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A Leap of Faith

By Denise Pinto . UrbanWire
email reporter . email story . printer friendly version


Le Parkour, otherwise known as ‘The Art of Movement’, is not just a branch of martial arts with people leaping, jumping or flying high a la Jackie Chan. It is, in fact, a multi-faceted sport, a melting pot of Eastern philosophies and Western movements that allows people to clear obstacles with ease.

UrbanWire takes you through this beautiful and graceful sport that requires loads of concentration and creativity.

From playground to global sport
I’m not Superman
Repetition is key
Parkour in Singapore
The Do’s & Don’ts

From playground to global sport


David Belle
Source: BBC

Le Parkour began in 1987 when gymnastics enthusiasts David Belle, Sebastien Foucan, and a group of friends decided to kill their boredom by challenging one another to stunts at their Paris suburban playground.

Soon, it became more than just a playful activity for Belle and Foucan. They spent much time perfecting the art of Parkour, using their background in gymnastics to create this new extreme sport and philosophy. It took them 10 years.

In 1997, the duo formed a group of traceurs [people who practise Parkour] called the Yamakasi, there was a Luc Besson movie in 2001 of the same name

I’m not Superman


Source: Urban Free Flow (www.urbanfreeflow.com)
Photo taken by: Kiell

This isn’t your average extreme sports with its mindless daredevil and life-threatening stunts. According to Tan Kar Wee, a 20-year-old NS [National Service]man who plays the sport, “It is an achievement in my own element.“

Parkour certainly induces this in traceurs. Just imagine them leaping off buildings, fences and hopefully, not running away from the police.

Traceurs see beauty in every single movement. Jumping over obstacles has taken a whole new meaning. It requires a lot of discipline, patience and confidence. The only obstacle is not that flight of stairs or the building wall, but yourself.

If you don’t think you have the muscular, athletic body type of a typical French traceur, don’t worry because neither does more than half the world. That shouldn’t stop you . Kar Wee, for example, described himself as an “armchair footballer”, meaning the only other sports he participated in is watching soccer on television.

That said, like most sports you do have to build up your strength and stamina. After having his first taste of sweet Parkour, his craving gave him the determination to shed some pounds and build up his stamina.

You don’t need a background in gymnastics to Parkour. All you need is to contact someone who Parkours. A good website would be urbanfreeflow.com. It is highly advisable that you begin with someone who knows what they’re doing.

The beauty of Parkour is that you can practise it anywhere. You are only confined in your imagination. Bus stops, trees, fences, carparks, a flight of stairs or even a dustbin, nothing you see on the streets can’t be used to Parkour.

One wonders how much further they can go if there was a Parkour competition

Repetition is key
It’s important in Parkour that all traceurs must learn how to repeat their movements. Repetition here is not just in context of ‘practise makes perfect”, but as part of the Eastern philosophy that the sport encourages.

Repetition trains traceurs to focus on their targets, to be in a meditative state of mind where all thoughts are cleared, because 1 wrong move or jump might result in fatal accidents.

Parkour in Singapore
There isn’t a need to obtain a license to play this sport in Singapore. Traceurs do it anywhere, but to ensure they don’t endanger the public, people like Kar Wee make it a point to avoid crowded areas.

Parkour is relatively unknown here and is usually played by teenage boys. However, that doesn’t mean girls can’t play the sport. In fact, traceurs don’t seem to have big muscular bodies.

Finding a venue to play Parkour isn’t a problem. Gary Ng, a 15-year-old student and member of Reduction, a local Parkour clan, talks about his usual playground: “I just pull up some chairs and tables in class and practise new moves.”

The Do’s & Don’ts
Practise in groups because Foucan advises in an interview with Guardian’s Amelia Gentlemen greenhorn traceurs to do exactly just that. And you can probably find a local group by [going to a Parkour forum called UrbanFreeFlow [hyperlink pls put URL] or emailing Kar Wee at maddened@hotmail.com. Also, practise basic moves like rolling on soft ground (grass, mats etc). And remember to stretch and warm up your muscles before doing anything strenuous.

Don’t practise Parkour in a crowded street. Social responsibility is important because you’re already putting yourself at risk when you Parkour, so don’t include anyone in that situation. And don’t practise Parkour on white surfaces, for example, at the void deck, because you can be charged for vandalising public property by leaving footprints behind.

And if you’ve a history of broken bones or even asthma, make sure you see a doctor to get an all clear. This is a sport not for the faint-hearted.

Sidebar


Sebastien Foucan jumping off HMS Belfast in London
Source: ThisIsLondon.com

The Yamakasi
Does that word sound slightly familiar? Luc Besson made a movie by the same name in 2001. If you think the stunts performed in the movie by the 7 muscular and sexy men were done with the aid of stunt doubles and ‘invisible strings’, you’re wrong.

There were no strings attached. Cable wires were used only during takes and not the final cut. For example, the first scene of the movie showed them scaling an apartment block to greet the sunset. It would be ridiculous and extremely tiring to leave the Yamakasi hanging onto the apartment blocks when the director needed more than one take for the scene.

The only other safety precaution used was landing mats to soften the ground when they jumped from high places.
The whole Yamakasi, except Laurent Piemontesi, in Luc Besson’s film belonged to the original Yamakasi, formed by David and Sebastien.

If all this sounds confusing, get your hands on this movie. Although Le Parkour was never once mentioned, men jumping off buildings and acting like monkeys never looked so sexy!
The only reason why David Belle and Sebastien didn’t appear in the movie is that the group disbanded a year after the Yamakasi was formed. The 6 guys (Yann, Charles, Malik, Guilan, Chau and William) who appeared in the movie decided to take up an offer to perform in a musical production called Notre Dame de Paris in a 2-year contract. They saw this as a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, showcasing their skills and receiving money from it.

However, David and Sebastien did not share the same sentiments and they went their separate ways to pursue their own aspiration for the future of Le Parkour. Since then Sebastien has been seen on the television advertising for Toyota and Nike. David Belle still remains in the street, practising his art and teaching any boy who approaches him.

 

 

 

 

 

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