A man flies from balcony to balcony more than 50 feet in the air, he dives off the building landing smoothly onto the next, slings himself down the alleyway onto the ground. This man is not a stunt double, a spy, an escaping criminal, or even Spiderman—he’s just practicing his parkour.
Parkour is defined by Americanparkour.com, as “the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment.” Parkour uses running, jumping, vaulting, climbing and balancing, and requires consistent disciplined training.
“Parkour is training using obstacles and interacting with your environment to improve your abilities for movement and your strength, speed, agility and balance,” said Travis Graves who is in charge of parkour classes at Primal Fitness gym in Washington, D.C.
Primal Fitness, one of the only gyms in the Washington Metropolitan area to specialize in parkour, offers classes that teach parkour as a means of increasing strength and endurance.
Senior Matt Bank has always enjoyed jumping around and flipping, but his discovery of parkour has only given his hobby a name. Bank, who has only been officially doing the sport for a month, can do a standing back flip and running front flip off a wall.
“When I am parkouring in the park I normally have a gang of about seven 10-year-olds following and watching me,” Bank said. “I don’t find parkour [though], parkour finds me.”
Through sophomore Timothy Faerber’s eight years of training in diving, he has learned how to do flips, but when he was in seventh grade he discovered parkour through YouTube and decided to try it. Faerber was able to incorporate his diving background into parkour.
“My favorite moves are backflips, either on the ground or off of something, because they are fun and look cool, but I think they are easy,” Faerber said.
According to Faerber, he practices in local parks and tends to get mixed reactions. While some think it is silly or stupid, others find it interesting.
“The first time I saw parkour it looked like it hurts a lot, but it looked really cool,” sophomore Mark Henry said.
According to Americanparkour.com, parkour was officially started by Raymond Belle, a French soldier in the Vietnam War who worked to develop efficient methods to reach or escape a destination as part of his training.
Parkour is not to be confused with free running, which is a way to move through one’s environment following one’s own path and moving in more creative ways. Parkour is about getting somewhere efficiently.
“Parkour is basically street-gymnastics,” Faerber said. “You use things like benches walls, tables and railings as your apparatus.”
Be warned that Americanparkour.com advises to “check with your doctor, your mom, your lawyer, my lawyer and at least two politicians before starting any exercise program.” It is a very dangerous activity and it’s important to be aware of your ability level and adequately train before trying an activity. For those who are interested in parkour, tutorial videos are available through YouTube or at Americanparkour.com.