Parkour: A Woman’s Perspective
Parkour: A Woman’s Perspective
With a background that comprises mountain biking, ultimate frisbee, cross-country running, pilates, and yoga, I was thrilled when I discovered the dynamic discipline of Parkour. I was introduced to the sport by a lecturer at the university I am attending in Japan, and was directed to some websites where I viewed a selection of professional and home-made videos. Seeing some of the practitioners performing the explosive but cat-like movements was both captivating and inspiring, and instantly the desire to take up this powerful new practice was kindled inside me.
It was not intimidating to me – instead I wondered if I, too, could perform at such a level. I knew it would take many hours of dedicated practice and some guidance, but I also knew that my goal of developing such skill was attainable. The flexibility and flow of movement, even the size of the muscles some of these men had, were impressive, but I didn’t see anything that I felt I couldn’t match or didn’t already possess. Some of the simpler moves I knew I could nail, but some of the more complex and risky movements I realised I would have to work up to. Though this sport is seemingly dominated by males, no doubting thought about females achieving a similar position through Parkour or about our ability to achieve equal skill ever crossed my mind.
My addiction to Parkour stems from the intense high of accomplishment I now get by overcoming an obstacle and completing a move with finesse. As I walk the city, a new doorway to creativity opens as I contemplate how to move my body through the environment. Though my eyes see an endless playground, I know I must always be aware of my own personal and physical limitations. I imagine, however, that these limitations have nothing to do with gender, but only with our own imagination.
As I walk the city, a new doorway to creativity opens as I contemplate how to move my body through the environment. Though my eyes see an endless playground
Personal limitations can arise from many different circumstances, but I have found that mind-over-matter is half the struggle when improving one’s Parkour technique: if you have doubts, or can’t visualise yourself completing a move successfully, do not proceed with the action, no matter what your colleagues are telling you. Encouragement from others is helpful, but you absolutely must have belief and confidence in yourself. Coming from a strong sporting background I tend to exhibit a strong mental drive, yet I have seen other women be somewhat hesitant about taking up Parkour. This hesitancy over engaging in ‘risky’ or ‘dangerous’ activities may be due to some combination of nature and nurture, or perhaps they just fear getting hurt. However, for me, when I see someone – man or woman – doing something so inspirational, all I think is ‘I can do that too’.
Some women might be intimidated by the advantages of the male musculature, or for some reason cannot see themselves duplicating the moves of well-practised men. I view it as a challenge: that I should be able to do anything any other human can. I do recognize that every person is different, that we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, but overall I feel that mental strength is only a matter of commitment – and we all have the same potential in that area.
Physical limitations do exist of course, and in many different forms. Obviously injuries can affect us all equally, limiting what we can do at any given time; but beyond this our body-type itself can often dictate our potential in any specific field of activity. Because women have a different physiology from men our approach to Parkour may, of necessity, be different as well. For instance, when I am pulling myself up from a cat-leap scraping my sensitive chest can sometimes hurt. This doesn’t bother me that much as I seem to possess a high pain-threshold, but it might deter other women from repeating the movement. A similar scenario can result during vaults for those women among us who are somewhat better-endowed: take the issue of bringing the knees to the chest – if you have a larger chest the knees don’t get so close… indeed running in general can sometimes be uncomfortable, and even some good sports bras don’t cure this problem entirely !
Does this mean we just can’t be as good as the men? No: it simply means that we may have to find a slightly different method, that’s all. It means developing the strength and technique to pull ourselves up and over the wall without the chest making contact with the hard edge. It means learning to adapt our movement to flow over obstacles in our own unique way. It means using Parkour as it was intended – freely.
In short, one must realise, consider, and overcome limitations regardless of gender. Everyone, male or female, runs the risk of injury – just as in any other sport – but with careful training and proper preparation this risk can be minimised or even negated entirely. Additional training, such as weightlifting, can help prepare for and avoid certain muscle injuries. I advise everyone, especially women, to work on upper-body strength; at the bare minimum push-ups, pull-ups, and abdominal work. When I began training with Parkour Generations, I could not pull myself up from a wall-run or cat. I practised hard and now I have the strength, but still wish to make the movement smoother. It’s all a matter of incremental improvement of your own abilities.
Lastly, occasional practice with other people, regardless of gender or ability, can be beneficial when analysing progress. An experienced man may know a great way to teach you something, but sometimes an inexperienced woman can also offer plain observations and advice more relevant to your situation.
Overall, given the challenge, variety, and possibilities for self-improvement that Parkour has to offer, it would be great to see more women taking up the sport. From this woman’s perspective, there is a lot of headway for us to make.