The problem with parkour is that it is not entirely about learning any new ways of thinking; it is also about ‘un-learning’ existing ways of thinking.
The way the mind thinks is influenced by the person’s past experiences. Since everyone has a unique set of experiences, everyone’s mental processes will be different. There is therefore no specific way to teach or learn the mental aspect of parkour because each person has to find his or her own way around their own unique, existing, mental view of movement.
When practicing parkour, most people quickly realise that there are many more routes you can take through an area than they would otherwise have used. The part that takes a long time is where the mind tries to assess the movement potential of all of the terrain it did not previously consider and all of the different movements not previously available. Even people who have been practicing for many years are still finding new ways to move through areas.
A typical person in society will consider routes based on how long each one will take for them to walk. Society conditions us to accept that walking is the normal method of moving to another place. For the physically active running is an option but society tells us that you should not run unless it is very important to get somewhere quickly. It is common for people to experience some form of embarrassment when running in a public place, due to the fact that society accepts and encourages walking.
For someone who does parkour there are many more options. They can walk, run, jog, roll, jump, dive, swing, vault, fall and many more besides. The mind almost immediately switches over to the idea of looking for new paths but it can take a long time for it to re-learn how to include all of these additional movements in determining routes to take.
A good way to start to train your mind not to accept society’s limits is simply to look for new ways to use obstacles and use them in the new way. If you can use an obstacle in a way completely opposite to that which society assigns to it, it is a clear signal to the mind that there are things that society is missing out on and it forces you to consider the errors in social customs.
To become more aware of the mental differences it is a good idea to spend time simply watching other people move. By comparing the differences between how you move and how they move you may be able to spot other areas you can improve. When your mind is free of society’s influence you notice that there are many things that rely on people’s acceptance of social rules. There are many examples of barriers that aren’t physically capable of stopping someone but which people will not cross. When practicing parkour it is easy to forget how many limitations other people place upon movement.
It takes more mental effort to think things through than it does to accept what someone else tells you. Parkour aims to train your mind to think through the action of movement each time you need to move instead of falling into a routine each time. Each time you move you need to evaluate your surroundings to determine the best route to where you want to be. Without the evaluation process you will still end up with more variety of movement, but you will still be operating within limits. The ultimate aim is to turn this process into an automatic reflex but you need to be aware of it at the beginning.
Ultimately, you will end up with an understanding of where you can move and where you can’t move, which is something everyone has. Parkour simply teaches you that there is a wider range of movements available to you than most people realise; that most people’s understanding of movement is flawed.
The greatest danger with practicing parkour incorrectly over time is concentrating on the new movements available and forgetting about the ability to adapt. Adaptation and evaluation are essential skills to learn in order to take parkour to high levels, but it is necessary at all times to seek out new ways of moving in order to increase your overall understanding of motion. This is true at beginner levels and at higher levels.