What was initially a military obstacle training course, parkour has been making waves over the years as the sport quickly gained traction among youngsters who seek the thrills of jumping between high-rise buildings, climbing walls, swinging from metal bars and such.
Parkour is a relatively new sport and originated from France. It started in the late 1980s. It is a training discipline using movements developed from military obstacle training course. The aim of parkour is to move from point A to point B in the fastest and most efficient ways possible.
This includes running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, plyometrics, rolling, quadrupedal movement and others.
Kuching parkour practitioner George Ponujuo Barin said that many would mistake the sport for another, free running. He explained that as much as they seemed identical, “There are differences between the two. Free running, much like Parkour, employs the use of urban obstacles but with a flashier twist. Free running would have tricks and flips included in its movement, as opposed to the practical fluid momentum of parkour.”
Practising parkour for over 10 years now, George added that a parkour practitioner is usually called a ‘traceur’. “We would gather in a group during our session known as ‘jams’, and train together with other traceurs.” During each session, the group would perform a series of vaults or jumps, creating a flow by mixing a couple of movements. “It is to create challenges and try to overcome it,” he said.
“A challenge, for example, is perhaps to complete a certain jump distance or how far they can clear a gap during a vault and others. Sometimes, members would try to learn a new move or trick from each other, and train them by smaller progressions,” shared the 29-year-old.
George revealed that he initially practised parkour in 2010. “To be honest, the reasons were I used to watch a lot of martial art movies and also my childhood idol Batman who made jumping from buildings look easy. I wanted to imitate them so bad.
“One day, my secondary school friend introduced me to parkour videos. Back then, the sport was referred to as Le Parkour or Art Du Displacement on YouTube. I was fascinated and wanted to try it out. I searched for parkour groups on Facebook hoping to find locals with the same interest. That’s where I stumbled upon the ‘Kuching Parkour’ Facebook group,” the retail assistant said.
Since the sport was not known to many at the time, George said that the initial stunts he performed were all self-taught, with Youtube as a source of motivation and guidance. After so many years, he conceded that Parkour had impacted his life socially and physically.
“I’ve made many friends throughout the years from parkour alone. I used to be more introverted and a shut-in before trying out parkour. But due to the nature of parkour training, I gradually changed as I had fun meeting new people with the same interest.”
Meanwhile, George said prior to parkour, he could not climb walls. “I wouldn’t even begin to dream to be able to do the things I’m able to do now. Parkour has taught me that you can eventually do certain things and overcome any obstacle through practice.” He also said that ever since he started practising the sport, his stamina has improved too.
Elaborating, George shared the variety of movements that he can perform now. “I can do precision jumps, vaults, climbing techniques among many other things. For example, we have regular precision jumps, plyo precisions and stride precision where you attempt to take off from an obstacle with one leg in a ‘striding’ motion. For vaults we have safety vault aka speed step, Kong vaults, reverse vaults, speed vaults and others,” he said.
As for wall scaling, he disclosed a technique called wall pass, “A wall pass is where the practitioner places their dominant foot on the wall and lunges upward for momentum to grab the top of the obstacle.”
Asked if parkour can be done by anyone, George firmly said yes. “There are no specific requirements to practice it. Anyone from any age, gender, background and even disabilities can try it.” George recalled a time when he saw someone with one leg performing a precision jump and backflip. “There are also elders who are star parkour practitioners called ‘PK Silver’! You can check them out on YouTube!”
Concerning the safety of the sport, George admitted that parkour is more of a ‘do it at your own risk’ kind of sport. “But then again, nowadays most people train in safer and more controlled environments such as parkour parks, gyms with mats and among safety equipment and soft grounds.”
While parkour comprises extreme movements, as a trainer, George does not allow beginners to perform difficult stunts. “You should always start with the basics. Warming up is highly encouraged to avoid injuries during a session.” He would often closely supervise beginners whenever they want to try advanced techniques.
According to the traceur, like any other strenuous physical sports, parkour offers many health benefits, such as body coordination, spatial awareness, stamina and strength improvement and the ability to assess obstacles and how to overcome them.
“Not just urban and physical obstacles, but in daily life as well. It teaches you that there are many ways to overcome them. At the same time, you can expand your circle by having more friends of the same interest,” he added.
Having parkour as part of his late teenage years, George opined that it is uncertain whether the sport will be recognised in Kuching. However, he believes that it is possible as he sees many young people becoming interested in parkour.
“I’m currently training a young group of people. One of them is a 12-year-old kid who has been training since 2019. To me, his enthusiasm in the sport, art, and discipline of parkour gives me a ray of hope for the future of parkour in Kuching.”