Born in France and immortalised in Hollywood, Parkour has trickled down to Scotland; shedding its macho image on the way.
Over five years ago a group of women, Glasgow Parkour Girls, adapted the free-running art to their city and physic.
This was no mean feat, as the training discipline meant navigating the streets via running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, and quadrupedal movement.
As well as physical obstacles, the women had to overcome the image of Parkour as a male sport.
Coach Kel Glaister said: “Parkour has its roots in France, where in the early eighties a group of young men in Lisses (near Paris) began training to their functional strength, and developing movement through environment.”
She continued: “Parkour’s unofficial motto is ‘être fort pour être utile’; be strong to be useful. Training is focused on the functionality of movement, the longevity of the traceuse, and on helping others.”
This community spirit is central to Glasgow Parkour Girls (GPG) group.
Glaister said: “We recognise that to an outsider Parkour can seem inaccessible, scary, and macho. Our group aims to change that perception, and make space for those who identify as female; especially those feeling marginalised in other sports.”
Welcoming women of all ages and builds, Glaister explained that GPG caters to different abilities.
She said: “The the current group consists of women in their early twenties to thirties, but Parkour is for all ages. We’ve had Glasgow Parkour Girls in their fifties and sixties.”
She added: “Everything we train can be scaled to all levels of confidence and ability. There should be something challenging for everyone, and something that everyone is good at.”
Glaister explained that strength and confidence building is part of training.
She said: “Parkour training is focussed on longevity; for instance practicing landing technique so you absorb the impact with you muscles rather than your joints.
“It also means learning to judge risk and to trust your own judgement. We rarely train at height, and no one will ever pressure their peer into a jump, drop or climb at a GPG session.”
This supportive environment is, Glaister said, one attraction of the group.
She explained: “GPG is non-competitive, and that’s a draw for a lot of people. There’s no way to win or lose at Parkour, it’s all about individual progress. This means everyone understands the struggle. Getting the first climb-up or speed vault is an amazing moment, and everyone will cheer – no matter how slow or low it is.”
GPG classes start with a twenty minute warm up, before drills and techniques are learned. This is followed by a twenty minute strengthing and conditioning session, and rounded off with stretches.
Glaister said: “GPG has a private facebook group, and that’s where we chat about training. We are based around Glasgow, so we have most classes near one of its underground stations.”
Glaister explained that GPG members are equals, however, the group benefits from the knowledge of professional coaches.
She said: “I lead Glasgow Parkour Coaching women’s classes, which happen every Tuesday evening.
“We ran a fundraising campaign to get me qualified, and we’ll be fundraising again to support more female coaches.”
Also keen to attract new GPG members, Glaister said: “Anyone interested in the class should come along – all our training is focussed on safety and longevity- and it really is accessible.”