Parkour Kansas City
Chad Bowers didn’t learn about his favorite new workout at the gym or by reading an article about it. He watched videos on YouTube, where people have posted thousands of clips of themselves jumping over benches and railings, leaping down flights of stairs, climbing up walls and fences, and swinging from playground equipment and tree branches.
They’re practicing parkour, an extreme sport rooted in French military training that has been spreading to cities across America. Parkour fans are typically people like Bowers who discover it on the Internet and then start up local parkour clubs that get together for “jams.”
Bowers, 20, a junior at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., started practicing parkour almost a year ago. He met with more experienced practitioners – known as “traceurs” (males) or “traceuses” (females) — in Kansas City and St. Louis, and he and a friend created a group called Springfield Parkour.
The group is organized on Facebook and gathers on Saturdays at a local park where activities include warming up, performing calisthenics and practicing moves such as landing and rolling. Then they go “run around downtown Springfield, ” says Bowers, jumping and climbing on benches, fountains and parking garages.
Essentially, the world is one big playground for them.
Running, jumping and rolling on cement or vaulting over walls — usually without protective gear — might not seem all that appealing or smart to the average person. But parkour and a related activity called freerunning have been glamorized in videos, TV commercials and movies such as “Casino Royale, ” attracting young people — mostly guys, though more women and girls are getting involved — who are seeking out new adventure and alternative ways to get in shape.
“I like that it is a great workout, a total body workout, ” says Bowers. “It’s a great way to challenge yourself, to test what your mind can do, and it’s also a lot of fun.”
Sometime later this year, MTV is planning to air a special titled “Ultimate Parkour Challenge, ” which will feature eight top parkour athletes competing and performing stunts such as jumping between buildings. Victor Bevine, one of the show’s co-executive producers and a co-founder of the World Freerunning and Parkour Federation, of which the eight athletes belong, says the show is “very much not ‘Jackass.’” The athletes have prepared extensively for their stunts, he says.
Parkour is often defined as getting from “point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible using only the human body, ” says Mark Toorock, a parkour trainer who owns the gym Primal Fitness in Washington, D.C., and runs americanparkour.com.
But that definition isn’t entirely accurate, Toorock says. For example, the quickest and most efficient way to travel three city blocks would be to run straight, not climb and jump over nearly every object along the way. “We do it for training purposes because walking up the stairs doesn’t challenge us, ” he says.
Freerunning is an offshoot of parkour that refers to creative moves such as flips and spins and other gymnastic-style stunts.