Parkour & women: No Comment

Parkour or ‘free running’  is described as a sport.  When I first  saw a video of it, I felt I was  watching human lemmings, going right for the literal edge.  Now, according to the NY Times, women are breaching the ranks of the male participants.  It looks different…

Here’s a video on ordinary parkour (which might be best without the music):

The  NY Times video of women and parkour is here.  And the story is here.

It’s the goals one could worry about, I suppose:

15 thoughts on “Parkour & women: No Comment

  1. I had a roommate who used to do that. When he was drunk. We were always amazed that he never hurt himself. At least, not badly.

    Less tongue-in-cheek, those are beautiful and impressive videos.

  2. You say that these are “ordinary” Parkour videos. I couldn’t disagree more – the first is a compilation of some of the most famous clips of people who have been training for ten, fifteen, some almost twenty years, mixed in with some clips of people that are not so good doing flips off of stuff that they shouldn’t be flipping off of.

    Parkour is not about “[marching] right for the literal edge,” although if all you watch are the more extreme videos you might think that. Parkour is more about having a high degree of control over your body. Some choose to display this control by performing dangerous deeds, but most don’t.

    Did you watch the NY Times video? It was a pretty well put together peice, and did it look anything like the two Youtube videos you posted? Perhaps next time it would be wise to, given the dichotamy between the two videos, do a bit more investigation.

    I don’t understand how you can say you say you’re a feminist and fighting for women’s rights and equality, but when a woman like Nikkie (who I’ve trained with many times) is brave enough to do something so out of character for her gender in today’s society, you dismiss it with a mere “No comment.”

    You should be fighting FOR people like Nikkie, who can ignore societal norms and do what she does.

  3. JJ,

    I’m also really puzzled by your “no comment”. This just looks totally amazing to me, and really wonderful. Can you explain more what’s bothering you?

  4. Clearly, I could have expresssed myself better. Let me see if I can clear some things up. This also says what I meant:

    When I first saw films of parkour, I thought it looked incredibly dangerous. It has been an exclusively male endeavor, but now women are starting in, and it does not look dangerous in the NY Times video. What I’d worry about are the goals I see portrayed, that seem to me to incorporate danger. I don’t want to comment or take a stand; this is for people to know about and perhaps discuss. By “ordinary,” which was clearly a bad choice of words, I meant “as the sport/activity has been done so far.” E.g., by men.

    ZC: Thanks so much for coming to this site and sharing your knowledge. I do not think, though, that as a feminist I should necessarily support women every time they break through what seems to be a gender barrier. I’m glad you’ve emphasized that this is a case to be supported.

    Notice also that I did not say that the people I saw were lemmings. I was reporting simply how I felt.

    Is there an issue about parkour being dangerous? Some people think it is, but its advocates think that the risk is minized by training, which includes learning how to judge their abilities accurately. I have no idea what the injury rate for very well trained practioners is; the web has lots of pretty awful videos of accidents, but I can’t speak to the training of those involved. Nonetheless, the activity of jumping from high building to high building seems paradigmatically risky.

  5. Is gymnastics dangerous? Parkour is essentially doing gymnastics without a gym membership. Like Nikkie implies in the NY times, video, Parkour is safe if you do it right. What the video’s you’ve linked to leave out is all the prep work that goes into making some gorgeous-looking footage. This video shows a little bit of the planning involved:

    As for how this relates to feminism I still don’t get it. However I disagree with your thoughts about Rise Against.

  6. I like parkour is like any sport… there’s an inherent risk, and through training and good judgment said risk can be reduced. Parkour is a hell of a lot more dangerous than, say, baseball, but there are many common sports of similar risk.

    For instance, I’m an equine enthusiastic, and that’s probably a heck of a lot more risky than parkour. Even if only because you never know with 100% certainty what the horse’s reaction will be to any command/obstacle. With parkour, at least the athlete knows what she or he is up against. The turf isn’t likely to run in the opposite direction of the athlete, for instance :) This has been known to happen with horses. Whups!

    So I think that’s a really interesting way to look at parkour, which distracts from its seemingly outrageous risk factor.

  7. I definitely misunderstood your tone, and sorry if my initial reply sounded a bit harsh. We deal everyday with people who found parkour through negative media, then developed a negative first impression. Whenever someone takes that negative opinion and spreads it, it’s very frustrating.

    When you made an allusion to lemmings, it creates an image of people mindlessly running off of a cliff. This is quite contrary to the mindset we develop and attempt to inspire.

    Parkour CAN be dangerous. So can football. Or driving a car. Or walking down the stairs. As Kassey touched on, we have complete control. There is no one else to be wreckless, no one else to not be paying attention and run into you. There is a fairly low injury rate, and actually the more experience you have the less the chance of injury. New people often take things too fast, too big, and aren’t fit enough to do what they’re trying to do.

    And just to clarify – most Parkour is done at ground level. Experienced practitioners actually discourage people from “high building to high building.” There’s not much you can do ontop of a building, it’s dangerous, and it’ll only get you in trouble.

    If you’re interested in Parkour, check out this documentary called Jump Westminster:

    Any other comments, email me or keep posting here (I’ll check back every few days for a while).

    -Zachary Cohn

  8. ZC, Thanks so much for coming back and adding more of your perspective, and the link. It looks really interestinig.

    I think I really wasn’t at all clear the first time around.

  9. Really, I don’t think that this is really that big of a thing, breaking a “gender barrier” in parkour. Why? Because I think a lot of girls would be good at parkour, if they just tried it. Especially since girls are usually more flexible than guys, which is pretty important.

    Also, sports such as gymnastics provide a lot of the necessary control and muscle strength, as well as coordination, to do parkour. Some guy who doesn’t play sports spends weeks trying to learn the double kong vault. Some girl who does gymnastics spends minutes and figures it out.

    Finally, let it be known that parkour is not a sport. It is a way to move. It is another form of freedom. Freedom to move. Unlike some organizations who prostitute the art for money and fame, I believe in the importance of its philosophy. Sports are competitive. I, and many other traceurs agree, think that parkour should never be purely competitive, for the win. The thought makes me nauseous. Everyone should have their own reason, and if the reason is “because it makes me look cool” or “because I want to win,” I hope that they jump off a roof and miss.

  10. I’d like to come back to this one time and post up a documentary my friend Ann just released on her first year of training. It deals with a lot of issues she faced as a woman in parkour.

  11. Thanks so much, ZC. This should go up as a separate, follow-on post. I’ll try to do it very soon.

  12. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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