by Ross McGachey
——2015, 3 months to APA qualification deadline——
In October 2015 I was at the Perth NatGat. I didn´t feel confident about my ability to pass the physical test. I knew by then there were three items I was not consistent on. Rail precisions were iffy, I didn´t know how to stick a cat pass-precision other than just cat and hope, and even after training them for months I couldn´t do the perpendicular rail squats to save my life.
That was a defining part of the test for me. Balancing perpendicularly on a round rail, 5 squats with hands in front of you, 5 with hands behind your back, 5 with hands in front. You are allowed to dismount controlled in between each set of 5, but if you fall once at any point you fail the module and the entire test. It´s done close to the end of the physical so not only are you already tired, but the pressure of potentially wasting hours of hard effort really weighs on the moment. I preferred not to dismount and break my concentration, but to just do the 15 squats consecutively. Hands in front was no problem, but the others were so stressful and hard to get every time.
In hindsight the point of this component was to distill a part of the training mindset of the founders. It came from a kind of training where practitoners jumped between rooftops in situations where a mistake meant death. That forced perfectionism and extremely harsh, honest self critique. When weighed against that, excuses meant nothing. Lack of self confidence was immobilising. Ultimate dedication was life essential. The gravity of lethal consequences developed many aspects of today´s Parkour culture, even though many practitioners do not practice this face of training. The rail squats component symbolised absolute commitment, and the wish that our instructors could show that.
The deadline was on my mind at NatGat. To me, failing the test meant failing my community, my students, and my commitment to a battle I had become emotionally invested in. My view was that before I was ready to fly to Melbourne and try the test, I had to have it so well practised that I knew I couldn´t fail. It was time to really buckle down.
One time at Scarborough everyone was training on the beach, but I found a rail and stood perpendicuarly for an hour, getting straight back on every time I fell.
I spent two hours or so late at night with Isaac the Blossom Samurai after everyone else had moved on, working one of those stupid old school Parkour challenges where we decided we couldn´t leave until we had beaten the rail squat module.
I went back to Adelaide and really got stuck in to training for the test. By the start of December I would cycle through the 15 squats 4x in a row to a hip hop beat without breaking pace and without falling. I could get on a rail and know that I wouldn´t fall.
Through those last three months I did a weekly full run through with everyone else, and usually another weekly by myself. Once I speed ran the test in three hours, where six seemed to be the normal time in a group. It was finely rehearsed. the 2km run and 200m sprint were measured between spots where I could do specific test elements. First half in the gym Point A, then straight out into the city spots for the rest.
I continued training specific modules every day, and as the unsure elements narrowed down it was more and more focused. I spent a week with at least two hours every day trying to crack cat pass precisions. I unlocked a feeling in that where something clicked, I approached differently, and I could spot my landing and stick properly. I went from sticking one in twenty to sticking five in six in one week.
I don´t know if this will translate as everyone clicks with different advice, but for me the feeling was something like ´keep the knees in front of me… chest stays proud and tall… create space… pop out to pike at the landing´. My problem was being rotated too far forward and therefore not having the room to pike at the appropriate degree comfortably. After this new feeling I was able to come in at the correct angle and had space and time to open up and ease on to the landing.
It was a journey of four years and an intense final year of constant focus. I had trained the quals dedicatedly, discussed them in depth, taught them, explored them and been under their weight for so long. I had made them my own. By December 2015 I am confident to say I knew the APA quals better than anyone in the country and I was as prepared as I could be.
—–2 weeks before deadline—–