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Barry Zito, Timmy Lincecum, Pitching Mechanics & Andrew’s Camps

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Hi Cavers,

I think it’s an appropriate time to admit it, even if it’s not completely Kosher in the CrossFit, Gymnastics, or Parkour world.  Baseball is pretty awesome.  It’s just a sweet game.  It’s the ultimate duel of wills and strategy.  It takes that unique human ability to launch missiles out of our hands with just the powers of the human body (and awesome mechanics) to an extreme that boggles the mind.  No matter how hard we train at anything, there are animals, other species that is, that can pretty much kick our ass at whatever we try to do physically- except for throwing.  We’re the throwing champions and that ability has lifted us over the prehistoric giants.  If it weren’t for throwing, we’d probably be extinct, because that’s how we made up for our otherwise great lack of physical aptitude and made food out of larger, stronger, scarier animals.  Today we don’t have to hunt with stones and spears, but we showcase our great ability to throw and our amazing fine motor control in Baseball, and we have some pretty awesome teams right here in the Bay Area.  Since we have quite a few baseball fans in The Cave, and two Major League teams to be proud of, I’ve decided that today’s blog is going to be about baseball and pitching mechanics.

How about our San Francisco Giants and Barry Zito keeping the season alive?  Sometimes you just do have to earn your $126 million and extend the season.  Here is a slow motion of his pitching mechanics:

Believe it or not, this does relate to CrossFit in some way.  Pitching mechanics might be the most beautiful illustration of what Greg Glassman has called the common theme in functional movements: Core to extremity.  The power is generated in the large muscle groups, which would be the legs and the core and is then transferred and magnified into and by the extremities, which in this case would be through the shoulder, upper arm, fore arem, wrist, hand and finger of the pitching arm.  Here is a repost of my favorite pitching mechanics video featuring Tim Lincecum:

You have to love physics.  Here is a little video regarding some of the strategy of pitching:

Most of you know that the Giants just won their last game 5-0 vs. the Cardinals, so they’re in a must win situation heading back home to AT&T park.  Hey, at least we’ve got an exciting series!

The A’s have been eliminated by the Detroit Tigers, nonetheless they definitely deserve a lot of recognition, especially when you consider the following:

The 2012 Oakland team beat Texas to win the division on last game of the season after trailing by 13 games.

Team Payroll for 2012:

#1 NY Yankees - 195.9 million - 94 wins

#5 Texas Rangers - 120.5 million - 93 wins

#30 Oakland A’s - 49.1 million - 94 wins

Sometimes you just have to fight the odds, believe and go at it like you’re the champ, and the A’s have done just that, and they lost to one hell of a Detroit Tigers team.  Here is the trailer for a great movie about what it takes to be the fighting underdog:

So let’s hope The San Francisco Giants rise to the occasion for the next two games to get to the World Series.

Our friend and neighbor, Andrew Frierson owns Andrew’s Camps next door.  He is a former minor league baseball player who runs summer camps and coaches baseball.  He has actually sent some of his aspiring Ninja Warrior kids over to our parkour classes and after they are done running, jumping, swinging and vaulting they go next door to hit some baseballs.  What an awesome place to grow up if you’re a kid, next to the Cave and Andrew’s camps!!   I just want to see our little Ninjas grow up to play baseball and be able to do a wall run up the outfield wall to keep a would-be homer in the ballpark!  How cool would that be?!

Girl Parkour, Less Excuses, Ninja Warrior Seminar & More Training

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

During a conversation with a relatively recent Caver who has been doing CrossFit with us for a few months, I asked her if she’d be interested in taking a parkour class.  I was very surprised when she told me that it seemed to her that Parkour was more of a “guy thing” or a boy’s sport than a girl’s.  Now, in my opinion, there may be some good reasons why not to try parkour, but that should definitely not be one of them.  Parkour isn’t a guy’s sport, especially not any more than CrossFit is a guy’s sport!  I can see why some people may think that, say, boxing is more becoming for men than for women (that is not my personal opinion, women can be boxers if they so choose, but I can understand that line of thought more so than for other sports.)  but women excel and love to practice most sports, and especially parkour!  It is actually more beautiful to watch, in some ways, than guys doing parkour.  While elite traceurs (male parkour practitioners) can be more powerful and explosive, traceuses (female parkour practitioners) are generally more graceful and have beautiful “flow” and lines.  It’s hard to explain, but I really don’t have to because I have a video to prove it and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

