Two parkour news stories came out today. One was anti-parkour, one was pro-parkour. Let’s see how they compare…
Some notable quotes from the first story:
A stunt trend called parkour has caught on among teenage boys in Hollister that has downtown business owners on edge.
Stunt trend? Where did you get that?
Downtown Hollister business owners said they are alarmed that high school students, mostly boys between the ages 14 and 17, have sporadically begun turning their buildings into concrete jungle gyms this summer.
The parkour phenomenon spread, even to small towns like Hollister, partially because of the video sharing website YouTube. What’s the point of jumping 30 feet and risking breaking your leg if only a couple of people see it?
The journalist clearly doesn’t understand parkour.
Typing “parkour” into the YouTube search bar brings up hundreds of videos, which get thousands of viewers, of young people filming their friends’ daredevil antics.
The journalist clearly doesn’t understand parkour.
Last week, business owners alerted the Hollister Police Department to the wannabe Spider-Mans.
A common enough reaction.
Police Capt. Dave Westrick said officers are going to crack down on the risky fad that he described as “crazy.”
Teenagers who are caught climbing on rooftops and doing parkour will be charged with trespassing and possibly vandalism, Westrick said.
Crazy? The good captain clearly doesn’t understand parkour. Nor does he understand the nature of parkour – what if they’re caught precisioning cracks in the pavement, or lines in a parking lot? It’s technically parkour, but any judge worth his gavel will toss out a case trying to prosecute teenagers for that.
Police officers’ biggest concern, however, is safety, Westrick said. Teenagers in other towns and cities have died while attempting parkour jumps. In 2009, 15-year-old Kenneth Ta, of Sacramento, died after he fell from an eight story parking structure while attempting a stunt.
I did a bit of research after reading this. The death of Kenneth Ta was not confirmed to have been related to parkour, although it is likely. There were no other reliable sources available on deaths that were definitely caused by parkour. If this had been written in Wikipedia, there would be a big blue CITATION NEEDED next to his words.
And finally, the articles links to this video:
David Belle. The person who has been training parkour longest. The face of parkour. The famous, living, breathing, and not disabled in any way, shape, or form face of parkour.
Notable selections from Story #2:
Why take the elevator when you can take the stairs? Even better, why take the stairs when you can climb up the side of the building?
If this sounds like a good idea, Parkour might be for you.
An excellent start.
For the uninitiated, Parkour is 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 recreational trend that has spawned dedicated groups of enthusiasts all over the world.
So, so much more accurate than the other story.
People who practice Parkour tend to enjoy training in groups so they can feed off each other’s energy.
Sounds somewhat zombieish… but still true!
People who practice Parkour view their environment differently. Ulrich remembered a particular meet up which showcased exactly how much Parkour can change a person.
“We were in a business complex and there was a backyard where we obviously weren’t supposed to be,” Ulrich described. “David was back there. He had lazy vaulted over a short wall and was playing around.”
When the group tried to let David know he was somewhere he shouldn’t be, he replied, “If I’m not supposed to be here, there would be a wall to keep me out.”
“We all looked at the wall that he’d vaulted over, and he looked at the wall,” Ulrich said, “and you could see on his face that he really didn’t remember going over it.”
Wow. This is a perfect example of how the parkour mindset works. Remember this?
Ulrich realized that by practicing Parkour, David had changed the way his mind perceives the space that he lives in through autohypnosis.
“I like to say I don’t see obstacles,” Ulrich said. “David literally doesn’t see obstacles anymore. It was probably the most magical and transcendental moment in all of Parkour for me. It was beautiful.”
Along with gates and fences, security can be an obstacle for the group to work around. This is another reason Davis is a good place to train.
“In Davis there’s almost no security malice towards us. Whenever we encounter the police, they caution us to be very careful. We’re being stupid by taking risks,” Ulrich said. “But they can’t really stop us from being stupid. That’s not illegal.”
Although they haven’t had trouble with security in Davis, they have had issues elsewhere. During a Sacramento meet up, the group was followed by a security guard around an admin building, across a bridge, and to a parking structure. Knowing the lower level was closed for construction, they jumped a gap to a girder to escape.
“We were able to drop down knowing he wouldn’t be able to get to us,” Ulrich said. “So he’d have to walk all the way back by himself, contemplating the nature of real freedom.”
A funny story, but running from security… not good.
Although public property can be liable for damage if the Parkour enthusiasts get hurt, they prefer it because training in designated areas is contradictory to the philosophy of freedom. When asked by authorities to move along, they tend to oblige.
Ulrich explained how important it is to remember how badly one can get hurt doing Parkour. So far the group has only experienced minor injuries at meet ups, mostly from not scouting out areas ahead of time, showing off, and X factors like dirt, water, and other things you can’t see. They have been lucky so far, but are aware of the possibilities of major injuries.
The injuries are inevitable, but Ulrich feels it is worth it for the feeling of freedom obtained through practicing Parkour. He feels as though the space we live in is, for the most part, wasted.
“Virtually the first two floors of every building in the city can be climbed by and utilized by us,” Ulrich said. “The idea that the only way to get to the second floor is from the inside of a building is preposterous.”
The first “news” piece is horrible even by the standards of good journalism, let alone accuracy. The writer seems to have watched two or three YouTube videos and wrote his articles based on extrapolations from that. He obviously didn’t even go to Wikipedia to do the tiniest bit of research on parkour. The article isn’t balanced with opposing opinions and the whole tone suggests that the author is extremely anti-parkour. There’s no research indicated anywhere, the only two people quoted have had no direct experience with parkour, and no traceurs have been interviewed. In the end, parkour has been reduced to the status of a dangerous, stupid fad only bored teenagers do.
The second article is much, much better, both journalistically and accurately. The writer has actually done some research and had firsthand contact with parkour and its practitioners. The philosophy behind parkour is explained, as are some of the effects beyond the physical. There’s humor, there’s seriousness, there’s physical issues, there’s mental issues, even the potential for injury is addressed – the article as a whole is complete, researched, thoughtful, and pro-parkour.
We need more news stories like that in the mainstream media. They can change the public perception of parkour from “roof-jumping, life-risking idiots” to something much more positive. What that will be, I don’t know. But right now, all most people know about parkour is the spectacular stunts they’ve seen in YouTube videos. They don’t realize the years and years of training that have gone into those tricks, or the hours upon hours spent every week in the gym conditioning, or the painful bails, or the mental battles every traceur must fight to overcome his fear.
We need a more positive perception. As parkour grows, so do the misconceptions – and that’s not good for anyone. I dread the day policemen start arresting traceurs and business owners place a blanket ban on parkour on their property.
News sources have the power to change public perceptions. The public perception of parkour needs to be changed. You do the math.