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Parkour – L’art du déplacement

Thursday, 14 October, 2010

The art of movement

Getting from A to B

Parkour, l’art du déplacement (the art of movement) started in France.  The basic principle is to get from A to B by the quickest route possible – whether by jumping a gap or vaulting a wall.  I became interested when a friend asked if I wanted to go to a freestyle adult gymnastics session.  Some guys there were doing Parkour.  I had never done anything like this before and one of the guys taught me some of the basic moves – the different types of vaults and precisions.  By the end of the session I was worn out, but I really wanted to be able to do what they were doing.  So I went back to the next session – and from then on I haven’t stopped.

When I moved to London I found a Parkour club and continued to train.  After a while I started to train outside, and very quickly found out that it’s completely different to training indoors.  Everything is harder and rougher, and if you fall it hurts more.  You find yourself holding back; your mind takes over.  When I train outside, I’m always thinking that everything is concrete: if I don’t make a jump, there’s going to be pain.

Through Parkour training my strength, balance and confidence has greatly improved.  Balancing may sound easy, but once you get on a rail that is rounded or smaller than width of your foot – and there is a 4-metre drop on one side – everything changes.  There are different kinds of moves.  Precisions are moves by which you jump from wall-to-wall or rail-to-rail.  Kongs are basically vaults; you go over the obstacle.  Precisions teach you to control your body when you land.  You have to have quite good co-ordination.  Kongs are great – sometimes you feel for a split second as if you are flying.  Palm spins and wall runs are fun too.

There’s always a rush of adrenaline between taking off and landing.  Once you have taken off, there is no going back – so you need to land the move.  Whereas indoors you can move the distance of the jumps to your level of ability, outdoors you can’t move a wall or rail.  When you stick a landing or successfully do a move it’s a great feeling of achievement.  You feel happy, especially if it was a first attempt.

When you fail and fall, the best – and hardest – thing to do is get up and try it again until you can do it.  Once you can do something, it’s good to repeat it 10 times.  This makes the move stick in your mind.  That way, your muscles get used to what’s required – a kind of muscle memory.

Parkour can be dangerous, particularly if you fail at a Kong, palm spin or precision which is beyond your ability.  To try things you need to be confident – in yourself and that you will be able to do it –  and commit 100 percent.  So far, I’ve not had a serious injury.  My foot slipped on a wall once – it wasn’t a very high wall, maybe just smaller than waist-height.  I fell backwards and landed on the floor; I came down hard on my hand and cut it.  I got up and attempted the move again, but afterwards all the bad scenarios went through my mind.

The best clothes to wear are loose, things which let you move freely.  The best shoes are generally running trainers – they have the best grip, and grip is crucial for a good landing.  Shoe soles wear down quite quickly – all that running, jumping and landing – so you end up buying new trainers often.

Parkour is becoming more popular with all age groups, young and old, round the world.  It features in many TV programmes and films – particularly in the opening scene of James Bond Casino Royale.  I’d love to be able to be a take Parkour to the next level and be a stunt double.  That would be the most amazing thing to do!

(c) Lauren Bettyes 14 October 2010

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