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Parkour Generations’ Dan Edwardes: ‘Don’t be a fairweather practitioner’

PUBLISHED: 16:15 21 November 2016

Parkour Generations. Picture: Andy Day

Parkour Generations. Picture: Andy Day

Andy Day

Expert Parkour traceur speaks about the benefits of an all year round activity that trains the mind as much as the body

While some of us are curling up in chunky knits, watching Planet Earth II and trying to ignore the state of the world, the rest are off running around in the cold, climbing things, scaling buildings, leaping over rooftops.

Well, not exactly like that – I think that’s probably illegal. It’s also the impression of Parkour that I have taken from watching Step Up 3 (no judgement, please).

“It’s an extremely holistic training discipline based on the natural movement of the human body,” says Dan Edwardes, founder of Parkour Generations and its National Governing Body, Parkour UK.

“It asks you to have a very varied movement vocabulary. It develops a physical literacy which is very rare in any other discipline. It also trains the mind, and helps you engage with mental inhibitions, limitations and fear.”

Edwardes started Parkour Generations in east London with Francois “Forrest” Mahop and Stephane Vigroux, two other traceurs (the technical term for freerunners) with years of experience under their belts.

“You can train anywhere and adapt your training to where you are,” says Edwardes, who has been practicing Parkour since 2000, before it became well known. “In London there is some amazing terrain because it’s a very old city and has a lot of interesting variants in its architecture.”

In its current form, Parkour is a relatively new sport, but its origins stretch back further than the First World War.

French naval officer Georges Hébert was a physical educator who believed that the focus on competition in sport deflected from the true goal of physical activity to strengthen you both in body and mind.

Inspired by Hébert, Raymond Belle who grew up in a military orphanage in Vietnam used the military obstacle courses in secret, creating his own paths to test his endurance. Years later, his son David learned of his father’s training, “parcours du combattant”, and decided to develop his own skill in the area. David Belle is now regarded as the pioneer of Parkour as it exists now.

Influenced by David Belle, Edwardes says the central philosophy is viewing adversity as an opportunity and no longer seeing obstacles as barriers.

“It’s a very good way to stay agile and mobile, but the biggest carry over is psychological” he says. “We do a lot with kids in schools and the teachers will tell us that the kids who do Parkour classes start to become better at problem solving based academic study because their lateral thinking skills improve.”

While some will prefer to stick to the gym for a winter workout, Parkour is practiced all year round and in all conditions. Clearly not for the faint hearted.

“You should be capable no matter the condition,” says Edwardes. “Whatever the situation, you should still be able to move and still be able to have the confidence to look after yourself and adapt to a space.”

With this in mind, their annual Winterval Parkour Day is taking place in Archway and will be a “full and intense day of training”. But it’s not just for experienced traceurs; it could be the perfect way to kick-start your entry into freerunning.

Edwardes wants “to give people the confidence to say: ‘I’m not going to die, as long as I wear a hoodie and a hat I’m all good!’ So it’s a confidence boost for them and a good way to start the year.

“Don’t be a fair-weather practitioner; you should be training for the whole year round if you want to be really capable.”

Organised by Parkour Generations, Winterval Parkour Day takes place in Archway on January 8. For more information and tickets, visit: parkourgenerations.com

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