A precision jump onto a ledge. A breezy rail walk. A Double Kong between buildings. Parkour in Hyderabad has its agile champions and they want more to enjoy the frisson fun. Someone is running quickly and sure-footedly through the streets. Their facial expression spells purpose but there’s something liberated about the way they’re carrying themselves.

As they make sharp turns without slowing down or pausing, their balance is bizarrely in place. One may assume they’re fleeing from the police. But suddenly, they vault off a wall and noiselessly leap over a fence, never to be seen again. Ah, yes; the art of parkour which is slowly gaining mass appreciation in the city.

French stuntman and father of parkour David Belle paved the way for the rest of the world to catch up to this no-gear-required, no level extreme sport. Reebok’s ads, Jackie Chan’s films and Sebastien Foucan in 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale have all shone a mainstream spotlight on parkour, then we saw films like Hindi Heropanti in Hindi and Hello! in Telugu weave it into their plots. Parkour is still young and has no official competitions in India, unlike its cousin: free-running.

Twenty eight-year-old Abhinav Kumar Singh started Abhinav Parkour Academy, located in Kondapur, five and a half years ago. He’s been teaching for a total of eight years, having done parkour for 10 years so far. He explains, “Parkour is something that defies logic and rules! Honestly, if I ever wondered where I’d be without parkour… well, that’s a scary thought.”

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His student base ranges between four-year-olds to 45-year-olds, all of whom are ready to commit to the sport through 12 hardcore training modules. “The four-year-olds are a little harder to teach than the rest!” Abhinav chuckles, explaining that they tend to be far more excited and ready to do everything right away. “Then again, the older students tend to be more set in their ways so working with that is another challenge. It’s totally rewarding to see how far they’ve come. Since I’ve started teaching, I must say that I’ve learned so much about the value of being patient — which is interesting in a sport which requires fast movement! I’d started my relationship with parkour as an adrenalin junkie but it’s not about that any more for me.”

Packages — which include calisthenics, gymnastics and ninja circuits among other training modules — are priced at ?6,000 a month, ?12,000 for three months and ?18,000 for six.

Parkour as a learning curve features many hindrances along the way which do lead to a fair share of hesitations. “You’ve just got to take that leap of faith,” Abhinav sums it up. While we lean towards ‘seeing is believing’ as a valuable motto, with parkour, it’s more about doing. “Many people watch parkour and don’t go beyond the videos. They think ‘oh, I’ll never be able to try that,’ and that’s where I come in; I push you past the hesitation and get you to go all in.”

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Not just body
Mental health benefits are a big part of parkour, agrees Abhinav. “I’ve seen a lot of my students find a great way to deal with anxiety, distress and other problems. It’s because you’re really putting yourself in that moment of focus and bodily dependence.” The sport itself borrows a lot of mental and spiritual elements from Eastern philosophies while it can be argued that the actual practice of parkour is based on escaping imminent danger.

Despite the intense workout one puts their body through whilst parkouring, the sport is still not given much of a spotlight. “It’s not a competitive sport at its core,” says Abhinav, “especially because it really came about in recent years. At the moment, the parkour subculture requires teachers with proper mindset.”

According to a 2013 study ‘Personality, self-efficacy and risk-taking in parkour’ by Christopher J Merritt and Ian J Tharp, “Self-efficacy plays a significant mediation role in the relationship between stable traits of neuroticism and conscientiousness, and risk-taking amongst parkour/free-running practitioners. This may help elucidate reasons underlying risky sports behaviours.” So the way you make decisions may also be affected by parkour. Who knew?

Matter of respect
Two years ago, Portuguese Pedro Salgado came to Hyderabad as a stuntman for Telugu film Hello! On June 6 2017, he uploaded ‘Golkonda – Parkour & Freerunning’ to YouTube which also featured the famous Peter Parkour from New Zealand and Antonio ‘Shifer’ Mojonero from Spain. The video went viral for a few days, accumulating over 40,000 views. But some weren’t happy that a historical monument was treated as a playground. The video shows the men, dressed in dhotis and trainers, darting around the Golconda Fort. Pedro says the video was shot over four days while “hiding from security, waiting for the locations to be clear.”

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But Pedro’s video isn’t the only one to show parkour at the Golconda Fort. YouTube channel Saffu Parkour by Mohd Sarfaraz has posted several parkour videos at Golconda, Qutb Shahi Tombs and near Charminar. Though he’s done similar videos, Abhinav points out that there is a need to respect the environment, especially historical monuments. “Parkour doesn’t teach you to damage your surroundings but to negiotiate them,” he says, “while as an athlete, there’s a need to push yourself, one has to consider that such actions bring a bad name to the sport itself.”

That said, don’t be so quick to embody Spider Man and leap through the city. One requires permission from authorities to do parkour in certain areas. So, are you ready to make a move? #KhabarLive