Simple Fun: PARKOUR! with Jim Sinclair

Reading Guide: ‘Kids’ — this section is for kids; ‘Grown-ups’–this section is for grown-ups. “Words to Learn”: Blue–words for kids to learn; Orange–words for Grown-ups to learn (definitions are at the bottom of the blog post). We include words from the video too!

Kids, do you ever climb trees or roll around on the ground? How about playing on jungle gyms at the park? Tag? Grounders? Guess what? You’re doing parkour.

It’s true. When you run and jump and roll you are doing some of the most fundamental moves of parkour!

A lot of people hear the word “Parkour” and think it’s a new extreme sport that involves doing backflips off of everything. Actually, it’s not a new sport at all and it’s not even that extreme. In fact, calling parkour a “sport” is incorrect. Sports usually involve teams or individuals competing  against each other for a prize or to win. Most forms of parkour don’t involve any competition at all. Instead, they focus on the opposite of competition, something called “altruism“.  Altruism is like the best type of friendship: one in which you always help anybody else who needs it. And, if you think about it, when do people need the most help? Usually it’s when they are really scared. Parkour helps you overcome that fear and help other people–just listen to this story:

Once upon a time…well, a specific time…one hundred and ten years ago to be exact…in a land sort of far away called Martinique, there was a very beautiful and lively city called Saint-Pierre. And in that city there lived a very smart man called Georges Hébert. Georges loved to travel. He went all over the world. He visited so many different continents and learned all about as many cultures as he could. One continent he really liked was Africa. He found it interesting there because many of the Africans he visited chased animals to get their food. That made them really good at running through fields and jumping over trees at the greatest of speeds.

Then one day a terrible thing happened. The mountain that the city of Saint-Pierre was built on started to erupt! It was a huge volcano! Pieces of rock  and trees were flying through the air. Buildings were falling down and red-hot lava was flowing through the streets starting everything it touched on fire. Everyone was very very scared. Everybody, that is, except Georges Hébert.

He looked at the people of Saint-Pierre who were running from the lava, getting trapped by fallen trees and rocks and buildings…and he thought back to the people he had met in Africa. He thought about them running and jumping over everything in their way so that they could chase and get away from animals as fast as they could.  He knew he could use what the Africans had taught him to help the people of Saint-Pierre.

That day Georges Hébert saved 700 people’s lives by helping them escape from the deadly volcanic eruption in Martinique.

Seem like a wild story? Well, it’s true. Georges Hébert was a real person who really did save the lives of 700 people in Saint-Pierre when Mount Pelée exploded in 1902. When he later returned to his home in France, he used what he had learned in Africa and saw as life-saving in Martinique to train people in the French military. Hébert focused his training on developing the natural movements that all humans learn when we are babies: rolling, balancing, crawling running, wrestling, climbing and jumping. He thought that the better people were at moving their bodies in all types of different ways the more they could help each other in scary situations. His motto was “Be Strong to Be Useful.”

A couple of generations later, a boy in Paris, France, named David Belle, created something he called, “le parcour”. He called it “le parcour” because he was running and jumping around in ways that were inspired by things his dad had learned in the French military. In the military David’s father had trained on obstacle courses called “parcours du combattant”, or, ‘combat courses’–the ones that were designed by Georges Hébert. Mr. Belle had to learn to go from one place to another as quickly as possible by going over, under, along, or around any and all obstacles.

Over the years “le parcour” has come to be called “parkour” but it still upholds the ideas of going past any obstacle as quickly as possible and being strong to be useful.  

Because parkour is based on developing your body’s natural way of wanting to move it means that there is room for as many different styles of movement within parkour as there are people practicing it. Sometimes, when people who practice parkour, called “traceurs“, want to do movements that come from breakdancing, gymnastics, martial arts, or even things like skiing, the type of parkour that they practice becomes less about moving from one place to another really quickly, and more about playing with style. Because this form of parkour is about being totally free to move in any way, this type of parkour is often called “freerunning“.

