Posts

Quals Story – Part V

By Ross McGachey

 

—–AFTERMATH—–

 

The deadline passed and nobody from Adelaide had submitted all of their testing modules. The physical was only part of it. Without instructors, we had to stop running classes for six months and suffered a bit, but we were in a better situation than some communities.

 

I was working on the long term community project component of my L3 qualification but had submitted everything else, so I sucessfully applied to the APA committee for a fast tracked approval on the basis of the community need and provided that I update them on my project´s progress.

 

My community project was to develop an 8 week coaching program based around the fundamental principles of Parkour into a tool that instructors could pick up and run. It can be found here https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxSNiBe7EL5rdGljOHVpUkFIQnM

 

Acting as a L3 Senior Instructor I was able to continue working with Adelaide´s instructing community and guiding them through the process. I was able to assess and qualify instructors up to L2. I ran two physical assessments for L1.5 and 2 and did my best to help applicants prepare. I could clean up the other modules with them, doing interviews for theoretical tests, marking off class plans and watching them unfold in real life for the practical component. I suffered the heartbreak of actually having to fail my friends when they didnt meet the standards and struggled with fairness and impartiality.

 

Now the Adelaide community has recovered from the deadline and is running classes with qualified instructors while others are slowly working on their qualifications.

 


SAPA classes 2018 with some of the instructing crew

 

Six months later I received a certificate from the APA saying I was a Level 3 Senior Instructor. The wristband I had braided as a reminder of my goal finally came off. It was the end of a chapter that began four years earlier with a beginner instructor and ended with a community leader, instructor coach, well rounded traceur, and somebody who could choose a huge obstacle and find a way to overcome it.

 

——-

 

It´s hard to say what I gained or lost from my quals journey. It spanned such a long time and was so integrated into my life and training that it can´t really be isolated. It´s easy at least to say that I am now qualified at the highest level of instructing in a not for profit volunteer run community association that I´m immensely proud of. I can teach classes almost anywhere in the world which makes me happy, and I have the voice of my peers to vouch for me. I am recognised as a community leader and confident assuming that role. I am trusted to assess and qualify other instructors. As one of the few level threes, I have a position of respect within the APA which helps me to have a positive influence. I also have an implicit role in teaching instructors which I enjoy a lot.

 

But training for the quals had a much more important impact on me.

 

As far as my personal training goes, it was mostly focused around the physical test which was my biggest challenge. The wide and consistent technical requirements ironed out the neglected aspects of my technique. I had to work on techniques I had avoided, and where I had trained on only one side, I had to balance that out. I became physically strong to endure the long challenge of a full test. I became mentally strong to overcome the obstacles that had been deliberately put there. The test required an ability to push beyond comfort, to commit to long term goals, to demand the highest standard from yourself, to be resilient, to prepare, to be self aware and self critical, to aspire and achieve. I worked on and improved so many parts of my personality in chasing the goal.

 

In involving the community so deeply in my approach I broadened the impact. The sessions we ran helped all of us to share in the benefits and together we were working towards a big goal as a community. I also developed myself as an instructor coach, organiser, facilitator, assessor, communicator, professional and friend. I was socially present more than ever before and felt connected as part of a group that relied on each other. I felt empowered to make a change in the community and to use my passion to serve others. That still empowers me now.

 

It was effort well spent.

 

——-

 

Thanks to the APA for their work in general and on the qualifications, and more importantly for the good intentions and passion behind them.

 

Thanks to the Adelaide community and SAPA for being the platform for my growth as an instructor, and the hugely supportive family you are.

 

Thanks to everyone involved in Parkour who taught me the lessons I needed to approach this test with the resilient, self-developing mindset and philosophy it requires.

 

I don´t know what the qualifications system is like at the time of your reading, but my advice to anyone wanting to be qualified as an APA instructor is to be prepared. Know the organisation you are applying to and what you want from it and want to give to it first. Then know what they want from you as an instructor and a representative. The test is a condensed version of that. A job interview where they have given you the right answers already. You have it written down so you can be ready. Use that. Look at the test. Read it. Do it. Do it again. Do it again until you could do it in your sleep. Do it until passing is a foregone conclusion, and go and help others along the way.

 

I would like there to be more tools made available to instructors by the APA to help overcome the obstacle of becoming qualified, and more tools for instructors in general. I think it is admirable for an individual to problem solve themselves to reach a goal, but it is also admirable for us to pool our knowledge to become and create better instructors. We have a unique national framework for Parkour teaching and we should have a platform to share what we have developed. If you are aiming to become an APA instructor and have ideas for ways that the APA could help you and make it easier, please let your state representative know!

Quals Story – Part III

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.

