Parkour is the latest movement workshop at SKETCH this winter. It takes place offsite at the Monkey Vault. We spoke to Mandy Lam, Toronto Parkour facilitator, about the history of Parkour, the impact it’s had on SKETCH youth, and why it’s an art form to her.
Snapshots of the first day of SKETCH Parkour session at The Monkey Vault (above and below)
SKETCH: What is Parkour and how did it start?
Mandy: Parkour is a way of repurposing your environment to help you grow. The origins of Parkour started in the 1980s in the Parisian suburbs by a group of young people in high school who were trying to figure out how to interact with their environment. For them, Parkour was a way of relieving stress, anger, and a way for them to grow personally. The original mentality of the Parkour founders was likened to a spiritual Martial Arts that would not only help push them personally, but also physically in the event that they would be in certain unsafe situations.
SKETCH: How did the SKETCH/Parkour connection begin?
Mandy: I got a grant from YOF (Youth Opportunity Fund) which is from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. I wanted to bring the community-oriented aspect of Parkour to an organization, similar to the way to I experienced Parkour as a teenager, which is solely about peer-to-peer support. Because of its popularity on the internet, Parkour has become expensive; there are financial barriers for folks to participate. I wanted to find a way to make Parkour accessible, so I sent a few emails and eventually got in touch with Julian Diego (SKETCH Program Coordinator).
SKETCH: What was the first SKETCH Parkour session like?
Mandy: The youth were really excited and they knew what they were doing. They adapted well to it and even stayed an hour after the session ended to practice on their own!
SKETCH: How do you think Parkour increases the wellbeing and capacity of a young person?
Mandy: Parkour is about being aware of what’s happening inside yourself and your surroundings. It’s about being and becoming strong. It’s a way to realize that if you come against a wall, there are ways to build or work around it and to work through it. Parkour is helping me have a more creative lens and increases my willpower. As a practice that is not as mainstream, Parkour is about adapting to your own rules rather than a person adapting to Parkour.
SKETCH: Do you see Parkour as an artform? If so, why?
Mandy: For me, Parkour is an art form because it’s something I want to refine and get better at. It’s a lot less intimidating than one may think. Start where you are in your own physical capabilities.
Whatever you think about Parkour, it’s all in your head. Come and try it out!
-By Jonsaba Jabbi, Communications
Photo credits: Mandy Lam