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To be or not to be
Parkour: the huge sport/not sport
by Wina Sturgeon
You can see them moving like ninjas or gymnasts, not stepping aside for fences or even buildings, but leaping like Superman in seemingly impossible moves that keep them going in a straight line regardless of what’s in the way. What they are doing is called “Parkour.”
Parkour is called “the art of movement,” or “displacement,” and is described as moving from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible, going over obstacles rather than around them. Practioners, called “traceurs” (or for women, “traceuses”) leap from building to building in cities, rather than taking elevators or stairs, somersault over parked cars, rocks and sheds instead of stepping around them, roll or jump down flights of stairs, and do it without slowing down at all. Traceurs move fast, using only their bodies for movement, without ropes or any other kind of equipment.
But the sport (which traceurs claim is not a sport, just a way of moving) has a philosophical, rather than athletic base. The amazing moves are done merely to get from point to point, and are not supposed to be done unnecessarily just as a way of showing off. Parkour is supposed to be a way to develop both body and mind to overcome obstacles.
The whole thing was started by a Frenchman named David Belle, whose father was a master of military obstacle course training. The method of extreme movement through space originally became popular in the suburbs of Paris, but soon spread throughout Europe, then inexplicably, became immensely popular in Beijing. Enthusiasts say it involves many elements of Chinese kung fu; and there is general acknowledgement that those who are skilled at kung fu will find Parkour easy to learn.
For many traceurs, Parkour creates excellent survival skills. One practitioner points out that if a building fire cut off all escape, a traceur could jump out of a window five or more stories high and land safely on the ground below. Traceurs who may need to get away fast in an emergency can do so with ease, leaping impossibly high, grabbing near-invisible finger holds and using self-created momentum to swing their body to the next finger hold, thus quickly escaping, ninja style.
The technique of Parkour involves the use of momentum and quick re-distribution of body weight to create it. The seemingly magical moves require the skills of climbing, judo and acrobatics, plus the instant relaxation of muscles for absorption to allow an easy landing from great heights.
The sport/non-sport is now being featured in films, most recently in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and The Incredible Hulk. Hulk even gave a credit to the Parkour coordinator.
Because it has become so popular in the Olympic city of Beijing, and its freestyle, creative technique is such a contrast to the strict rules of Olympic competition, Parkour will probably be featured on the evening news frequently during the Games.
If you see ordinary people in the Olympic city on TV leaping and somersaulting swiftly along, without stopping or detouring around anything, you will know they are not ninjas, but Parkour traceurs just moving along as they normally do.
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