Brawn & Brains
In the opening chase scene of the 2006 version of the 007 film Casino Royale, James Bond pursues a bad guy who scrambles across rooftops, slides through a burnt-out car, climbs up the skeletal iron beams of a building under construction, then meets his prey face to face atop a tower crane. All the leaping, bounding, climbing, and jumping is not simply the work of graceful stuntmen or a good flight choreographer. The action sequence demonstrates an extreme form of parkour, a sport that has leaped from an underground movement into a mainstream activity in recent years.
Parkour, a made-up word, can be defined as “the art of movement, when one’s body and mind are trained to overcome obstacles efficiently, with the goal of moving from one point to another as quickly and gracefully as possible.” The traceurs (as participants are called) usually practice their sport in an urban environment. They vault over railings and drop down to a street, dive through a gap between fence posts, jump to reach the top of a wall and pull themselves over, continuing to navigate through, around, over, or under whatever obstacles are in their way.
David Belle and Sebastian Foucan (who played the evildoer in the opening Casino Royale scene) are credited as two of the founders of modern parkour, which started in France during the 1990s. They built upon the foundation created by George Hebert, who prior to World War I developed a Methode Naturelle technique of physical training using obstacle courses (parcours).
Today, parkour can be found all over the world. In the U.S., Denver is a hot spot, as are Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Seattle. Good international scenes are Toronto, London, and Paris. A Colorado-based group called “The Tribe” is made up of skilled traceurs who in the last few years have helped develop parkour in the U.S. by teaching classes, acting as unofficial ambassadors for the growing sport, and creating the American Parkour website. Check out the website to connect with others doing parkour in your area.
The best traceurs blend strength, training, and critical thinking skills, but newcomers can learn and embrace the sport at much lower levels. Training to learn such maneuvers as the cat leap, the wall run, and the roll, whether on one’s own or through schooling, is vital. Today, three gyms in the North America are devoted exclusively to parkour: In Denver, Ryan Ford runs Apex Movement. Other training facilities are Primal Fitness in Washington, D.C., and Money Vault in Toronto. In London, there’s Parkour Generations, and in Australia, a good resource is Australian Parkour Association (www.parkour.asn.au). A growing number of fitness gyms are offering parkour courses. Parkour is a blend of brains and brawn, but one that requires skill and training, because it can be dangerous. Before taking a parkour class, ask the instructor how long he or she has been doing it and whom they trained with before starting to teach. —LF
American Parkour (www.americanparkour.com). Apex Movement ( 720/242-9250; www.coloradoparkour.com). Primal Fitness (202/635-1941; www.primal-fitness.com). Money Vault ( 647/350-1111; www.themonkeyvault.com). Parkour Generations ( 44/7825-410134 or 44/7984-348218; www.parkourgenerations.com).