Perth NatGat 2015

 

 

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.

conditioning session run by Chris ´Blane´ Rowat at Scarborough Beach, NatGat 2015

 

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—–

 

Quals Story – Part II

By Ross McGachey

NatGat Melbourne 2014

NatGat Melbourne 2014

 

 

We were growing as an organisation and the need for a national quals system was growing. Australia is a huge country and maintaining a standard across our spread-out instructing community was impossible. There was no effective way to know that the people representing us, wearing our logo, and using our insurance policy really should be.

 

Our instructors were not necessarily first aid trained or aware of their legal responsibilities or professional in any way we could manage. That put our entire organisation and community at real risk.

 

We also had nothing to legitimate our instructors to clients other than `yeah I reckon they can teach parkour safely, trust me.´

 

In South Australia, we weren´t allowing our assistant instructors to progress to full instructor with the always imminent but never arriving requirements looming overhead. It started to stifle their growth as instructors and I think we lost several great instructors in this time who were frustrated at being held back.

 

It wasn´t good enough.

SAPA instructors before teaching a class in early 2015

 

 

So the committee bit the bullet and decided to commit to a deadline of December 2015, after which if you weren´t qualified, you couldn´t teach. This time some people listened.

 

—–2015, 6 months to deadline—–

 

I was in a position of seniority in Adelaide, being one of the two remaining full instructors from the four who started our classes. I ran instructor trainings and was invested in the Adelaide community and the South Australian Parkour Association, both of which depended in a way on having our instructors and classes.

 

So to me it was very important that I keep them alive past the deadline.

 

It wasn´t just about getting myself over the line, I had to try make sure we all got across.

 

I started training for the physical test again, doing regular full mock run throughs and sessions on specific weak points. I tried to organise others to do the full run throughs with me so everyone had a better idea of what to work on. We usually had five or six people at these sessions.

 

I remember going back to the wallsit component again one night at the spot Wolf Blass. 2 minutes ON, 1m off, 2m ON, 45sec off, 2m ON, 30sec off, 2m ON, 15sec off, 4m ON. That´s 14mins 30 secs of willpower. To begin with I quit on the second round and felt really disheartened. It seemed ridiculous. everyone thought so. It was the most daunting component.

 

The next week I went back and the second round was doable. I quit on the third round. A couple weeks later and I had made it into the final four minute hold. Once I hit that mark I knew I would finish. That´s when I realised that the wallsit is mostly a mental game. Why else should the last hold – twice as long as all the others – be the easiest? Why else should the second round of two minutes remain always the hardest? A lot of the wallsit challenge was simply having the courage and commitment to face the obstacle that looks insurmountable and keep chipping away at it until it´s insignificant.

wallsit selfie – more than half insane

 

 

The wallsits stayed hard for a long time, but the tricks I used to beat it were in my mind. I always sang a song loudly to take my mind away. I talked to people. And always when I finished the second to last hold I knew I had won.

 

The 200m sprints were also daunting. I´ve never been talented at sprinting. Long distance running is natural to me and I never trained for the 2km running component or gave it a sideways thought. I could naturally run it in 7 minutes, and the test called for under 10. But sprinting… I didn´t know where I stood or if I could run 200m in 30 seconds. I´d also heard of people in other states failing this part of the test. For a long while I timed myself inaccurately, holding my phone along a distance measured roughly on Google Maps. Eventually when I was confident I asked my Dad to come with me to the athletics stadium by his house so he could time me on a track. I passed most times, and hit a record of 24 seconds. Hard work was paying off.

 

After training and hosting run throughs for a while, constantly referring to the testing notes at http://qualify.parkour.asn.au/ I had every part of the test memorised and was discussing it regularly, answering peoples questions about it and guiding them through. I wrote up a compact one sheet version of the test so people could carry it with them when doing run throughs. Honestly it also looks much less daunting when its all on one page https://docs.google.com/document/d/19uvSH9IuR1xxc9IKjP6X4-8f-f6dh_wgOK89Tf19pxk/edit?usp=sharing

 

Eventually I managed my first successful pass of a mock run through from start to finish, but as many elements have little to zero tolerance for failure, I had to train them to a point where I knew every time that I couldn´t fail. I was still a long way off.

 

SAPA instructor training

 

In the meantime I ran weekly instructor training sessions, mainly focused on passing the test. These were more theoretical and instructing focused. As part of each session we took turns teaching a basic technique to the instructing group and critiquing the delivery in the format of the Level 1 practical test.  This helped me make sure I had those parts ready, and also helped our community explore and practice the basic principles of delivering a class. I encourage senior instructors to guide applicants in this way by providing a critical environment to work on practical skills with their peers. This is a resource that I would like to be available to aspiring APA instructors who shouldn´t have to tackle the qualifications alone.

 

We held theory specific lectures and because I was encouraging others to memorise the information in the test, I had to have it down myself. I went back to the theoretical and practical components which I had overlooked as being ´easy´. But there were some new parts now and I had to go and do some proper learning about muscles and basic physiology stuff.

