The Story of Parkour: To Be and To Last
By Nina Syahira
January 9, 2014
Formally known as parcours du combattant, the sport of parkour is as much philosophical as it is physical. When one trains in its discipline, one learns to trust one’s self to be able to overcome obstacles both literally and figuratively. Hence, practitioners strive "to be and to last" which becomes one of the most iconic phrases in the world of parkour. Those who practise it are also known as traceurs. Founded by David Belle in the early 1980s, what was once a unique form of fitness called l’Art du Deplacement in southern Paris has now become increasingly popular worldwide.
David Belle, the founder of Parkour
Photos sourced from blogspot.com
Belle is an actor, film choreographer and stunt coordinator and has appeared in various films like Prince of Persia and parkour-filled action District 13. He cited his father Raymond Belle as one of the influences of starting parkour for first introducing him to the roots of the sport when he was 15.
Georges Hébert contributed to the standard in French military & firefighting training
Photos sourced from wikimedia.org and aviatechno.net
But parkour is more than just flashy moves like flipping over railings and scaling up walls, it truly focuses on moral responsibility. Raymond’s teaching was inspired by a French naval officer Georges Hébert who developed the Methode Naturelle (Natural Method) that trains the human body for any situation. This was brought on after rescuing about 700 people during the 1902 Mt. Pelée eruption in Saint-Pierre.
The cast of Yamakasi the movie who were also part of the real-life parkour group
Photo sourced from toutlecine.com
In mid 1990s, Belle, together with his childhood friends including the founder of freerunning Sébastien Foucan, formed the group called Yamakasi which means “strong man, strong spirit” in Lingala. There was even a movie made with the same name that featured them and the sport in a fictional story. However, Belle and Foucan refused to be a part of it due to disagreements about the spirit of the discipline.
Traceurs in Palestine
Photo sourced from msn.com
Fast forward to today, the sport is practised everywhere in the world, thanks to the internet that enables videos to easily circulate. It brings in different communities together and promotes self-expression through maximizing one’s physical potential. If you are looking for a very well-rounded sport, check out the beauty of parkour. There are various festivals in major cities like London and recently in Singapore, a parkour challenge called Superfly Parkour Showdown was held for the first time at the License2Play event, thanks to the collaborative efforts of gourmet sausage cafe The Brat who is also the official sponsor for SAFRA AVventura and parkour school Superfly Monkey Dragons.
Photos courtesy of The Brat
It was a fun-filled weekend where the public was welcomed to watch traceurs run the obstacles placed in one corner of the Suntec City convention hall and even try it out themselves. On the last day of the event, a contest was held for anyone who was up for a friendly competition. Prizes were given to the winners but this did not diminish the real focus of the showcase which is to spread more awareness of parkour to Singapore.
Meet the minds behind the event: Superfly Monkey Dragons and The Brat
Photo courtesy of The Brat
We also managed to chat with Derrick Siu, the owner of Superfly Monkey Dragons, to find out more about the sport and the parkour school.
Hi Derrick! How did you first get into parkour?
Derrick: I’ve never actually ever wanted to do parkour. Like a lot of people, I’ve seen parkour in videos which looks amazing. But I thought that’s not for me. That looks “too dangerous” because it looks like it’s going to be bad for my joints so I’ve never entertained the idea of it until a friend of mine suggested to me to try it. I was running in 2011, training for a marathon. About 10 days before the race, I decided I needed to run and I ran too far, I ran 35 km, the most I’ve ever run in my life. As a result of that, I got my ITB injury. I couldn’t run more than 2km without the pain. So I was looking for something else to do and I bumped into a friend. I say, “Hey let’s go to the gym, let’s work out.” He said, “cool”. And it just so happens that after this gym work out, he said, “Let’s do some parkour.” And I wasn’t really into it. But because it was right there and he says, “Let’s do this!” and I was like, “Okay I’ll try it.” And after that one session, I was like, “Wow this is awesome. I just wanna do this.”
To check out the rest of this inspiring interview, watch the video below especially for those who are itching to try out the sport but don’t know where or how to start! We also interviewed a couple of his students about the local parkour scene as well as The Brat about the idea behind the event and how they hope to encourage more people to take up sports as part of their lifestyle.
To find out more about the Superfly Monkey Dragons school, head over to their Facebook page and connect with other parkour enthusiasts!
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