Working of comics for the PhD. A trip down memory lane.
Videos have been really central to parkour. I think that without them, parkour would not have spread the way that it has – really quickly, with a great deal of variation depending on location. Over time, we have seen the focus of these videos shift.
When it all started, people were keen to get a glimpse of technique. They wanted to know how these other people made this movement magic happen. ‘Lifestyle’ was there almost because it had to be. For parkour, the environment where practice happens defines practice in many ways. The first Yamakazi videos said more than they intended when they showed the modernist landscapes that look like hell to the public, but are perfect playgrounds for people who practice parkour and freerunning. They showed how drab concrete walls that were designed to contain life could be used to proliferate it. In videos, as people figured out the techniques, and developed their own, the focus shifted. Technique gave more way to lifestyle. Naturally, we all wanted to know more about the people who moved, not just the movements themselves.
Enter the brilliant lifestyle videos of parkour / freerunning ‘teams’ like Farrang, Storror and GUP. We got a taste of whom the people were and the values they upheld. This kind of bled into the movement too. We saw big personalities, with big ambitions doing big moves. We saw them working for those big ambitions.
Julie Angel’s videos were there too. While I hope she will correct me if I am wrong, I saw that as something different. It wasn’t the moves, it wasn’t the ambition. Rather, it was the people and how they moved: the detail of the movement and of the character. The landing, the idea, the slip up, the mistake, the tones that come up when the light is not so stark as to cast binary shadows of black and white, good or bad, excitement and mundanety. Graphic artists know that harsh contrast are used to grand effect. In these terms, Julie was looking for the human greys while lifestyle teams were showing the heroic contrasts.
The focus was always inwards. There was always an overwhelming focus on the parkour object: the person, the technique, the clique, the style, the parkour community, the parkour location. This helped the community. But in many ways it was also quite esoteric and insular. It was always about those people who do parkour.
Now we are seeing an evolution of the lifestyle video. This evolution shifts its focus outward while still speaking the insiders’ language. There are many parkour documentaries. They are made so that people who know nothing about parkour can understand how it is good, for the outside world to be able to look in.
This video is different. It speaks the language of parkour. It draws on the semantics that PK/FR people understand. But it speaks about the outside world. Movement and lifestyle are there. So is the community. Not in the parkour sense, but in the broader sense. Conceptually, semantically, stylistically, this is parkour bleeding out to the rest of the world from the ground up, not the world looking in on parkour. This might not be the first time this has been done, but this does it so well.
It is looking at the outside world from within.
I really love this. I hope to see more of it from all over the world.
How interesting. The Chinese Journal of Traumatology published a paper about the bio-mechanical ‘damage’ of the acrobatic side of parkour movement. Then, they published the retraction below, pointing out that the injury issues covered in the original related to acrobatics, not impact diffusion mobility techniques. That ‘parkour’ was not the culprit. They were referring to ‘freerunning’.
The distinction was so important that it warranted a public amendment. The researchers were notified of the difference by members of the community…
for reference, retraction is here: retraction
A note to self.
Original paper: Nima Derakhshan, Mohammad Reza Zarei*, Zahed Malekmohammady, Vafa Rahimi-Movaghar, (2014) ‘Spinal cord injury in Parkour sport (free running): a rare
case report’, Chinese Journal of Traumatology, 17(3):178-179