So now we’ve settled that issue.  Parkour isn’t “for boys”.  How about for CrossFitters?  Well, depends what kind of CrossFitter you are.  It seems that these days CrossFitters are interested simply in CrossFit.  Old school CrossFitters had a broader interest.  Back in the day, when no one knew what the hell CrossFit was, some of us (including Roger and myself) were like CrossFit evangelists telling everyone about it, and Greg Glassman would travel around with his posse talking to people and having seminars and explaining to people “What is CrossFit”.   This is a partial quote from the “What is CrossFit” page on CrossFit.com:

“Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing.  Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”

Back then it wasn’t about simply decreasing your Fran time, or 1-rep maxes, it was about being exposed to a wide variety of movement stimuli.  ”Our specialty is not specializing.  Combat, survivial, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness..”  part of the prescription was to go out and try all these things, including gymnastics.  As a matter of fact, my second exposure to parkour came at a CrossFit certification seminar in Sta Cruz where Glassman had guest speaker Jesse Woody from American Parkour do a little presentation on parkour as part of the cert.  In my own Level-1 certification I assisted Roger in teaching the gymnastics segment (we taught handstands, back handsprings, round offs, rolling, presses, etc- not just “handstand push-ups” leaning against a wall) and we got to learn combat from John Hackleman.  It was all part of the program just as much as working with a barbell was.  The CrossFit that I was exposed to at first which drew my attention included all these interesting things and the piece that resembles it the most is when I see it at the highest level at the CrossFit Games.  At least they got to do a triathlon, run an obstacle course and throw stuff.   So my point with all of this is that it saddens me when Cavers box themselves in to just “specializing” in CrossFit.  You should go out and try stuff!  But you’re afraid of getting hurt!- OK, be extra conservative.  Don’t do anything rash or be reckless.  Swim in a pool, not in the open ocean.  Try parkour in a safe gym environment with instruction, not on a wet metal rail over asphalt.  Try rock climbing in a gym first before you go do it at the Red River Gorge.  Recently not only Cavers but thousands of athletes went off to do the “Tough Mudder”.   I heard about a lot of injuries, not just from our gym but from friends of friends.  I can guarantee you that if these people trained Parkour in a gym environment first before going off and trying obstacles with a 10 mile run built in they would have been far less likely to get hurt than if they just “winged it”.   Their prior experience would have left them much more confident as well.   Sure it’s possible to get hurt training new sports in the gym, but it definitely makes you more robust in other activities and the real world!

Now this relates to the  ”American Ninja Warrior & Parkour Seminar” that I am hosting here at our very own Cave on Nov. 4th (for adults) and Nov. 3rd (for kids).  (The kid’s event is basically sold out but if the weather forecast is for no rain we will open 12 more kids slots.)   This, believe it or not,  is the perfect situation to step out of your comfort zone and do something new- and relatively safe.  How “relatively safe”?  As safe as your CrossFit class.  Seriously. That safe. Maybe safer.  We are very good at designing and scaling obstacles and as long as people listen to instructions and don’t go try something stupid that they’re asked not to do, the risk is minimal.  Usually athletes surprise themselves and have big smiles on their faces the whole time and thank us later.  What if you can’t make it or it’s not your thing?  That’s fine, but try something else.  Dance.  Judo.  Gymnastics.  Try something that involves different types of coordination, agility, body control and timing.  Maybe it’s picking up an old ball sport that you used to play with your friends as a kid like tennis, baseball or basketball or perhaps it’s going biking, skiing or snowboarding with some of your fellow Cavers.  Maybe it’s taking your old skateboard out of the garage, albeit going to the sporting goods store to buy a helmet, wrist guards and knee pads.  Live it up, use your body. It’s rewarding!

The Art of Falling, Shoulder Rolls and Ukemi

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Recently Patricia M. suggested that we should have a dedicated “falling and rolling” class.  She pointed out that this is the type of thing that she would like to feel prepared for and competent at.  Surely knowing how to fall and roll is a boost to your “fitness”.  At least it was  important in “old school” CrossFit.   Here are two videos, one with Roger Harrell teaching shoulder rolls in what was probably the 2nd ever gymnastics certification.  This video goes over some of the basics movements.  Russell Bruel is always a great demo-guy:

But shoulder rolls are mostly useful if you are falling forward and in a somewhat predictable manner.  There are many other ways that you can fall.  In our Parkour-1 Foundations, the pre-requisite for The Cave’s adult parkour classes, we teach and emphasize shoulder rolls, as well as falling backwards and “break falls”.   Nevertheless, those are merely three “orientations” in which you can fall.   As in illustration check out this Ukemi video.  Ukemi has been referred to as “The Art of Falling”.

