A thorough look on competition
As it is well illustrated in the article „crashcourse in „cause and effect“, the systemized competition culture that has poured into Parkour over the last twelve years, is not a cause, but a symptom. Competitions could not be established (no matter how powerful an organization might be), if there was not a demand for it. So the question about competition really is, why do we demand it?
In order to find that out, we must definitely first know what we are dealing with. We need to know what competition really is, we have to identify the nature of competition first, to see why it is desired. This will be the topic of this article.
When we have identified this, we might draw further conclusions (in other articles).
Nature of competition
So lets start off with the question: What makes a competition a competition? What is it, that we cannot take away from it, to further call it competition? What is the heart and soul of competition, its spinebone, its oxygen, it´s sunlight, it´s … you get what i mean.
Quick and short: A ranking.
No ranking, no comp. And yes - before you protest – competition is also „having fun together with friends“, or „challenging yourself“ etc. But whatever you will say, you can have all those things without a ranking. So agreeably, there are many aspects to a competition-event, but what makes the competition-event a competition is that there is somewhere involved a list with numbers from 1 to xyz. A ranking is basically a hierarchy which consists of one axis with the two extremes of „good“ and „bad“. A hierarchy only makes sense, with multiple persons taking part. Every person will get a position on that axis.
Method of competition
Comparison is the method by which the position of each person on that axis is determined. In order to compare something, you have to measure something by which you can do that comparison. For example: In track and field the measurements are made in distance and time, in football it is made by the amount of goals and in gymnastics by the amount of points you get for the amount of twists, flips and also the form,etc. There are very simple measurement systems, and also more complex ones. But, competition – making a ranking based on comparison - is not restricted to sports, but it is present in all parts of society and that certainly includes you and me. There are many unseen rankings hovering above our heads, that unconsciously file you into a ranking from "successful" to not "successful". A lot of things are measured, very much depending in which environment you are. It can be wealth, power, intelligence, social status, etc. Each social milieu has its trophies, its symbols to indicate where they are on that ranking.
So we can already see here, that sports-competition is just the peak of the iceberg, the visible symptom of something far bigger. Something that holds whole mankind in its tight grip.
"So what? Is it bad?"
There is this general saying that "competition is bad" and stuff, but it mostly comes without a lot of explanation. So are competitions bad? Good question…. I have an idea! Let´s evaluate competition by the same method that it itself uses. Let´s compare competition with non-competition by measuring it´s effects and then putting it into a ranking of „good“ and „not good“. Now of course some people might casually say „there is no good and bad“. Ok. To make it very simple - like 100 meter sprinting - we just take one criteria: seconds… uuuuh, ok no, let´s take something else. Let´s take well-being as the criteria by which to compare. I want to take two factors into consideration: the effects of competitive mentality (and competitions resulting out of it) on the
1. well-being of movement itself, and
2. well-being on the mover
1. What is the effect on movement?
I mean, that a competitive mindset is detrimental for the craft of movement, the art of movement, is not hard to see. If you look at the „sport of motion submissions“ you might find a shocking resemblance among all the movement. Now the art of motion comps (compared to an established traditional sport), have relatively lose criteria. But still it has a ironing effect on the movement of the athletes. And this is of course logic.
Official comparison needs fixed criteria, and fixed criteria will narrow down the spectrum of movement. Without these narrowing down regulations, movement itself has the potential of unfolding into infinite directions. The athletes mind, that is soaked with these criteria, will suqeeze his movement into those measuring criteria… and boom! We have many individuals doing the same or very similar stuff. A new sport is born (check the article „turning a rainforest into a monoculture“)!
By the way, other movements have already successfully gone through this ironing process of introducing a systemized structure of competitions. However impressing the performed feats in these so-called „freestyles“ are, they are neither free, nor have style (...ok. they can have some style, if by that you mean simply smooth movement… but they lack great parts of style syuch as individuality).
„But it is pushing the sport !“
This is heard a lot. But... what do you mean? Explain more please. Push where? Push what? The sport itself is pushed ...into a corner. Because, undoubtedly systemized comparison is only pushing one aspect of movement: the level of technicality – so the physical side of the sport - but for the prize of letting the originally free movement ossify into a stiff piece of mechanics. Why is only the tech-side pushed? Because it is unclear as to how to measure stuff like creativity, individuality, flow etc... I mean, they are trying… and it resulted in people doing rolls on the floor between cast gainers to get flow points. There you go. You have the mess.
„But Pk will grow and more movers can make a living off it!“
Yes, competitions will also indirectly push the infrastructure of „Parkour“, as it will make Parkour more popular, bigger, more people will do it, the economic Pk-market will grow and more movers will be able to make a living from it, so that they can move even more and make their passion a full-time job…. though this parkour might not be the one they loved in the first place, because it got sacrificed at the altar of mass-conformity. Pk is giving up its precious freedom, the only new thing it can offer, that other sports cannot. So pk gets bigger, but for a painful cost. It will turn from an island of free creative expression, something very rare and of great value, to become as all other sports: stiff and dusty. But at least now there are trophies and medals.
