In Sunnyvale CA. just south of San Francisco Bay Area Parkour is going strong.
Check out interviews done by Mercury News featuring American Ninja Warrior finalist Ryoga Vee and American Parkour's official chiropractor Dr. Kenneth Kao!
On Saturdays, the South Bay group holds free three-hour sessions at parks and schools--mostly in Saratoga and Sunnyvale--for anyone who wants to train.
Zheng, 19, A Saratoga resident, and Thomas Anderson, 23, of Sunnyvale teach students the basics of parkour.
Zheng, a biology student at De Anza College, started learning parkour four years ago when he saw a YouTube video.
"I was out of shape. I couldn't do a push up," Zheng admitted.
Zheng said. "We have a motto: 'Leave no trace,' he said. "If we see a broken rail, we fix it."If the group makes a mess during practice, they clean it up. And if they are asked to leave, they go and don't return.
Landing correctly is the first movement that is taught.
"Being able to properly absorb the impact from a drop from any height is crucial for a beginner to learn," Zheng said. However, landing incorrectly can result in injuries, such as in bruises or broken bones.
One serious injury that can result from landing improperly is a spinal injury.
"We often see that high impact is the cause of spinal injuries, usually related to lumbar disc issues," said Dr. Kenneth Kao, a traceur and the official chiropractor for American Parkour. "Neutral spine exercises help to decrease the pressure to the discs. There is less disc pressure on a spine that is aligned properly."
Synnora Regehr started parkour in January. Anderson coaches Regehr at De Anza Park, along with her two friends, Google engineers from Mountain View. She also brings her two children, Adam, 8, and Isabella, 5, to the two-hour bi-monthly sessions.
Regehr got started with parkour because she had a bout of depression.
"Exercise, [being] outside and friends are good for depression," Regehr said. "After I went, I was hooked."
Anderson is always prepared with a lesson plan, Regehr said. "Thomas keeps us on track because we tend to talk a lot."
She had asked Anderson why they need to do "small kindergarten moves," and he responded that it's for people who are unfit. Besides that, he said it's for "muscle memory." Muscle memory is the same concept as remembering, through repetition, how to ride a bike.
One movement the kids like to do are "cat grabs," in which they hang from a ledge or counter with their legs bent and their feet resting on the vertical surface, Regehr said.
"Adam is really into training," Regehr said of her son. "He does what we do, just modified." And Isabella is their "drill sergeant" and cheerleader, she adds.
"A child does parkour when they jump onto a curb. Every time you jump from a line on the ground to another line--imaginary or not--you've done parkour," Kao said. "Basically, parkour is far more inclusive than often believed."
Kao supports natural shoes for parkour.
"Shoes have created much of the foot, ankle, knee and back injuries. If you cannot jump or drop to something with minimalistic footwear, you shouldn't be doing it in the first place; neither your muscles nor your joints are ready to absorb the impact," Kao said. "A typical tennis shoe is the same surface over and over. This creates atrophy of both the intrinsic foot muscles and the larger ankle stabilizers."
Vee heard about parkour in 2004 when he saw a video on the Internet. After that, he practiced with three others at Evergreen Valley College and downtown San Jose. They watched the videos and taught themselves.
"We didn't have other outlets then, like gyms and academies," Vee said. "It was hard in the beginning, but I wasn't deterred."
Vee is not only a tracuer, he is also a ninja with a background in wushu martial arts, and he participated in all four seasons of the show American Ninja Warrior and made it to the semifinals in Las Vegas.
"I practice parkour to supplement my workout and training for martial arts," Vee said.For safety, he uses gloves, knee pads and shin guards.
"Safety and maturity go hand in hand. I know my body and my limits,"
Kao cautions that there is no substitute for proper instruction.
"The absolute incorrect thing to do is to watch an amazing video and go outside and throw yourself around trying the same moves," Kao said. "But we all have to start somewhere, and there is a safe level to begin no matter what your fitness currently is."
For more information about Bay Area Parkour, visit baparkour.ning.com.
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