West Coast Parkour Championships (WCPKC) – Calgary Qualifiers

Last month, I was in Calgary on a clinical placement for my Masters degree, and just so happened to be able to stay with my parkour boyfriend and his family since they lived super close to where I would be working. I had the best time there, getting to know his mother and siblings better, and also got to watch him train and compete in the West Coast Parkour Championship Qualifiers at Breathe Parkour South.

If you haven’t ever heard of this competition then that’s okay, because neither had I. The West Coast Parkour Championships (WCPKC) is the first and only parkour competition that takes place on the west coast, Qualifiers are hosted at various gyms along the coast, and athletes who qualify have the opportunity to compete in the finals in California on June 28th-July 1st, 2019.

My parkour boyfriend competed in skill and speed at the Breathe Parkour South gym, coming in 4th in skill, and 2nd in speed. I was a very proud girlfriend, and had to snap a few pictures of the podium. Hehe and I love the irony given the name of his parkour team is PODI, as in podium.

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While I am sad that I won’t be able to watch him compete, I will be sending him lots of light and love, and will have to phone him to say what I always do before he competes: “Go be strong. Go be useful,” a take on Georges Hébert’s motto “Être fort pour être utile.

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The Guy Involved in the James Charles Drama Trains Parkour

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past month, then you have likely seen at least one news story including the names James Charles and Tati Westbrook. The two are makeup gurus and beauty YouTubers, offering first impressions and reviews of products, as well as tutorials for various makeup looks.

While they have been friends for over three years, drama surfaced when James Charles posted a social media story promoting a vitamin brand that is the number one competitor of Westbrook’s company Halo Beauty. The issue became very public, and thousands of people weighed in on the situation, offering their theories and synopses of the pair’s friendship.

So in the world of beauty, where does parkour come in? The answer is Sam Cooke.

Samuel or Sam Cooke was a busser at John Howie, the restaurant at which Westbrook and her friends celebrated her birthday this past February. In her video, Westbrook stated that Charles has used his celebrity, money, and power to manipulate the sexualities of young men who are still uncertain of their identities. Case in point was Sam Cooke, whom Charles had been eyeing throughout Westbrook’s birthday dinner. However, in his final video on the subject, titled No More Lies, which now has over 44 million views, Charles offers screenshots of conversations with Cooke, as well as clips from Cooke’s video response to the situation, indicating that their interactions were purely consensual.

Cooke’s full instagram username is sam.cookepkfr. Being the girlfriend of a parkour athlete, I recognized that the letters pk and fr stood for parkour and freerunning, so I was curious to check out his account. Lo and behold, I found a young 20-year-old training precision jumps on railings and entire lines of kongs and twists. I asked my boyfriend to check out his account, and apparently not only is he good, but he has met him before. What a small world.

So many videos and blog posts have been published online about the drama between Charles and Westbrook, and I don’t want to weigh in on it because I wasn’t there. I think it could have been, and should have been, handled offline solely between the involved parties, but instead Charles, Westbrook, Cooke, and numerous drama channels have made response videos. Who knows, maybe the spotlight on Cooke will bring parkour and freerunning more recognition.

Everyone makes mistakes, and I think mistakes escalate when emotions are involved. All the people involved in the drama could likely benefit from the wise words of David Belle: “The best part of falling is getting back up again.” I hope that the people involved all get back up and move forward, spreading positivity and continuing to contribute to the beauty community.

Traceuse Crush Tuesday: Renae Dambly

Welcome back to another Traceuse Crush Tuesday where I showcase an incredible female parkour or freerunning trainer, and geek out over how powerful and talented they are.

This week’s traceuse has a special place in my heart because she is the first one I saw compete in-person. She was at the 2018 North American Parkour Championships at Breathe Parkour in Vancouver, BC, and she placed 1st in the Women’s Speed and Skill competitions, and 2nd in the Women’s Style competition.

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Photo from Facebook.com

Renae Dambly, born and raised in Denver, Colorado, began taking parkour lessons at age 14 at APEX Movement and, at age 16, became the youngest APEX Movement coach.

In addition to parkour, she has experience in a wide array of sports, including soccer, swimming, rugby, volleyball, diving, karate, track and field, rock climbing, and dance.

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Photo from RenaeDambly.com

In 2014, Dambly took her passion for parkour and movement to the next level with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science – Physiology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, working towards a Doctorate of Physical Therapy with a specialization in ankle and knee injuries.

