Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Parkour, Luc Besson, and Urban cool

I have rediscovered a sport which combines urban landscape with individual athletics and creativity (plus good for escaping knife wielding maniacs); Parkour. 10 years ago Belle, a teen in Paris, with years of experience in martial arts and his father’s Army obstacle courses decided to start treating the entire urban landscape as one big obstacle course and invented Parkour. His street video called “City Jumping” is here, which includes his trademark parabolic jumps of 30+ feet from one building roof to another rooftop lower down.

Luc Besson, the father of all things cool has teamed up with the director of Onk Bak to make a film called District B13 (click the link and download it, you’ll thank me). Of course such a vision of urban hell with martial arts, Parkour and little girls giving the guys a major smack down all combined to make me mewl in anticipation. You may notice the final scene of the film trailer is similar to a scene in “City Jumping”. Yup, that’s right, the second protagonist in the film is Belle and they let him loose on his favorite playground to make this film.

My early days with urban obstacles occurred when my parents moved to LA and into a large tenement building. I was 8 and soon managed to piss off the head of the junior girls gang (she was probably 11) and thus spent the next months racing up stairwells and down hallways in escape attempts. The things our parents never know, eh? Belle does me better in trying to escape a gang of thugs in this extended scene from District B13; what inspiration this would have made for me when I was eight.

In the last few years Parkour has gone from a couple semi-insane guys treating their bodies like a cross between skateboards and shock absorbers to modern cool. Even the BBC did a Pakour ad (available to view here). Parkour groups are popping up all over the world. Canada has a contingent including the video of this guy from last year. Watch it to see a guy make going striaght up walls and monkey walking look easy (and the special ending bonus: the banana roll). Apparently the real skill is keeping the same pace so no matter what move you make, everything is fluid.

You may have the same question I did at this point: Where are the women? Like giant wave surfing (another fantasy hobby of mine) there is a small but growing contingent of women, including groups in both Brazil and the UK. In fact there is a short film called Space Chase going round the UK film festival circuit starring one of the rising Parkour female athletes in a Parkour race across the city. Female Parkour’s do exist and if you love screwing with the urban landscape, escaping girl gangs or make the very act of going from here to there one of artistic defiance then join me as a female Pk’er.

Hold on now a minute Beth, don’t you already need knee braces to, you know, walk? And didn’t you almost kill yourself in high school trying to do a handstand layout? How are you planning to leap buildings and climb up sheer walls? Hey, I have a plan. All it requires is daily Divine intervention. Just a steady supply of constant miracles and I too can Pk. So start the Elizabeth Parkour prayer network today (Get your churches involved, PLEASE!).

jpeg 3 - http://www.pkcc.ca/images/sept9/misc017.JPG
jpeg 5 - http://www.freerunning.pl/galeria/albums/userpics/10011/2.jpg


elizabeth said...

Yeah - I've seen this and it is mind boggling. I have this fantasy that I can skateboard- even have the shoes. Kind of funny. Also - I fantasize that I am some super fantastic horse back riding superstar in disguise - even though if a horse looked at me the wrong way I would more than likely faint.

snaip said...

A bit more precise on the roots of parkour; Belle's father didn't get the basic idea of parkour from army obstacle courses, but during the Vietnam War while he was in the french forces. They found out that being able to move swiftly in ruined urban environment was an important aspect of survival, which led into the birth of parkour.

That isn't really important in any way but I tought i'd share.

Anyway, nice bloggin'!

I also thought to post some links, first being the video that was entitled "City Jumping". This one doesn't have the stupid ads of boreme.com and it's in better quality. It also states in the end "Street climbing" which has made me wonder if the video was made before Belle came up with the name parkour.

David Belle & Cyril Raffaelli

Second, for all those interested, www.urbanfreeflow.com is quite a good place to get information related to parkour/freerunning.

And finally, the second best video i've ever encountered in terms of parkour. This video has "the flow".

The Progression

Yup yup.

Simon Logan said...

Sweetness, thanks for all the links Elisabeth! Only a couple of days ago I was trying to track down info on the Luc Besson film which I'd heard about after watching the Channel 4 show "Jump London" which featured the Parkour guys taking on the streets of London with some English recruits. Unfortuantely ScreenSelect doesn't have the DVD available but I'll skip over to those links and give 'em a check out! Cheers!

death said...

if you really want a miracle you should head out the states n got on to some fetal research kinda stuff. its not a perm cure but it works