Parkour – A Way of Life

Parkour – A Way of Life

LiQ_Mag_Cover_July2014This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.
Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering the Quebec region and is currently published at least 3 times per year.
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Voir aussi cet article en français.

By Kathleen Keller

Parkour, or l’Art du déplacement (ADD), is a practice that is only partially understood. What came to mind when I first heard about the discipline was the chase scene in the Casino Royale James Bond movie. When we think of Parkour, we often imagine people climbing up tall buildings and leaping across rooftops. And it is not in these assumptions that we are wrong; it is true that the experienced Parkour artist can climb buildings or walls, jump across rooftops and nimbly navigate through the sky-high structure of a crane (as in James Bond). Parkour is indeed characterized by three basic motor skills: jumping, running, and climbing.

Where most of us often err is that our definition of the discipline ends there. Through an interview with Vincent Thibault, author of Parkour and the Art du déplacement and co-founder and director of the only authorised ADD Academy in Quebec (Académie québécoise d’art du déplacement), I discovered that Parkour is also a philosophy and a way of life, and that anyone, regardless of level of experience, can participate in Parkour classes.

By far the most fascinating aspect of Parkour is its mentality. Born out of the cités in Paris, Parkour was a way for the young people of immigrant families on the poorer fringes of Paris to appropriate the urban environment instead of letting it stifle them. The original yamakasis, a Lingala word meaning “strong man, strong body, strong spirit,” were young men who overcame the struggles and obstacles of life by joining together and becoming active in their concrete jungle, adopting it and making it their playground rather than their oppressor. Instead of seeing a wall as a barrier, they chose to see it as a thing of potential and beauty. As Thibault affirms, “we are constantly in motion in our urban environment. Once you start practicing ADD, you see your city differently and the way you move about in it changes. Suddenly, there is new potential everywhere.”

A sport born of such a culture of resistance and optimism is bound to promote other positive values. For starters, Parkour teaches us about overcoming fears and barriers that we have sometimes imposed on ourselves. The discipline is all about finding creative ways to get beyond an obstacle. As Thibault explains, “the obstacle is a metaphor for life’s challenges.” Sometimes you can climb over it, sometimes you can slide under it, and sometimes, you just have to go through it. At times, just changing the way you approach or look at an obstacle can stimulate solutions you had never thought of.

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousAnother marking value of ADD is teamwork and solidarity. Thibault emphasizes that though the various feats are performed individually, the group is always there to encourage you and support you. Thibault states, “you are alone and yet never alone,” meaning you alone can perform your jump, but there is always a group of people behind you, rooting for you. Because of this open and friendly environment, Thibault says that many of his most lasting and authentic relationships were formed through Parkour and its international network.

The type of training environment that Parkour promotes makes it ideal for interventions with young people in general, but more specifically with young people experiencing difficulties. Thibault’s academy has worked with a variety of organizations, including numerous times with Motivaction Jeunesse, creating a non-threatening space for teenagers and young adults to exercise, to challenge themselves and to measure their progress. For many, it gives them something to look forward to. “It is amazing seeing the changes in some of these young people,” Thibault says. Parkour allows them to climb out of their shells and to explore their full potential.

But don’t let yourself be fooled. Parkour is a challenging endeavour, and you have to be prepared to work hard if you wish to try it out. A typical class is generally divided into two portions: a physical part, and a more technical part. The physical part includes general cardiovascular fitness, plyometrics (speed and power training through jumping), core and stability training, etc. The more technical part focuses on the Parkour movements specifically (precision jumps, drops, rolls, wall runs, and the list goes on).

So be ready to work up a sweat, but don’t fret about your inexperience! As per the Parkour tradition, the courses offered in Quebec City promote an environment free of competitiveness that encourages each individual to push his or her own limits, whatever those limits may be. And these limits are constantly tested and challenged, which allows the practitioner to regularly measure progress in a tangible way. As an athlete myself, this is an attractive aspect of the activity, as measurable improvements contribute greatly to motivation.

The Académie québécoise d’art du déplacement is the only authorised academy of its kind in the province of Quebec, and it will be opening its new headquarters on rue St-Jean shortly. Thibault is excited about this new training space and is looking forward to sharing it with the public. In the summer time, classes are given outdoors in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood three days a week. This is an exciting time for ADD in Quebec, and the Quebec public is invited to take part in it!

Find out more about Parkour by reading Vincent Thibault’s great book, Parkour and the art du déplacement, or by visiting the Académie’s website at www.addquebec.ca.

You can try Parkour for free – check out the link below for details of how to claim a pass valid for two classes. You can use them yourself or gift them to a friend or relative.

LifeinQuebec.com/parkour-subscriber-offer

Parkour-Quebec-web

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About the author:

Kathleen_KellerKathleen Keller hails from Quebec City, is a graduate in English Literature, a translator, and an ardent writer. As much as she loves language and literature, she is above all else a passionate rugby player. Having represented her city, province, and country in many leagues and events, Kathleen now has her eyes set on getting a spot in Canada’s senior women’s team for the 2018 World Cup.

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Categories: News, Sports

About Author

Kathleen Keller

Kathleen Keller hails from Quebec City, is a graduate in English Literature, a translator, and an ardent writer. As much as she loves language and literature, she is above all else a passionate rugby player. Having represented her city, province, and country in many leagues and events, Kathleen now has her eyes set on getting a spot in Canada’s senior women’s team for the 2017 World Cup.

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