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What Parkour Gave Me

The car pulled into the driveway of the Brookline Teen Center. There were people standing outside, looking cold. I noticed a sculpture made out of metal bars sitting on the fake green grass. The people were standing in a circle around it, and moving their arms in furious circles. My father saw the worried expression written on my face and said, “Ling-li, there is nothing to worry about. You’ll do fine.”

I sat there for a minute or so, working up the guts to get out of the car and join them. I had been getting restless at home and wanted something fun to do. After searching the web for awhile, I finally found what I was looking for: a parkour class near my house. I had always watched videos of people jumping from roof to roof and doing other types of parkour movements, but never thought that I could learn to do what they were doing.

As I got out of the car, the chilly wind whipped my face and left me breathless. I started walking toward the people and noticed that they were all males. They looked very intense and intimidating. There were seven of them and they all looked to be about 5’7’’ at least, and most of them had big bulging muscles. My heart was pounding because of how nervous I was. I turned back toward my dad, but he opened the window and encouraged me to go. My stomach was jittery and my hands couldn’t stop shaking. I walked up to the nearest guy and stuttered, “Is this the parkour class?”

He smiled and said, “Yes, go up to the main desk and sign in.”

I did as he said and ran inside, mostly to get away from all the eyes starring at me, but also because I was already freezing. The woman at the desk gave me a sheet to sign and then told me I was all set to go. I made my way back and the same guy who greeted me gave me a sheet of paper and told me to give this to my parents to sign. I looked back to where my dad had parked, but he had already gone, so I stuffed it in my bag instead. The guy, who was clearly in charge, asked us to gather around him and the four of us did. He took a step forward towards me, singling me out, and said, “Welcome to the family. These are your new brothers, and, guys, this is your new sister.”

I was so shocked that he would use that term to describe the total strangers to me. He took my arm in a grip with his fingers surrounding my forearm. He told me that this was the parkour handshake and that from now on we would greet each other like this every time we saw each other. At that moment I was embarrassed and nervous about being the youngest and the only female there, but as the class progressed I started to feel more comfortable.

The people there were all so nice and I realized that I shouldn’t be worried about fitting in because they already accepted me. I was blown away by my first class, not only because I loved learning new ways to move, but because it made me feel free. During that first class I learned how to incorporate multiple movements together to create one single movement. I was taught to use my background gymnastic skills and to apply them to my environment. I would see a rail and realize I could do a cartwheel or a split on it.

One of the most important skills I have learned from doing parkour is being able to see opportunities. Whenever I walk around I don’t just see rails, walls, benches, or trees; I see wall runs, balancing tricks, vaults, latchets, jumps, etc… I now know many more types of moves and techniques and am able to look at the world and as a big playground, which makes my life so much more exciting.

The people from my first class have become like family to me and have changed my life so much. They have taught me what a loving and supportive community feels like and how to be my best. We train together as much as possible and are constantly trying to expand our knowledge of parkour and movement in general.