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Parkour - an urban high
9:24am Monday 11th March 2013 in News
ALL AROUND the city, young men are making death-defying leaps from buildings using a combination of physically and mentally demanding movements, including running, vaulting, climbing and jumping.
Participants – and there are believed to be at least 100 – often negotiate walls, stairs and playgrounds in their search for the ‘perfect’ move.
Welcome to the world of parkour, an urban art form based on the philosophy of the freedom of expression and movement.
But the traceurs (parkour participants) are finding they are now prepared to sacrifice this key principle.
The ever-growing parkour community are appealing for a designated area to train in, leaving them safe to practise without the worry of being arrested.
The lack of awareness surrounding parkour means participants are often moved on from public places, or mistakenly accused of trespass or trying to steal lead from roofs.
A meeting has now been arranged with the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Derek Burke, later this spring to discuss designated areas.
For Danny Morgan, 20, it’s now crucial.
“I would rather we had a designated place to train, than we lose the freedom from all around the city.
“That is happening to us all the time now and will only get worse in the future.”
He added: “We have less and less places to practise as it is. It will also help with providing somewhere that new people who want to get involved can meet. At the moment, they don’t know where to start and have to find where we are training.”
With no initial outlay or ongoing costs, the discipline is becoming increasingly popular with teenagers in towns and cities around the UK.
Southampton has groups of between 10 and 25 in all the major districts, and that number is constantly increasing.
Danny explains how he discovered parkour, why he finds it so addictive - and why he disagrees with people when it is referred to as a ‘sport’.
“Parkour to me is not just a discipline, it’s almost a way of life,” he said.
“Two years ago, I was walking past a group of people practising by the train station and went over to ask more about it. They invited me to train with them, and I’ve never looked back.
"I don’t agree with it being classified as a sport because it is not supposed to be competitive. It’s all about self development, confidence and critical thinking. We work together, encouraging one another, not against each other for personal satisfaction.”
He added: “It’s a bit like the Tibetan monks practising martial arts, although there are competitions – you will never see the monks fighting each other for real in front of a crowd. They are only ever involved in organised displays.”
Although the discipline was first introduced in the 1920s by Georges Herbert, the word parkour is said to come from Raymond Belle. He then passed the idea down to his son David, who, along with Sébastian Foucan, developed it into how it is known today.
A number of films and documentaries in the 1990s and early 2000s ensured parkour’s rise to popularity, including The Bourne Ultimatum, Jump Britain and Jump London.
Some people would argue that it was simply named by the Belles, and that it has always existed in its own true form. David Belle described the practice of parkour as being able to move in a way that would allow you to cover the most ground, as if escaping or chasing something. He maintains if you go from A to B, you must also be able to go back from B to A, although not necessarily using the
There are no set moves in parkour, which has many variations and spin offs, such as free running, jumping and tricking.
Anything is allowed and each object should be approached, analysed and conquered individually.
Danny, known as Monkeyman to his friends, went on to explain: “Parkour movements rely on the redistribution and absorption of energy, alongside the use of momentum and speed.
“To onlookers the moves can seem to be impossible and they are often left in awe of us. But there are some simple moves that beginners can do too.
“I warn you though, it’s very addictive. I can’t explain the feeling that you get when you complete a move that a few months ago you didn’t think you would be able to do, or the adrenalin rush, and maybe a little relief, you feel when you scale a building that nobody else has attempted. Nothing can compare to that. Nothing.”
In 2006, parkour featured in the opening shots of the film, Casino Royale, and received a lot of attention.
Following this, military forces around the world started incorporating parkour moves into their training methods, including the Royal Marines.
Many people have made comparisons between parkour and martial arts, and the similarities can certainly be seen in the fluid movements of Bruce Lee.
David Belle has said: “There’s a quote by Bruce Lee, that’s my motto: ‘There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.
“A man must constantly exceed his level.’
“If you are not better than you were the day before, then what are you doing? What’s the point?”