On March 3 parkour students from around the Bay Area will congregate at Flying Frog Academy in Rohnert Park to compete in its first parkour competition of this kind. While Flying Frog has hosted “Challenge Nights” in the past, a casual style competition mainly for older teens and adults, this will be the first competition held at the academy geared specifically towards youth, ages 8 through 16.
“It’s really exciting to be working with some other gyms in the greater Bay Area – the other gyms are in Sacramento and San Jose – and giving our kids an opportunity to see how other people train, to meet other people who are passionate about the same things they’re passionate about, and to get the feeling of a big parkour event where you can see different people’s styles,” says Christian Fairfax, Co-owner and Director of Parkour at Rohnert Park’s Flying Frog Academy.
Parkour first started in France as a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training. Often seen being done in urban spaces, parkour athletes aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment in the fastest and most efficient way possible by running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, and rolling.
“[The competition] is a new thing,” says Fairfax. “Parkour originally was non-competitive. When I started doing it in 2008 there were no parkour competitions. There were multiple founders of parkour with some people getting more credit than others. They all had different views about what parkour should be. One of the people who is highly credited with founding parkour, David Belle, was always saying that it’s non-competitive. He had some specific views about parkour that he put into the limelight and a lot of people who followed his views pushed that onto others. That is why there was no competition in parkour.”
However, as parkour grew in popularity all over the world people started exploring how it should be structured and how competitions would work. Approximately ten years ago competitions started being seen around the world.
The event on March 3 will highlight the three categories of skill, speed, and style. For skill, competitors have specific parkour challenges set in front of them getting points for each successful challenge. In the speed category competitors must complete a parkour speed course or “time trial,” passing through checkpoints or around cones overcoming obstacles in their fastest way. Lastly, for the style category competitors string together parkour movements with tricks and acrobatics to create complex combinations that connect well and display their own style.
“The three different divisions of the competition each show different aspects of what makes parkour unique,” says Fairfax. “The skills challenges for example show how you use a parkour skill set to accomplish a specific goal. When we’re practicing it’s almost like we’re using our imagination to create our own obstacle course. You learn a really big variety of techniques that are useful in different scenarios and that you can adapt in different environments.”
Flying Frog Academy holds classes for children as young as toddlers through teens and adults, and according to Fairfax, parkour is more than just a fun exercise. It is a sport in which one learns skills and techniques that can benefit one’s daily life.
“Some of the benefits of parkour are balance and general body control, learning falling techniques and spatial awareness,” says Fairfax. “But also just being confident moving through your environment. If you’re on a hike and you need to get over some boulders, you have a skill set that you can use to do that. You know how to use your body in a safe way, you know how to use your feet so you don’t bump your knees, you know how to roll out if you’re stumbling forward. It is good for general athleticism and precision but also just being comfortable moving through space.”