Parkour in the natural eye

Trespassing and vandalism or a real sport and art form?

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These articles were written and submitted by young people across Kent, between August 2016 and July 2019. We are no longer adding new articles or maintaining old ones. Read more about Art31.

There is a big issue in parkour that almost every parkour practitioner goes through. From certain members of the public words such as ‘trespassing’ and ‘vandalism’ get thrown around a lot, but do these people not realise they are making false assumptions? Throughout my time involved with this art form, I have experienced aggressive and negative opinions but for us we are simply performing the art of movement.

Parkour is practiced in many different environments but mainly using urban, public spaces. I am not denying that privately owned buildings are used but can it really be classified as trespassing?  Some evidence I found on the internet from an online debate says “In many countries trespassing in private property is a civil offence. The law is the law, either you like it or not. Besides, private property can also be a philosophical issue and there are many people not wanting others ‘parkouring’ on their roof without even asking”. However we do not just go on people’s homes, we do not actually go on houses what so ever, we only ever go on things walls, places that are stable and that’s not very often, we go to commercial buildings and use them too. We choose certain buildings because they are good to train at, some places have something that we all really like to create movement around, these places help us progress so we go there. I spoke with a member of the parkour community and he says “we do not purposely go out and trespass to damage properties, we are only performing an art form.” In my opinion as a parkour practitioner we do not go out with the intention of trespassing or to break the law, we are only exploring our surroundings. Although technically we are trespassing, we choose a certain obstacle/building to go to because of its shape and form, the way a structure is creates so many ideas in our heads and we enjoy exploring the movement around it. We are only trying to perform our art form which happens to sometimes be on land that is owned. We do not just practice parkour on land that is owned by individuals, if it’s an owned property such as a house with a front and back garden, we don’t go on them what so ever. We go out to public areas where we do get a lot of people that enjoy watching it, but sometimes places we want to go happen to be owned properties or land. Parkour just uses the environment and buildings in a different way but it doesn’t cause any harm.

So what about potential damage to public and private properties? I found an article online talking about a ban on parkour in Horsham where an alleged £36,000 worth of damage has been caused. I contacted a parkour practitioner, Fraser Greenaway, and he explained “the intention is to never damage a property no matter if its public or not and I have always said if I ever damage a property enough that it needs repairs then I will always make sure money comes out of my pocket to fix it otherwise I am not respecting the life style and the art that I hold dear to my heart. I have been training for 4 years and I have never had to reach in my pocket to pay for something I have damaged because the fact is I have never damaged anything”. In my opinion, I have not known of any parkourist to purposely damage anything! Why would we damage property that helps us with the art form? I agree with Fraser and I would gladly cover any costs but there have not been any. we are also safe with our surroundings, if we can see that something may get damaged then we simply don’t go on it or near it. I got some information from a member of the public and they said “How do the public know this? If you are already willing to trespass then how do they know that you are not going to go on and damage their property?”. Normally if someone was to think we are damaging something they would come and say something to us, but we would reply to them in a nice manner and explain to them what we do and then hopefully from then they trust us and we can stay for longer, we respect our community and we love to inform the public on what we do, we want to gain there trust so they know we are not going out to damage property.

I mentioned earlier that there are a lot of assumptions made about Parkour and I think that one of the ways to overcome this is to challenge the stereotypes of young people. Groups of young people out in public spaces are usually considered a nuisance. It is generally assumed that they will be out to cause trouble, drink and take drugs. These stereotypes that are so often portrayed in the media damage the reputation of most young people and carry negative connotations. Dein Harry spoke about his views in the Guardian stating that “One stereotype of young people today is that they are all thieving, knife-carrying, troublemakers who waste most of their time dossing about”. I think that parkourists are affected by those assumptions and this may be why people feel threatened or concerned by them practising the art form. Members of the public need to understand the art form and what young people get out of doing it and the benefits it brings rather than the potential (and low risk) problems it causes.

There is also a belief that Parkour is a dangerous art form and that we just like to throw ourselves off buildings. From an article that I found online for ‘Getting Started With Parkour’, they say ‘You may want to assemble a small first-aid kit particularly for parkour training’. I talked to Fraser Greenaway who is a parkour practioner, and he says that ‘Parkour has less risk than football does and that is from personal experience’. In my opinion I agree with Fraser, I think that any sport out there can be more dangerous or as dangerous. I feel like that article is putting people off it because its making out that there will definitely be injury, but in any sport they have first aid kits, football, basketball, rugby, hockey, they are all dangerous so I don’t think it’s fair to try and single parkour out like its more dangerous than anything else. We practice parkour with safety, we spot each other if we’re doing something new, we go to gyms that have padded areas to practice on, trampolines, foam blocks, all so we can practice safely and learn new things so we know how to do the trick/movement before taking it outside. One of the main things we make sure people have learnt is a roll because it’s used so much and is a very safe way of landing. The place I like to go is Canterbury Gymnastics, they hold 2 hour long parkour sessions with coaches there to help and learn safety. So technically parkour is actually more safe than other sports.

So what is the difference between ‘personal’ parkour and ‘competitive’ parkour? I found from an online resource someone saying ‘It is reasonably impossible to make a different set of regulations to distinguish “personal” parkour from competitive parkour if the premise is that parkour should be totally free to practice. Fraser Greenaway reacted to this by saying  ‘Parkour is not a competitive sport because the only person who you are up against is yourself’. In my opinion, parkour isn’t a competitive sport, no one is against each other, and you do it because you love it. There’s no distinguishing from the both. Like Fraser also says the only thing that is competitive is the things linked with Red Bull but that is tricking. So this person clearly hasn’t researched into parkour and doesn’t know anything about it.

In conclusion, it seems to be that the people who have problems with parkour, don’t understand the art form and make false assumptions based on unfounded stereotypes and misrepresentation of the parkour community. What if all parkourist’s wore football style uniforms and had someone with a clip board and whistle? Maybe the public’s perception of us may change because they may see it as more of a sport. Parkour isn’t as big as football, and all the other sports, but it is growing, and people like to try and stop this with uneducated statements, talk to any parkourist out there and there will always be a good reason for everything we do, we respect the community. I feel that the public need to speak to us and find out what we are doing.  I don’t think it’s down to us to have to go up to every person we see and educate them before we do it, if someone doesn’t like it then they are allowed to ask us about it and share their opinion, from then we will inform them about parkour.