Undici in partnership with Puma Eyewear presents #NoCage, a collection of 12 stories of past and contemporary athletes that have changed the history of sports, overcoming the barriers and obstacles in their path thanks to determination and willpower.
To overcome metropolitan obstacles and barriers: walls, railings, gates and just about anything that obstructs one’s path. In other words, Parkour – more than just a sport, it is a way of life. This French discipline came into being in the early ’80s, and is also known as “l’art du déplacement”, or the art of displacement. The term “parkour” derives from the French parcours du combattant, which signifies an obstacle course or warpath used in the military training method put forward by Georges Hébert. As an official in the French navy at the end of the 19th century, Hébert was convinced that the best way to train soldiers consisted in practicing all of the actions that man naturally develops when encountering obstacles along his path, maintaining that one needs to “Be strong to be useful.”
But it is thanks to David Belle, the son of a firefighter who trained following the Hébert method, that the discipline found its contemporary form. Having trained on trails and paths since childhood, Belle became a firefighter, but was forced to leave the profession due to a wrist injury. Nevertheless, his love for the discipline did not die, and he decided to transform it into a real life philosophy. Initially, the discipline spread by word of mouth alone, until the media tacked on and the Parkour concept began to expand overseas. Arriving in Italy around 2005, the popularity of the discipline grew, mainly thanks to online videos that portrayed these athletes’ exceptional training over their routes.
Jumping, climbing and overtaking, Parkour is so extraordinary it looks almost magical, capable of stimulating a sense of freedom and an affinity with nature and the environment that is almost impossible to find elsewhere. But to become an expert athlete means being able to perform the right combination of techniques and movements in order to master the route in as fluid and agile a form as possible. For this reason, many traceurs – the term used to define specialists in the discipline – run the same routes for years in an attempt to perfect them to the nth degree, every last detail and take. The training consists of two different phases: a physical phase that is focused purely on the exercise of power and another, more tactical aspect, which has more to do with constant practice and methodology in order to achieve a certain experience on the routes. With regards to physical training, athletes perform movements that improve body control and increase strength, speed and balance, while the second phase involves the choice of the path and a detailed analysis of all the obstacles provided.
According to Hebert’s Natural Method, this training must be done in a slow, gradual progression in order to improve every feature of the individual’s athletic profile. For this reason, accelerated training sessions using ad hoc equipment in gyms are not recommended Only the surrounding environment, be it natural or urban, can teach one how to move around in his or her space while respecting one’s body and listening to the signals that it transmits. It is exactly this exercise of listening to one’s body that allows athletes to acquire a working knowledge of their minds and bodies. This, in part, shapes their personality, and helps them to deal with the time-consuming task of facing the unexpected and the dangerous, which also teaches them to identify their feelings and their own limits.
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Pursuing an activity of this kind affects one’s lifestyle as it is directs the mind to take a different approach to events in everyday life, allowing one to analyze things with a spirit that easily adapts to an ever-changing environment. This said, experiencing a multitude of mental and emotional states such as anxiety, fear, doubt and fatigue could also trigger a sense of security and confidence when these negative impulses have been overcome. Self-respect, knowledge and the constant challenge of one’s personal limits in order to achieve a goal while facing any kind of obstacle, hindrance or difficulty that could present itself on the life path of life, constitute the values of the Parkour discipline. What any person identifies as a problem, or an obstacle to achieving a goal, is perceived as a resource, as an opportunity to overcome that difficult moment as efficiently and smoothly as possible. This is why the practice of Parkour affects one’s approach to life. Never give up when you are facing difficulties, exploit them, move around them, and minimize them, to continue and – if possible – make this the best route to your ultimate goal: this is almost certainly one of the most powerful teachings of the sport.
Parkour is the art of fluid and efficient movement over obstacles or objects within your path, using only the capabilities of the human body. The art was developed with French soldiers during Vietnam and was later refined in the town of Lisse, France. Parkour has seen a large increase in particapants looking for a new fun form of fitness and wellbeing and has enjoyed recent popularity through movies such as District B13 and Casino Royale which all used Parkour in major action scenes. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
In relation to David Belle, the symbolic leader of Parkour, its birth and its evolution, it is crucial to consider the work done with and by his group, the Yamakasi. The whole discipline, in fact, owes its origins to this group of young and vaguely crazy athletes that chose Yamakasi as a collective name. Hnautra Yann, Châu Belle Dinh, David Belle, Laurent Piemontesi, Sebastien Foucan, Guylain N’Guba Boyeke, Charles Perriere, Malik Diouf and Williams Belle are the original founders of the group. Borrowed from the Lingala language, Yamakasi is a term that can be translated to signify a strong man or woman with a strong spirit: a synecdoche of the discipline’s founding beliefs and principles. Often the term is mistakenly identified as a Japanese word, mostly thanks to the 2001 film Yamakasi – The new samurai, which associated the word “Yamakasi” with the figure of the Samurai, or knights of feudal Japan, in an erroneous identification of different cultures. Blame it on the Yamakasi – The new Samurai by Ariel Zeitoun and directed by Luc Besson – , in which a new era Robin Hood-like gang steals money from wealthy doctors to contribute financially to a child’s heart surgery, or again from 2004, on a new Yamakasi group featured in The Great Challenge, with Châu Belle Dinh – an original member of the group and protagonist of the first film, who this time plays the part of the antagonist.
Today the Parkour scene has identified new fighters who are able to take up the legacy of the seminal Yamakasi group, and one of these is Kie Willis. In the video made by Puma, Kie – one of the most famous Parkour athletes in circulation –, best expresses the idea of power and agility in surpassing any obstacle, even those that appear to be absolutely insuperable.