The growth of parkour communities worldwide
Parkour is the practice of overcoming obstacles using only the ability of the body. It is a method of training both body and mind, in order to effectively move throughout any given environment. On a more personal level, it is a great way to build confidence and help you to understand your physical limits. Parkour found its place in the world when a French boy, known as David Belle, would explore the city of Lisses with his friends, challenging themselves to undertake dynamic, physical activities. David was introduced to military training from a young age through his father, Raymond Belle and this highly influenced David’s mentality and his style of training. As he grew into a teenager David continued to follow his passion, forming a group called the Yamakasi. The group would push themselves both physically and mentally, for example, sometimes they would train without food, without shoes, but most importantly, each exercise had to be repeated ten times without fail. The reasoning behind this philosophy was that the individual would become stronger, more humble and be able to use their knowledge in any aspect of life.
This style of training gained popularity in the media after videos were sent to a television station and featured on a French programme. This led to the video being shared in various countries and attracted a large number of followers to the discipline. Several years later parkour was promoted in a documentary called Jump London, which received lots of media attention and therefore many people in the UK witnessed parkour for the first time. The word parkour originates from David’s father, who would repeat specific moves, in order to find the most efficient route. Most practitioners recognise David as the founder of parkour, as he continued his father’s training and shared his passion with the rest of the world. One of the most important elements of parkour is that everyone is viewed equally. This means no individual is better than another for completing a challenge and that training is always for personal development, not to show off.
With help from the internet, films and television shows, parkour has continued to grow rapidly since the early 2000’s and this has resulted in the forming of many communities all across the world. I am going to give you an insight into one community, which has brought together hundreds of people whilst having a positive impact. However, I would like to highlight that parkour is not just for the young, the fit or the daring, it is a practice that everyone can enjoy. Media representations may often show extreme examples of parkour, but you must realise that years of dedication have gone into that one moment. Everyone has the ability to do parkour and it is a very rewarding process. Just remember that we all started at the same level and no one is superior, only more experienced.
The Netherlands Adventure
The community, or rather community event, I am going to talk about is 4 The Love of Movement. This is one of the biggest, non-profit parkour events created by JUMP Freerun, an organisation from the Netherlands. They are dedicated to supporting the community and so host the event twice a year, providing a winter and summer edition. The experience lasts 3 days and to attend you must first purchase a ticket. This gives you access to 3 days of training, 2 sleepovers, breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day, as well as a t-shirt, bracelet and the chance to win some fantastic parkour merchandise. Last year I bought a ticket to the Wintercamp, which is held in the city of Den Haag. I arranged to travel there with some friends and so we booked flights to Schiphol airport, this is what happened during our time abroad.
Because the event started at 10am we arrived the evening beforehand and arranged to stay with a Dutch friend of ours; however this was no ordinary house. This place was an entirely refurbished school. Of course there were lots of people going to the event and so there were around forty people sleeping over from many different countries, including Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Imagine meeting that many people before you even get to the event! We were all excited for the next few days and so once the chaos calmed down, we went to get some sleep.
We all grouped together and made our way to the event, a train and tram ride later we arrived. There was already about two hundred people inside and the numbers were expected to rise to over three hundred! We headed over to the sleeping area and established some kind of base camp, before ditching all our stuff and going to see what the set-up had to offer this year. As well as creating the set-up, JUMP Freerun fly a large number of athletes to the event so that you have the chance to meet and train with some of the most talented men and women in the parkour world. It did not take long for us to find more friends who had travelled from afar and we were soon climbing, jumping and exploring our new home. The biggest challenge is adjusting to the amount of people that are using the obstacles. When there are over three hundred people, you have to take your time and wait your turn. Though, this has its advantages, like getting to talk to more people and find out where they have come from. In the parkour world everyone is very friendly and I find that the common ground we share makes conversation a whole lot easier, despite there often being language boundaries.
The event itself had a set timetable for each day, so the whole thing ran smoothly. You could spend as much time training during the day as you wanted and no-one ever forces you to try things you are not comfortable doing, it’s all about listening to your body and having fun. Time flew by in day 1 and I think that’s because we were still getting used to the different obstacles and meeting lots of new people. Also during the event there are two presentations from well-known figures in the community. This evening’s was from Giles Longley, a talented editor and film maker who would go on to give us some handy tips and advice for getting the best results in our videos. It was interesting to hear from someone who makes a living from parkour and more specifically the technical side of filming and cinematography.
A nice and early 8am wake up call for breakfast and so it starts again. Once we’d got the much needed energy for the rest of the day it was time to warm up. Warming up and stretching your muscles is an important part of parkour, as it helps to reduce injury and gives you time to prepare for the exercise to come. The day was filled with lots of action and it was great to get involved with various different styles of parkour. Sometimes you find yourself repeating the same movement until you are happy with the outcome and this often encourages other people to join you. As a result, more people come up with new ways to reach the end goal and this can really increase your creativity, while bringing people closer together. As the day progressed the level of parkour increased, with athletes making bigger, more advanced movements. One of the best things about this is that there is no competition, there is only encouragement to try and push the limits of what has previously been done. This ultimately serves to inspire you and makes you want to train that much more.
As day 2 came to an end, tonight’s presentation would be split between two people. The first was given by a member of the Inspire Tour, a group of people who travel together spreading the word of parkour and embracing artistic expression all across the world. We were informed of an opportunity to travel with the team on the 2016 tour to South America, where you would have the chance to explore several countries, work with local communities and most importantly, get involved in new opportunities and make lifelong friends along the way. They also talked about the trips they organised in 2015, including a month in South Africa where they volunteered to help rural communities and made parkour workshops in some of the places they visited. It was definitely an inspiring talk on the subject of travel and made me realise the good that parkour can bring to other people who have not had the same experience. Next, was a talk by Masanobu Suzuki on how to deal with negativity and overcoming injuries. It was a very thoughtful presentation that encouraged everyone to find ways to continue moving and make healthy decisions on those darker days. I find it useful even for when I am not injured, rather thinking of ways to stay positive during the freezing, wet winter months.
The final day, another 8am wake up call. If you’re wondering how they managed to wake everyone up… the secret is having a very loud speaker system which is able to fill an entire sports hall. After breakfast the day began with a series of challenges, these would be your alternative to a competition. There were six challenges and one bonus challenge and they were each set by one of the athletes and so had varying movement and skill levels. If you were able to complete three or more of the challenges you were entered into a raffle to win lots of top quality parkour merchandise and even the chance to win a ticket to next year’s event. It was an interesting way to approach training which I’m sure highlighted for many people weaknesses that they could go away and improve upon. Once the challenges were complete it was time for the prizes. Those who completed four or more received a bronze medal, five or more a silver medal and six or more a gold medal respectively. The prizes were a good way to give back to the community and specifically those who had pushed themselves the furthest.
The final session took place for those with remaining energy, although many were leaving to make way for their flights back home. It was time to say goodbye to our camp and the friends we had made, because all the equipment had to be taken down and the place had to be left clean and tidy. I would like to thank JUMP Freerun for organising such a successful event and I hope that far into the future they continue to bring the community together.
Finally, I would like to tell you that the trip did not end there and we returned to Jessie’s place for the remainder of our stay and had the opportunity to bring in the New Year with our new friends.
Here is the video of the event
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