“My Movement is my Playtime”: How Parkour Changed My Life.

Parkour – What is parkour? “The activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.” – Wikipedia.

If you’d asked me what parkour was 4 years ago, it would have been something different, something like “A class that I go to, so I can get fit”. But in reality, though my personal perceptions have changed, it’s always going to be different for each person; it’s evolving constantly, creating an open-mindedness to movement. I started parkour in April 2012. I started it because I was told that it was physically challenging, and I liked the concept of a physical challenge, and I liked being pushed. Also, it’s just a pretty cool skill to have. What parkour has become to me is more than just an exercise class, it’s become a way that I live. My movement is my playtime. Parkour jams are my ‘nights out’ in the day. Parkour has a strongly knit community to it, which has allowed me to forge friendships that are pure, and trust everlasting. These are only some of the things that make parkour special to me.

Picture A

Parkour has many elements to it. When you’re trying to do a jump, for example, you need to consider – “Can I see that jump?”, “Who or what is around me?”, “Can I utilise them to help me?”, “Will I hurt myself doing this jump?”, “Am I safe?” – All of these thoughts, and many more, run through my head when trying to break different jumps. They’ll often rush up unexpectedly; an anxious flush of thoughts that put you on edge. Staying true to your spirit, trusting your body, and relaxing your mind, are all steps that help when breaking a jump. ‘Breaking’ a jump, in parkour, is the term used when there’s a jump that you’ve never done before, or a jump that you have done before but are fighting your mind to commit to. It’s all about the person and their experience with different movements.

“To practice parkour you don’t need to be bog standardly fit, you need to be willing to move.”

Parkour has a huge safety element that you’ll need to learn early on. Strength development is also key and strength conditioning isn’t just a tool for working muscles that aren’t worked through moving in parkour, it’s also a way to ‘bulletproof’ the muscles and joints that you do use in parkour. I use the term ‘moving’ a lot, because it is all-encompassing. There is no set way that you should be moving, but rather set moves that have been practiced. A lot of Traceurs/Traceuss’(Parkour Practitioners) tend to train in many different ways, and in other disciplines as well – i.e. Handstands, Tricking, Juggling, Martial Arts, Yoga, Climbing, Slack-lining, etc. So you’ll often hear people “going out to train parkour”, when in reality they’ll do a few jumps and some vaults, then change-up what they’re doing, entirely shifting out from standard parkour to another discipline. When you’ve been pushing yourself a lot and training for a long time on the same movements, it’s activities like these that add variety to your routines and make for a more exciting training session. It also stops you overworking yourself physically in one particular sphere by pre-occupying your mind with something else that is still active. Plus, the skills from most of these disciplines are transferable practices and help keep parkour routines well-rounded. With practice and experience you start to learn where each skill applies, and how each skill transfers over. It works wonders for your multi-tasking skills too.

In my experience, a big reason people don’t want to do parkour is because they feel they can’t because they’re not fit enough. Ridiculous. This isn’t a valid reason at all in my opinion. To practice parkour you don’t need to be bog standardly fit, you need to be willing to move. Honestly, that’s it. If you can move, and overcome the fears of starting out, you can get into parkour too. Fear is a massive part of the process, agreed, and it’s not something to shun entirely. With tranquillity in movement, fear is there to balance it out. Upon starting everyone discovers that there’s a big mental battle with fear, and everyone will find that their experience is at least in some way different. That’s part of the beauty of it. It might be to try a cavalier (ca-val-ee-a), continuing a physical conditioning set, sticking a rail jump, or simply just balancing on a rail. But it will come, and it will feel great to stick at it and achieve something beyond your comfort zone.

I’ve been training parkour for just over 4 years now. And though within the first year of training I knew I wanted to become a coach, I didn’t ever think I’d become this dedicated to it. In fact, prior to actually doing any coaching, I spoke about a lot about my goals with those around me and was, surprisingly, met with a certain degree of negativity from some. And here I am now a successful coach. My point is, when you have a dream, it’s important to forget the negativity and focus on the positive. It wouldn’t have been my dream, and I wouldn’t have achieved what I now have if the negativity had put me off. I’ve now got to a stage where I’ve been able to start my own organisation, West Coast Shift, so I can coach throughout Scotland, and I love it. A year later I’m still training; still excited about every day that I go out training. I still struggle to sleep from excitement because of workshop’s that I’ll be running the next day, always arriving super early so I can be prepared. And working on progressions for the next class that I have and long-term development are massively exciting prospects for me. In short, I’ve fallen in love with parkour.

Picture C (1)Why do I want to coach parkour now? Parkour has brought so much to me, helped carve a path in my life that has changed the way I look at the world, people, sports, and many other outlooks of life. I feel like I owe parkour something back. And to be honest, it’s great. I don’t regret a thing, and if I could do it all over, make choices about my lifestyle up till now again, I’d do it all the same way. I’ve connected with so many people through training and I’m now at my peak physical physique. What’s more, I know a lot about the human body and how it works; information that helps to advance my parkour training and other sports too. I’ve also changed personality wise – I’d never have been this open about myself, or as sensible about it.

Coaching parkour is my dream job, and I’ve made it happen. And if I’ve learnt anything at all, it’s to break through boundaries. My advice: if you have a dream, push for it, and don’t let anything stop you.

“Danger is real. Fear is a choice.”

– After Earth


You can check out Paul’s parkour company online or on Facebook too.