Members of small town Parkour groups meet up in Leeds every Saturday. They come from all over West Yorkshire to form up under the collective banner of WYPK – West Yorkshire ParKour. Here they exchange thoughts, learn techniques, socialise, and showcase their skills.
In the world of the ‘Traceur’ (a Parkour athlete) even seemingly simple things are politically divided. Many Traceurs in the UK discovered the discipline via the BBC Jump London and Jump Britain TV programs. These programs heavily featured the Urban Freeflow group, who many of the kids feel have sold out in an attempt to own the Parkour brand. They have attempted this by spawning ‘Freestyle Parkour’, a bastard offspring of true Parkour which includes tricks such as flips. True Parkour, created by David Belle, is about getting from A to B in the most efficient manner. It is intended as a means of escape in an emergency, or for simply getting somewhere faster. Sebastien Foucan expanded upon this with Freerunning, which introduced fluidity and grace. Belle is universally held in high regard by the West Yorkshire Traceurs.
For 18 months I documented the Traceurs in an effort to better understand what motivated them to participate in this amazing discipline. I’m certain of one thing – this is no gimmick. The Traceurs put in many long and gruelling hours, and most of them have picked up injuries along their journey to physical enlightenment. My feeling is that these kids longed for a raw and tangible connection with their world; Parkour offered them a new, and perhaps most importantly, spiritual and non competitive means to achieve it. Parkour is about self awareness and discipline. In a nation where 1 in 5 children are overweight, it has surely got to beat being a couch potato?