A neat fact about Dambly is that she is a dual American and Canadian citizen, so we Canadians can sort of claim such an incredible athlete as our own.

For more Renae Dambly photos and videos, check her out on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as her website renaedambly.com.

Until next time, remember, “I believe there is something in all of us, a passion, that we have that can lead us to discovering ourselves. For me that is parkour” (Renae Dambly, 2017).

Parkour vs Freerunning

Thus far, I have almost exclusively used the term ‘parkour’ (right down to the title of this blog), but ‘freerunning’ is another, related term, and sometimes they are used interchangeably . However, within their respective communities, there are recognized nuances between them, and I wanted to delve into this a bit further.

As far as some practitioners are concerned, parkour and freerunning have the same referential target of interacting with the urban environment in new and novel ways. More stringent definitions, however, distinguish the two disciplines based on differing primary motivations for movement, origin, and philosophy.

Disclaimer: Distinguishing the two disciplines is not something that the communities really like to talk about, and this point of contention often leads to debate. This post is purely a component of my understanding, and I have no real opinion on the matter. 

Parkour is often described as a movement discipline in which trainers develop physical and mental strength in order to navigate from point A to point B in a complex urban environment as quickly and efficiently as possible. Comparatively, freerunning, while also a discipline of movement, focuses on the art of movement, so to speak, and the creativity with which trainers can explore their environment. Thus freerunning often features flips and acrobatics, while parkour focuses on the natural movements of running, jumping, and climbing.

The two disciplines may also be distinguished by their origins. The movements of parkour are rooted in parcours du combattant, that is, military obstacle course training. Conversely, freerunning is the brainchild and English translation of parkour first used by Sébastien Foucan, one of the original nine trainers of parkour who brought the discipline to the UK, and emphasizes self-expression and the development of self-confidence through physical and mental training.

Lastly, parkour and freerunning differ in their philosophies and mindsets, an aspect of the movement disciplines that is not often discussed outside of their respective communities. Parkour focuses on overcoming and adapting to both mental obstacles and physical barriers, optimizing efficiency of time and energy. A more recent element of parkour philosophy is reclaiming what it means to be a human being and augmenting the natural movements developed from infancy, referred to as “human reclamation.” In contrast, freerunning personalizes movement, making it a subjective experience in an objective environment.

In short, the main distinction between parkour and freerunning is efficiency vs artistry. While both are intense full-body physical pursuits, the former focuses on efficient movement from point A to point B, and the latter prioritizes creative expression and freedom to move in unique ways. However, the communities are very much interleaved, and there appears to be a sense of camaraderie between trainers of both disciplines. Trainers of parkour and freerunning may train together, and may train both disciplines, bringing elements of each into their movements and influencing the changing semantics around the disciplines.

Until next time, in the words of Alister O’Loughlin, “when you work with Parkour you can work simultaneously in the imagination and real world and that’s quite a rare thing to find outside of the arts.”

Why Do Parkour Gyms Exist?

In the last 15 years or so, the establishment of parkour gyms and online searches for them worldwide has been a major cultural shift in parkour and freerunning communities.  And, like all major changes, the existence of parkour gyms has become a source of controversy.

On one side of the debate is what I am going to call the purist parkour community. By this I mean that some trainers believe the true, and really only, way to train parkour is with no equipment in dynamic urban environments to strengthen both physical and mental resolve. In addition, indoor facilities arguably offer unnatural training simulation, which does not translate perfectly to outdoor training, potentially offering oversimplified environments.  Furthermore, parkour gyms are expensive to both attend and maintain, making them inaccessible for many people who do not have the financial resources for continued indoor training.

All that being said, the existence of parkour gyms has several circumstantial and cultural functions. The most paramount of these functions is safety, as indoor training facilities offer a controlled environment for both new and experienced trainers to learn and develop basic movements with reduced likelihood of serious injury. Indoor training facilities are also particularly useful in countries like Canada with a very distinct winter season, offering a space to train during weather-non-permitting months when the ground and major urban structures are covered in snow and ice. Gyms also provide a central locale for connection and relationship development within the parkour community. In many cities, gyms offer a central hub for the organization of classes, workshops, and jams that bring together trainers of all different skill levels and foster trust and friendship between all.

