Jan 30, 2006

An interesting site about "free running": essentially moving through town and country with fluidity and creativity while embracing autonomy and art. The site describes it much better than I can.

Though it closely resembles a running shoe commercial, I still find this kind of thing quite fascinating, mainly because I have been practicing "free running" for years on my very own terms and using my own techniques. I have always been intrigued by the creativity and art of movement- not so much in terms of dance but in travel. It is quite nifty to see it put into words as a type of philosophy. I would have to agree that for me, it is indeed a philosophy.

I have actually been practicing my own form of "free running" for years. For example, while traveling from point A to point B in town, it is highly unlikely that I will follow sidewalks and designated walkways all the way to my destination, or even choose the shortest route. I take shortcuts that get me there quicker (if I am in a hurry) or diversions that interest me all the time. I enjoy cutting across cemeteries, dashing through wooded tracts, climbing in and out of canals and waterways, jumping fences, and navigating through storm drains (something I did in Phoenix but have yet to do in Hilo, since all the rain makes it hazardous). There is something very spontaneous and animal-like about it that appeals to my nature. I am not simply following the grid and moving in rectangles and squares as if on some kind of track... I'm moving like an animal.

Unfortunately, there are legal issues involving private property, restricting the spontaneity of my movement. I can't simply cut across yards or jump over houses too often. Quick and nimble as I am, I would probably get busted sooner or later. My favourite times for free running in town are either when it's dark or when it's raining, due to the substantially fewer people out. People don't tend to bother me that much, especially when I am not focused on them.

It would be the way I move that would freak people out. Doing handstands on grave stones, dropping off of bridges into dry water canals from fairly high distances, climbing tall fences to run through the arboretum like I'm some kind of fleeing prisoner, crawling out of a drain... yeah, a wolf can really scare people when you see a big furry arm emerging from a gutter. Better tell the kids to get inside!

It's just all about creativity and free-spiritedness. I don't even really think about or plan such maneuvers; they simply occur. I feel more comfortable and natural moving in such a way than following the prescribed routes and using all the crosswalk signals like another button-mashing droid walking in between all the lines. It's more likely to get me in trouble or cause me injury, but it's also infinitely more interesting and well worth the risk. It's truly a way of keeping in touch with my animal side, even amongst civilisation. And it keeps me in shape and very light on my feet.

I move in similar ways out in the country, and feel much better about doing it shoeless out there. The chances of running across broken glass or other such hazards are substantially less. Going barefoot is all part of the philosophy, again. The furry philosophy. Any fursona I use, including my main one, are always barefoot. The reasons for barefootedness:

1. Shoes are too restrictive and weighty, and leave an unnatural, geometric imprint on the earth. The impact on foliage is also much greater. I would prefer to not leave a trace of my having been there.
2. Manueverability and balance are much easier without shoes on most types of terrain. Also, it allows me to get in much better touch with the terrain; more intimate with the earth and my surroundings, if you will. It is simply more natural and again, animal-like. The sensation of cool mud or cold mountain water against the bottom of my feet is worth not wearing shoes alone. And it makes me feel all the more primal and at home in my surroundings.

Of course, shoeless travel is not practical in some areas. I would be reluctant to traverse rough, crumbly a'a lava rock, for example, without shoes, though may attempt it someday when my feet are calloused enough. And I never thought to slip-slide around on the ice on Mauna Kea barefeet, though it may be something I'd like to try someday. It's about experimentation and new experiences... innovation and daring. I may take my licks from it periodically and risk serious injury, but the gratification I obtain from it all is well worth it. I do exercise a significant amount of good judgment and caution, however, which is probably why I am still alive to this day.

One thing I would never do to my poor feet is subject them to the ground beneath a thicket of Keawe trees, where their thorns up to an inch long rise up from the ground on fallen twigs. *grimace* I'm not that "XhardcoreX", really... not to the point where pulling bloody thorns out of my feet sounds like a good time.

I can easily make my way down the trail into Pololu Valley without shoes, but last time I did it, I received some odd and strangely amused looks from tourists on the trail. I had to pat the top of my head to make sure tentacles hadn't sprouted from my scalp. A couple separate tourists asked me where my shoes were, to which I politely responded by saying, "must have left them on Neptune." I guess in the world whence they come, going shoeless is simply unheard of.

Probably one of the best places in the world for barefoot free-running though, is Waipio Valley. The terrain consists mostly of soft sand, mud and soil, forest floors layered with fallen leaves, and streams. The trail to Hi'ilawe Falls is simply perfect for practicing my technique. The trail is but a rough vestige crossing the stream numerous times, allowing me the opportunity to employ some tricky maneuvers to get across large boulders or up to high ledges. It's an excellent test of my endurance, agility, and judgment... I need to keep my cat-like reflexes, balance, and graceful motion sharp, after all!

Dashing through darkness... that's another strange little thing I like to challenge myself with. I like to challenge my wolf vision and see how far I can get using no artificial light. I vividly recall having to feel my way out of a pitch black forest in Arizona because both my flash lights had burnt out. It's a nice little special skill to have... I could imagine cheapie flashlights burning out while I'm deep in some lava tube, where light is 100% non-existent. Now, getting out of that situation would require either screaming for help at the top of my lungs or feeling my way out by touch. I would actually prefer to do the latter. If such a thing were to happen to me, I probably would not panic, as I have been exposed to so many similar scary situations by now.

Many people must find this sort of thing utterly absurd, and I can understand why, but that doesn't bother me. I believe in self-expression and the fact that art can take any form. This is a way of experiencing freedom of mind, soul, and body altogether, and spiritual liberation. I can't stay in one place for very long without becoming fidgety and wanting to go climb a cliff or jump around some rocks. Anything that allows me to exercise my agility and creativity of movement and release energy. After all, I'm about as hyperactive as a hummingbird and have the metabolism of a little dog who runs hundreds of laps around the yard everyday. Free running suits me, I suppose.

There's a reason I often shuffle around like I'm grooving to a techno beat. Music is playing in my head on an almost constant basis, and I usually move accordingly with its tempo.

I may wait for a dry spell to hit this town before exploring the storm drain system. I'm sure it's absolutely prohibited by law, but that only makes it so much more exciting. The idea of getting all the way to the mall from the park near my apartment is a nice incentive. I could become the official storm drain exploration expert of Hilo! Of course, I would have to bring heavy duty flashlights and a few clothespins for my nose in case I end up getting stuck in a sewer. And the last thing I would want to do is open up a manhole cover from below in the middle of a busy street.

Totally unrelated, but rumour has it that Legolas is now working at the Hilo BK. I refused to believe it at first, but upon entering the restaurant today for a drink, Legolas was indeed operating the register. Long blonde hair, ponytail and all. Until Legolas opened his mouth I thought he was a girl, just like in the movies!

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