When I was much younger than I am now I wanted to be a stunt man. I wanted to be able to fall and roll and jump off (slow moving) bikes, (low) walls or fall down stairs and emerge triumphant (and most of all uninjured!) Many of these I tried and did to varying degrees of success with the odd bump, bruise and scrape. That is, with the exception of the stairs, that didn't go so well the one time I tried it, not surprisingly. I forgot about it after a while, but would still marvel at and admire the athleticism of people like Douglas Fairbanks, Burt Lancaster and Jacky Chan in his early martial arts movies, as he squeezed through tight gaps and fought off attackers with aplomb and ingenuity.
Gymnastics was something that always interested me, along with athletics. I would watch gymnasts on TV with an appreciation of what training they must have to go through and the ease at which the made the difficult seem easy. Attending my first and so far only gymnastics event was a joy and I watched the participants with something approaching awe. Especially the few who fell, dusted themselves off and carried on with what they had been doing.
Once at college, during a gym class we were practising a few vaults over a vault trainer. the aim was to hit the vault board, touch the top of the trainer with our hands and draw our feet through and land on the other side hands upraised. We'd worked up to this without incident. My turn came and I hit the board but missed the vault trainer. Something told me to throw my arms out in front of me like a diver and aim for the crash mat (very apt) on the other side. I did a perfect dive and roll. I say 'perfect' because I didn't hurt myself! As I got up and heard the laughter of my classmates, and prepared to turn shamefaced, I remembered my youthful stunt shenanigans and thanked my younger self and instead turned with a smile. The tutor told the class to do as I had done if they got into trouble on the vault trainer.
All of which leads me to Parkour , or free running. I first experienced it, or saw it, on British television back in 2003. It was shown in a documentary called 'Jump London'. I was entranced. It featured three 'Traceurs', called Sebastian Foucan, Jerome Ben Aoues and Johan Vigroux. They used their skills to jump, roll, vault and swing on and through some of London's landmarks in the most stylish, efficient way possible using just their bodies. It was fantastic. When a second documentary 'Jump Britain' was shown, I watched that too. It made me yearn for the days of my childhood and wish that I'd stayed in good physical shape!
Though Parkour and free running are different, I like elements of them both. I like the elegance and straight forward nature of Parkour, but I also like some of the expressive elements of free running. Every now and again my sense of adventure returns and I am tempted to get back in shape to try some of the basics out. After all, it looks to be such tremendous, liberating fun, who could resist it?