Parkour, developed in France by Raymond Belle, was popularized in the late 1990s and 2000s through films, documentaries, and advertisements featuring the Yamakasi. The Yamakasi is the original group of parkour practitioners from Lisses, France. Their philosophy was that parkour builds an individual who is physically, mentally, and ethically strong. The name has been used in popular references to parkour, including in French films about admirable lawbreakers who do physically demanding deeds for charitable ends.
The Parkour community in Singapore has over 200 regular traceurs, and we speak to 22 year old, Koh Chen Pin (IG @deeenester). Chen Pin has been practicing Parkour since 2007 and recently went overseas for a competition, Singapore VS China 极限勇士 (X Warrior, China’s version of Sasuke). Chen Pin or just CP is heading to Swinburne Uni for a film degree next year Feb.
n. A practitioner of the sport/art of parkour. Is a skilled runner and jumper. Often has the ability to perform various acrobatic techniques, but not necessarily so.
M: How did you pick up Parkour?
CP: It all started a friend of mine was showing us a movie called “Yamakasi” after school at his house. The movie was one of the first few movies that showcased Parkour and it really brought up the hype in the media back in the days. As blissful young teens, we immediately went down to the void deck and tried to simulate some of the Parkour movements that we saw in the film. It quickly became an after-school routine where we will gather at a nearby playground and start doing all kind of jumps we can think of.
M: What made you do it?
CP: Parkour to me felt really natural as from a kid, I was already climbing monkey bars and balancing on them without fear. It seems to me that I’d eventually try it out even if I had not watched Yamakasi.
M: Have you met with any success?
CP: I’m not sure what do you mean by success – but I feel getting to where I am right now is what you would call ‘successful’. I have tried many different sports/activities in my life and I only do average in them. However, with Parkour, I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere with it. It’s the one thing that I really excel in my life!
M: Seeing your ability to scale the walls with such ease, that is success to us! Is that the satisfaction you derive from this exhilarating sport?
CP: Pushing your boundaries are something that we face each training, and there is a very fine line between knowing you physically make the jump but is too afraid of doing and thinking you can make the jump but the reality is that your body is still not ready for it. It is from our constant training where we can really know where the line is, and tell ourselves to man up and go for it OR come back another day when you are ready. Up till now, I face this in training a lot and honestly, it is the most rewarding of all experiences when you actually trust your body enough to commit to a jump that really scares you initially.6
M: What are the dangers you face practicing Parkour?
CP: To be honest, I can think of so many other sports that have a higher risk of injury than Parkour. For example, team sports like soccer where athletes get their foot broken due to uncontrolled circumstances (like being tackled, etc.). Parkour is an INDIVIDUAL discipline. And if you were to get injured, it is by your own doing. If you are stupid and purely try to imitate the high-level “stunts” without practice and guidance, it is high risked. If you take it slow and start from the basics and slowly build your way up, I would think it is really low-risk and a really safe activity.
M: Did you get injured a lot during your training?
CP: Not too much. I do have my fair share of injuries. More often than not, it is due to the fact you misread the “very fine line”, mentioned earlier, and went for something when your body is not fully ready for. However, most of my injuries come from really trivial stuff like rolling my ankle while misstepping a curb, ironically. But I’m glad to say I have not had any really serious injury such as fractures or broken bones. The worst ones required a few stitches or a bad sprain that took me a few weeks to heal.
M: How did you overcome the obstacles you face while practicing Parkour?
CP: Back in the days when there weren’t too many tutorials online or experienced people to guide us, we first started training was watching youtube videos and trying our best to imitate their techniques by trial and error. Soon enough, we would get the hang of it. However, at this time and age, we have a plethora of online resources of how to do a certain movement, and also a big community in Singapore where beginners can come along to join the monthly open jam sessions and learn from the more experienced.
M: What do your family and friends think about your passion
CP: They are all very supportive! Everyone seems to understand how much I am into this and are always intrigued by it.
M: What do you hope to achieve with Parkour
CP: I wish to never stop training, so I am really hoping to make a living out of my passion!
M: Do you have any advice for new Parkour enthusiasts out there?
CP: I have to be frank and say this: Parkour is not something that you can just try and expect to get good at it. It requires A LOT OF effort and training. You have to build a solid foundation of strength for your body to be able to better cope with the impacts that come with Parkour. It’s definitely something fun for beginners to test the waters with simple wall climbs and small jumps, but be prepared to train really hard if you truly want to get better at this!
Meanwhile, we leave this amazing video (credit Denester) to leave your jaw hanging. Lion City Gathering 2015 is the inaugural 3-day event (6th February – 8th February) where traceurs from all around the world come together to train with the local Parkour Singapore community at the best spots in Singapore.
We thank Chen Pin for taking time off his busy schedule to answer our questions and we wish him all the best in guiding the new traceurs participating this sport.
Photo credits: Koh Chen Pin | Superfly Monkey Dragons