Rolling with the jumps in the City of Roses

2012-07-28 16:44

A group of Bloemfontein exercise junkies who jump nimbly between roofs of buildings and swing from fire escapes say they are simply mimicking their early ancestors.

“We don’t need equipment or a sport field. We use what is available to us,” says Mpho Ramathe (27), a keen traceur, or practitioner of parkour.

Parkour has taken the world by storm in recent years, and traceurs perform spectacular stunts – sliding down bannisters, flitting between rooftops and jumping from terrifying heights.

“Our ancient ancestors would move in similar ways to escape danger and to chase after food,” says the 27-year-old.

Parkour, he says, is not a sport in the traditional sense. “It is more a discipline because it is non-competitive.”

Ramathe learned about parkour in 2004 through friends and video clips and was immediately taken by it.

Another enthusiast, Matthew Bester (28), says he started the pastime, also known as street running, about three years ago.

“At first it was just about having fun, but later when people started to notice us, our group started to grow,” he says.

Bester says the youngest member of the group, who now trains on the campus of the University of the Free State (UFS), is 14.

Ramathe says Bloemfontein is surprisingly rich in parkour potential.

“It ranges from the more urban areas such as the city centre, Loch Logan Waterfront and UFS to the rural potential found on koppies and the city outskirts,” he says.

He says parkour does not have an age restriction, but the general rule is that children should wait until they are 16 before practising movements that involve an impact on their joints.

Practising parkour not only keeps him fit but forces him to challenge himself and face his fears. “It is more of a lifestyle than a sport, and all the training is focused on mastering movement and your environment.”

Ramathe says practitioners first learn how to perform various vaults, how to jump and how to land correctly. And then, most importantly, how to roll.

“If you’ve mastered the roll then you’ll be able to jump from a roof, land, and not get hurt.”

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