Christian De La Paz: Parkour

What have I learned while practicing parkour with the Kansai team? Well there have been some observations that, although obvious to me know, were rather eye opening at the beginning. The first few practices that I attended were all in Osaka so the team members that were around were all originally from there, with an exception of a couple of the more experienced members but we’ll get to that later. I got along great with these members, even though I was a foreigner they welcomed me with open arms and were soon friends as if I were any other Japanese person. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we have our first practice in Kyoto (yes!). The change of place also came with a change of members. The Kyoto members made their appearance at this practice. Interesting thing was that it took me longer to become as close as I had gotten with the Osaka members with the Kyoto ones. It took a lot longer to feel part of the group, to be teased and not just be that foreigner that everybody was polite to because his “Japanese is so good!”. This proved to me that the myth that Osaka people are a lot friendlier than Kyoto people was actually true.

But although there might be varying degrees of friendliness, all Japanese people seem to have something in common, at least in terms of language, which is politeness levels. I had been told by professors that you needed to change the way you speak depending on who you’re talking to, but seeing it in real life is impressive. When teaching they would use ます and です, but the moment they were just talking to you all semblance of politeness would fade away and start calling you おまえ, i.e. go completely down in the politeness scale. As a learner of Japanese I know that this is what I should strive for, but this takes years of practice so even though I’m getting there and am getting used to changing back and forth it’s still one of the greater challenges of this language.

This can only be experienced and not learned. Rather than a classroom, to become proficient and a functional member of society you need to go outside get your hands dirty and fall down a couple of times, just like I have while doing parkour.

4 thoughts on “Christian De La Paz: Parkour

  1. So Christian, can you describe in more detail the differences between the Osaka and Kyoto Parkour members? Also more generally do you feel that similar levels of politeness based upon whom you’re addressing are also present in english?

    • Well as you remember, when we got to Osaka everybody was super welcoming and they were treating us like we’ve been there since forever. The Kyoto people were just as welcoming, but there was definitely that distinction/separation between the new people and the senpais. That’s the biggest difference that I saw. Osaka people = BFF, while Kyoto = Senpai/Kouhai.
      Now regarding the politeness levels, I’m sure they aren’t present in English at all. You do soften your voice and add please, but there’s not a completely different grammar system and vocabulary like there is in Japanese. So no, I wouldn’t say that there are similar levels of politeness in English.

  2. Great post, Christian! Parkour sounds like a great time; thanks for the 具体的 examples. 🙂

    So you compared the Osaka and Kyoto groups. I imagine the parkour groups aren’t huge, so do the groups necessarily stay separate? Or, if they mingle together, how do you distinguish between the Osaka and Kyoto people?

    Also, are you going to continue Parkour at Cornell? I’d love a demonstration!

    • Based on my experience, most of the time they stay separate. But the only reason I can think of to explain this separation is them just being lazy and not wanting to commute to Osaka or even Kobe and vice versa. Although if they were to mingle I don’t think I could distinguish them apart without knowing them previously, the energy from the Osaka people just radiates to the Kyoto members.

      I would like to continue it at Cornell. I know there isn’t a Parkour team at Cornell so it might just be Peaky and I jumping around, but you’re welcome to join us! Maybe we can run together 😛