I think the movement form of Pk is a pioneer. It doesn´t need to conform to old ways of thinking, and it doesn´t need competiton events at all to sell. If you want to sell art, sell the art itself! Don´t distort it into something and sell it then, because then it is not the art anymore, that you liked.
By the way, i dont think Pk falls short of advertisement and publicity. There are plenty of examples of how parkour gets loads of exposure without distorting it into a narrow version of it. Just think of Storror and Pasha. They couldn´t be more different and both come under the name of „Parkour“ to the public – this range of movement is much more representative of the value of Pk in my eyes, than a tamed, regulated Sport-Pk.
Sooo, let´s fight it!
We have to admit that movement really is just movement. The planet will keep on spinning, if we all the do same exact tricks the next 10 000 years. „Parkour“ has no feelings. I don´t pity it. The Zeitgeist will have what it desires anyway. So let´s not fight against windmills. Let´s not fight against organizations or people who are part of that machinery… because the machinery is – alarm: cliché saying – in your head. Thanks Pk, for bringing to the surface what is hidden in our minds!
Not taking part in competition events just means that you are not taking part in competition events. Competition itself, as a means to put yourself in a hierarchy above others is the invisible drive. And it is not easy to get rid of it. Believing that you are free from that, just because you don´t take part or support organized competitions brings you in great danger of hypocrisy. Beware :D
By the way, wearing harem pants and peace necklaces will not do the job either.
2. What is the effect on the mover?
So now, we will have to see what the mover (who does have feelings :D ) gets from this culture of competitiveness, this mentality of comparison and ranking.
I think movement as a free tool of expression is of far greater value in perspective of the well-being of a being, than movement which is instrumentalized as a currency to acquire some trophies, some respect and some tender care for the ego. Because, if you are honest, movement is not in the center of a competition event, but persons are the center of it. Movement desires no trophy, the mover desires it, and it is not the „best movement“ that gets the trophy, but the „best mover“ that gets it. These titles and trophies surround a person with this sort of halo of specialness and reverance, which fill that person with a sweet feeling of well-being for a short time, though it is really self-deceit. After the spotlight is gone as quickly as it came, those persons are now left behind in the „normal world“ with an inflated self, and a false sense of specialness. A pain to their environment. Sooner or later this person will suffer a crash of self-image, which was built on the identification with some stupid numbers – shaky ground. Though this person is not guilty for doing so, he just grew up like everybody, learning that these rankings are actually real! But they are still not.
So instead of chasing this Fata Morgana of being „the one and only“ with its short highlights, would it not be much more satisfying, to release movement from being a currency to acquire egotistical fantasies, but let it unfold in free ways – leaving a unique and unreplacable piece of individuality in the form of unselfish movement, rather than to leave the syllables of your name. I think it would be a much more valuable contribution to the world.
In defense of competition
With all that being said, there is a form of competition that i think is indeed useful and required. It is a neutral, impersonal competition. There is for example some techniques that are better, than others. For example, a split-footed take off for a big kong is 100% better than the two-foot stomp. This is the result of comparison. Im just saying this, as to show, that neither rankings or comparisons themselves are the devil, but rather the taking-personally those rankings and the ficticious hierarchy between individuals, that results out of it.
„Well, this all sounds very nice, but i guess it´s naturally human to compete, it´s in our genes...“
Sheeesh, i knew this would come. „Genes" and "evolution“ seem to be like a joker, like a lazy-vault, that you can always throw in, when you don´t know anything else (at least it gives some flow points). Speaking of a lazy...i would be careful with these sort of „it is in the nature of“ statements. They tend to support mankinds laziness, instead of inspiring it to work out of things.
Looking at the evolution of man, it seems tremendous, that at one point he developed enough compassion for his fellow beings, to see the need for human rights and has valued this higher than a seemingly natural law of hierarchy. So high, that even presidents are subject to these laws (of course this is not perfectly working yet). This revolutionary developement didn´t come from just another selfish motive, but rather from the simple logical realization of the sameness of the value of all individuals that exist. Notice here, that sameness is the opposite of a hierarchy, which is based on difference of value.
So instead of leaning on some big spongy words as „biology“ to justify some bahaviour or rather mentality, lets acknowledge that mankind has proven its capability to grow out of old ways many many times - especially when the pressure of problems requires it. Well it turns out that the pressure of problems at the moment (as always probably :D ) very much require mankind to grow out of competitive thinking. At the moment mankind is like a dude whose legs go for cork and whose arms go for frontflip. No unity. No style (check the article „Oneness – Principles of style“). If all mankind right now, would realize the sameness of each other, and thus would work together as one, instead of splitting itself into groups because of the measured differences (origin, culture, language, looks, etc) and fighting each other to acquire a better place in the international ranking, tons of problems facing us would drop away as soon as tomorrow. BOOM!
Ok, this was a cool little detour, seeing the planet from above, tune in again for the next episodes of pktheory!
.... who is reading this? Is anyone reading this?? :D haha. let me know if you do so.