Question: Do you really want to only be changing the lives of those who can pay for it?
Some of the largest barriers to life-long participation in a physical activity are:
Lack of access
Lack of affordability
Lack of knowledge and
Lack of an integrated and supportive community.
The importance of movement to our physical, mental, and social health is undeniable. Aside from the obvious, it also has shown to do everything from normalizing blood sugar, reducing inflammation, and stimulating cell growth to effectively treating depression, improving your ability to learn, protecting your memory, and growing your brain. (1)
Thus, finding a way to ensure everyone has access to nourishing, sustainable, and FUN physical activity (because its the 'play' factor that keeps people engaged over the years) is CRITICAL to human and societal health.
Yet traditional sports and gym-going exercise, the most common forms of physical activity, face many if not all of these... with additional barriers emerging depending on age, gender, race, etc.
We need a better option, which is where Parkour comes in... Because, incredibly, Parkour effectively provides a path over, under, and through all those major barriers.
In brief: Parkour provides:
Access - do it any time, anywhere
Affordability - no equipment needed, no coaches
Open-Education - free online learning
Community - diverse, inter-generational
Anyone who has tried parkour knows that you don't need any special equipment or designated spaces. You can go out your front door--heck, you can stay in your living room if you really wanted--and have right there the means and methods of participating. There are so many styles, interpretations, and training approaches that you can find your fit.
Even more so, we have an incredible and supportive community that shares knowledge, tips, and tricks. There is a wealth of free online information, and groups dedicated to growing it. We couch surf, we work-swap, we bootstrap.
We have this great option, it breaks all these barriers.
❌❌ But wait. ❌❌
My question at the start wasn't to talk about how parkour is a cure to traditional options, but actually a question to Parkour as a community growing today. A question directed at all of those who are leaders, business owners, coaches, and practitioners in parkour! A question to ensure we remain conscious.
Do you really want to only be changing the lives of those who can pay for it?
Yes, Parkour is the path over those barriers, and people will still take advantage of it. But today, more and more people are learning and engaging with parkour through classes and gyms and paid services. Less and less we don't need to take parkour to people, because people come to us. But the people coming to us are those who can afford to do so. And we can't forget that.
As a community, we will commodify and put up paywalls. We share our highest quality content less frequently and worry about protecting our 'IP' and ideas. As business and demand grows, there is just less time to give to developing and running free events, free classes, free services. Less time to do outreach, figure out cultural dissonance. I get it. There are bills to pay, a gym to run, people to support.
I'm not writing this to make anyone feel bad. I too believe in charging what you're worth, and making a living doing the thing you love. But we need to realize that access is declining to a degree, and the culture around practice is shifting... and we need to take active steps to ensure Parkour continues to reach the populations who need it most.
That also is not to minimize anyones experience with parkour.
I have no doubt of the positive and deep impact of parkour on the lives of those who can afford classes and their bus fare and the bottle of water. Who have the privileged and means to participate. But I worry about the populations we are not so readily serving anymore... those that CANT afford or access a gym or a community, who might not have internet at home, or a support network to help. Even those don't know parkour is an option.
I often think about how in some ways it is almost MORE important than ever to give parkour to those populations (and find paths that are viable and sustainable.). I see it sort of as a responsibility, honoring the roots of where parkour came from, and its potential for impact.
Vision for the community
For me: I have a vision of society where people are able to live powerfully in the life they are given. I also believe in a society of humans who look after one another. Where we help others build the foundations they need so that they can grow and do the same.
💪We are stronger when those around us are strong too.
🔥We are more powerful when those around us are powerful too.
Parkour has a way of giving people a sense of personal power, a foundation to build upon, skills critical to being physically, emotionally, and socially fit. (Youve all probably seen my article on that subject.)
And while people of any walk of life and step of society feeling more powerful in their lives is important, I believe it is our responsibility as leaders and caretakers of the discipline to take the extra step to ensure we are giving power to the powerless, strength to the weak, mentorship to the lost, knowledge to the hungry, community to the unsupported.
Parkour... play. Our community, this movement. It has the power to rock the world, change peoples lives.
So, this is just a call to be more conscious. Mindful of the ways we grow and the roles we take and the businesses we build.
Do we want to only be changing the lives of those who pay for it?
Not sure where to start? There are a few small things you can do today in your community to keep the spirit of access, affordability, and open education alive. Off the top of my head...
✴ Run a free monthly meetup (or even better, get volunteers to do it!)
✴ Share your ideas --the beautiful thing is that when you give someone an idea, you don't lose it. You now both share it and can find a way to make it more impactful!
✴ Share your expertise. Write a little. Write a lot. Ask questions, answer questions. Make yourself available.
✴ If you do have the means, support groups, events, projects that are free and engaging their communities.
I try to take a stand every year, from sharing games to supporting experiences . I try to do probono work whenever possible, am working with Art of Retreat to make content available free online, and support the growth of healthy leadership. I support groups like Parkour Research and STURDYmade and Movement Games, and events like Winter Jam.
Parkour Visions is also going to be taking a stand. As a non-profit, we are uniquely positioned to meaningfully catalyze donors, access grants, and work with local government around the country to see the development and growth of programs targeting underserved populations. We are seeking meaningful partnerships / projects with individuals and groups across the country to bring Parkour and play to people across all dimensions of diversity, but especially those who need parkour most.
Join forces with me.
Build alliances with others.
Share challenge becuase we're stronger together :)