Friday, June 17, 2011

Sasuke (Ninja Warrior) and Parkour/Freerunning

Last night, SyFy aired all 10 episodes of last year's Season 2 of G4 show American Ninja Warrior, in which 10 Americans qualify to compete in Midoriyama, Japan in the popular televised competition, Sasuke (Sahs-kay) or Ninja Warrior. (Aside: It's a shame that Patrick Cusic competed in Japan instead of Richard King.) Unlike American Ninja Warrior, Sasuke isn't a knock-out tournament; rather, Sasuke competitors qualify to advance in each of 4 stages of an intense obstacle course. As with any good obstacle course, Sasuke challenges stamina, power, different areas of the body, coordination, speed, agility, and technique. The course's difficulty has been upgraded to keep pace ahead of the improvement of the competitors. There is no limit on the number of competitors allowed to qualify to advance in each stage, but in 26 seasons, only 3 competitors, all Japanese, have completed the entire obstacle course. Americans have reached as far as the Cliffhanger obstacle in the 3rd stage.

The top American Sasuke competitors are experts in Parkour/Freerunning (Freerunning is the creative version of Parkour, or Parkour is the efficient version of Freerunning), which blends acrobatics and gymnastics to sprint through obstacle courses that mimic built-up environments. Sasuke competitors add free-climbing training for fingertip and upper-body power. The most advanced Parkour practicioners, called traceurs, make full use of actual urban landscapes as their obstacle courses. As valuable as the impressive range of physical training in the sport, the mental training of the sport is just as valuable in transmuting the presumed incontrovertible restrictions of the physical environment into puzzles to master, similar in that aspect to the Army's leadership reaction courses. A great deal of flowing strategy and coordination of body and environment is involved in Parkour; it's how I imagine Batman gets around Gotham City on patrol.

I believe Parkour is a fun, challenging, healthy, and practical sport that should be widely taught to kids, in a safely padded gym of course. In addition to its multi-dimensional physical and mental rigor, the sport teaches commitment and self-discipline, self-reliance and empowerment, domain-mastery and freedom. If Parkour were to become an American national past-time, it would revolutionize our country in both body and mind.

Military basic training and PT should fully adopt Parkour, especially as we can expect for military operations to continue to take place in urban and other equally challenging terrains (see the vids of heavily laden soldiers moving around the obstacle courses that are dense Iraqi cities and steep Afghan mountains); better yet, the military should adopt Parkour with the enhanced rigor of Sasuke training.


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