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Lions Roar : May 2014
U ndertaKinG serious traininG in parkour changes how we perceive things. As Chau Belle, one of the leading figures in the discipline, has said, “Our awareness of our immediate environment increases. We no lon- ger look only ahead, like some kind of robot, or down at our feet, but also upward, left, and right. We begin to see the possibilities that are everywhere.” It wasn’t an accident that parkour developed in the suburbs. The outskirts of Paris are home to the most diverse physical structures, and you can enjoy a wide range of movements. But even more important, for some young people, physical activ- ity became their main way of fighting boredom. Committing themselves to a healthy and rigorous discipline was not just a way of passing time but also a matter of survival. There were other options, and falling into a life of drugs and crime was too easy. But rather than lead sad lives, bent down under the weight of years of alienation, they decided to see what they—as human beings—were capable of. They were, in their way, great explorers. If practitioners are discerning in how they train, they can enchant the everyday lives of other people and—it’s not an exaggeration to say—beautify their city. It’s not hard to see that there’s a clear difference between an immature goofball acting out by trashing the urban infrastructure and frightening other people and a considerate artist who leaves the spaces in which he or she trains in immaculate condition and responds in a friendly manner to questions from fascinated observers. It is not a ques- tion of putting on a show, but rather participating in a dynamic of sharing. And when we fall, we’re learning about perseverance, rather than showing everybody how violently irritated we can be. you might even say it’s the only way to learn. Dignity, respect, drive, elegance, and vigilance are all qualities that reinforce each other. Of course it’s true that a handful of parkour movements involves risks, but if we want to take part in authentic parkour training, we can’t be too soft. Minor bruises and a scratch or two are our lot. In fact, the majority of movements are not danger- ous (at least not any more than, say, in jogging, playing volleyball or any other sport, or even vegging on a sofa, since a number of studies show that prolonged physical inactivity is one of the worst “activities” there is, although that’s another story). How sad is our urban walker, petrified at the sight of a patch of ice! And our noble hero cursing at the rusty old gate that refuses to budge? Would our ancestors really have reacted like this? It’s a good question. When we place too much reliance on external conditions, we can easily lose our bearings when condi- tions change. However, change is inevitable. When we are able to discover new resources within us, and when confronted with difficulty, we are able to face our fears and thereby understand something of the nature of our egos, win- dows open. Rigid concepts begin to fade, and stereotypes and labels peel away. We no longer have a desire to prove something to other people, we are more into “being” than “doing”; we are finally ready to welcome existence. Have we ever taken the time to contemplate the beauty of the word “welcome?” SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2014 67