Whether you are practicing parkour to move really quickly or to free run, what it means is that there is lots of room in parkour to try your own thing. Today’s Simple Fun video host, Jim Sinclair, has practiced parkour for six years and even still he is inspired to add new types of style to his parkour. He uses dance and balancing, even swimming and acrobatics to develop his style. You can do the same. Take whatever it is you already like to do–maybe it’s swimming or bike riding–and think about how you can use the way you move up and down and all around in water or zip really fast down the street on a bike to help create your style when are running around on the playground at school tomorrow. It might sound really off the wall, but traceurs know that bouncing off the wall is a ton of fun. And it will help you to be even better at helping your friends; or, being “altruistic”.

Grown-ups, ever the performer, Jim avidly endeavours to master anything remotely challenging. Be it parkour, literature, or his new-found appetite for modern dance, Jim is an insatiable glutton for expanding his horizons.

On the difficult path now of seating himself with the top touring circuses of the world, Jim has moved on from his degree in literature to instruct and train constantly at more than a handful of gymnastics and fitness centres around Calgary, including, of course, No Limits AFC.

He (and his compatriots in the Bonus section that ends this Simple Fun video) are all sporting red t-shirts that say, “Breathe” on them–you may have noticed. Multi-dimensional, “Breathe” is taken as both a motto and a constant reminder to remain centred and calm while exploring the limits of human ability. It is also the name of a Calgary-based parkour magazine: Breathe Parkour. Though constantly expanding its international footprint, Breathe has its roots in Calgary, and features many of the traceurs/traceuses you saw in the video and may catch a glimpse of bounding about the streets of YYC. Much in the ground-breaking vein of parkour, Breathe is a maverick in its own right, being one of only two distributed parkour publications in the world.

Words to Learn

For Kids:

altruism: wanting more than anything to take care of other people and to know that they are safe and happy.

compete: trying to win at something or to show that you are better at something than somebody else (maybe you are stronger or faster). Parkour athletes do not ‘compete’ with each other. They use their skills to help other people get better at using their own skills.

continent: there are seven huge stretches of land that make up most of the land in the world, they are called ‘continents’. The Calgary International Children’s Festival takes place on the ‘continent’ of North America. The other continents are called Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America. Can you point out all of them on the Map? Can you find Saint-Pierre in Martinique? (We’ll give you a hint: Martinique is an island in the Caribbean. That means it’s in between North and South America.)

Can you name and find all seven continents?

culture: different groups of people go about their daily lives in slightly different ways. Depending on where and how they grew up, they speak different languages, eat different food, play different games, and tell / believe different types of stories about where their people came from and what is most important to them. ‘Culture’ is a word we use to talk about all of the things that one group does and believes. There are lots of different ‘cultures’ in the world and so many things to learn from every one of them.

diagonal: a straight line that joins two opposite corners of a square or a rectacle.

erupt: to explode with fire and noise in a very violent and scary way. When volcanos ‘erupt’ they shoot lava and fire and gas and ash into the air.

‘extreme’ sport: a sport that takes place in a dangerous environment or one that involves a lot of risk of injury. Parachuting and bungee-jumping are often considered extreme sports. Though some people would say it is, parkour is not actually ‘extreme’ because it is based on moving to the most of your natural ability, not using technology to push past your natural limits.

freerunning: a form of parkour that is less concerned with moving from one place to another as quickly as possible and more with style. ‘Free Running’ uses skills from every type of movement possible, including dance, martial arts, gymnastics, and acrobatics.

fundamental: something that is so important to a thing that without that aspect the thing would not exist.

generation: sometimes it means to make something. But when we use it in this blog post it means all of the people who were born and began living at the same general period of time. You and your brothers and sisters are part of one ‘generation’, your parents are part of another, and your grandparents are part of yet another.

individual: one person. A person by themselves is an ‘individual’.

lava: really really hot melted (or, ‘molten’) rock that comes out of a volcano. When a volcano erupts it shoots out rocks that come from way down deep within the Earth. The centre of the Earth is so hot and under so much pressure that it melts rocks, and, when a big opening is made in the Earth’s surface (like the one made by an erupting volcano), the molten rock from the Earth’s core shoots out.

