Do flips belong in skill competitions?

Objectively speaking a flip is a skill, but we never see flips set as challenges in skill competitions, is this just because of an unspoken and arbitrary ‘no flips’ rule or is there an actual reason why they don’t fit into skill competitions? To answer that question there’s another question we have to answer first, what makes a challenge worthy of being in a skill competition?


The most important thing I think a good challenge should do is make athletes show a certain degree of proficiency with a technique, their ability to perform a technique specifically in a controlled way, for example a running precision between two wide walls with no requirement to stick the landing doesn’t demonstrate much in the way of technical ability, but a running precision between two rails where you have to stick the landing requires more control and better foot placement. And as you set harder challenges you set techniques that are harder to perform, or you increase the control required.

Neil Hutson performing one of the challenges from Project Underground 9. Photo by Adam Dore

A second thing is mental proficiency, not every challenge should be a mental challenge, but it’s a good aspect that athletes should have to demonstrate if they want to complete a lot of challenges. I think challenges can be exclusively mental challenges but the best, or at least most interesting, way of challenging someone's mental game within a skill competition is for it to be tied to their technically proficiency, for example requiring a polecat landing over just having the challenge by high up, but that said there is absolutely room for challenges to test someone's mental game by being high up.


It’s always good for challenges to be creative as well, challenging people to do things they might not have tried before or not have a lot of experience with is always interesting, but I don’t think it’s an essential aspect of skill competitions, and within a competition environment the creative aspect of the challenge is normally tied to the technical aspect anyway.


The final aspect to challenges is power, power is obviously an important quality to test in a skill competition, but it should come secondary to the technical or mental aspect of the challenge and not be exclusively about power, for the simple reason that power is a very binary aspect, with the technical or mental aspect to a challenge you can work on it during the competition and go from not being able to do the challenge to being able to do it, but with power if you’re not already capable of doing the challenge that isn’t going to change mid competition. I’m not saying that every challenge should be physically doable by anyone, but they should fall within most people's limits, I think the power aspect needs to compliment the technical or mental aspect, for example a difficult plyo challenge between low to the ground blocks isn’t a very good challenge for a competition, but a plyo challenge that most people are physically capable of doing set between head height rails is a good challenge because it means athletes need to have a good enough technical and mental ability in order to perform the physical aspect of the challenge.

Dan Calvert doing a side flip precision in his style run at Project Underground 9. Photo by Lorian Biet

Which brings us back to why flips are not in skill competitions, flips are a pretty binary challenge, if you can’t do a required flip for a challenge then you probably aren’t going to learn how to do it during a competition. However there are flips that are very common, arguably more common than some techniques that are often set during skill competitions, front flips and side flips for example are some of the first flips that people learn and probably the majority of athletes who have been practising for more than a year can do them, so is there room for things like flip precisions to be set as a challenge in a competition? I think there is, they require athletes to demonstrate a high level of technical and mental proficiency, but they do also need to be reasonable and fall within peoples capabilities. Asking athletes to stick a side flip precision to a head height rail isn't a reasonable challenge, but on something with much lower consequences I don't see a reason for them not to be a part of skill competitions.


But of course that doesn't mean every competition runner should start setting flips as challenges, there's nothing wrong with running a no flip skill competition, the beauty of the diversity of parkour is you can come up with a huge variety of competition formats, there's no reason someone couldn't run a skill competition that is designed around seeing who can do the most flips, or who has the best cat pass. There are so many potential competition formats and variations and I would like to see the community embrace that and start experimenting more with competitions.


What do you think? Let us know your opinion in the comments.




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