In March, Charles Perrière and Mark Cooper attended the First Edition of the ISF Convention. It was the occasion for all ISF members to learn about a new sport: parkour, and its close cousins: freerunning and l’Art Du Déplacement.
Hello Mark, thank you for taking some time to introduce us to your practice.
What is Parkour? How and when was it created?
The physical practices known as parkour, freerunning, Art Du Déplacement and in some places as Yamakasi were born in the surburbs of Paris in the late 1980s. At their heart is a notion training to use only the mind and body to move through an urban or natural environment and its existing obstacles, often with running, jumping, vaulting, swinging and crawling.
Are there any specific Parkour rules?
Parkour, freerunning and Art Du Déplacement are very unstructured and informal physical practices, which is a huge part of their attraction to young people. We find that ever-increasing numbers of young people are turned away from traditional formal sport at an ever-earlier age because of too much structure, too much specialization, too much conformity and often having to buy too much stuff.
Just like other practices where the dominant model is not one of playing a match–think climbing, surfing or skateboarding—there are competitions in parkour and freerunning. The former tend to look like urban obstacle course races measured for time. The latter tend to be judged for technique, creativity and so on.
Parkour is very popular among kids, why do you think it does attract more and more kids? Is there any correlation between Video Games and Parkour?
Training itself tends to be done informally in social groups that are self-selecting, with training times arranged consensually over facebook, snapchat and other social media.
This means training is a simple extension of the social and technological lives that most kids have these days. It doesn’t hurt of course that training is possible pretty much anywhere and requires no special or costly equipment.
The level of commitment is up to the individual and everyone gets to play. The image of a young child who has been driven to a match scheduled months in advance, wearing expensive kit, only to spend the match watching teammates from the sidelines is pretty much the opposite of what we do.
For us, this relevance to the way kids want to spend their time is vital. Everyone who values the power of sport to have a positive impact on young people needs to think really carefully about how kids live today and how we have to bring them with us.
In the USA all kids spend an average of just under two hours a day playing video games. And when they play, their game characters mostly use moves from parkour, freerunning and Art Du Déplacement to get around the 3D game environments. Over the last ten years, the game developers copied our moves to make the games more fun to play. So our physical practice already has complete resonance with the way kids these days consider human movement. And we know it’s vital to get these kids moving physically as well as virtually, since in the USA and Europe, one in three children is overweight or obese.
The Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l’Art Du Déplacement was recently created. What are the next moves of the international federation?
Our key early priorities have been schools, disadvantaged groups and recognition. We’re delighted to be working with ISF on the school side. In terms of disadvantaged groups, we are working on projects in Gaza and in Africa and also on the amazing popularity of parkour, freerunning and Art Du Déplacement among muslim women. We tend to train in long baggy clothes. Adding a headscarf is no problem and training can be done outside of the gyms and so on where women are sometimes prevented from training.
In terms of recognition, we are working with the International Olympic Committee on becoming a recognized international federation, with a deadline of September of this year. That will be really helpful in terms of making our practice “official”.
How will the ISF cooperate with the International Federation of Parkour? Are there any projects planned?
We are very excited that ISF has agreed to a demonstration of our practice at the 2016 Gymnasiade in Trabzon. We very much look forward to working with ISF members to connect them with our national member, so they may collaborate to make our practice part of their school sport and physical education curricula.
Thank you Mark for this interview and see you in Trabzon in July 2016 at the Opening Ceremony of the Gymnasiade!
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