 

WIth six years of teaching experience it was natural for me to write up five class plans and teach one of them. I didn´t have to do anything special for that, but it did motivate me to help others study for it and I was very proud of the class plans that our community put together in this process.

 

One of our instructors, Ash, wrote up her advice on writing a class plan and helped me put together a list of themes or ideas to base them off. I compiled all of our plans into a folder in the hope that the APA will someday publish these and others as a teaching resource. These resources can be found here https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxSNiBe7EL5rS3VnOGMxbDdzbFU

 

Originally I was aiming to be qualified as a Level 2 ´full instructor´, but as it became clear that there might not be anyone who would pass the Level 3 ´senior instructor´ test in Adelaide and therefore that we wouldn´t be able to qualify our own level 2s within the state, I decided to change my application to a level 3. At the time it was permitted to apply at whatever level you wanted because nobody had prerequisite qualifications. Level 3 was more reflective of my role in the community and it would give me much more ability to support other instructors.

 

Trying to lead others by example really forced me to be the authority on the qualifications. To know them back to front and to put in a lot of effort. The essential exchange between me and the community was that I spent a lot of effort supporting them to pass the quals, but that in itself really helped me to master the system. The community aspect of my approach was key.

 

—–3 months to deadline—–

 

 

Quals Story – Part I

Part 1

Hi, my name is Ross. I´m an Australian Parkour Association qualified instructor with a Level 3 Qualification. At the time of writing that name is being revised along with many aspects of the qualification, but it´s the highest level qualification run by the APA.

 

I´ve decided to write a wee anecdote. A story of how I became qualified. I hope it will help APA instructors on their own journey through the qualification process, even though everyone´s journey will be different. The qualification system itself is changing fast from what I experienced and by the sounds of it, it shouldn´t be quite so confronting or daunting. But maybe this story will answer some questions about the process and how to navigate it.

 

The super short tl:dr version is if you´re wanting to do the quals, be prepared. Do the research, the reading and the training yourself. Ask others for help, involve your community in your process, but don´t depend on them doing anything for you. It’s an assessment of YOU.

 

Now for the long version in 5 parts… stay tuned.

 

—–2010—–

 

I started to teach parkour a few years after I started training. In those days the process was simple. You were an instructor as long as your APA committee state representative said you were.

 

South Australian Parkour Association school workshop in 2012

 

I was part of the team of four that began APA classes in our city, Adelaide. We all attended an intense week of instructor training in Melbourne run by Matthew `Chippa´ Campbell and learned enough that we felt comfortable running public classes. The spiritual successor of these instructor weeks are run semi-regularly now by the APA and I have had the honour to run one with Travis Ransom in Adelaide. Check the APA website for information on instructor intensives. https://parkour.asn.au/

APA Instructor Intensive 2017 crew

—–Fast forward a few years—–

 

In 2012 I heard that the APA were creating our first instructor qualification system. We would have a national standard that linked us across our wide country and I liked the idea because it meant that it could no longer be a boy´s club where mates gave their mates a qualification just because they were mates and potentially barred people they didnt like. I also saw it as a good opportunity to step up to a higher standard.

 

I was on a university exchange in Japan at the time when the polished draft of the qual tests came up online at http://qualify.parkour.asn.au/ . That became my primary resource and guide all the way through and there weren´t many other tools, aids, or helplines. Just me and a document. To start with I read it and realised I was physically miles away from the standard. Some elements seemed impossible to me and most of them I could not do. Some I didn´t even know whether I could do them or not!

Proud of myself after one of my solo run through attempts

 

So I printed out the full physical test and started to train for it. I picked specific weak points and worked on 5 elements in each training session. I planned out spots so that I could try run throughs of the test. My dorm mates thought I was mad, going out alone several days a week with my wad of paper and only coming back hours later. I don´t remember giving the Theoretical, Practical, and Written elements of the test more than a cursory look then. I dismissed them as not a concern.

 

I trained hard for the physical that winter but never came close to completing a full run through. In fact as I remember I never came close to the wallsit, the 200m sprint, the rail squats, the rail precisions, the shimmy and hang, the muscle up, and many other parts… but I kept coming closer. I did my first muscle up in Japan.

 

But once I came back I realised that in my overseas isolation I had thought it a bigger deal than the community did. Nobody had paid much attention or trained for the test. So the APA delayed the requirement of qualification. They couldn´t just cut off their whole instructor base.

 

—–Fast forward a few years—–

 

The pressure for the quals had died off. Every year they were postponed. I didn´t train for it anymore without the urgency. Maybe I was a bit annoyed that I had tried and nobody else seemed to. I can´t remember really but quals-wise nothing happened until NatGat 2014.