Mahoney, 13, goes through a Parkour workout in Raleigh,
N.C., Aug. 7, 2014. Parkour is a holistic training
discipline using movement that developed from military
obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to get from
A to B in the most efficient way possible.
N.C. ó Theyíre into video games, role-playing, comics and
superheroes. And they may be some of the most athletic kids
"traceurs," practitioners of a relatively new
activity called parkour. They donít just take the stairs,
they leap down (or up) them. They hurdle fences, side-hop
walls, walk up and over benches, and occasionally dismount
is essentially training yourself to move more efficiently from
Point A to Point B effectively, safely and with speed,"
says 23-year-old Nick Faircloth of Raleigh, who discovered
parkour when he was 16. "Itís about training hard to
enjoy the freedom of play."
history: The origins of the sport are murky; most accounts tie
it to French military training in Vietnam in the 1950s. In the
1990s, a group of French teens seized on the parkour
philosophy, adopting it for civilian purposes. Soon, the Paris
suburbs of Evry, Sarcellas, Lisses and others were filled with
youths bouncing about public plazas, getting around town with
a gymnastic grace and agility not typically seen in the
sport remained somewhat localized until the proliferation of
smart phone cameras and GoPros capturing the French teensí
antics launched a global parkour community on YouTube.
community that traceurs say skews young and geeky.
the sport of nerds," says Don Sportsman of Zebulon, whose
10-year-old son, Cheland, is an ardent traceur ó and fan of
dummies. First, he discovered puppetry, then dummies. He
tracked down a local maker of the lap dolls, worked on his
ventriloquist skills and now has in his collection a dummy
classic, Mortimer Snerd of Red Skelton fame.
started attending parkour classes at Enso Movement when the
North Raleigh parkour gym opened in April. He goes to classes
about twice a week, says his dad, but "heíd go every
day if he could."
recent Tuesday evening, instructor Alan Tran led a class of
10- to 16-year-olds in a training session that lasted an hour
and 15 minutes, beginning with 20 minutes of warm-up. He
prompted them through and over plywood platforms, walls and
other obstacles in the gymís warehouse home, stressing the
importance of technique and safety.
work on nice and quiet jumps," he advised, reminding his
pupils that a flatfooted landing is a loud and potentially
offers some home-schooler instruction during the day, but most
classes are in the evening, typically three or four per night,
each with five to 13 students. Most are middle school to
college age; one of the adult classes has a student who
"is in his late 30s, he might even be 40." (In
France, classes for seniors are common.)
a principal in the Enso gym, says he was typical when he
stumbled into the sport.
was sedentary, didnít do a whole lot," he recalls. Then
one day he found himself in the wooded backyard of a relativeís
house in Concord: he discovered a natural obstacle course in
the boulders and downed trees. Shortly after, he was noodling
around on the Internet and discovered French kids doing
similar moves in a more urban environment. The moves were the
mortal equivalent of what the superheroes in his comics were
doing. He was hooked.
about the same time parkour was beginning to find its way into
North Carolina. Strong parkour communities developed at North
Carolina State University and at UNC-Charlotte, and two
statewide parkour jams emerged, at which up to 80
sessions are akin to daily practice for team sports: paying
the price to better enjoy the activity. In the case of parkour,
that would be weekend gatherings at which traceurs get a
chance to move more efficiently from Point A to Point B
effectively, safely and with speed.
says itís no surprise that kids take to parkour.
want to be active," he says. "Itís not that kids
donít want to play, itís just that sometimes they donít
have options. If youíre not into team sports, your options
are limited." Really, he adds, this is what kids have
been doing for millennia, only with training.
parkour and there are parkour-like practices. The
ó As Nick Faircloth notes, parkour is about moving more
efficiently from Point A to Point B in a safe and speedy
manner. That means going over obstacles ó fences, walls,
benches ó whenever safely possible.
ó Described by Enso Movement as "an expressive and
aesthetic performance with roots in parkour and branches in
gymnastics, martial arts, dance, and more." Similar to
parkour, though the goal isnít necessarily to get from A to
B in as straight a line as possible.
ó Thereís no dealing with obstacles with tricking, which,
according to Faircloth, is more about "complex acrobatic
moves, kicking, spins, turns," break dancing and similar