It’s no secret that the popular TV show, American Ninja Warrior, has been a huge source of attention for both the obstacle course runner and Parkour communities in all. The high intensity, emotionally charged attempts to navigate the ANW course by people from all around the United States (and other countries' versions of the same) definitely makes for some good TV, and traceurs (Parkour athletes) usually crush the course - but there’s just one thing:
It isn't really Parkour.
Fact vs. Fiction - Terminology, Technique and More
For starters: If you’ve spent any time inside a Parkour, climbing, or even a gymnastics gym, there are a few terms you’re bound to know: kong-pres, tic-tacs, wall runs, so on and so forth. You know, Parkour terms! Because ANW includes athletes from so many different sports, hosts Matt and Akbar are notorious for inventing completely random lingo for movements instead of using well-established terms within these relevant communities.
What so many people tend to forget is that Parkour is a "sand-box game" (yes we stole that from video games). There is no "starting gate" and no "finish line" for the most part. What traceurs share with obstacle course runners and climbers, and other sports who's athletes do well at ANW, are the obstacles. You just don't typically shove a traceur into such a confined box.
American Ninja Warrior is a reality TV show at the end of the day - while physical fitness & movement aptitude are critical to a potential candidate selection, typical casting calls for the show are almost purely focused on feeling-based questions, like “what was the toughest experience you’ve had emotionally?”. Having contestants with stories that pull on viewers’ heart strings during the short, soap opera introduction bios is American Ninja Warrior’s bread and butter.
Again, nothing wrong with this, but we have to acknowledge that ANW and Parkour are different, because American Ninja Warrior has become so popular that many peoples' first exposure to Parkour is now through the show!
Now, you might be thinking this could be really bad for the sport - not entirely.
While the show’s emphasis doesn’t necessarily portray traceurs and Parkour in as true a light as it could, it certainly generates a lot of new attention for the sport. And we're definitely not saying that there are no transferable skills that aspiring traceurs could use in this TV competition. However, this comes with some caveats.
What This Means For Aspiring Traceurs
For example, you’re likely not going to see people in a Parkour gym training on a salmon ladder; however, muscle-ups and dynos will all help budding traceurs develop the skills to use a salmon ladder, just like on TV (without the unnecessary risk of practicing on a salmon ladder). A warped wall isn’t a challenge for a climber approaching the obstacle with good form and technique. A lot of what you’d likely consider TV magic from American Ninja Warrior is just that - TV magic. Hours of filming and slow breaks, cut to produce a high-intensity experience for viewers at home.
Parkour teaches individuals how to navigate obstacles in efficient, unique, and creative ways they wouldn’t have thought possible otherwise. While shows like this aren’t an optimal introduction to the world of our sport, it might mean the potential to expose the sport to countless new enthusiasts.
If you're someone who wants to crush an American Ninja Warrior style obstacle course, Parkour is your best bet. Not only will you learn the techniques needed to complete the course, while building the right muscles, but many other skills to navigate obstacles of all types.
To learn more about Breathe Parkour's Intro Training Packages or sign up, click on this link!
Breathe Parkour is Canada's leading parkour company with 3 locations spanning all of Southern Alberta.