The Sport and Recreation Alliance try...parkour
This is the next episode in a new series of blogs, the Sport and Recreation Alliance Try…. which describes the Alliance’s staff trying out sports or activities that they have never done before and showcases the eclectic mix of sports and activities that make up the breadth of our member organisations.
This week the team is trying...parkour.
Parkour fact file:
National governing body:
Established by some of the most experienced practitioners and instructors of parkour (or freerunning) in the world, Parkour UK (PKUK) is a national governing body for this rapidly growing activity. It works in partnership with local councils and other agencies to develop and spread parkour across the country, and is a partner in running programmes funded by Sport England.
Parkour UK aims to support and develop parkour in the UK, and to make the benefits of the sport accessible to any and all who want to learn. Parkour UK strives to maintain and improve the spirit of the discipline.
Parkour or freerunning is a non-competitive sport which focuses on efficient movement around obstacles. It is a relatively new sport and was originally termed Art du Deplacement.
It was founded in southern France in the 1980s by a group of nine young men who called themselves The Yamakasi (Yamakasi being a Lingala word loosely meaning 'Strong Man, Strong Spirit') and is still the core aim of the discipline - to be a strong individual: physically, mentally and ethically.
The term ‘parkour’ was first introduced by David Belle (one of the Yamakasi) in 1998 and it derives from the French word parcours meaning ‘route’ or ‘course’, which David Belle’s father had used to describe the discipline.
In 2008 the A.D.A.P.T qualification programme was initiated in the UK. It is a vocational qualification on the European sports coaching framework and the only recognised coaching qualification for parkour worldwide.
Why do it:
Parkour UK says that parkour is a sport that encourages self-improvement on all levels, revealing one's physical and mental limits while simultaneously offering ways to overcome them.
It is a method of training one’s body and mind in order to be as completely functional, effective and liberated as possible in any environment.
It is also cheap as it requires no specialist equipment and can be performed anywhere, whether in a group or individually.
When the idea of trying a parkour class was bandied about the Sport and Recreation Alliance, I was intrigued. Parkour to me was a mystery. I’d seen it on TV and in films (most notably the James Bond film Casino Royal) but to be honest I had never considered doing it myself.
It was a super cool activity only done by superhuman Spiderman. Could I, with my gangly arms and legs become this streamlined, building scaling hero that I’d seen on the TV?
Fuelled by enthusiastic practitioners and the support of Hollywood, parkour has become one of the fastest growing activities in the UK and requiring no real facilities it can be done anywhere.
However, as total novices, the Sport and Recreation Alliance thought that we better get some advice from the experts before we started trying to shorten our commutes and sought out a training class.
The class the Sport and Recreation Alliance team was recommended was held in a dance studio, at Moberly Sports Centre in north west London and was run by the Parkour Generations company.
The class was packed with around 50 people all eager to learn the secrets of freerunning. It turns out, those secrets are simple – you need to be incredibly fit!
The session lasted two and a half hours and comprised a thorough warm up, circuits of four different parkour exercises, an abs work out and finished with a cool down.
I can honestly say my preconceptions about parkour were blown away, even in the warm-up. It was an intense 25 minutes consisting of a pretty steep progression from a light jog to full on, red face inducing exhaustion.
The parkour exercises were either strength based (pull-ups, sit-ups, squats and jumps), swinging from a set of scaffold poles and landing (or if you were the instructor, landing on the opposite wall), and two different obstacle courses.
Some people flew over bars and ran off the walls, whilst others simply clambered (granny style) over them. The real attraction and what perhaps makes parkour infectious is the fact it is open to all and you don’t need to own any equipment to participate. It helps train your body to be functional and the movements require a range of skills, from balance and dynamism to endurance and spatial awareness.
I’m not afraid to say, that at points I felt like a child. Because I wasn’t used to any of the movements we were doing, it was like learning to walk again, but walking had morphed into a much more fun way of getting about!
The abs workout followed the parkour exercises and ingeniously used the song Roxanne to help guide the intervals each exercise was performed for. Every “Red light” or “Roxanne” sung, meant a change of movement, from planks to oblique raises before we finished off with some stretches to increase flexibility.
The next day at work there were certainly some stiff Sport and Recreation Alliance staff gingerly getting into their seats.
“I can’t lift my arms” and “The only reason I know I have a muscle here is because it hurts” were the mottos of the day but everyone was agreed. Parkour was definitely a great way to spend an evening, even if we weren’t flying up walls like Spiderman…yet!
You can find out more about parkour by visiting the Parkour UK website.
If you would like to try a parkour lesson, contact Parkour Generations.
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