Parkour course in Bolivian park provides boost to niche, acrobatic discipline

By Yolanda Salazar

La Paz, Jan 28 (EFE).- Parkour, an obstacle-passing discipline with roots in the martial arts and military training that is an extreme test for body and mind, is growing in popularity in Bolivia and now boasts a space in a capital park for enthusiasts of all levels.

The La Paz mayor’s office and a group of young practitioners of the sport (known as “traceurs” or “traceuses”) collaborated to design that city’s first parkour course, which is located inside Parque del Ingeniero in the Alto Obrajes neighborhood.

The equipment found in that 45-square-meter (484-square-foot) space includes metal bars, cement blocks, tires and walls that provide a safe space for practicing, La Paz’s public infrastructure secretary, Boris Bacarreza, told Efe.

Some gather out of curiosity, while other more serious enthusiasts come to the course to hone all the skills – rolls, precision jumps, safety vaults, wall running, bar swings, landings and other moves – they need to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.

“We used to practice in plazas or parks. The problem was that people didn’t like us training because they thought we were destroying the places, or they’d call the police, or rudely kick us out,” Gianmarco Canales, a young traceur, told Efe. “So we’re grateful to have a place now.”

Practitioners of parkour – derived from the French phrase “parcours du combattant” (obstacle course) – on different occasions have been wrongly accused of being “thieves or crooks,” so they have to deal with these types of prejudices all the time, Canales added.

Although this discipline is a very personal pursuit in which each individual puts his or her body’s strength and resistance to the test, the young people at Parque del Ingeniero also help and encourage one another and do their part in promoting the sport by offering free classes on Saturdays.

Jorge Escobar, a practitioner for the past five years, says the sport brings out people’s “freedom of expression” and provides them the chance to overcome their limitations and fears.

After initially watching videos of this discipline on YouTube, the 20-year-old found a group of other young parkour aficionados and now meets up with them to improve his skills and learn more movements.

A video game served as an introduction to parkour for Paulo Mendez, who started practicing with a friend and now passionately pursues the discipline even though his family was initially opposed.

“I’m very happy about this park. I’ve now seen that new people are getting interested. They’re realizing what parkour is all about, and I think this place is going to really boost people’s level,” Mendez told Efe.

Although parkour has been added to the program of the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama (USA), Canales says he doesn’t approve of turning that discipline into a competition because at its essence it’s a tool for overcoming personal barriers.

Parkour was created 20 years ago in the Parisian suburbs by Frenchman David Belle, whose intention was to establish a discipline that could help people when they were in danger or needed assistance.

Belle was inspired by his father, Vietnamese-born Raymond Belle, who was separated from his parents during the First Indochina War (1946-1954) and as a child put himself through rigorous training at a French military orphanage so he could protect himself and escape danger if necessary. EFE


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