I have nine grandchildren, but three of the boys are fully invested in the sport of Parkour. The older boys used what they learned from the sport to excel in the military, while the youngest brother has to wait a few years to join the Marines. When our fearless leader, Andy Burns, asked for some cool Holiday gift ideas, I immediately thought of a membership to Pinnacle Parkour Academy as one hell of a cool gift for the family. What is Parkour and is it for everyone? Let’s take a running leap to find out.
History of Parkour/Freerunning
A French Naval Lieutenant, Georges Hebert is credited with formulating the physical training technique of Parkour after observing the running style between indigenous and European people during a volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Martinique. What had allowed more indigenous people to make it to safety was their running style and their leaping over and around obstacles. Hebert coined the original motto “Etre fort pour etre utile” – “Be strong to be useful.” Hebert’s technique known as “Parcours du combattant” or “the path of the warrior” soon became the basis for all French military training including the French Special Forces.
Raymond and David Belle
Raymond Belle, the son of a French doctor and Vietnamese mother was born in Vietnam in 1939. After his father had died during the First Indochina War, he was separated from his mother and sent to a military orphanage at the age of 7. He not only practiced running and climbing trees but honed his skills on the military obstacle courses. After returning to France he joined the Paris Fire Brigade which was a French army unit. Years later, Raymond’s son, David Belle, learned from his father the importance of training as a means of survival and a way to protect the people he loved. David, a veteran of the French Special Forces, and his friend, Sebastian Foucan established a group of traceurs. Parkour is also known as “Freerunning” and these two terms are almost interchangeable for much of the community.
Although parkour was featured in several films, such as District B-13 (a 2004 French film), and the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, I had never heard of the sport until I had watched the first Bourne Identity film starring Matt Damon. As it turns out, in 2007, the World Freerunning Parkour Federation was launched to help bring the philosophy of Parkour to mainstream fans.
Pinnacle Parkour Academy
My grandsons always practiced some of their MMA and Aikido moves with me in an attempt to teach their granny some useful self-defense moves. I think they’re either preparing me for a possible robbery or the zombie apocalypse. They were in the process of teaching me flips, but my daughter put a quick end to throwing their granny over their shoulders. The one sport they had a hard time getting me to do was parkour. I’m not a fast runner.
Silly granny that I am, I’ve always thought my grandsons loved parkour because they were little monkeys who loved to climb trees and walk on roofs. I was wrong. My grandsons, Jimmy, Josh and Nathan finally opened my eyes as to why they were such big fans of parkour. Parkour and Freerunning helped improve their mixed martial arts performance.
Recently, I accompanied my youngest grandson to his parkour class. Pinnacle Parkour Academy was founded in 2010 and was the first facility on the east coast dedicated solely to Parkour and Freerunning. While Nathan practiced with his friends, I learned more about the sport from Jeff Ercolani, the Manager of the Washington Township facility. Jeffrey explained that people of all ages, including grandparents, take the classes to help with self-improvement. The traceurs do not compete against others, but against themselves. Kids as young as three years old can join and the students practice in buildings equipped with specialized obstacles that enable them in their training. The facilities are located at Washington Township, NJ; Cherry Hill, NJ; Princeton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. The prices range according to the different types of classes and memberships. Right now PPK is offering a massive gift card deal for that special someone for Christmas.
Any sport that gets you up and moving is good for your mental and physical strength. Nathan wants me to join the program. He thinks I’ll do well. Jeffrey has confirmed that they do have a class for those of us who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. It is the PK Fundamentals’ Class for Adults (17+). Normal classes are taught based on the students in the class and so they will adjust based on the skill levels presented. I might want to sign up for this.
Check out this video of professional traceurs .