This week saw Parkour granted the status of a sport by the Home Country Sports Council, with the UK the first country to give the sport this recognition. Sports minister Tracey Crouch, announcing the formal recognition on Tuesday 10th January, described Parkour as “a fun, creative and innovative option,” and suggested that the move to recognise it will give it “the platform for further growth in this country.” The physical activity, focused on moving in an agile way through one’s surroundings, originated in the military training advocated by French officer George Hébert before the First World War and has gained an increasing following – including in Oxford.
“You realise that your body can do a surprising amount more than you first thought.”
Tom Fay is an organising member of Oxford Parkour, a group set up to organise training and get more people involved in parkour from the university, Brookes and beyond. He welcomed the news, hoping that “it will help change the image of Parkour from a performance/daredevil activity to being a serious physical and mental discipline that anyone can get involved in and enjoy.” The organisation runs training sessions most days, usually informal sessions in which individuals can train and share ideas but with more structured sessions teaching parkour skills and physical conditioning on Mondays and Tuesdays. Fay highlights Parkour’s contribution to personal development, to “realising what your body can do and then improving upon that,” and also the way it changes how freerunners view the world. “You can suddenly see all of these different ways of moving around your environment, and you realise that your body can do a surprising amount more than you first thought. It’s a little like being a kid again, climbing, running, jumping and playing on stuff.”
The sport is growing in popularity in Oxford, with nearly a thousand members of the Facebook group and scores of members who train, regularly or infrequently. Fay highlights the efforts of the group, which has been running since 2012, to attract new members, and especially to rid the sport of its male-heavy image, with Monday sessions open only to women. The group also invites guest coaches to run training sessions, with the first of these sessions set to take place on the 23rd of January. While it is still seen as a niche activity by many, the efforts of organisations like Oxford Parkour, combined with the growing national recognition it receives, means that may change in the near future.
More information about Oxford Parkour can be found at www.oxfordparkour.co.uk