« on: May 02, 2007, 10:44:47 PM »
On the Image of Parkour:
The most prevalent view of Parkour among non-practitioners today is that it is an extreme sport, and that it is dangerous and might damage property.
That it should for some reason or another, not be practiced.
So now, we already have "No Skateboarding, Rollerblading or Parkour Type Exercise" signs on the streets of Washington D.C and its suburbs. Personally, I have been kicked out of training areas by the police before, and I have been threatened with arrest on multiple occasions. I'm sure other Traceurs have had their fair share of run-ins with authority too.
How has Parkour gotten lumped in with the likes of skateboarding and aggressive inline skating then? How is Parkour being seen as a dangerous activity by the common citizenry and authority figures alike? Why do the powers that be see it as an illegal activity?
The first reason is liability. As I stated previously, Parkour is seen as a dangerous activity that will result in its practitioners getting hurt. In today's overly litigious society, people will sue for the smallest of things, and juries are more than glad to hand out large amounts of money out to anybody that suffers the slightest bit of injury. Property owners are afraid that we might get hurt on, and that they might be held liable. They're afraid that we might sue. They're also afraid that we might accidentally damage or deliberately vandalize something.
Authority figures dislike Parkour because what we do can be seen as trespassing. After all, we are on private property. And a cop burdened by a bulletproof vest on his chest, gun on his belt, and a box of Krispy Kremes in his belly is going to have a hard time chasing down a lightly burdened, fleeing target like a Traceur. Because they feel threatened by Parkour, law enforcement is going to crack down on it. Let's also not forget that law enforcement functions to serve us as well. They don't want to see us getting injured while practicing any more than we do.
So then what? Is Parkour inevitably doomed to the fate that skateboarding suffered? Are we going to have anti-climb paint and spike topped walls everywhere? Is a Traceur going to get arrested for loitering every three seconds?
No. It doesn't have to be that way. We as a community must make sure Parkour is seen in a positive light. We must not allow ourselves to suffer ignominy, we must not allow our discipline to be banned, shunned or disallowed.
But how do we go about doing this? I suggest that every concerned Traceur follow a certain code of conduct, based loosely off the rules of the University of Maryland College Parkour Club and some of my own contributions.
Rule #1: Show Respect for Property.
A simple rule. Respect the property rights of those who own the hotspot you're jamming in. Never deliberately vandalize anything, never alter any property. If you break something by accident, offer to pay for it if you have to. If you are asked to leave, apologize and leave immediately.
Rule #2: Know yourself, know your capabilities and limitations
Obeying this rule will prevent you from getting injured. Every injury you suffer doesn't just reduce your capabilities, it damages Parkour's reputation as a whole. Never do anything you aren't sure you can do. Never do anything you aren't up to doing.
Rule #3: Show respect for authority.
Yes, yes, many of you will chafe at doing this, but it's necessary. That means no running from the cops. If you are stopped, carefully explain what you are doing and calmly explain that you mean no harm. Don't yell, or try to fight it to hard, as it will result in your ass getting arrested. If you are asked to leave, do so. Behaving like a defiant asshole certainly won't improve your reputation with people that can throw you in jail and charge you a crapload of money.
Those are a simple enough to follow, right? Well yes. But in addition to these rules, Traceurs must make sure to portray Parkour or Freerunning in a positive light when questioned by others, such as their friends, parents or the media. What ended up killing the legality of skateboarding was it's "rebellious" image. Such an image does not sit too well with the powers that be. The whole situation was made worse when the X-Games attracted all sorts of the wrong people to it. They were more competitive, they did it for the danger, and to look cool, because they wanted to adopt that "extreme" image.
Yes, I admit that Parkour looks cool. It looks incredibly cool in fact. Freerunning looks even cooler. And guess what? That's the exact image that our community cannot adopt. We cannot promote PK as something that is "extreme" or "rebellious", because although that might attract some very good Traceurs, the risk of attracting reckless or unprepared idiots is even higher. PK and Freerunning should be promoted as disciplines, like martial arts. Promoting them like a sport from the X-Games would be sure to alarm a great number of people, and also attract the wrong kind of person.
That means that the first thing we must do is to place a strict emphasis on conditioning and discipline, not flashy moves and big air time. I'm sure all the X-Games athletes are in superb physical condition, but the only thing people see on TV is big air, not all the hard work that went into it. Traceurs must make others understand that PK/FR is not about recklessness or cheap thrills, and that anybody that practices for that reason is not a true Traceur or Freerunner.
Secondly, the three rules must be followed. They're simple enough as it is, and will result in a great deal of goodwill being extended towards us. Goodwill means that nobody will arrest us just because we got caught on the side of a wall 10 ft. off the ground.
And that's about it for my rant tonight. I'll add more later based on the replies in this thread, or change some stuff around.