Traceurs, freerunners defy law of urban jungle

By Thanh Hue   May 21, 2020 | 04:00 pm GMT+7

Hanoi youth are finding creative expression in the disciplines of parkour and freerunning, cultivating both brain and brawn.

Ever since parkour and freerunning made its way to Vietnam in 2007, the two outdoor activities have attracted and provided many youth to run, jump, land, climb, tumble and roll in narrow streets and alleys and rooftops in Hanoi. After watching the movie Casino Royale, 24-year-old Turtle (real name Pham Xuan Lam), has been fascinated by the Parkour movements in the film and pursued the subject ever since, until now 11 years. Currently, Lam is the leader of the Parkour team consisting of 10 members from 21 to 24 years old, named Highnoy.Highnoy is a way of calling Hanoi by a foreign friend and we decided to use it for easy reading. At first, I formed a big group so everyone could come and exchange to help each other. However, the large number of members did not achieve the desired results, so I withdrew into an individual group of 10 dedicated brothers to pursue this subject for a long time , Lam shared.

Parkour and freerunning first hit Vietnam in 2007, providing young city dwellers the chance to traverse the narrow streets, alleys and rooftops of Hanoi in gravity-defying fashion.
Pham Xuan Lam, 24, nickname Rua (turtle), was inspired to join the movement after watching James Bond epic "Casino Royale. Now, after 11 years, he leads the Highnoy parkour team, consisting of 10 members aged 21 to 24.
"'Highnoy is the name given to the city by a foreign friend, which we adopted since it is easy to pronounce. At first, I formed a big group, then scaled down the numbers to the current 10 brothers to effectively exchange training tips," Lam said.

Movement without judgement: parkour, freerunning leap over urbans roofs - 2

Anh Tu, a traceur for seven years, performs a technique called Precision that  involves a jump from one obstacle to another, before landing on both feet.
"To do this, I have to first practice on the ground, prepare myself mentally and feel safe inside the environment. It's risky but doesn't exceed my danger threshold," he said.
While parkour focuses on overcoming obstacles from point A to point B, freerunning emphasizes ostentatious movements and flashy performance aspects. Parkour practitioners, or traceurs, can train in parks and abandoned buildings as well as indoor gyms.

To persue this risky art, the practitioner needs to have strong stamina, starting with small and basic movements first. The most difficult in parkour is to combine the individual movements into a series of obstacle-moving movements with optimal efficiency. In addition to physical strength, creativity and imagination are also important to create new movements, and the goal is to perform a series of flexible with the most optimal movements. It took me four years to master a move sequence. Making a chain of group movement is even more difficult, Lam said.

Lam said: "In addition to physical strength, creativity and imagination are also important, the goal being to perform a series of flexible, optimal movements. It took me four years to master one sequence. Creating a chain of sequences is even more difficult."

Besides outer space, Lam and other members practice in the gym to forge physical strength and review old lessons. Members said sustaining injuries is inevitable during the training process. I had a lot of injuries, most of them were ankle injuries because of a bad landing. Once I jumped from a high place to a punctured wooden platform, I had a chest fracture that took a year of recovery to return to the next episode. Lam told.The family has a tradition of playing sports, so Lam received support for joining this adventure. Each time I fell to myself, I stood up and learned more experiences and maturity, Lam added.

Lam and other team members regularly practice inside a gym to forge physical stamina and review old tricks, though injuries remain an inevitable part of the process.
"I suffered mostly ankle injuries because of bad landings. Once I jumped from a high spot to a punctured wooden platform, sustaining a chest fracture which took a year to heal," the team leader said.
Since Lam's family are sport enthusiasts, they support him in his parkour dream. "Each time I fall, I stand up and learn from my mistake," he said.

Lam could only find online tutorial videos online when he just started out. Now all members can learn and help one another improve techniques.

At the start, Lam could only learn via online tutorials. Now, each team member plays a part in teaching, helping and watching out for one another.
"Parkour not only helps me stay fit but also challenges me to surpass my limits. I feel free – as if I can be my honest self. Also, I feel at ease when connecting with traceurs from different countries during local and international exchange programs. Those encounters give me confidence to be different," Lam said.

Lam and a member performing Webster technique. Parkour has developed globally, so there is a huge of international tracuer community worldwide. My group has participated in many international competitions. Even though we didnt win any prize, but those are valuable experiences that help us improving ourselves.

Lam and a fellow traceur perform the Webster technique.
"Parkour has developed globally, so there is a huge international tracuer community. My group has participated in many international competitions. Even though we didn't win any prizes, those were valuable experiences that helped us improve," Lam said.

Dao Duc Hieu, 23, nickname Khi (or monkey), said: I play both parkour and freerunning. For me, there is no movement that is difficult or easy, only movements that can and cannot be done.

Dao Duc Hieu, 23, nickname Khi (monkey), said: "I enjoy both parkour and freerunning. For me, there is no movement too difficult or easy, only those that can and cannot be done."

Before performing any challenging technique, members would wipe the surface of the soles so the shoes can stick to the terrains better.

Before performing any challenging technique, traceurs would wipe the surface of their soles for better traction.

During training, members often record videos to review later.

During training, team members often film each other for later, constructive review.

Le Minh, 23, also known as Mon, prepares to leap up a high wall. He has been doing parkour for eight years.

Le Minh, 23, prepares to leap over a high wall. He has been parkouring for eight years.

Members resting after practice. I want to develop my team into a well-known professional parkour group not only in the country but also around in the world. Thats my dream but we is still only one fifth of the way. But we are still young. Which, just go step by step and enjoy the process, Lam shared.Currently, Vietnam has about 20-25 parkour play groups, and individual practitioners do not follow any groups.

Traceurs rest up after practice.
"I want to develop my team into a well-known, professional parkour group. But that dream is only 1/5 achieved since we are still young. We are progressing step by step and enjoying the process," Lam said.
Currently, Vietnam has about 20-25 parkour groups, alongside many unaffiliated practitioners.

Video below was shared by Highnoy on Facebook, showcasing the team's techniques while promoting the use of face masks in Covid-19 fight.

 
 
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