Coverstory: PARKOUR

While the time for New Year’s resolutions has passed, it’s still not too late to actually get a move on getting the beach body you promised yourself at the start of the year. Sure, you could hit the gym, or crash diet, but where’s the fun in that? Why not take this time to learn something that’s both a lot of fun, and actually quite practical? Why not learn Parkour?

Parkour, in its purest form, is less a sport, and more a way of life. It espouses efficiency, and economy of movement. It’s really quite simple, but simple and easy aren’t one and the same thing. It takes a lot of work to make movement look as smooth and fluid as traceurs and traceuses do. Being able to move your whole body up, down, over, around and through obstacles requires a lot of strength, and more than a little skill. To be able to move like humans used to to survive requires training. A lot of training. If you’re looking to get into shape, this is a great, practical way to get around to that. At the heart of it, it’s being able to get from point A to point B in the smoothest, fastest way possible. It’s as much a physical activity as a mental one, and very much like playing chess against the course the city has laid out before you. When done properly, it’s an awesome sight to behold; equal parts amazing and terrifying.

The starting levels of learning the skills necessary for navigating the concrete and steel of the urban jungle will be spent bringing your body up to the level required to perform the feats. There’s going to be a lot of time spent doing squats, wall-sits, pushups, pull-ups, and lots of other exercises you never even knew existed. The beauty of it is that a lot of what you’ll be doing to get to the right level is going to be lifting and moving yourself, with your own body providing the necessary resistance. It might seem difficult at first, but it’s all part of the process of being the best possible version of yourself. With the right coaching, technique, and effort, the gains are surprisingly quick.

Raw physical strength is just one side of the equation. More than once, I’ve seen large, powerful men flounder while performing some of the simple skills. Mental toughness is a major part of the art as well. If you believe the wall to be too high, the jump to be too far off the ground, or the landing to be too far, you’re not even going to try. It’s all about rediscovering what you’re capable fo doing, and pushing so you’re capable of doing more. It’s here that a safe venue is of utmost importance. You can’t go harder, faster, and stronger if you don’t go past yesterday’s limits, and that just won’t happen without failing a few times in the process. A safe gym, with qualified coaches, is going to save you from some unpleasant injuries in the process. Push yourself hard, but be smart about it.

One of the most impressive parts of parkour is seeing just how agile its practitioners are. Gracefully transitioning between the different skills, all the while putting more and more terrain behind them is as much agility as it is technique. Knowing where your body is in space, and getting all your limbs and muscles to work together in concert is a skill that gets developed over time and practice.

The best traceurs and traceuses are able to just flow over obstacles in a way that seems impossible to the average person. Part of the trick is being able to make everything look easy, which it will be, once you’ve put the time in. When you watch someone do it superbly well and think “That seems easy, I can probably nail that right now,” that’s a testament to just how much work they’ve devoted to the art.

While it’s very tempting to just head out and jump some barriers, or across buildings, the best place to start is in a gym, with some coaches. Here in the metro we have the Ninja Academy. With locations in Ortigas, and now, Las Piñas, the facilities and staff are all in place to help you remember just how it is to move.

At once terrifying and rewarding, learning to master your body might be the best thing you can do for yourself. More than just looking good in a swimsuit, parkour lets you be strong in a real and useful way.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE May 2016 issue.

Words by Ren Alcantara

Photos by Dookie Ducay