Women’s International Parkour Weekend, London, UK 6th-7th May 2017.
I was on my third year of university when I first heard of parkour. It was the end of the summer of 2006. I had told one of my friends that I wanted to start break dance lessons. We had been chatting about some of the basic moves and one day he was really excited about this new thing he’d seen on youtube. He asked me if I’d seen these guys jumping from the top of a building and rolling like they were made of tissue or some soft fabric and then continue running like nothing happened. I replied that I hadn’t. He said “you need to watch this!!”. He proceeded to show me a video of some guys running around, jumping from one roof top to another. The backflips and other acrobatic moves looked awesome, but it was that jumping from a high wall, rolling and continue running that caught my eye. I was astounded. I said to myself, I got to do this! I then searched what it was called and found a group in my area. I got in touch and soon I started running with them.
The first day I was welcomed by everyone in the group. Even though I was completely new to this I felt drawn to it. I signed up to train on a regular basis. The more I went to train, the more I loved it. And it was not only a physical thing. I realised that there is a philosophy guiding the practice. For a number of reasons I was unable to continue with this group, but I never really stopped pursuing it. Even with huge months-gaps in between my physical trainings, I always kept the parkour spirit.
The last time I started training again with commitment and discipline was about six months ago. I wanted to be in shape to join one of the big events organised by Parkour Generations [link http://parkourgenerations.com/]. I found out there was going to be a women’s only international event. I signed up. I was very much looking forward to that weekend in London.
The day finally arrived. I had everything ready: my booking for the event, coach ticket, breakfast, a few changes of clothes, lunch, and water. I just had to wake up early and everything would be fine. I went to bed with so much excitement that I couldn’t sleep. I woke up the next morning to a room well lit, which meant I was late! I rushed to find my phone and double/triple checked the time. Yep, I had slept a full hour more than I had planned. I couldn’t miss this. I realised that with all the excitement I left the alarm setting screen without actually saving it… I got dressed in a wink and double/triple checked that I had all I needed. I dashed to the train station and got the next train to London. I missed the registration.
More than an hour later than expected I got to the location of the first day of training, which was a park in north London. I left my bags in the designated area and joined the training. There were about a hundred women gathered for the event. I could feel the happiness and enthusiasm in the air. We started with some small activities to get the energy going (as I had missed the warming up too), including quadrupedals, swivelling across a low wall, and piggyback racing. Then we split into five different levels: from total beginner to advanced. I queued on the intermediate, thinking I maybe should’ve gone for the beginner. As the numbers were high for the beginners groups I was moved to the upper intermediate level. I wasn’t confident enough, because even though I’ve been in this for more than 10 years now, I don’t think I’m good enough.
Nevertheless, I joined the group I was assigned and dived head-first into a two-day adventure. The first half of the Saturday went on between catching chopsticks mid-air, push ups, rock-paper-scissors zombie apocalypse, tic-tac, wall runs, railings, and vaults. It was time for lunch. I had a small scratch on my right knee but I was too happy to take further notice of this. After lunch the arm jumps came in along with a final challenge of more jumps, crawling, and bouncing off the walls. The end of the day was near and we gathered again for the much needed cool down and stretching.
About 20 of us arranged to go for food and a pint to Camden Market. On the way there I had the chance to get to know better some of the women who came all the way from Scotland, France, Italy, and as far as Chile for this event. Everyone found a meal of their fancy and sat across the fence by the river. It was wonderful to be sharing with women from all walks of life about their lives and experience in parkour. I also felt really grateful because I was offered a place to stay overnight with one of the London-based traceuses (women who practice parkour).
Sunday morning came fast and I was a bit tired, but the excitement got my legs going. On the way to East India dock, where the Parkour Generations gym is located, I was discussing with the other women (our host + 2 more guests from the Netherlands and France) about the perception of parkour in France, where it originated. We arrived at the gym and were headed to an outdoor location for the warm up. This time there was some dancing and grooving that lifted the spirits again. After that we were split again into groups. I stayed with the intermediate. The day went fast with various obstacle circuits until lunch time. The most remarkable experience for me was about to happen.
We were taken to the outdoor location again to have a meditative talk. We were encouraged to talk to one another about what have been difficult. Parkour is not only about being able to overcome a physical obstacle. Parkour is about being aware that our bodies are as capable as we are mentally. I remembered that what had been holding me back weren’t my short legs, or the lack of time. I looked back and realised the periods when I doubted myself coincided with the times when I physically underperformed. It was always fear. When I began training I was confident and eager to learn. As time went by fears creeped deep inside and prevented me from doing very simple things. After having a particularly rough year I appreciated this activity because it made remember why I’ve stuck with parkour. It was a very emotional moment. I couldn’t help it and I cried. I was even more so when I started receiving support from women I had just met. They held their hands out for me. They kissed me and hugged me. I felt the love. I also heard how they perceived their practice and it was like listening to myself. Even the coach expressed having the very same fears and doubts that we did. It was a humbling experience and encouraging at the same time. On top of everything I saw that we were not competing against each other. The atmosphere was loving kindness, caring for each other. It was an embodied heartfelt wish to be happy. I felt like I was capable of anything.
We went back for a final challenge of balance. Then we gathered once more for winding down and why not? More conditioning! We did the final stretching and cooling off. The end of the weekend was crowned by complimentary cake session. I only grabbed a bite size chocolate delicacy because at this time I had to dash to catch my coach from the city centre to Bristol.
I was ready to climb into bed, but life had one final lesson. I was on the underground just four stations away from the coach station when we were stopped only to hear an accident on the tracks had occurred and we were going to be delayed. I looked at the clock and I realised the 20-minute gap I had allowed was not going to be enough. I got ready to run as fast as I could with my achy legs and everything to reach on time. In spite of having at the back of my head the quickest-easiest route from the underground to the coach station, I still took another way. Being half-awake, because of the quick snooze I’d taken minutes before the fatidic announcement, I followed the signs that ‘directed’ me to the coach station. When I noticed that I wasn’t anywhere near my target I stopped on my tracks and asked for directions. I realised I should’ve listened to my sixth sense. I ran with the last bit of energy left and with all the pain of my tired muscles. I arrived only 1.5 minutes after the time the coach was scheduled to depart. The station was particularly crowded. Again I heard in my head something was odd. I didn’t find anything on the boards. I ran to the counter with the intention to amend my ticket. When I got called forward I couldn’t bear all the tension and burst into tears. I wasn’t sad, it had just been a very long weekend. I got a new ticket. When I went to queue I heard that the coach I had originally booked had been delayed. So there I was, all tired, with a bruised knee, swollen hands, and £10 lighter finding out that if only I’d trusted myself life would’ve been so much easier. I laughed and enjoyed all the new memories I’ve made: rejoicing in the knowledge that I’m more than I think, I just need to trust, and also in the remembrance of all the wonderful and inspiring women I hope to meet again. When I got home I felt better, I cried again with happiness. I laughed at my mishaps, and finally felt rewarded.
Parkour is not just a sport. Parkour is a lifestyle. To me it resembles how life is: there will always be new challenges, things to learn, and things we can improve; it's about bettering oneself. And it's also far more enjoyable with friends.
I went there with my camera thinking I could share the experience with great photographs. However, I spent the two days enjoying the challenges. I managed to have this video recorded of me doing one small roll. But here you can find some images that were taken by professional photographers to give you a taste of the fun. I hope you enjoy.