MN Parkour: gymnasts of the city

City Pages–MN Parkour from Black Iris Media on Vimeo.

Ah, to be young and limber. Parkour – the art of “freerunning” – combines martial arts with gymnastics. The idea is to traverse an obstacle course as smoothly, and as quickly as possible, using only your body. Practioners of parkour are called “traceurs.”

Frenchman David Belle created the sport, and it’s since taken off in action films, most notably District 13 and District 13: Ultimatum (starring Belle) and the opening scene in the James Bond film Casino Royale (the only time I found myself rooting for the bad guy in a Bond film).

This week City Pages reports on the rise of parkour in Minnesota, particularly in Eagan.

“It’s really weird to think that just a few years ago we would get like six people out here for weekend training; today we had like 30,” [Chad] Zwadlo says. “The major national jams will sometimes only get like 50 people, and we’re pulling numbers close to that on a random Sunday.”

As for why parkour is growing at such a rapid rate, especially in the Twin Cities, Skinny says the answer is that it’s the most natural sport of all.

“Think about it like this: When you’re a kid, you just run around and climb on bars and jump off of stuff. You’re playing,” Skinny says. “Then as we get older, society tells you that you need to stop doing that. They tell us that we need start walking in a straight line on the sidewalk, telling us to stop playing.

“What we’re doing here today, this is just us getting back to our roots: We’re playing and having fun.”

Of course, the article also talks about the dangers of doing a back-flip on concrete. Interested in becoming a traceur? Find out about classes in the sport here.

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