The Fluidity of Movement

Most people would be discouraged by a high wall or drainage ditch in their path, but such things are welcome obstacles for practitioners of a French martial art called parkour. It’s been around for decades, but it wasn’t until James Bond chased discipline co-founder Sébastien Foucan through a Madagascar construction site in Casino Royale that the practice hit mainstream.

The Oklahoma Parkour Association was founded in 2007 by Jordan Nelson, Chris Stevenson and Cody Green. “We get the right information out there so people don’t operate on rumors or preconceived notions of what the discipline is. We make sure they know what we do and why we do it,” Nelson says.

“The biggest misconception is that it’s just kids jumping off of things,” he says. “People see parkour in movies and commercials and think it’s just people taking reckless risks and trespassing. That isn’t what it is at all. It’s a very rigorous discipline. We train for hours and hours every week and every day so that our bodies can move in the most fluid way possible.”

Parkour is designed to enable a practitioner, called a traceur, to travel from one location to another as safely, fluidly and efficiently as possible. A female parkour artist is called a traceuse.

Nelson says a normal person would walk back and forth through a zig-zagging path of wheelchair railings, but a traceur would vault over and go under them in a fluid way. “We practice for hours so we can do it so fluidly that it looks like we’re floating through the bars,” he says.

An offshoot of parkour, called free running, adds flare to parkour’s fast and efficient movements. Jonathan Dewberry has been free running for three or four years. “You throw some flips into it and make it look fancy,” he says. “Free running is more appealing to the eye than parkour.”

Some traceurs maintain that there is no distinction between free running and parkour, and the definition of what constitutes each remains controversial. Initially called l’art du déplacement, the term “parkour” was coined by pioneers David Belle and Hubert Koundé.

“The cool thing about free running and parkour is you don’t need equipment, all you need is a good pair of cross-trainers and an obstacle, and that’s why it’s growing in popularity so quickly,” Dewberry says.

Although traceurs practice vaults, wall-runs and controlled falls without protective gear, Nelson and Dewberry say injuries are rare.

“The risks are really no more than your typical sports like soccer or football,” Nelson says. “Obviously, if a football player went out there without pads and started running around without stretching, he would get injured. If you’re training properly, you shouldn’t have any injuries, and that surprises a lot of people. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve never had any injuries.”

Dewberry admits the discipline can be dan-gerous, but says traceurs still don’t wear pads because it would inhibit their movement, which would defeat one of the key aspects of the art form.

 “One time I took a drop that was too big for me and I bruised both of my heels and I wasn’t able to walk right for a week. It was horrible,” Dewberry says. The injury came after he jumped off a rail 16 feet in the air. “We’ve all suffered sprained ankles and things like that. If you land wrong, it’s pretty easy to sprain an ankle.”

 “If you’re training correctly, you shouldn’t be putting any more strain on your body than it should take,” Nelson says. “A lot of traceurs train barefoot because that helps you feel if you’re training correctly.”

Nelson says parkour is quickly catching on. “It is definitely growing. With it being an emerging discipline, conservatively, I’d say there are about 100 traceurs in Oklahoma.”

“With any new sport that people have not heard of, there’s a lot of suspicion,” Nelson says. “When people see us training, they automatically wonder why we’re there.”

Nelson doesn’t want parkour to go the way of skateboarding, which was labeled rebellious and caused “no skateboarding” signs to appear everywhere. “Parkour is the complete opposite,” he says. “We are very respectful and we don’t trespass. If authorities still have a problem with it, we respectfully move on and find another public place we can train at.”

“It’s an excellent workout and it’s a lot of fun,” Nelson says.For more information, visit www.freewebs.com/oklahomaparkour. 

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