Free running is not vandalism, but a skill

Three boys demonstrate their impressive techniques
Three boys demonstrate their impressive techniques

RUNNING up walls, scaling buildings and leaping from one roof to another - the art of free-running is alive and well in Banbridge.

And the dozen or so people who take part in ‘Parkour’ have come out in force to let locals know that it is not a sport, nor a form of anti-social behaviour, but rather a skilled pastime.

Free running’s main premise is getting from one place to another in the most creative and/or fastest way possible. This includes running, jumping and climbing combined with vaulting over obstacles.

Currently anyone who admits to practising parkour is often bombarded with comments like “Be safe”, “Don’t trespass” or “you’re going to kill yourself”.

While these are valid points, they are clearly stereotypical and somewhat ignorant. This is mainly due to the negative press that parkour has received in the past.

As all of us who train in Banbridge are friendly, open minded people. We encourage people new to the free running scene to train with us, and to learn safely, rather than see a video on the Internet and injure themselves in their back garden.

From talking to people a lot older than myself and a lot more involved in the evolution of free-running, I understand that the reason so many people fear their children getting into it is because people see crazy leaps and jumps from rooves and enormous heights performed by the French parkour veterans- but they don’t see the years of practice that brought them to that point.

As a result a few people tried, without previous training to repeat what they had seen online or on television - Incidentally they injured themselves and helped to give free-running a bad name.

More than a hobby or a pastime, free running is compared to disciplines such as Karate, Taekwondo or other martial arts.

This is evident in the philosophies those that helped develop parkour, David Belle and Sebastian Foucan, have instilled in their teaching.

Simple ideas like “Don’t follow others, find your own path” and “Obstacles you face define you”.

Imagine you are at a wall in life and there is no way around it. You have a choice - either wait there or climb over it. This could be a physical wall or a mental one. Seeing life like this, for me at least, makes life a lot easier to comprehend.

Currently in Banbridge there are a dozen or so free-runners, who train regularly when School and other commitments allow. All of us come from different backgrounds and most likely would never have met or become such good friends without this common love for parkour.

Unfortunately, and part of the reason I wanted to write this, a lot of the people from the area have a lot of the misconceptions I have stated.

It’s always assumed that we are up to no good when we train, that we trying to cause damage or to break and enter. There have even been a few cases where police have been called out and questioned us, just because they thought we were being vandals.

If anything free-running teaches the complete opposite - that we are to respect the environment around us, as it allows us to do what we do.