City hopping: Joshua Hill, right, scales the walls of Toronto practising parkour. He is pictured with fellow freerunnner Shaun Hunter.
City hopping: Joshua Hill, right, scales the walls of Toronto practising parkour. He is pictured with fellow freerunnner Shaun Hunter.

Have you ever marvelled at those urban kids who seemingly fly from building to roof to wall looking like James Bond but in sportswear and sneakers?

Welcome to parkour — a city craze that first hit off a decade ago and which is starting to edge its way into Bermuda.

Parkour, also known as freerunning, involves ­running up, climbing and jumping from walls, railings and other architectural structures found in towns and cities. The aim is to get from A to B as fast as you can though some methods focus also on more showy manoeuvres.

Next Saturday, there will be a special workshop held on the top floor of Bull’s Head car park by professional rock climber and parkour addict, Joshua Hill. The workshop is one of many street culture workshops and demonstrations taking place on July 10 as part of the Youth Culture Festival, the second event of the Culture Unwrapped series organized by Community and Cultural ­Affairs. One of the two parkour workshop is due to begin at 1pm while times of further demos and workshops, including skateboarding, BMXin and DJing, will be announced on the day.

The parkour workshop will be a basic introduction and Mr. Hill hopes it will get the ball rolling in Bermuda. “It is basically training your body to be able to move to your environment smoothly and efficiently,” he explained.

“I always use the analogy ‘if someone was chasing you, what things would you use to get away on foot as fast as you could?’. I also use the reference to martial arts training — it’s a ­motion art.”

“I am getting some blocks made up. One of the basic things you teach people at the beginning is vaults — getting over waist and chest height walls. How to get over low walls is important because they’re quite ­common in a modern ­urban environment. The other big thing is how to safely land from a height. We will probably have smaller blocks set up so people can practise their jumping technique. We will also teach how to roll to ­dissipate the force of landing from a good height. We may cover a few climbing techniques too.”

Mr. Hill used to be the full time instructor at The Olympic Club’s climbing wall where he currently works part time. He first got into parkour nearly six years ago while living in Toronto. He saw a documentary called Jump London with Sébastien Foucan and David Belle who are considered the founders of parkour. It explained how David Belle first learned the skills from his father, a firefighter, who taught his children how to escape buildings without getting hurt. 

While parkour has been around for many years, there are very few who practise it in Bermuda. “There are four people who I know of who have actually come out with me to train and there are three or four who have expressed ­interest,” Mr. Hill said.

“I think we have the ­potential for a lot more. So few people have seen it in real life — they have seen it on TV or in movies but it’s not the same.”

Mr. Hill said other skills that could be transferable to parkour include gymnastics, climbing and martial arts “tricki” which incorporates tricks and martial arts. He said those with weak knees should consider carefully whether they are able to do it as a lot of strain is put on them through jumping.

Mr. Hill believes Bermuda’s architecture is quite well suited to parkour.

“There are some good ­areas Bermuda College has a great terrain for it. I usually take people to Bull’s Head car park and Dellwood Middle School. We use a lot of the play grounds as well. I imagine we will have to combat some opposition to this — there is a bit of a culture here that ‘you’re not ­supposed to be doing that.’ Bull’s Head has never had a problem. Places like BDA College and Dellwood Middle School — the key thing is mutual respect. I don’t train there unless the places are empty. You are fine in play grounds but you have to deal with a bit of a social stigma — people looking at you thinking ‘you’re 23, what are you ­doing in a play ground?’”

Other workshops and demonstrations at the Youth Culture Festival include BMXing by James Needham and Mike Johnson, DJing by DJ Choice, Rusty G and DJ Chubb, air brushing by Robbie Rogers and VJing by DJ Choice. Adrian Kawaley Lathan who has organized the festival has also flown two artists from the States — a graffiti artist Tony Castillo and a skateboarder instructor.

The free festival runs from at 12pm until 6pm