This guy is so good at falling that it’s almost weird.

As a disclaimer, I would like to add that even with a lot of training, you shouldn’t be over-confident that you can “always” save yourself in a fall no matter what happens.  My friend and former Cave employee Travis Furlanic has several stories where he whizzes down a steep hill into an intersection on his skate board ( I personally do not recommend this- some Ninja Warriors are crazier than others) and saves himself from certain death or paralysis by doing a shoulder roll over the hood of the car of the poor freaked-out driver that happened to be crossing the same said intersection.  Of course, Travis lands on the other side of the car on his feet while some bystander is screaming how that was the most awesome thing he’s ever seen.  But recently a bearing broke inside the wheel of Travis’ skate board while he was skating down a steep hill.  The wheel locked up and when Travis tried a shoulder roll on the fall he under-rotated and dug is shoulder straight into the pavement, separating the joint.  He’s ok and doesn’t need surgery, only having a level-2 separation, but it will still take months to heal.  This goes to show that even if you have elite instincts and extremely good reaction time, you can’t always save yourself in every situation, but it certainly does reduce the risk of injury.

Training Vs. Practice

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Many of you have heard me discuss the difference between training and practice before. This is my definition, so this can be taken however you want, but it helps me clarify what I am trying to accomplish by any given activity. Training is what we do when we want to induce a physiological change. These are the changes that make a significant physical difference. In many cases others can see the changes. Muscular growth, heart and lung development, changes in metabolic systems, etc. Practice is what we do to induce a neurological change. Fine motor control, motor patterning, etc.

Given this definition, everything we do falls on a gradient between pure training and pure practice. Some things lean strongly to one side or the other, and other things fall smack in the middle. Almost nothing is fully to one side. An activity could be training to one person, but practice to another given radically different physical capacities.

We only train about 10-20 minutes/day. Training is a fundamentally damaging activity. It stresses your body to induce a response. Excessive training can lead to over training (or under-recovery). As you recover from these stresses you hyper compensate so that the next time you are exposed to that same stress you can handle it a little bit better. Training can include hard sprints, lifting heavy, cycling a lift fast enough to exceed sustainability. Training is generally very uncomfortable.

We can practice significantly more. In some cases 8+ hours/day. With excessive practice there are risks of overuse type injuries, but for the sake of this post lets say that practice activities are non-damaging. Elite athletes often will “train” 8+ hours/day, but what they are actually doing is practicing for most of that time and training for a very small portion of that time. They can handle significantly higher training volume than us normal folks, but they still have to limit training time. Most time is spent refining movements, learning timing, etc. Also understand that what these athletes can handle as “practice” would be “training” for most people. The level of output in their respective sports is very high, but compared to their training intensity it is low.

Practice is where we gain efficiency. Since we can practice for hours we can really refine movement and develop mastery of the mechanics involved in our activities. With enough practice amazing things are possible. This practice will allow you to exhibit strength you can not get through training. This is why we encourage you to come in early, or stay late and practice movements. It won’t negatively impact your training, and it will help your mechanics enormously. So come on down and practice. Pick a few movements to master and put in the time. Be sure you are practicing correctly because “Perfect practice makes perfect”.

Have you ever done AcroYoga?

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Hi Cavers,

Have you ever done AcroYoga?  I’ve had the pleasure of playing around with it a little with Shira, co-owner of  The Athletic Playground in Emeryville and some of our other friends.  I think it’s actually really fun and stretches you out in a way that feels so positive to your body that it’s hard to describe.  I was wondering if any of you have ever tried it and what you think of it if you have.  There are two main “types” of AcroYoga, one “therapeutic” which feels,… well, therapeutic, and the other one that emphasizes the Acrobatics and fancy moves which is fun and cool but a bit more show-offish.  Here are some videos that can give you an idea of what it’s about.

This is a really good example of therapeutic Acro.  You have no idea how good this feels are your spinal column unless you’ve tried it.  The “flyer” is the one benefiting from the “base”.

I really like this one not just because the practitioners are so good, but also because of I think the sound track and tempo are perfect for a good relaxing, therapeutic AcroYoga session.  Not that these two throw in their fair share of acrobatics in there as well!

Here is one of Crystal and Kathy from The Athletic Playground demonstrating one of their tricks:

Can you believe that there is also an AcroYoga move called a “Ninja Star”?  Well, you know I have to post a video of a “Ninja Star”, don’t you?  These are Zac and Crystal from at The Athletic Playground  as well:

And finally here is the 2011 AcroYoga festival, which gets pretty fancy.  Maybe even proves that  even hippies are competitive at heart.  Rofl.

