Parkour: Moving Bravely
Viewers of Luc Besson’s movie Banlieue 13 (2004) may remember how it featured young thieves who ran, scrambled, and jumped from point to point, using the art of parkour to evade the police.
Parkour comes from the French word ‘parcour,’ which means obstacle course. It is an extreme street sport that traces its history back to France in the 1980s. A sport, art, and a lifestyle all at once, parkour uses the whole city as its training ground.
Guangzhou is home to a crowd of young parkour practitioners, who practice their art across the city.
Liang is one of the founders of the first parkour team in Guangzhou. At the beginning, only 2 persons belonged to the team, but within one year almost two hundred people had joined.
Some people think parkour is dangerous, but its fans do not agree.
Xu is one of the team’s core members. Before he became a parkour enthusiast, he practiced skating and taekwondo. ‘We use parts of our bodies to parkour. Not like skating, it is controllable,’ said Xu.
According to Liang, parkour in China is not yet a street activity. Usually, parkour takes place in urban spaces, with every wall, fence or pillar serving as an object to climb or cross. In China, however, people are more uncomfortable about this. Furthermore, common communities are separated into parts, which are not suitable for the sport. Therefore, parkour’s playing grounds can be mainly found in lonely parts of campuses.
Iris is one of the 3 girls in the team. She did not like sports in high school and only joined the team for fun. After that, however, she fell in love with parkour. Iris feels not only parkour’s excitement, but also a sense of belonging in the team. She always looks forward to parkour parties.
What Liang would like to do next is to open a gym for parkour training. He still has a ways to go; the Guangdong parkour website (pao-ku.com) only opened last month.
(By Luna Yang and Usha Chilukuri)