'Parkour risky? It's safer than you think'

Parkour is safer than most people think, say local practitioners.

The sport, in which enthusiasts get from one point to another with the help of obstacles, was thrust into the spotlight when it was linked to the death of a 14- year-old girl last Tuesday.

She was said to have lost her balance and fallen to the ground when she jumped from the fourth to the third floor at Spectra Secondary School, where she studied. But her family later revealed she was not into physical activities like parkour.

Those into the sport said it was not fair to link jumping from one floor to another with parkour - which is growing in popularity here. They estimate that there may be up to 300 parkour practitioners here.

Children as young as four years old can start learning it, said Mr Derrick Siu, founder of the parkour academy Superfly Monkey Dragons. But it is most popular among teenagers, said Mr Siu.

One reason for the interest is its appearance in video games like Assassin's Creed and movies like Tracers, starring Twilight star Taylor Lautner .

"It's becoming a part of popular culture, and that's attracting younger people," explained Mr Siu.

Mr Tan Chi Ying, an instructor at parkour training school A2 Movements, said enthusiasts are unlikely to try manoeuvres that are beyond their limits.

"They often train for months or years before attempting those stunts you see on YouTube," said the 29-year-old. He said individuals interested in the sport can sign up for classes to learn basic movements such as landing after a jump and breaking a fall.

A2 Movements has, in the last few years, offered parkour workshops for students at schools such as Hwa Chong Institution and Innova Junior College. The students were taught basic techniques in balancing, rolling and landing.

Practitioners said they do occasionally get complaints from residents when they practise in residential estates such as Bedok and Buangkok.

Parkour practitioner Benjamin Matchap, a 22-year-old student who has been doing the sport for eight years, said that it is not unusual for people to be approached by the police when practising with others, because of residents' complaints that it may be dangerous.

But he said: "We learn about the risks, understand our bodies, and we know how to go further from there.

"Parkour practitioners respect their environment a lot - it's our playground," he said. "We're not going to break or destroy things. In fact, we appreciate the architecture and we interact with it."


This article was first published on October 25, 2015.
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