Steadying himself on the metal beams, senior Marcellus Finklea prepares to do a backflip over a bridge, the traffic rumbling below him. Calmly, he walks up the beams and stands on top, adjusting his feet.
He launches himself into the air and sticks the landing.
The sport, parkour, created by David Belle and popularized in films in the 1980’s, it is a form of natural and effective movement with roots in French military training. Traceurs —people who do parkour— focus on being able to move quickly around an environment with no assistive equipment, as well as to strengthen, condition, and grow awareness of their own bodies.
“I use it to get around and flare up my life,” Finklea said.
Finklea has used parkour to get familiar with the South Bay after he moved from Chicago a week before the school year started. He practices around campus, during B-Boy club, and the areas around the South Bay including beaches, parks, neighbourhoods and gyms, such as Tempest Freerunning in Hawthorne.
While Finklea’s confidence in his own ability suggests that he started by doing a headstand off the edge of a roof, Finklea got his start with a flip.
“In sophomore year, I was just running around,” Finklea said. “I at least wanted to look cool running around.”
“Running around” is a big component of parkour, but what Finklea describes is another sport splintered from parkour involving showier moves and acrobatics called freerunning. It often includes twists, turns, and other flashy acrobatics that are not used in parkour. Most competitions will accept both under the name parkour, as the two sports are flexible in definition, and as a result what is often labeled parkour is actually freerunning Finklea practices parkour and sticks to strong and consistent flips.
“I would say that I’m on the high end of intermediate,” Finklea said. “Definitely not beginner.”
Advancement in parkour is measured by the speed it takes to learn moves, as well as the moves a traceur can attempt.
“To be advanced, you really need to be amazing. They can just see a move, and do it.” Finklea said. “I don’t think I’m at that level yet.”
Finklea can do flips off of walls, get off the ground using only his head, backflips, and headstands off of thin surfaces like the rails on staircases. He’s also learning continuously as he goes, mastering moves over the years and adding them to his skill set.
“I’m mostly proud of my wall flip, because it took me three hours to learn,” Finklea said. “That was with full confidence and no worrying. Most tricks take days, or even weeks because you’re creating a muscle memory for it.”
Finklea’s only fractured his wrist before, and the most dangerous thing he’s ever done was the flip on the bridge.
“My parents don’t want me to anything too crazy,” Finklea said. “I just don’t tell them about the crazy things.”
He’s turning his hobby into a sport, learning more moves and going to local competitions held by parkour gyms.
“You’re just trying to be a better ninja.” Finklea said.
Finklea intends on continuing through college, and later on in his life as well.
“I intend on doing parkour forever,” Finklea said. “Well, until I get too old for it.”