Bouncing off the walls

2014-10-24 00:00

YOU will be forgiven for not knowing what parkour is and forgiven again if you think someone is crazy for jumping off high obstacles or doing front flips between buildings.

Commonly known as parkour or Free Running, the sport involves moving through obstacles usually found in the urban environment by running, jumping, vaulting, doing flips and some other insane stunts.

A Hillcrest teenager is one of these “out there” sportsmen who love to live on the edge. Erin Barnard (16) said he has always been compelled “to move” and parkour is just one way to do it.

“I first got into it after my cousin showed me a few videos on YouTube. I started watching them and slowly started learning,” Erin said.

The process was fairly slow and Erin started with the basics — learning how to fall properly and not get hurt.

“Parkour is not just about doing insane flips and jumps. It’s about planning and thinking. When I do these stunts it may look like its improvised, but I have carefully planned it out, I know exactly where my hands are going and even what my toes are doing,” he said.

He suggests that newcomers take time learning how to roll in a way that is comfortable. “You need to be precise and safe, that’s the essence of parkour,” he said.

“Don’t start off with vaults and flips, first things first — the roll.”

Despite its dangerous appeal, Erin likens the sport to martial arts in that you only need your body and a space to work in.

“If you want to get started, the best place is your backyard and a mattress. That way you won’t get hurt, and there are plenty of videos on YouTube to help you get started.”

With no official parkour classes in Durban like there are in Europe, Erin believes that people can easily be self-taught like himself. Although it might take more than a month to get comfortable with the basics, “eventually you will click”.

So why should you try out parkour?

“I would encourage anyone to try it out, like anything in life you don’t know if you like it until you’ve had a taste.”

His philosophy on the sport is one of self improvement. “It’s not about being the best, but being the best you can be.

“The sky is the limit and only you know how much you’re willing to give,” he said.

Although it remains a hobby for Erin, he would love to “compete” in events like the Redbull Art of Motion series.

“It’s not a competition in the usual sense. They put together an obstacle course and you have a speed run, where guys have to get through it as quickly as possible. Then there is the creative run which is more about adapting to your environment and moving through it in the most innovative ways.”

Not only will parkour make you physically and mentally strong, it also teaches a measure of self-defence in everyday life.

“One of the founders of parkour believes that it is a martial art of escape. I know now that if I find myself in a bad situation I will always find a way to escape,” Erin said.

The sport was born in France in the late 1980s and has gained popularity worldwide.

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