Parkour in the park: New club attracts adventurous students

James Shewmaker, warms up club particpants for parkour in the constitution park circle demonstrating a “groucho” walk that resembles Groucho Marx trademark walk in films on Sept 16, 2012. “This one is a little funny…” James said. The UAF Parkour and Freerunning club is rapidly gaining members who come every Sunday at 3pm for the activity. Cordero Reid/Sun Star.

Brix Hahn/Sun Star Reporter
September 25, 2012

This academic year, UAF is welcoming a new club sport, parkour. This sport has not only caught the attention of tens of students-male and female alike-but has also brought new community members to campus.

The purpose and creativity behind the sport comes with the techniques of attempting to overcome obstacles that prevents one from accessing point B from point A. For example, a traceur, a male practitioner, or a traceuse, a female practitioner, may attempt to leap across the turtles, jump over the benches and tumble through the grass, instead of simply walking along the foot paths of Constitution Park.

Leonard Kjera is the president of the club. He first brainstormed the idea of putting together a campus parkour club two years ago. The club’s instructor James Shewmaker contacted Kjera through Facebook and the idea exploded. The two immediately met up and gained about 15 members right off the bat.

When it comes to teaching techniques used in the sport, Kjera is extremely happy to have Shewmaker involved in the club.  “It really helps to have a person experienced in parkour around,” Kjera said. Shewmaker has been practicing parkour for over two and a half years and has trained with members of The Tribe, a leading parkour and free-running team in the United States.

The Parkour Club meets every Sunday at 3 p.m. in Constitution Park for three hours. Before anyone participates in the club’s activities, each member is required to sign a UA liability waver. The first hour of which is filled with small stretches and exercises such as squats, lunges and balancing techniques. The second hour is often reserved for “follow the leader,” a game where the member’s follow Shewmaker and attempt to mimic his actions as he runs, leaps and climbs around campus. And lastly, the third hour is often used for leaning new and more advanced techniques.

“We don’t encourage anyone to go beyond what they think they can do,” Shewmaker said. “The way I teach is: imagine, crawl, walk, run, then fly.  The amazing stuff you see on TV, that’s 10 percent. The other ninety percent is training and getting the basics down.”

Parkour can be a dangerous activity if the basic techniques are not properly understood. The club makes a strong effort to look out for the welfare of its members. Kjera expands on this, “Just in the creation of the club, safety was a really big concern.  We don’t want anyone to end up hurting themselves and losing confidence.”

“I’ve always liked parkour, I always thought it would be cool. It’s great exercise and it’s outside of the gym,” said Sara Spindler, a junior fine arts student.

New members are constantly joining the club. Some to escape the walls of the Student Recreation Center and others to expand their understanding of their body.

“Back home there wasn’t much to do,” said Dylon Madden, a 19-year-old Private First Class based at Fort Wainwright. “I started picking parkour up and it just became a family thing. I have two brothers who do it now too.” Madden has been practicing parkour for the last eight months and is one of the more experienced members of the club. According to Madden, he offers what he believes to be the most important piece of advice in parkour, “limits, what you can do and safety, for sure. We don’t want someone hurting themselves because they don’t understand the basics.”

The club welcomes all new member regardless of experience or fitness level.

“I don’t teach tricks. I teach how to get from here to there most efficiently and with the most amount of fun,” Shewmaker said.

The leaders of the club take parkour extremely seriously and believe that safety should always be a top priority. The club has zero tolerance for reckless maneuvers and holds everyone individually responsible for knowing their own personal limits and abilities.

“Just in the creation of this club, safety was a really big concern. This is something I want to do until I’m in my 50s or 60s,” Kjera said.

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