Parkour is taking over the world one rooftop at a time. Since gaining popularity in France, the sport has made its way all over Europe, the United States and now to Bangkok, Thailand.
Stephane Vigroux, Director of Parkour Generations Asia, is a Bangkok transplant who moved here to spread the word about parkour through his teachings and performances. Parkour Generations describes the sport as practicing 'the ability to traverse any terrain as swiftly and fluidly as possible, with efficiency, grace and precision.' (Those stunts where the hero/villain jumps across rooftops and shimmies up and down various obstacles? That's could be considered Parkour.)
Stephane began training in parkour at the young age of 16 with the sport’s founder, David Belle. He eventually quit school to dedicate 100% of his time to training. ‘Without all this time available to train, I don’t think I would have been able to reach the level I have today,’ he says.
At first, Stephane’s parents thought he was absolutely crazy for dropping out of school to spend his days ‘playing and jumping around outside’ and hitting the pavement rather than the books. This was at a time when parkour was just beginning and the core group comprised of only eight friends. So it’s understandable that some of his family members could not see the sense in Stephane’s pursuit. Fortunately for Stephane, his two brothers also practiced parkour, so the boys motivated each other in their parkour training.
Now that today’s growing parkour community totals millions of practitioners from all around the world, all that playing around make more sense. Inspired by some of the most influential parkour practitioners including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Japanese Ninjas and parkour founder David Belle, Stephane has been sharing his passion for the past 16 years through workshops all around the globe. In 2007 he co-founded Parkour Generations in the United Kingdom, working in London for four years. After the great success of Parkour Generations, the company eventually made its way to Asia and Thailand.
A select group of people were invited to witness Parkour Generations Asia's inaugural live show, which was held on the rooftop and helicopter landing pad of the Imperial Queen's Park hotel. On that evening, several members of the Parkour Generations team from the UK made a special appearance to introduce Bangkokians to the sport. The international parkour crew, including local celebrity Anan Anwar, put on a heart-stopping show in which the experienced parkour practitioners jumped, vaulted and climbed through a vertical obstacle course covering an entire wall of the tall building. Spectators held their breaths while they watched Stephane and his team leap from high places without the security of any safety nets!
As the Director of Parkour Generations Asia, Stephane's career goal is to spread parkour and its core values all around Asia. It brings him great pleasure to do so. ‘I am happy to live doing what I truly love and sharing it just amplifies my satisfaction.’
The company’s business goals are to continue growing the teaching framework they have built throughout the years and to expand the academy into most Asian countries where the demand for parkour is increasing, including Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, India, China and Malaysia. Parkour Generations Asia is offering performance services for the media and the movie industry as well, putting forward their experience, professionalism and, most importantly, their high performance team of the finest and most famous practitioners of the discipline. Parkour Generations is the first established company to offer performance services as a professional entity — with a strong record of working with major companies in over 20 countries — in Europe as well as the United States.
However, parkour success in Thailand is yet to be fully realised. The company must first overcome two initial obstacles relating to architecture. The first issue concerns a practical disadvantage in regards to a proper training area. Parkour is predominantly an urban outdoor sport, even though classes can be taught indoors. Outdoor environments are much more suitable for practitioners to receive the optimal experience that parkour has to offer in terms of health and overall well-being.
In Thailand, the parkour crew have hit a metaphorical wall when it comes to finding suitable training grounds. Even with the few usable spots they have been able to find in the city, they have been faced with limitations. For instance, visitors of public parks in Bangkok are not allowed to jump on rocks owing to safety and damage concerns. When training on the streets, security guards tend to shoo away parkour practitioners for the same reasons.
Stephane hopes the situation will change over time as the local community becomes more aware of parkour and better understands it as a proper sport, one which takes the necessary safety precautions and does not harm property or the environment. It’s also important to change the perception that parkour is a risky sport for young athletes only. In fact, parkour can be enjoyed by those of wide-ranging ages and fitness levels.
This year, Parkour Generations Asia will initiate several projects and collaborations with fitness organisations. The company has been invited to participate as a special guest speaker during the Asian Fitness Convention to be held at the Dusit Thani Hotel Pattaya in October 2012. Parkour Generations Asia will be delivering seminars and workshops and will also promote their qualifications (ADAPT), which is the only parkour certification program licensed and recognized by the sport’s federation and governing body. They will also be teaching in two additional schools in May, followed by three more in August 2012.
One of the greatest joys that Stephane experiences as a parkour trainer comes from teaching young children at schools. ‘It’s always a great pleasure to see the kids enjoying and having fun learning parkour,’ he says.
The Parkour Generations Asia beginner classes at FIT Studio have been well-received by both locals and expats. Classes comprise male and female students ages 15 to 50 years old, all discovering parkour to be a fun, effective workout, and an incredible calorie killer.
One thing about parkour that can’t be stressed enough is the benefits that accrue to every aspect of a person’s life. Indeed the best advice Stephane has received on his parkour path is, as he quotes, ‘Understand the essence of parkour and incorporate its benefits into your daily lifestyle.’
As for his own words of encouragement to those wishing to take up this sport, Stephane says it’s important to ‘practise, practise, practise.’ He adds, ‘It’s helpful to practitioners and brings tons of physical and emotional benefits.’ On a physical level, parkour training strengthens muscles and enhances balance and agility. Internally, parkour can enable practitioners to take control of their minds and overcome mental barriers they may face at any time. According to Stephane, the goal of parkour is to help people always find a way out of an obstacle, to push their limits and to overcome all fears.
It sounds like we can all benefit from parkour training. Yet don’t worry if you feel out of shape — parkour welcomes all because everyone has the ability to better themselves.
28/05/2012 - 10:41