If you’ve seen children flying through the air, springing and spinning around your local area don’t dismiss it as horseplay, take a moment to look at what they do. It is likely that you’ve come across practitioners of the latest freestyle acrobatic discipline called parkour, or ‘free-running’.
There has been a recent surge in popularity of this discipline mainly among teenagers, as it does not involve any specific equipment and is challenging, exhilarating and requires a high level of skill and control.
British Gymnastics have defined the discipline as “Freestyle” gymnastics and several Springfit coaches are qualified to teach this loose form of gymnastics.
Classes run in a very different way to our structured ability-based classes, as members are encouraged to discover their own style and technique, with helpful guidance and support from qualified and experienced coaches.
For more information please see our Freestyle Gymnastics page describing how our classes run.
Springfit run Freestyle classes at St Bede’s school, Redhill every Monday from 6:30pm to 8pm for younger children and 8pm to 9:30pm for older members as well as at Oakwood Sports Centre, Horley on Wednesdays from 7:00pm to 8:00pm and 8:00pm to 9:00pm.
Why not come and try it yourself? Get in touch to book yourself in for a trial.
Further information on Parkour:
What is it?
Parkour is largely defined as the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment. It is also a state of mind, rather than simply a set of actions, which encourages practitioners, known as ‘traceur’ and ‘traceuse’s, to overcome and adapt to everyday mental and emotional obstacles as well as enjoying the challenge of conquering physical barriers.
Parkour differs from the art of free-running which has more emphasis on freedom of expression and creativity, rather than efficiency and speed. Traceurs take the most direct path through an obstacle as rapidly as that route can be traversed safely. Developing one’s spatial awareness is often used to aid development in these areas, and by training effectively, one can enhance self-confidence and critical-thinking skills as well as avoiding injuries by focusing on efficiency. This idea embodying parkour’s unofficial motto is être et durer (“to be and to last”).
Parkour movements typically include running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, balancing, and quadrupedal movement. Movements from other physical disciplines are often incorporated, but acrobatics or tricking alone do not constitute parkour.
Parkour training focuses on safety, longevity, personal responsibility, and self-improvement. It discourages reckless behavior, showing off, and dangerous stunts. Parkour practitioners value community, humility, positive collaboration, sharing of knowledge, and the importance of play in human life, while demonstrating respect for all people, places, and spaces.
Why is it important?
Among the many benefits to undertaking the art of parkour is that it offers you the opportunity to train to be fitter, healthier and more in tune with your own body. It offers the ability to overcome your fears and pains. To think about the world in a different way.
The ethos and philosophy behind parkour is one of non-rivalry and practitioners believe that if it becomes a competitive sport it will be going against is philosophical basis as improving individuals’ self-development and bringing people together to work together. In the words of Andy Animus of North America Parkour, “touch the world and interact with it…”
Those who truly practice Parkour have the same mind aspect of each other, therefore it brings people to work together rather than compete, it allows them to be united internationally and forget the social and economical problems which separated them globally, ultimately leading one giant community working and growing together.
Originator of the modern discipline David Belle highlights that parkour is, in fact, an ancient art which was “created by few soldiers in Vietnam to escape or reach, and this is the spirit we’d like parkour to keep. You have to make the difference between what is useful and what is not in emergency situations. Then you’ll know what is parkour and what is not. So if you do acrobatics things on the street with no other goal than showing off, please don’t say it’s parkour. Acrobatics existed a long time ago before parkour.”
There have also been considered to be many similarities between the philosophies of martial arts and parkour. In an interview with The New Yorker, David Belle acknowledges the influence of Bruce Lee’s thinking: ‘There’s a quote by Bruce Lee that’s my motto: ‘There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. A man must constantly exceed his level.’ If you’re not better than you were the day before, then what are you doing—what’s the point?”’
Following in his father’s visionary footsteps through military obstacle course training, French founder David Belle led the original team of nine practitioners in 1997 known as the Yamakasi group, which included Sébastien Foucan, who brought popularity of the stunt side of the art to the UK public in Channel 4 documentary “Jump London” in 2005.
Other media attention has brought elements of parkour into the limelight following television advertisements, news reports and entertainment pieces, which often combine with other forms of acrobatics, such as free running, street stunts and tricking to provide scintillating entertainment. Stuntmen also use the discipline, and following the representation of parkour in the film Casino Royale, militaries from many different countries have even began looking for ways to incorporate it further into their training.
What’s going on now?
With a requirement for consistent, disciplined training with an emphasis on functional strength, physical conditioning, balance, creativity, fluidity, control, precision, spatial awareness, and looking beyond the traditional use of objects, the gymnasium is the perfect place to train.
One of the leading figures in the UK today is Alistair ‘Buster’ O’Loughlin of the Prodigal Theatre Company who runs the Urban Playground group based in Brighton. He works in partnership with some of the original Yamakasi group called ‘Gravity Style’, and provides numerous councils and organisations with help to develop facilities and opportunities for people to get involved with this unique and innovative discipline. Crawley Council have funded an outdoor facility called PKTA in Bewbush, which Buster’s Urban Playground team designed.
Springfit have worked with Buster to provide Surrey practitioners with further technical knowledge and aim to proivde further facilities in the area. We currently run parkour classes at St Bedes school in Redhill every Monday evening, and have a very talented team of traceurs who are now helping to coach others in their pursuit of taking the art of movement to the next level. You can get involved too! Contact us to book yourself in for a trial.