Parkour new sport on move

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012
Parkour
CRAIG SIMCOX

LEAP OF FAITH: Max Bell demonstrates some examples of parkour around Wellington.

Parkour
CRAIG SIMCOX
SPIDER MAN: "Parkour challenges the way people see their environment," says Max Bell.

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Expect to see more and more people leaping, climbing and running over the city's landmarks as non-competitive sport parkour grows.

Parkour began in France in the late 1990s and has spread around the globe with the help of social media and YouTube.

Often compared to martial arts, parkour requires participants to move across a space while completing tricks like jumping between rooftops, scaling walls and sliding along handrails.

For 25-year-old student Max Bell taking up parkour six years ago was a way to improve his physical fitness and agility, as well as make new friends.

"The self-confidence that comes through it means there are gains outside the physical. There are physical ones from accomplishing it, but it's more mental. It carries over to other areas of your life."

Participants, called Traceurs, start small: practising leaping from one crack in the footpath to another enough times to feel confident about being able to hit the mark every time before attempting more death-defying jumps.

The Massey University student says the sport has been growing exponentially since its inception, thanks to videos of experts posted on YouTube.

"With most sports it takes 50 years in development but for parkour it took 10. It's still developing now."

In Wellington he believed there were about 30 people regularly participating, while more were getting involved in their own backyards and communities.

"Parkour challenges the way people see their environment and the way people interact with their surroundings. You learn to see the world like a child again."

Two years ago Mr Bell helped form the New Zealand Parkour Association in a bid to develop the sport nationally.

"When we first started there was nothing like that, no organisations, no clubs, so we wanted to help people get into [parkour].

More recently he has created Physical Graffiti, a parkour and free-running street team which holds regular jams at Frank Kitts Park, at 1pm every Sunday.

- Check out Physical Graffiti in a parkour demonstration at Te Papa on Sunday, December 16. They will also be part of next year's Fringe Festival. More information is available at www.nzparkour.co.nz

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