“Parkay?” “No, Parkour. ‘PARK-oar’ ” “Oh.”

By Brian Vasquez

The title’s a conversation I recently had.  As much as I think Parkour (pronounced more like “park-oar”) has bust into the mainstream consciousness, a cold splash of water like that shows me otherwise.  I’ve been researching/poorly attempting  parkour since my college undergrad days.  And what is it?  The best answer I can give you is, “whatever it is you make it out to be.”  I defined it as getting from point A to point B in as linear and efficient a fashion as possible.  Maybe this involved hopping a fence, maybe leaping entire staircases.  The best example I had growing up was Jackie Chan, mostly in his Police Story street foot chases.

I remember also watching this:

A segment on “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!”

As well as the Nike Presto commercials, like “Angry Chicken.”  It was niche, it was a bit showy, and most importantly it looked like fun.  A few years later and now there are so many resources out there on the web for anyone looking into this little slice of physical activity; websites like http://www.Urbanfreeflow.com and AmericanParkour.com bridge the cultural gap.  MTV has a televised competition, “The Ultimate Parkour Challenge” and there’s a Barclaycard World Freerun Championships.

“Wait, ‘Freerun?'”

Freerunning is considered more showy than Parkour, involving flips and other kinds of gymnastics.  It’s two different ideologies better discussed for another day.  But this community has come a long way around the world in the past few years, and luckily for me there’s an active group here in Chicagoland.  Now, I just have to catch them.

Considering how they move, catching the folks at chicagoparkour.net might be easier said than done.

Brian Vasquez likes to look at the untold stories of niche sports around Chicagoland. You can view the work he’s done with NERF at his blog, Foam From Above, and follow him on twitter at @VasTheStampede.

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