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Parkour and Freerunning Make Superheroes of Mere Mortals

No obstacle deters a parkour practitioner No obstacle deters a parkour practitioner

It used to be that watching non-powered comic book heroes like Batman and Robin or Marvel’s Daredevil ply their serialized trade required suspension of disbelief. When it comes to some things, like taking on a dozen attackers at once, it still does. But what about the way those spandex-clad super folk make their way over rooftops and around their respective treacherous cities with the ease of gibbons in the forest canopy? David Belle and Sebastien Foucan, who invented the practice of Parkour, or Freerunning, dispel any skepticism audiences might have had about outrageous urban acrobatics.

Hardcore devotees make a distinction between Parkour, which is more associated with Belle, and Freerunning, which is more closely associated with Foucan. The former, they say, is about personal expression, while the latter is about efficiency. But to the casual viewer, it still looks like people defying death by employing Olympics-level gymnastic moves over and around the world’s cityscapes.

When it comes to efficiency, anyone who’s ever seen a Parkour display would be hard-pressed to imagine a way to negotiate the environment of a metropolis any better than the disciples of David Belle.

Parkour practitioners run, jump, climb, crawl, and launch themselves up and down stairs, parking lots, the sides of buildings, and over rooftops with catlike agility.

Freerunners do the same, but execute flips and twists along the way.

It’s all truly wild and unbelievable stuff - human beings pushing the limits of their dexterity, creativity, and strength to adapt to daunting and severe city structures.

Human intelligence has accelerated the evolution of technology so that we are uniquely ill-equipped in our naked state to physically navigate our environment. Many other animals move fluidly through their environments – think of a dolphin, spider monkey, or falcon.

But how do people get from point A to point B? Car, bike, elevator, etc. Fair enough. Our brains have guided the creation of both our environment and the means by which we travel through it. But parkour and freerunning athletes have trained their bodies to reclaim means of transport the rest of us have ceded to technology.

And these sports are catching on. More and more people are taking notice of parkour thanks to increased media coverage, both in the mainstream and on the internet. Parents can even enroll their kids in “parkour camps” in many major cities.

So the next time you find yourself shaking your head at some unlikely movie stunt or comic book action panel, stop and think of David Belle and Sebastien Foucan. Freerunning and parkour are sports for urban daredevils and people willing to challenge the extent of their agility and their courage, and these activities are the real deal. There’s not much money in it – little in the way of competition or sponsorship. Those who leap across rooftops do it strictly for the personal thrill, a taste of internet notoriety, and possibly the chance to feel like a superhero

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Last modified on Friday, 01 July 2011 09:45

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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