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Free-Running: Rolling, Vaulting, and Swinging
Learn about the free-running maneuvers rolling, vaulting, and swinging.
Free-running, or parkour, is all about pushing your body in uncommon ways to quickly traverse varied terrain. It takes more than simply running and jumping to get the fastest time on a free-running course. You can use try to use crazy, and often impractical methods, like flipping and wall-running. But there are better ways to get from here to there that don't end in landing on your face.
When you fall from a distance higher than yourself and want to keep your momentum going, there's only one way to go. Rolling protects your body from a fall while pushing you forward, keeping you in the game.
Free-runner Ryan Doyle has a great video on rolling that gives you different ways to recover with a roll. What it comes down to is hitting the ground with your hand first, following with your arm, then shoulder, and finally your back. You come up on your feet and keep going, and your head stays to the side the entire time, protecting it from injury.
Low obstacles can often be jumped over, but you'll look pretty stupid (and get injured) if you catch your foot on a wall while trying to clear it. Instead, use one or both hands to push yourself over the wall.
Do this by jumping toward the wall, leaning forward, and using your hands to push over the wall. While using one hand is faster, two hands are safer. Free-runner Al Kavaldo, suggests using your foot to step, or "spot yourself", when learning to vault.
While the fastest way over an object is to jump it, it's definitely safer to vault with your hands, and you'll only lose a second or two at most. Practicing will help you to learn your limits as well as when to jump and when to vault.
Swinging isn't just for monkeys, and it's not just useful for poles either. You can swing through windows or other openings by grabbing molding or sills as pivot points. This works much like vaulting, but is done overhead.
When swinging from a pole, always use an overhand grasp. Otherwise you risk pulling your face into the pole, as well as hampering your momentum. The only time you would use an underhand grasp is when your handhold is on the opposite side of an object, such as when you might exit a window.
If you're going to practice your swinging technique, you'll want to wear some sort of gloves. Fingerless, leather gloves will give you the best grip while protecting your hands from abrasions.
For more free-running techniques and tips, you may want to read these other articles: