I've forgotten what and when exactly my first exposure to parkour was, but it was years ago. I have a faint memory of seeing it on TV; it might have been a small document on CNN, or a special feature in some movie or other that featured parkour stunts. What I remember is a small group of traceurs moving from Point A to Point B in a parking garage, vaulting, but in a very chill and deliberate fashion.
There might have been the occasional brush of awareness after that, but the next big encounter was the latest 007 film, Casino Royale
(but not the latest in a few months from now... Quantum of Solace
in November, which I'm looking forward to. Anyway, enough of that aside!), with the parkour sequence on the construction site as Bond chased after Sébastien Foucan's character. My jaw dropped when I watched our villainous traceur under-bar through a tiny opening (eighteen inches at most; I swear it was just enough room for him to squeeze his torso through) into the next room (whereas Bond plowed straight through the drywall after him with all the finesse of a bull. The juxtaposition still amuses me, and highlighted the differences between these two characters). Considering my feelings on heights, I can't imagine the drops they made between the arms of two cranes hundreds of feet in the air
and down to a rooftop. I'm secure enough to admit it: I am intimidated by the length of Foucan's kong. It looked like he dove over the length of a whole sheet of plywood on sawhorses.
I had my first real chance of getting into it about a year ago. At the time I was renting a room in a big multi-tenent house in downtown San Rafael (right across the street from the police station and city hall--the very setting for parts of an SFPK video I came across while hunting for this site). One of my upstairs housemates owned a gym in Novato with a partner, and as we crossed paths one evening in the back yard/parking area he invited me to a parkour class on Sundays. I would've liked to come, but I was in rehearsals for a show that summer and didn't have the time. Since then I've moved out. Sometime I might look him up; a coworker who lives in Novato reminded me of him when she told me about a gymnastics gym there that, from what she said, offers parkour classes.
At long last, it was my friend Faye
who facilitated my coming to my first jam. She showed me some of the movements she'd just learned while we hung out in downtown San Rafael one evening, and I tried to emulate. I normally work Sundays, but I took one in June off hoping to make it into a continuing education class for massage. That fell through, and I was left with a potentially empty Sunday, so I tagged along with her into the city that sunny day.
We arrived at GWHS, I met Kaos
, and we followed him over the fence onto the campus. Kaos started me on precision jumps and under-bars at that long rail most of y'all probably know well, then introduced me to the kong on the staircase-flanking barrier. Next was the turn-vault on the rail, and that concrete banister next to the wheelchair ramp proved perfect for a speed-vault. I worked until I could feel myself getting tired and my movements therefore getting sloppy (a familiar feeling from capoeira training with my roomate). I had a lot of fun that day, learned a lot. Picked up a light sunburn along with these new movements. Someday I'll have to take another Sunday off and come again, when things like schedules and paychecks allow.
What about the Wednesday classes at Acrosports? What about what I do on my own? Well, those'll be for another entry.