MTV’s ‘Ultimate Parkour Challenge’: Getting from Here to There Has Never Been So Cool

They can fly through the air with the greatest of ease without the need of trapeze.

To get from here to there most of us walk, some of us jog and even fewer run.  Members of the extreme sport, Parkour, take getting from here to there to the next level by flipping, vaulting, jumping and incorporating a signature move or two.

So what is Parkour?

“Parkour” is derived from a French word “parcours” meaning “the way through” or “the path” and has its “origins in a training program for French Special Forces known as ‘Parcours du combattant’, or ‘The Path of the Warrior'”. (source) Basically, it’s the “act of moving from point A to B” in an expressive way in all types of environments.

You can see for yourselves what Parkour is all about by watching MTV’s  Ultimate Parkour Challenge which airs live at 10:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific on Thursdays.

Eight Parkour competitors from throughout the world compete in a variety of urban environments. Week One took the guys (No, girls. Sorry. It would be super cool if there were some) to the Queen Mary where were given full reign to do what they do.

Prior to the live event, the Parkourers (my word) are divided into 2 teams of 4 to create videos  (one per team) using the selected environment (e.g. Queen Mary) as the “canvas”.

The team that creates the best video based on creativity, expression and teamwork gets to move on to Round 2 and the live challenge where they compete as individuals and the competitor with the fastest time wins $1,000.

I know you are thinking, why do they produce a video as a part of the challenge? It’s because Parkour is considered the “first viral sport” thanks to its popularity on YouTube.

MTV's 'Ultimate Parkour Challenge' Cast Shot (courtesy: MTV)

So what kind of person participates in Parkour?  To answer that question, The Ride spoke to Tim Shieff of Derby, U.K.

Before becoming a Parkourer over 5 years ago, Tim used to break dance professionally with the Trinity Warriors, “one of the best groups in the U.K.”  After seeing a documentary on British TV, Jump Britain, he decided to give the sport a try. “I thought it looked like the things I did as a kid like climbing things, doing handstands.  [The same things] they frowned on when I entered secondary school.”

The next question is, are Parkour competitors born or made?  Well, according to Tim, they just might be born to do this. “Everyone comes from a similar childhood — climbing trees, hanging upside down.  My dad said I started when I was two and I climbed a lifeguard chair at the beach. My dad trusted me to do it.”

Oh by the way, if you think that you can’t make a living at Parkour, you’re wrong. This is Tim’s full time “job” choosing to do this instead of “going to University”.  Competition/exhibition has taken him to places as exotic as Dubai and as fast and free as Las Vegas.

Okay, so you say you want to do what Tim does. Well there’s some preparation involved. Tim’s training involves a “mixture of body conditioning, sit-ups, chin-ups.”

“I go out into the environment, including places with railings, play areas, and create movements mixing in break dancing and different styles,” said Tim.  “It’s creative kind of body conditioning but it still works you out.”

Although they make it look easy, Parkour can be grueling at times. “[The most difficult part of it] is the physical aspect. It trying to keep going through injuries and tweaks. [You ask yourself] ‘Why am I doing this?’ You’ve got keep going and training and keep your body in shape.”

Okay, you say you got it…Well, sort of…It’s moving from one place to next in a fun way. It looks easy but it’s really hard…But you are still not quite sure what to expect should you watch the show.

Tim likened Parkour to some of what you may have seen in Jackie Chan movies. He said that although you should “look out for foundation movements that everyone does”, you should “follow the general path rather than the movement.”

“[Simply put] Parkour is moving from one place to another. You choose how you do it — creatively and/or efficiently. It’s as open as that.”

To follow Tim on Twitter, click here.

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