Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo

No Boundaries: Free Running New Orleans

04:00 August 22, 2014
By: 2Fik

An extreme sport, parkour has emerged on local park grounds, state camp sites and the college campuses, and involves acrobatic and freestyle movements. Practitioners aspire to overcome physical challenges like running across edges of walls, grabbing ledges and vaulting from various objects. 

“I started training parkour in June 2011,” said Shyam Deolalikar, a 21-year-old senior at Tulane University. “I have never been particularly athletic. I was in the process of losing weight and was inspired by videos of a 270-pound man from New Zealand who had lost weight through parkour training.”  Deolalikar, who started at 6’ 1” and 256 pounds, spent his freshman year at Tulane University training for parkour and dropped to 196 pounds. 

During the school year, Deolalikar trained approximately three hours per day on campus or at Audubon Park, ranging from strength and flexibility work to actual parkour practice outside or in a gymnastic facility. “There is a huge mental and fear component in parkour,” admitted Deolalikar. “It is very empowering and challenging. It is individual in nature so it is all based off of what you the practitioner want to achieve.” Now, Deolalikar belongs to the New Orleans Parkour/ Freerunning Facebook group with 333 members, of which approximately 50 active practitioners actually live in the New Orleans area.

Active practitioners of parkour range from recreational traceurs (someone who practices parkour) as well as stunt professionals like James Ortiz. As a former collegiate gymnast, Ortiz fell in love with parkour because the training encompasses self-expression without the limitation of movement. “What is great about parkour is the training schedule,“ said Ortiz, a professional stuntman in the film industry. “It can be whenever you want it to be and the locations are everywhere. All you really need is the willingness to play.”

Ortiz has trained parkour on Loyola and Tulane University campuses, downtown New Orleans, in Metairie, Slidell, and even at the state campgrounds. Depending on his workload and the day, Ortiz will work on “flow” or fluid movement from one maneuver to the next, conditioning and endurance, while primarily working on skills. 

Deolalikar described parkour as a goal-based practice that involves obstacles. For example, as a part of his regimen, Deolalika focused on his landing technique through repetition. “Parkour completely changed my body,” said Deolalikar. “Now, I am stronger, much more agile, have faster reflexes and strong joint health.” He also learned to cope with the basic fear of obstacles through the training process.

However, there is a risk of injury and parkour practitioners tend to sustain overuse injuries such as tendonitis from pushing their physical limits. This happened to Ortiz, who recently strained his knee from a bad landing. “The possible hazards pertaining to parkour can range from bumps, bruises, scrapes, scratches to muscle, bone and tendon injury, but that goes along with any sport,” he said. “Since participating in parkour, I have maintained the same strength and body type that I had as a collegiate gymnast.”

Originally, parkour and freerunning grew out of military obstacle course training and were largely non-competitive disciplines. However, this is changing and competitions are becoming popular. These events can range from strict parkour timed runs to creative, freestyle competitions. In New Orleans the annual National Jam tends to be more of a huge gathering of traceurs demonstrating their skill as well as, efficiency and style of movement. The last competition was the second annual, two-day event held in January on Tulane University’s campus and at Louis Armstrong Park in the downtown area. There were timed courses to run that were scored by the fastest time and freestyle competitions that were judged by the people watching and enjoying the event. Ortiz is planning the next national jam, which will be held in either December, 2014 or January, 2015, which will be posted on Facebook and other social media sites.

You may have already seen activity like parkour and freerunning. Elements of parkour have been featured in the opening wild chase scene of the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale. Or do you remember the harrowing stunts in the film, The Bourne Ultimatum? Also, a number of video games, like “Assassin’s Creed”  and the "Crackdown" series, include the various aspects of parkour as major gameplay components. 
As parkour and the freerunning movement becomes more mainstream, the online community is thriving with individual parkour YouTube videos and multiple chat rooms. It is infectious and attractive to people of all ages with no significant athletic background.

So, if you see a few practitioners bounding over benches and scaling brick walls, you can figure they are not professional circus acrobatics or Cirque du Soleil performers, but rather, the modern-day parkour traceurs exercising their freedom of self-expression and physical limits. 
Visit the Facebook open group "New Parkourleans."

Sign Up!