and some delicious ice cream after lunch. After all that training, I’d say we earned both. Like at the Chicago jam, for the most part the women trained side-by-side with the men, except for the smaller Womens Jam one afternoon. I think this is a good thing overall; by separating ourselves out too much we end up doing more harm than good, I think. But still, it’s nice to have a bit of space carved out for just us, the proverbial “Room of One’s Own,” as it were. Perhaps I’m over-generalizing, but I find it interesting that, lacking a scheduled womens jam, we tend to create that “room of our own” mentally in a way. We do so almost unconsciously, I’ve observed, simply by keeping an eye out for eachother during jams, making sure we don’t get totally lost in the shuffle while still holding our own with the guys.

The fountain, Colorado. Photo by Carolyn Steele.

In all, it was a great jam season this summer in the US. I’d love to hear from other traceuses about how the other jams, which I could not attend, went. My overall impression is that the number of women is steadily increasing in parkour (if slowly), and also that the quality of skill is much increased among traceuses as well. We’re now very definitely at a point where it would be difficult for someone to claim that women “can’t” do parkour. I think it’s a huge testament to our discipline that the guys seem to have welcomed us as equals since the start. Now we’re reaching the point where those who don’t practice parkour will begin to recognize that equality as the discipline gains more exposure. It’s an exciting time.

Janine Cundy. Photo by Sandar.

Email Alissa at madparkour (at) gmail (dot) com
Madison Parkour promotes the practice and philosophies of parkour/freerunning in the Madison and Dane County areas.
American Parkour is the hub that connects the many parkour communities across America into one; for exchanging ideas and disseminating accurate information about the disciplines of Parkour and Freerunning. It was founded and is run by Mark Toorock with the help of many community leaders throughout the country.

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