In parkour the city is the gym

Mon Oct 5, 2009 6:07am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A Zen saying goes: the obstacle is the path.

That's true of parkour, the gritty urban sport that evolved from obstacle course training for the French military into a fitness option for urban youths.

In parkour, the city is the gym. The bridges, buildings and railings are the equipment. The goal is a direct route from one place to another. You see an obstacle, you overcome it.

Now the techniques of this adamantly outdoor sport are coming indoors to a gym near you.

"Parkour is a method to train the body and mind using obstacle coursing as the medium," said Mark Toorock, who teaches the techniques of parkour at his Primal Fitness gyms in Washington, D.C., Florida and Texas.

And while beginners might be inspired by YouTube videos of lithe young men gracefully vaulting over city structures, Toorock says they'll probably not be defying gravity anytime soon.

But the former martial arts specialist says that we'd all do well to learn, or re-learn, the basic skills involved.

"Parkour has this basic toolkit of movements like running, jumping, crawling," said Toorock, whose website is American Parkour. "All the things humans used to do."   Continued...