El Paso Times

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Leaps & bounds

Parkour fans learn to maneuver, quickly

 

Parkour is easier to pronounce (par-koore) than define.

Just ask Tony Olmos, whose El Paso Parkour Academy may be the first in the region to teach the so-called art of movement.

“A lot of people just don’t know about it,” said Olmos, a 24-year-old Fort Bliss firefighter who has been practicing parkour (PK for short) for nearly three years.

It’s not an extreme sport, insist its practitioners , known as traceurs.

It’s not even about competition or showing off. Nor is it about jumping off buildings — well, not for a reason anyway. ((read more))

Original Copy : http://www.elpasotimes.com/living/ci_9669296

 

It’s none of those things, Olmos said, but it is an “art sport,” as some call it, that’s fast gaining in popularity since its introduction to the United States about eight years ago.

PK has grown enough in the area that Olmos started his own school to better instruct people interested in the activity that he said is “more of a discipline, like martial arts,” than an extreme sport.

Olmos defines PK as “about moving freely in your environment, the quickest way, through obstacles.”

Even if that means scaling down multi-story concrete stairwells or jumping on and climbing up rock walls.

If you’ve seen “Live Free and Die Hard,” “Casino Royale” or a recent Nike commercial, you’ve seen parkour in action.

“Parkour is the art of moving through your environment using only your body and the surroundings to propel yourself,” according to Americanparkour.com. “It can include running, jumping, climbing, even crawling, if that is the most suitable movement for the situation.”

It isn’t, according to the site, “acrobatics, tricking, stunts, recklessness, or jumping off high objects for no reason.”

Parkour has a more noble purpose. Rooted in French military obstacle courses, the objective of les parcours is to “overcome obstacles quickly and efficiently without using extraneous movement,” according to the site.

The modern movement traces its roots to a French firefighter, David Belle, whom Olmos calls his “inspiration.” Belle was fascinated with the notion of overcoming obstacles — physical and mental — to expedite escapes from dangerous situations or to speedily access someone in an emergency, such as in a burning building or earthquake rubble.

The “physical aspect of parkour is getting over all the obstacles in your path as you would in an emergency, Belle told www.pkcali.com.

Belle co-founded Yamakasi, the Beatles of parkour, an influential group whose ability to leap everything but tall buildings in what seems a single bound would make Spider-man green with envy.

Many of their exploits have been captured in documentaries and videos, some of which are posted on that repository of all things parkour, YouTube.

Olmos first saw Belle’s gravity-defying feats on TV’s “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” about five years ago and launched an immediate Internet search for more information and videos.

“I was never into sports, but I became a firefighter, so when I heard of it, it caught my attention,” he said. “I completely dove into it. Even though I wasn’t a typical athlete, it helped me get into shape for my job and for myself.”

Olmos said parkour is as much a mental workout as it is a physical one.

“You’re overcoming obstacles and can be completely intimidated the first time by them, but a year later you can pass through it,” he said.

He likened his first attempts at it as feeling as if he was going to jump off of a building.

“It feels like you’re going against the grain, or unnatural,” he said. “You get butterflies. You’re nervous the first time doing that movement, but once you experience it, especially once you nail it and land it right the first time, you feel like you accomplished something, like you earned a medal.”

But he didn’t have anyone to teach him. Olmos and older brother Isaac learned by imitating the videos they watched. It wasn’t until he met some traceurs from Las Cruces that he saw how other people perfected their moves.

His experience fed his decision to start the El Paso Parkour Academy, the first of its kind here, about two months ago.

“People can get with experienced people who have had to go out there and learn all the hard, concrete bumps and bruises,” he said. “We can tell them, ‘Don’t do this, but here’s a way you might look at it.'”

In addition, he said, if they make a mistake, “we have actual gym mats instead of a hard floor.”

Olmos teaches his students, some as young as 13, how to roll after a jump to lessen the impact of a landing.

Classes are offered from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at the academy, housed at El Paso Sport, 11237 Pellicano. Membership costs $25, plus $25 a month.

Because the idea is to move as freely and lightly as possible, Olmos said, injuries tend to be minimal. But PK can be hard on the body, especially if you’re not in shape.

“It is a high-impact discipline,” he said, “and it takes a toll, whether you’re fit or not fit.”

Brandon Nailing, a lithe 21-year-old academy student, said Olmos has honed his skills, which were “raw” when he started.

“Before, I could never scale things at my house or do a perfect pull-up on a roof until I met Tony. He’s been showing me things and I just got better, stronger and more motivated,” said Nailing, a local groundskeeper.

He said the benefits are twofold.

“I want to use it to help me in my life. It’s more than just jumping from a building or leaping or both. It can help you excel,” Nailing said.

It’s also about self-discipline, he said.

“There’s no competition, no I’m-better-than-you arrogance or cockiness,” he said. “If someone is dying and you need to get to them and you’re stumbling, they’re going to die faster than if you know what you’re doing and how to get over things.”

Olmos’ cousin Freddy Najera, a 16-year-old junior at Hanks High School, is also a student.

“When I started, I could barely do some vaults, but as I practiced more and more I overcame my fear of heights,” Najera said. “Now I can jump and land perfectly without being afraid.”

 

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