military: countries, like Canada and France, have soldiers that fight to keep the people of the country and other countries safe. When we talk of all of the soldiers of a country together, we call the group, the ‘military’.

motto: a short saying that shares the fundamental beliefs of a group of people.

obstacle: things that block a person from going to one place to another. There can be physical ‘obstacles’ like fallen trees or walls, and there can be mental ‘obstacles’ like being scared to do something. Either way, parkour athletes train to get better at overcoming all types of ‘obstacles’.

parkour: a movement-based practice that uses natural human movements (running, jumping, climbing, balancing, etc.) as its basis. The main idea of parkour is to move from one place to another as quickly as possible by going over, around, under, or through as many obstacles as is needed.

pose: a particular way of standing or keeping your body still. When you smile for a photo you are ‘posing’.

style: the way in which you do something–if you do it differently than everybody else, you do that thing with your own ‘style’. Jim Sinclair’s ‘style’ of parkour shows off things he has learned from dance and circus performance. Other parkour athletes have styles that show a lot more things from martial arts or cheerleading.

traceur / traceuse: a male person (boy or man) who practices parkour is called a ‘traceur’. A female (girl or woman) who does is called a ‘traceuse’. These are French words that come from another French word, “tracer”, which means to “trace”. You know when you want to draw a picture just like something you’ve seen so you put a piece of thin paper over the original paper and “trace” the lines? Well, when a parkour athlete runs from one place to another the way they chose to take is called their “line”, and because they chose to run over that “line” it is like they are “tracing” it. So, we call parkour athletes ‘traceurs’ and ‘traceuses’.

volcano: a mountain or a hill that is connected through a big hole in its centre by something like a tube that stretches all the way down under the surface of the Earth. Many big mountains in the world were created because they were once volcanos and the molten rock that erupted out of them from the Earth’s core eventually cooled and added to the size of the rock that was already there.

For Grown-ups:

Breathe Parkour Magazine: one of two formal parkour publications in the world, Breathe Parkour Magazine was started in 2010 by a Calgary traceur-traceuse pair, Matt Talbot-Turner and Frankie Skripal. The magazine reports on worldwide trends in parkour. You may read the digital version of the latest issue here. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

No Limits AFC: parkour is a discipline that is designed to help you move efficiently and safely through obstacles in your everyday (often urban) environment. But sometimes it is nice to build up your confidence with knowledgeable instructors and a soft floor. No Limits Alternate Fitness Concepts Gym provides a vestige in Calgary for introducing yourself to parkour and pushing the limits of collaboration on your skills. They also often work with Breathe Parkour Magazine to host open, public parkour ‘jams’ in and around Calgary. Come to the gym and a jam! For anyone interested in parkour and the traceur community, No Limits is definitely the source to follow on Facebook and Twitter.

parkour: a movement-based practice that uses natural human movements (running, jumping, climbing, balancing, etc.) as its basis. The main idea of parkour is to move from one place to another as quickly as possible by going over, around, under, or through as many obstacles as is needed. There are various forms of parkour that have developed out of showcasing specific skills which are less concerned with efficiency of movement. This other type of parkour is often referred to as “freerunning“.

traceur / traceuse: a male person who practices parkour is called a ‘traceur’. A female who does is called a ‘traceuse’. These are French words that come from another French word, “tracer”, which means to “trace”. The derivation occurs because when a parkour athlete runs from one place to another the route they chose to take is called their “line”, and because they chose to run over that “line” it is like they are “tracing” it. So, we call parkour athletes ‘traceurs’ and ‘traceuses’.

check out our other blog posts for many more “Words to Learn” and lots of hints for having simple fun.


One response to “Simple Fun: PARKOUR! with Jim Sinclair

  1. Pingback: Simple Fun Bonus Video: PARKOUR! HEADSTANDS! with Amanda ‘Panda’ Holmedal | Calgary International Children's Festival

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