To an architect, a blueprint is just the beginning of a dream realized; to a chef, basic ingredients can set the tone for a beautiful meal; to an artist, a blank canvas is open to endless possibilities; and to a traceur — someone who practices the challenging discipline of parkour — a cityscape is literally an open obstacle course.
The practice of parkour is both a physical and mental challenge that incorporates movements that are both fast and efficient. It trains participants to see their environment in new ways. To a traceur, a box becomes a hurdle, a railing resembles a gymnast’s high bar and detached buildings are a challenge of human vaulting super powers. Rather than remove obstacles, traceurs welcome them.
David Belle, the founder of parkour, was first introduced to the discipline in the 1980s by his father, Raymond, who had military experience with the French Army and had developed what would become the foundation of parkour. Belle further developed the training regime. Within a decade parkour was showcased in mainstream Hollywood films like District 13 (2004), Casino Royale (2006), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Brick Mansions (2014). Belle even starred in the 2001 French film Yamakasi, which took its name from the first official group of traceurs — of which Belle was a member.
In all of these films, traceurs can be seen leaping from buildings, scaling walls and fences, and flipping their bodies over, under and through small spaces — usually in an attempt to get away from or to chase the “bad guy.” So how did parkour make its way to the Cayman Islands?
Bodden Towner Brian Myers, an enthusiast of tricking and free running, recalls first exploring parkour with his high school friends after watching Casino Royale when it hit the big screen in 2006. Their curiosity led to their intense study of numerous YouTube videos and essentially mimicking what they saw. The self-taught band of boys formed the five-man group Flo-Motion and began seriously training at Motions Unlimited Gym in Grand Cayman, a space that offered them a safe indoor playing field where they could perfect their technique.
Soon enough, they were making appearances at local events — including a major stunt show performed at the 2011 Pirates Week Festival — meeting marital arts stunt masters and other traceurs at international parkour conferences, and popping up on local media. It didn’t take long for the buzz to make its way around Grand Cayman and for parkour to catch on.
“Parkour was hot for a while; everyone was doing it or wanting to do it,” Myers recalls. Whilst many regarded parkour as a sport comparable to stunt bikes and skateboarding, he considered it a form of self-expression more closely related to dancing and acting. Flo-motion eventually disbanded, but Myers continues to carry the torch for traceurs in Cayman.
Seven years after he started practicing parkour, Brian Myers says he’s still learning. Like the great martial artist Bruce Lee, Myers lives by the conviction “I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Lee is known for popularising martial arts across the world through his movies and inspiring training methods.
Jump for Joy
Parkour training at Motions Unlimited is open to anyone over the age of 8, regardless of abilities. “Anyone can do it,” explains Coach Jordan McLaughlin, who has taught parkour and tricking at Motions Unlimited for years.
Beginners train on Wednesday evenings at the gym, learning a series of basic movements like rolls and jumps, as well as strengthening and conditioning. McLaughlin emphasises how the principles of parkour are similar to those of gymnastics. “The beginner’s class gets you stronger and opens your mind to what you’re capable of doing.” Students are exposed to a variety of obstacles during each class.
Successful completion of the fundamentals of parkour prepares students for the advanced classes, which are held on Monday evenings. The Cayman Gymnastics Association, which participates in competitions around the world, also trains at Motions Unlimited.
Photo: Deep Blue Images