Ladies who launch: See&Do gets women into parkour

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As part of what will be our regular inspiration channel, we’ll find stories from around the world on wellness, action sports and food that we find fascinating and unusual. Discovering the women’s parkour collective See&Do was the result of a conversation with prolific action sports photographer Violeta Beral, that sent the editor in search for the women who are doing it. So here, we interview Tara Robinson, See&Do team member about how it all came about.

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Now this is going to sound shocking but until I met a friend of mine through climbing a few years ago I never knew women even ‘did’ parkour. So its exciting to see this collective! Tell me how it started.

Not at all shocking, it’s a common misconception, not just that women don’t do parkour, but that they can’t, or even that it is a sport that is more suited to the male physique and we therefore shouldn’t bother. See&Do arose out of a recognition of filmmaker Julie Angel’s, that our digital age is a visual one, and that with social media, we have an incredibly powerful tool at our disposal for challenging these misconceptions. In short, See&Do is founded on the principle of Monkey See Monkey Do – if more women see other women practising, they will be inspired to do so themselves. We post an image of a woman or group of women training every single day. Some of these women are athletes, some of them are beginners, but all of them are moving and they’re not sexualised while they do so.

It has expanded to become a website and blog, a platform for discussion and sharing, and at the moment it is focused on the representation of women in parkour. Our team has a range of other interests though, and we are interested in how the concept might grow to normalise the idea of women participating in a whole range of sports commonly associated with men, but also to normalise other under-represented groups. I’m currently thinking a great deal about how we can represent older people moving, aware that our current sharing platforms won’t necessarily reach them. It’s an exciting time.

How did you first discover it?

The brilliant thing is, I’m actually a product of how See&Do works. I am the example.

[I’ve always wanted to write that!]

I came across parkour online four years ago, began watching videos of people training in London, and stumbled across Julie’s first female-only video with Parkour Generations. I couldn’t believe there were girls training, it made me think it was possible (and also acceptable) to try, so I went along to an open women’s jam. I became very quickly addicted to the feeling I got from training, but also to the training philosophy the people that I met had shared with me. I have always found the parkour community very inclusive and generous. I hope it stays this way because I’ve never encountered it in any other discipline I have explored.

It looks like a sport that has a very steep learning curve – how do you practice and get good (in relative safety)?

Is it hard to get good? Er… yes… really hard… but what you find hard will completely depend on your own relationship to your body and movement, to risk and challenge, and your dedication to pushing yourself. I was quite bold when I started, agile and quick to try to new movement patterns, but I had to work very hard to build strength. *

The safety question for beginners comes up a lot. I always feel safe because I’m in control of myself. I train only what I know I can physically achieve. Becoming a parkour practitioner is becoming completely in tune with your limits. Starting is all about building up your movement palate, your building blocks. You work on technique and accuracy, drill drill and drill again so that you don’t have to think about how you will move, you just do it. You train small – jumping to a curb, balancing on a low rail, climbing over a little wall. This kind of thing. I didn’t learn indoors but some people like it. I personally feel like I gained a quick and acute sense of the relationship between danger and play by being outside. The surfaces you play with will quickly remind you of the risks you’re undertaking and, if you’re training in the right way, the worst that can happen is a bruise, a ripped open hand, perhaps at the most a ‘shinjury’.

* I don’t really feel like I have ‘got good’ either… there is so much I am working on. But I will accept that to my Mum and Dad I am spectacular and to most people who don’t do parkour, I look like I know what I’m doing. If I used smileys, there would be a few in here now.

Tell me about the process of overcoming fear when learning parkour. Do you think that any averagely healthy person could do it?

In my opinion absolutely anybody of any level of ‘health’ can learn, do or practise parkour. That’s what’s so brilliant about it. When I started, I wanted everyone in my life to do it because it was changing the way I saw myself and the world (in case this interview hadn’t been cheesy enough already). I now realise that actually, it isn’t for everyone. This is not because of the physicality of parkour, it is because of the mental aspect, because of this constant conversation with fear. Not everyone enjoys consistently challenging themselves, putting themselves into situations where they feel afraid, and overcoming that. I don’t believe that some people are genetically more afraid of risk than others, I think we train this kind of strength too over the course of our lives. For many, this training in relation to physical obstacles, brings more discomfort than it brings reward and so they avoid it. Every practitioner is afraid of different things in different degrees, part of the journey is finding out what yours are, and training yourself up so that you are no longer afraid of them, or, you’re afraid, but your trust in the capabilities of your body is greater than your fear.

There is a beautiful video currently circulating of a young Spanish lad training. He has lost a leg in an accident. I think of him when I am irritated by my own physical limitations. He practises parkour.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying parkour for the first time?

If at all possible, find some other people to play with. Start very small, and enjoy these little movements. Watch videos if they inspire you, but stop watching them if they intimidate you. Just give it a go. It’s not ‘for’ any one type of person. The discipline is about you enjoying movement in the environment you find yourself in. There are so many people training now and most practitioners are keen to share. And, particularly the ‘older’ ones won’t have grown up learning it, so they’ll remember what it felt like to be new to it.

 

Photos © Violeta Beral

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