In short, the controversy surrounding parkour and freerunning gyms is an issue of respect, understanding, and preference. Indoor training facilities have many merits, including offering a safe, year-round, community space, but it must be acknowledged that parkour is an outdoor endeavour that was founded to solely exist in outdoor urban environments. Thus, indoor facilities are reasonable alternatives and serve to foster growth and development of strength and skill, but cannot replace the execution of physical and mental feats in ever-changing urban environments and natural elements.

Until next time, “work on your ability to grow, to open up, to trust more in yourself so that you may trust more in others as well. Work on your ability to reduce your fear, to know yourself better so that you may know how to react in life” (Williams Belle, n.d.).

Traceuse Crush Tuesday: Lynn Jung

While parkour, like many other disciplines, appears to be male-dominated, there are numerous talented women who train parkour (referred to as traceuses). Once my boyfriend showed me a few of them on Instagram, I was blown away by their skill, and proceeded to Internet deep-dive to find as many traceuses as I could.

So, the newest segment on this blog is a spin-off of the viral trend Woman Crush Wednesday or #wcw, but instead I am doing a Traceuse Crush Tuesday to showcase some of the incredible women training parkour and freerunning around the world.

It was such a no-brainer when picking the traceuse to start this segment with because she is one of the most well-known and successful parkour and freerunning athletes in the world, and I just can’t get over how flipping  amazing she is (pun completely intended). The day that I meet her is the day all my dreams come true.

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Photo from LynnJung.net

With 8 years of training experience, and 5 as a professional athlete, Jung has become a world-renowned freerunner, and an XDubai sponsored athlete. She is also the only female member of the esteemed UK-based freerunning team, Storm Freerun.

Unlike many freerunners, Jung comes from a gymnastics, dance, and choreography background, making her movements efficient, yet creative and graceful. She makes freerunning look so effortless which, I can assure you, it is not.

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Photo from StormFreerun.com

Some of her accolades include 3rd place at Apex International Women’s Style Competition 2016, highest ranking female athlete at Vigo Street Stunts 2016, and Best Female Athlete at Red Bull Art of Motion 2016, the world’s most popular freerunning competition.

In addition to training and competing, Jung has done a lot brand work, appearing in ad campaigns for Puma, Zalando, Audi, and Tele2, as well as live performances for Adidas, Plein Sport, and Swarovski.

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Photo from Facebook.com

For more incredible Lynn Jung photos and videos, she can be found on Instagram, FacebookPinterest, and her website LynnJung.net, which I highly encourage checking out.

Until next time, remember, “You must be capable of doing it; you must become stronger because if you want to be capable of doing great things, you must be capable here and now of doing this” (Williams Belle, n.d.).

Why Backflips Are So Fascinating

One of the main things onlookers say when they see people training parkour is, “Do a backflip!” As mentioned in my post 5 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Practices Parkour, asking if trainers can do a backflip is a really weird question that no one wants to be asked. Let me spare you the awkwardness and answer on behalf of (almost) all parkour trainers: Yes, they can do a backflip.

But this got me thinking about why backflips are so fascinating. I think there are several reasons, and I wanted to delve into each in turn. (Warning: physics stuff to come)

First of all, to start rotation, arms have to be swung with enough force to give initial angular momentum. Unlike normal momentum, which is the product of mass and velocity, angular momentum is the result of rotational mass and angular velocity. This rotational mass, i.e. the moment of inertia, is dependent on both the mass of an object, and the distribution of this mass. In short, generating enough force to fling yourself into the air is a feat in itself, one that I am scared to try even with supervision for fear of over-doing it and falling.

Once in the air, legs must be pulled in close to the chest to decrease rotational mass and increase angular velocity.

Finally, landing feet-first and maintaining stance despite momentum is the final hurdle of performing a backflip.

Overall, a backflip requires an appropriate power-to-weight ratio and rapid responsiveness which, for many years, was possible only for humans. However, in November 2017, a robot named Atlas, created by Boston Dynamics, became able to achieve this.

This just goes to show that, while a backflip serves no useful purpose, we as humans are fascinated by them as a marvel of physical prowess that now we’re building robots that can do them too.

While some argue that backflips are not a part of parkour, i.e. efficient movement from point A to point B, backflips are often featured in lines of the more creative movement discipline of freerunning.

Overall, parkour and freerunning are amazing physical disciplines that require equal parts skill and determination, both of which I admire in trainers, and are made up of more than just backflips. Keep that in mind the next time you see people training, and don’t be that person who shouts out, “Do a backflip!”

Until next time, remember, “the way of the parkour is to continue, not to stay here” (Sebastien Foucan, n.d.).