So what did you think?  Would you try something like this?  Why or why not?

1st Annual American Ninja Warrior Course & Parkour Seminar at “The Cave” (with Guest Coaches & Celebrities)

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Hi Cavers,

As you know we’ve held several American Ninja Warrior events, seminars, & competitions here at the “Cave”.  Nevertheless, the next one coming up is going to be the biggest and most spectacular yet, and best of all there will be a new format that will enable even more people at different skill and fitness levels to try their turn at the course and practice their skillzz.  Here are the details:

Saturday Nov. 3rd 1-6pm:   1st Annual American Ninja Warrior Kid’s Course & Parkour Training Session with Celebrities and Guest Coaches
Ages: 6-12 y/o
Come train with the American Ninja Warrior Legends. There will be 2 Kids courses, Ninja Challenges, Vaulting Clinics, Games, & More. Meet some of the biggest personalities of the show and half a dozen of the United States top Ninja Warriors from the “Great North West Region” as well as the stuntmen from the “Spectacular South West”, and don’t forget the Cave’s own Mt. Midoriyama veterans! Re-define your Ninja Skillzz.
Cost: $50 early-registration/ $65 preregistration / $85 at the door.
(Early registration ends Oct. 19th, preregistration ends Oct. 30th.) (no sibling discounts- sorry.)
Registration open for: 36 little athletes (may be extended to 48 good weather permitting)
Includes 2 obstacle courses, parkour vaulting clinic, games, raffle & course prizes, and of course, mingling with American Ninja Warrior celebrities.
Who will likely be present?  :  David Campbell, Travis Furlanic, Chris Wilczewski, JB Douglass, Kelvin Antoine, Ryoga Vee, Tom Hutchman, Andres De la Rosa, and several others!
Event Location: The Cave

Member cost: $50.00
Nonmember cost: $50.00

Notice how stylish and comfortable Travis looks in his sweatshirt!

Notice how stylish and comfortable Travis looks in his sweatshirt!

Sunday Nov. 4th 8:30-2:15pm:

Ages: mature teenager to 50+

Cost: $50 early-registration/ $75 preregistration / $85 at the door
(Early registration ends Oct. 19th, preregistration ends Oct. 30th.)
Registration open for 36 ninjas (may be extended to 48 good weather permitting)
Includes 2 obstacle courses, parkour skillz clinic, ninja challenges, course prizes, and “meet & train with the American Ninja Warrior celebrities”,

& compete at whatever level you’re comfortable

Event Location: The Cave

Member cost: $50.00
Nonmember cost: $50.00

New Slackline setup in The Cave

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Some of you may have noticed that we recently cut two new holes in the walls next to the adjustable wall run bar in the parkour area.  Or maybe you haven’t since no one has asked me “what are those holes in the wall for?”.  Nevertheless, there they are, and for a purpose.  We now have another Gibbon slack line anchor wrapped around the post that’s in the wall and we can easily set up the slack line for our kids and adult parkour classes.  If you’re ever interested in training on them and you are experienced with one, you can ask me and I’ll see if we can set it up for you during non-class hours.  If you are inexperienced with them and would like to learn you can also schedule a private with myself or one of our other coaches.  You can also sign up for our parkour classes where we use them on occasion.  We used to have open gym on Thursday and Friday nights where athletes and clients could come in and play on the equipment at their leisure but we cancelled it due to poor attendance.  If you’d like to see  ”open gym”, or “Optional Skill Training” time, as we used to call it, make a comeback on the schedule during the day or in the evenings or make any other suggestions you can always try to sway The Cave’s management by signing in to our website’s members area and then click on “Give us Your Feedback”.  Writing up feedback on our website counts for a lot more than just telling one of the coaches or owners what you’d like because then there is a written record of the clients’ requests. In the meantime I will leave you with this cool little video of some of the possible tricks and skills that you can eventually work up to on a slack line.  Truth is, just walking across one is loads of fun and there is no better way to develop your balance.

Charles Moreland Parkour Training

Friday, August 24th, 2012

This parkour video is a jewl.  It helps you look through the skewed prisms that people view parkour through and gives you a more precise and pure perspective.  Check this out.  I think every Caver that is interested in movement and fitness should watch this!

