Running free

Szabo GaborStarred Page By Szabo Gabor, 31st Jan 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Urban Living

'Parkour' - or free running - is the fast-growing extreme sport that turns everyday urban landscapes into obstacle courses.

Bored teenagers

Loosely translated, 'le parkour' means 'using every object in your path as an obstacle'. It began in 1987 in the Paris suburbs, where bored teenagers Sebastien Foucan and David Belle decided to make life more interesting. 'Interesting’ involved climbing up buildings, swinging around lamp posts and vaulting anything that stayed still for long enough. 'We were just kids who started playing a game, and we've never really stopped,' says Foucan. With six friends, they set up 'Yamakasi' - a group which later split when five of them opted to take work as theatre acrobats, but not before it had led to a 2001 film of the same name. Yet, despite all the splits and personal differences, what they refer to as 'the discipline' lives on.

Global jumping

Fifteen years later, it's a global phenomenon .The UK-based parkour website gets 10,000 visitors a day. Foucan is surprised to say the least. 'For me, it's amazing but it's my goal to meet people from all over the world and to spread the philosophy, he says. This philosophy is all about challenging and improving yourself, while maintaining a zen-like calm. That's why there are no competitions in parkour, and definitely no world records. When asked what is the highest he has ever jumped, Foucan replies: 'I have no idea.'

Dangerous activity

There have been serious setbacks. One person died after trying some of the moves in the Yamakasi film. And since the rise of parkour's popularity amongst the general public there have been more than a few broken bones. 'The key thing,' says Ez (pronounced 'ee-zee'), a founder member of the movement, 'is that you must learn how to roll. It's very important because if you're moving forwards with a lot of momentum and you don't roll, your legs take the shock. If you can roll - across your shoulder, never on your spine - it transfers the energy so you don't get hurt. You land, you roll, you stand up and you keep running.' And if you are going to leap from a tall building, or even just off the back of your sofa, you should know how to land properly. 'You might think you just bend your knees, but actually you have to land on the ball of your loot, bend your knees in a certain way and slap the floor with your hand. It takes the shock out of landing entirely.' It looks painful but he insists it doesn't hurt nearly as much as when he landed flat on his heels one time and couldn't walk for nine weeks.

Do not be afraid!

Once you've mastered these moves, you can create as many jumps and death-defying handstands off the edges of buildings as you like. But, as the cliché goes, it's practice that makes perfect. And you have to be able to suppress any last-minute doubts or fears. 'When you get scared, you become more rigid in your movements, your muscles become tense and you're more likely to lose co-ordination,' says Professor Stuart Biddle, a sports psychologist. 'The mind plays a massive part,' agrees Ez. 'When you're standing at the edge of one building leaning to do a spot jump, you fall until the very last second and then jump. It's scary because you can see exactly how far up you are it might be eighteen or twenty metres. If the fear gets to you, it's all over, so you really have to have confidence in your training.'


City, Climbing, Dangerous, Energy, Extreme Sports, Jump, Jumping, Landing, Lifestyle, Movements, Parkour, Run, Running, Suburbs, Teen Life, Teen Problems, Teenager, Teenagers, Teens, Training, Urban Life

Meet the author

author avatar Szabo Gabor
I like reading, writing and sharing interesting articles. My favourite topics: environment, animals, plants, science, technology, useful tips and mysteries. Now I’m learning natural science at the university.

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