Photo by JB London
Would you believe it’s possible to get from St. George Station to Queen Station (three kilometers away) on foot in ten minutes? For traceurs, as they call themselves (young enthusiasts of parkour running), this is an ordinary morning warm-up. Using the city as a giant obstacle course — turning railings, ramps, and fences into gymnastic bars and walls into climbing barriers — they run rapidly with long, smooth strides and try their best to reach their destination as quickly as possible.
What is Parkour?
Parkour trainin by Erhld
Parkour — an artistic and athletic approach to overcoming urban obstacles — originated in the mid 80s in the suburbs of Paris and spread like wildfire throughout Europe. The brand new sport discipline (mixing unusual athleticism and appreciation of urban space and architecture) was founded by David Belle, who allegedly became obsessed with overcoming obstacles in his area. The basic goal of the free runners is to perfect the elegance of their moves while running as if they were being “chased by a tiger in the jungle,” as one athlete puts it. Every single change in elevation is seen as a reason to perform a jump or a flashy trick. As the popularity of parkour grew, some companies even started using parkour elements in their commercials — most notably sportswear companies.
Parkour in Toronto
2Photo by JB London
Here, parkour experienced a slower start, but it has gradually become a new part of urban youth culture. In fact, only a few people in Toronto are aware that their city is home to the biggest parkour community in Canada. The core crew is centred around pkto.ca, a webpage that was established a few years ago to improve communication between traceurs which has gathered hundreds of members. They use the site to plan events and common meetings and exchange videos and tips for the best parkour trails in Toronto.
Mr. Iaboni, one of the leaders of the local community, likes to emphasize that parkour largely remains a sport connected to a sense of community and self-development instead of competition. Traceurs of Toronto also believe that Canadian parkour fans are the friendliest in the world. Maintaining a positive image is a very important feature of this sport, as everybody is aware that any substantial breaches of public order would probably lead to stigma toward the free runners. “What we do isn’t illegal, but it’s so close,” Iaboni says. The discipline always carries a risk of being caught trespassing, but surprisingly enough, most people (including police officers) show a positive attitude toward parkour.