One of the reason I gravitate towards parkour so much as a training protocol is because I love learning stuff.  I honestly believe that since what humans are good at and designed for is learning, “fitness” has to be directly tied in to learning.  For this reason I think that only promoting “work capacity” in basic movements that have already been acquired is not enough to fullfill our potential for “fitness” and that’s why I promote activities such as parkour, gymnastics, martial arts, climbing, swimming as well as other sports and not just CrossFit. CrossFit should complement and enhance our lives and other activities and not be the only focus of our fitness.  There is no doubt that CrossFit is valuable, it just shouldn’t stand alone.

Pro Vs Amature Parkour Fails

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Parkour Fail videos are horrible, because people get hurt, often badly, and not just physically.  They’re embarrassing too.  But I actually like watching parkour fail videos, as much because I enjoy the process of analyzing what went wrong and mentally archiving how to avoid that “wrong”.  I often cringe even before the crash.  Most of the time if you have an experienced eye, you can tell what’s going to happen before it does, and especially when the “athlete” doesn’t look anywhere near well prepared you know it’s going to go horribly wrong.  Nevertheless, in contrast there are “pro parkour fails”.  I recently watched one of Jesse Le Flair during a commercial shoot.  Sometimes even pros eat it, but more often their training kicks in to save them.  Look at the difference between Jesse’s fail and the other fails in the Parkour Fail compilation.  My reaction to Jesse’s fail was… “Wow..!  Nice reaction.  Great awareness.  Grip strength came in handy.” As opposed to “you fool, you’re no where near strong / flexible / prepared / experienced enough to try that outside of a foam pit!”  Many people trying or learning parkour on their own are often fool hardy and try a trick or skill well before they’re athletic base is an parkour skills are sound enough to attempt a trick of the level of difficulty that they have in mind.  People who try parkour and freerunning tricks that they are nowhere near ready for aren’t only a hazard to themselves, but mar the art form and set a bad example for others as well.  Here is the video of someone failing a cat-to-cat with a strong base:

In contrast, most of the fails in this next video are performed by folks who don’t even seem to know they’re not ready to try these.  I love the music for this next one.  It’s so appropriate.  Try analyzing some of the fails and “read” what exactly went wrong with each trick.  The more you understand, the safer you’ll be.

Ultimately, my philosophy for throwing dangerous skills is that it’s better to be over-prepared for a skill than to increase the risk of injury or even tragedy by throwing a skill prematurely.

By the way, I think that the kid in 3:40 may have broken his neck.

The More You Understand, the Better You’ll Get: The Physics of Parkour Series

Friday, June 8th, 2012

One of the things I find myself doing during the parkour classes that we teach is explaining physics to our kids and why it’s important.  In parkour, it all comes down to physics, and the more you understand it, the better you’ll be able to figure out the moves and the more confident you’ll be it what you’re doing.  Newton’s three laws of motion form the basis of classical mechanics and, according to en.wikipedia.org, can be summarized as follows:

  • First law: The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force.[3][4][5]
  • Second law: The acceleration a of a body is parallel[disambiguation needed ] and directly proportional to the net force F and inversely proportional to the mass m, i.e., Fma.
  • Third law: The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear.
  • These are reoccurring themes in parkour moves.  One of the common explanations during our classes is in regard to jumping and the third law, which can also be stated as “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  When we jump, we push down on the earth (or down and back, if we are jumping forwards) by extending our ankles, knees, hips and also shoulders.  That’s why we swing our arms in time with opening our hips, because by swinging our arms up, we are exerting a greater push down on the earth, and since the earth doesn’t move much (but in theory, it actually would move a teeny-tiny bit) the result is that we get air-time.  It’s an interesting experiment to try to “jump” by just swinging your arms without using your ankles, knees, or hips.  You can actually get a bit off the ground, and it’s magnified when you do it in time to the rest of your jump.  One of the common mechanical breaks that parkour coaches notice in new aspiring traceurs is the lack of optimal use of the arms in time with their jump.  This also commonly happens with CrossFitters doing box jumps who don’t have a particularly strong athletic background.

    At The Cave we have commonly had kids do their school projects on parkour and take video footage during their parkour classes.  I don’t know if any of them have done physics presentation for their projects, but the material lends itself extremely well.  During the next couple of months I intend to intermittently post several parkour physics projects that young traceurs from around the country or even overseas have put together, after all, the more you understand, the better you can get!

    Here’s the first one:

    Are there any errors or inaccuracies in our young parkour and physics teacher’s explanation?  Can anyone identify them or make any clarifications?  All around, I think it’s a great video.

    Cheers,

    -Amadraeus