In the midst of a world brimming with conformity and monotony, a contradistinction, or a distraction at the very least, is a silver lining desired by most people. I’ve always been entranced by the idea of absolute distraction. The thought of being entirely fixated on a single thing, leaving all else out of the picture, is a natural inclination, particularly for those who need preoccupation. Complete infatuation: this is the idea that draws me to parkour.
Parkour is an uprising urban activity where one is free to express themselves through movement. Whether the traceurs (those who practice parkour) focus on speed, efficiency, or flow, the heart of the practice lies in the idea of complete freedom. Originating from France in the early 1990’s, parkour has expanded greatly from there and is now one of the most popular sensations in the world. Over the years, the essence of parkour has changed into something never before imagined, becoming as progressively diverse as the athletes themselves.
I’m seventeen years old and currently a Creative Writing student, yet my artistic abilities stretch much further than just pen on paper. Parkour is a way for me to exhibit my more physical side through a primitive form of self-expression. Separate and apart from any other experience I have ever had, parkour never ceases to give me a sensibility I cannot otherwise achieve. The feeling of being at one with myself and the environment around me is a miraculous quality of parkour. The adrenaline released, akin to that of other thrilling sports is livening and addictive in its ability to bring about further consciousness in myself.
Parkour has given me insight into a new world. It’s enlightened me to the wonder in exploration and I’m filled with a constant sense of curiosity; a quality I feared losing when transitioning into my teenage years.
Furthermore, I’ve gained a new appreciation for architecture and the simple structures around me that go mostly unnoticed. With its incredibly broad and welcoming community, the activity has provided me with new friendships across the U.S. and has given me the opportunity to spend valuable time with athletes I would otherwise have no connection to. Most of my interactions are through social media, where there are tens of thousands of athletes and hundreds of events at which I can meet them through. “Beast Coast” is one I attended last spring, where I had the pleasure of practicing at Gateway Park in Virginia with over 600 athletes. Mark Toorock, owner of American Parkour and the host for this event stated it was the largest jam on record. This was an unparalleled experience that gave me more appreciation and acknowledgement for the enlightenment parkour has brought to my life. It has allowed me to grow both physically and mentally as a human being in more ways than I can describe.
Carlisle and Harrisburg are the two places I love to train the most. These alluring layouts are where I started my contribution to parkour. Around downtown Harrisburg, concrete jungles and unique architecture are what make the city such a perfect place to put theory into practice. The community here is very supportive as well. I find that the city, as an artistic melting pot, has an appreciation for my talent and its singularity. This display of gratitude makes me feel that I am contributing to the city in one way or another, something which gives the practice greater meaning. The beauty of Carlisle and the integration of vegetation within its structures are two things that I love so much about practicing there. Surrounded by countless different training areas (known as spots), I can spend hours in the town without tedium. Although, the people here view me much less enthusiastically. Whether it be Dickinson College campus security, town police, or unconnected authoritarian figures, I am often discouraged from what I do, and have been told I am “wasting my time.” It is in this area that I have been called a scandal, idiot, and a ruiner of the environment.
There is a large dichotomy in opinion regarding parkour and the effect it has on the practitioner and all that is in their vicinity. For most, the cynical views lie in the concern that I will damage public property. Paul Whitecotton, a popular face in the parkour community, says in documentary People in Motion, by Cedric Dahl, “We don’t want to damage anything, you know? We don’t want to damage property, we don’t want to damage nature, we just want to experience it.” Although many believe the sole purpose of my actions are simply to roughhouse and make a fool of myself, my intentions go far beyond this. It’s a stress reliever like no other. As a teenager who handles schoolwork, my life as a writer, a job at a movie theater, and constant societal pressures, the anxiety is constantly accumulating. Parkour is a way for me to let everything out and to focus on an individual thing when my brain is otherwise scattered. I’m able to separate myself from the conventional world and make way into an instinctual mindset. It’s a branch of expressionism through a medium never before used. Damaging the structures around me is never my, or any other traceur’s intention. Rather, we strive to simply blow off steam by channeling our worries into movement.
As an anomalistic medium for expression, parkour has excited a creative element in thousands of individuals, changing the way they perceive life. One of the greatest elements of parkour is the way that ordinary structures are re-imagined to serve an entirely new purpose. Through the eyes of a traceur, architecture which is generally overlooked becomes an open canvas for rhythmic and imaginative movement. Moving beyond the standards set by customary society is where the artistic opportunity is perspicuous. The world is remade, and boundless possibility is put forth, giving the practitioner freedom in their aspirations. Like a rugged and coarse form of expressionistic and abstract dance, choreography has taken its place on concrete. The places where the cement has gashed my palms and scraped my knees, display a great deal of passion and love for the movement that has guided me to be the person I am today.
As someone who has had the stunning and irreplaceable opportunity to take part in such an activity, I can strongly say that my experience with it has been like no other. Through my practice, I have encountered a strong emotion and exhilaration of which I cannot get through any other means. The explicit and robust quality has developed and diversified both my physical and mental capabilities. The act of overcoming obstacles which were previously unimaginable is a lesson that can be associated with almost any complication in life. I have gained immense wisdom throughout my years of practicing, which has shown me a unique side of the usual mindset. Parkour has shown me the authentic beauty in raw movement and the value of diversified perspective for the subjective world around us.