Parkour is gaining quite a following in the city, with Chennai having the largest number of practitioners in India

It’s a searing summer morning but at Nageswara Rao Park a group of people are keenly scaling walls, hurdling fences and leaping over columns in ways that can stump superheroes. Until five years ago, these acrobats little imagined that they’d ever be a part of the largest parkour community in India.

Parkour comes from the French for ‘park running’ and the sport involves clambering and vaulting across urban spaces in moves that involve swiftness, directness and efficiency. The sport shot to international prominence, over a decade ago, when 41-year-old Frenchman David Belle, an actor, traucer and son of a highly-skilled rescuer in the Military Paris Fire Brigade featured in an advertisement for the BBC that saw him racing from one London rooftop to another. Parkour gained popularity with films such as District 13 and brought together like-minded people who love the dare of the sport.

Chennai Parkour was formed in 2007 when a group of five parkour enthusiasts found each other on social networking site, Orkut. And the group has grown in numbers since. Today it has over 80 students training with it which makes Chennai Parkour, the largest parkour school in India.

District 13 changed my life. The film pushed me to explore parkour, and from then on, whatever I work with is associated with the sport. We eventually went on to form a community,” says Prabhu, trainer and founding-member of Chennai Parkour.

“We have gained prominence in Chennai. Be it performing stunts for films, or introducing it as a stage element in plays, we are trying to give parkour its due. The traucers (practitioners of the sport) performed remarkable stunts in the Tamil film Mugamoodi, and in Magic Lantern’s recent rendition of the play Ponniyin Selvan. We are still exploring different avenues that can be associated with it. For now, parkouring in India, is just a sport. Chennai Parkour hopes to help infuse it with art forms and start a movement that takes it to city schools,” adds Prabhu.

“Chennai Parkour is open to anybody who is interested. There are students here between the ages of five and 50. Everyone learns to condition themselves to the sport,” says Vishwa, a trainer.

Parkour calls for a good deal of mental grit. “Not many can handle the stress that the sport demands. Sixty per cent of those who join quit within the first week. But the men who survive can master the sport as the stunts are easy to learn when one is fit,” says Vishwa.

The group is also working at getting the sport more recognition in India. Says Prabhu, “We hope we’ll get a chance to teach the sport to those in the paramilitary forces and the fire services department.”

Women are also part of the group. “Parkour is not competitive and that is what makes it fun. I love it and so does my daughter,” says Lakshmi Ashok, a traceuse and a mother of two.

On how different it is to practise the sport in Chennai as compared to spaces abroad, Prabhu says, “The geography of a place dictates a lot, in terms of how a sport develops. There are public spaces in the U.S., the U.K. and France where people can parkour.” Counting on his experiences here, he says, anybody jumping a wall in Chennai could be mistaken for a thief. “But the sheer sense of freedom when you’re mid-air is all worth it,” he says with a smile.

For details call 99626 96859, 97911 02804 or log on to Chennai Parkour.