Free-running culture takes hold in North Raleigh

March 30, 2014 

Alan Tran leaps over safety rails while doing Parkour in at N.C. State. Parkour - and its related activity, free running - consists of using the mind and body to navigate obstacles in both natural and urban settings.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ANTHONY NGUYEN

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    For more information, check out Enso Movement at ensomovement.com.

Parkour. No, not Parkay — that’s a kind of fake butter. Parkour is a type of movement. A running-up-the-wall, leaping-off-of-buildings, spinning-in-the-air type of movement. And that’s not hyperbole.

Merriam-Webster calls it “the sport of traversing environmental obstacles by running, climbing, or leaping rapidly and efficiently.”

And associated with Parkour is another sport called free running.

“Free running has turned into an expressive and aesthetic performance,” said Alan Tran, 24, founder of Enso Movement, a space dedicated to the practice..

“It’s more of the creative side of Parkour, where you’re adding flips, spins, twists, gymnastics, martial arts and even dance.”

Parkour was developed in the late 80s by David Belle, who was inspired by his father, Raymond Belle, to explore the capability of the mind and body through physical movement in both urban and natural settings. Parkour requires its practitioners to use force, speed, finesse, agility, balance and coordination to overcome obstacles wherever they find them. practitioners are said to develop the mental and physical strength to overcome fear and manage stress through the activities.

Tran said that in the Triangle, there are about 100 to 150 people who are a part of the Parkour/free running community. About four years ago, some of them got together and started thinking about how to build a foundation in the area for their sport.

In the next few months, Tran, along with Anthony Nguyen and Ben Webster, his business partners from N.C. State, will open a Parkour/free running gym in the North Raleigh area.

Location-scouting for the facility began about a year ago.

“We knew we wanted to have a space to play and to create and to freely move and express ourselves,” Tran said.

Priority one was a space with high ceilings. Parkour and free running are as much about the air as the ground.

They found the spot on Wellington Court, relatively near Triangle Town Center. It looks like it’s in a warehouse district, and it was just what Tran was looking for.

“It was a perfect birthplace for our first gym,” he said. “We have high ceilings. It’s already outfitted with bathrooms and offices. It has a nice concrete floor. As practitioners of Parkour, we’re used to hard surfaces.”

When I got there, it was still under construction. But there was already a large spring floor, a foam pit and more. Upon completion — sometime in the next few months — there will also be 500 square feet of weightlifting equipment, and a third of the gym will be filled with modular obstacles that can be used with Parkour.

Although there are plenty of adults that may be interested in all this, Tran wants to target the kids.

He sees it as a more-individualistic alternative to the standard sports kids play.

“Soccer or football is really team oriented,” Tran said. “Not to say that Parkour cant’t be, but Parkour allows for a lot more flexibility.”

And while the activity may sound dangerous, Tran said safety is a priority for his gym.

“Everybody can learn how to jump, how to climb, how to play, but by taking the right steps, you can safely advance in progression,” he said.

Enso Movement will offer classes and open gym use for starters, and after that, who knows?

Tran even mentioned that there might be a class offered by Cirque de Vol members teaching aerial silks — that crazy circus thing where people do gymnastics while suspended in the air by colorful pieces of fabric.

Tran said Parkour and free running are about something simpler than sports or crazy conditioning.

“Essentially this is foundational on how to move like a human being,” he said.

I am always looking for ways to become a better human being. I just never knew I might have to go back to the beginning. But google parkour and check out some videos. You’ll see, as I did, that we have a ways to go before we can do those cool moves.

Alex Granados writes about interesting people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him via email at agranadoster@gmail.com.

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