聲明：本文是得到Parkour Generation 的同意翻譯及授權刊登
‘Art of displacement’以及‘free-running’ 等字詞將都會在本文中稱作 parkour. 練習者發現, parkour 需要人多方面的能力, 需要人克服恐懼, 認識到自己心理與生理的狀況; 那種自由, 自我擁有以及表達自己的感覺並非日常生活能夠容易遇到. 本文的目標是去探索學習parkour者的意見, 認為parkour 可以包括生命中不少重要元素, 將人導向尊重他人, 堅持信念, 有氣度, 建立創意等等的主義. 由於社會是由一個個人所組成, 所以我認為parkour有可能令社會引導向自由以及美德.
雖然parkour 的意義與用途都十分多, 我會最初解釋parkour是什麼, 給一些背景資料. 然後我會探討有關parkour有助身體與心靈互相連接的說法; 繼而探討parkour增強人類意識 (consciousness) 的說法 —— 學習者能感覺到自身身體, 控制身體隨心所欲. 有見parkour在全球蓬勃發展, 我會探討parkour這種所謂流行 (universal) 的原因. 大概這是由於人類的一些自然能力或是慾望, 平時卻是沒有方法發揮自己的能力, 去抒發這些慾望.
社會束縛著人的動作, 束縛著人的移動方法; 而parkour 正正就是違背建築者心裡的計劃 —— 違反建築者對建築物與空間的用法. 我會探討一些parkour怎樣改變這些慣有想法 —— 在某建築物上移動可以有多少方法? 這亦會帶我們去討論一些parkour 可能對文化與社會的沖擊.
為研究這個主題, 我取用了不少習parkour者的經驗與意見: 透過正式訪問Stephane Vigroux, 以及與多人為時十八個月的非正式討論. 我會在文章中探討不少他們的觀點.
80年代晚期, parkour在巴黎城郊形成, 是一個適應環境的活動, 也是與環境的一種互動. 習parkour 的人有時被叫作法文的 ‘traceurs’, 指子彈. 他們會在樹上蕩, 房子上跳, 跨過欄杆, 跑上牆邊…近年parkour 更在全球散播.
啟蒙parkour文化的一個人物是George Hebert. Hebert 是個法國海軍軍官, 在一次大戰之前就曾駐守世界不同地區, 對法軍以及西方國家的體能訓練有著重大影響. Hebert對於非洲土著的觀察深深影響到他, 提出的 ‘Natural Method 自然之道’. 他寫道: “他們 (土著) 有著美妙的身體. 他們靈活而且矯健, 動作有技術, 有耐力, 可是他們沒有什麼體育教練. 大自然就是他們的體育教練.” (Tony Wolfe, 2007). 受羅梭 (Rousseau, 哲學家) 原始主義 ‘noble savage’ 的影響, Herbert 編成一套以此為中心的體能訓練方法: 有 “行走walking, 跑步running, 跳躍jumping, 四腳爬行quadrupedal movement, 攀爬climbing, 平衡力equilibrium (balancing), 投擲throwing, 舉重lifting, 自我防衛defending 以及游泳 swimming” 十種方法 (ibid). ‘歷險遊樂場’, ‘繩網障礙場地’ 等體能訓練用的場地都是受Hebert的思想影響, 都利用假設的自然環境去做訓練. Hebert 自己的座右銘: “to be strong, to be useful 變得強壯, 變得有用處” (ibid.) 正正就總結了他的思想.
可是, Hebert不單只提倡體能訓練, 也有 ‘自然之道’ 的精神. “ (精神)不只在肌肉與呼吸之中, 而是一種 ‘力量’, 一種引導與控制身體肌肉的意志力.” (Wikipedia, 2007). 這與parkour 的精神頗有相同之處. Hebert 亦有提及過 ‘virile qualities’ (保持精力充沛) 的重要性:
“某些有難度或是有危險的練習需要不同的能力, 從練習中學習到的有不少這些能力, 例如在墮下, 爬往高處, 跳躍, 在不穩定的表面上走動等等的時候需要克服恐懼.” (ibid.).
Hebert提倡的主義影響到軍隊 (法文parcour du combatant 就是軍事障礙訓練) 以及消防隊的訓練 (“parcour SP”, 消防員障礙訓練). Raymond Belle 就是一個前軍人以及出色的運動員. 他曾經在越南服役, 退役後當上消防員, 長期工作都接觸到Hebert 的運動主義. 他兒子 David也有父親的決心. 他決意要有像父親一樣強的力量. David現被很多人視為 parkour的 “原創者the creator, the originator” (Jerome, 2006a). David “那份解除障礙, 束縛以及恐懼的熱誠, 喜歡到哪裡去就到哪裡去; 他的成就不只是因為超人的體力, 而是因為心理上的開發.” (ibid.) 這就是這新運動的重點所在. David Belle 自己說過:
“我跑的時候, 我找個地方作為目標. 我告訴自己: ‘我一定會到那裡; 我會直接去到那裡; 我會快速地到那裡, 沒有東西能阻止我.’. 我一直都羨慕, 熱愛 Daredevil (夜魔俠), Spider-Man (蜘蛛俠) 以及其他超乎常人的動漫角色. 他們都是絕佳的戰士, 他們都多麼的自由.” (Jerome, 2006b).
David Belle擁有體操, 田徑, 攀爬以及武術的底子, 並且擁有智慧與決心去超越常人, 他很快便找到一幫朋友願意陪伴他, 幫助他去發展這種新活動. 這種新活動叫做 “parkour”. 紀錄片 ‘Jump London’ (Christie, 2003) 裡面, Sebastian Foucan (David Belle 的長期伙伴) 指出 ‘廿二世紀殺人網絡The Matrix’, ‘星球大戰Star Wars’ 以及李小龍也對parkour 的哲學有著很大的影響. Parkour 像是超出所謂的正常, 突破人們的慣有看法, 挑戰 ‘可能’ 的定義, 挑戰作為強者的慣有看法. 這都是 parkour延續下去的重要因素. David Belle 的學生 Stephane Vigroux 說: “ ‘變得自然就會變得強壯’ 這哲理像是做超人! 其實, 這哲理都是源自夢想著挑戰平凡, 夢想著成為超人類.” (訪問於19/03/07). 早期練習 parkour 的人的心態是:
“練習 parkour心裡想著類似一種武術, 功夫, 超人等的東西. 他們覺得, 若果一個人要做一件事, 他會利用這個原始的方法去發揮力量. 可能他們當時只是不甘平凡, 只是想突出自己, 不與其他人一樣困在這框架裡. 所以最初的時候 parkour 有點反叛, 是一種表達自己的特別方式.” (ibid.)
可是, Stephane 說, 由David, Sebastian 以及其他人所發展的哲學是由反覆試驗而來的.
“一些始創人找到可以讓每一個人進步的方法. 他們發覺用parkour訓練自己, 付出自己的時候, parkour 會回報他們, 改善他們的生命, 讓他們成就自己.” (ibid.).
這幫發展 parkour 的朋友開始得到注意了. 由當地的小新聞去到搬上銀幕的電影 “Yamakasi- The Modern Samurai (港譯: 因咩差事跳跳跳)” (2000) –David Belle 沒有參加這套電影製作, 說電影是 “此藝術的出賣 a prostitution of the art” (Shephard, 2007 p.34). 原有的隊伍分裂後 Sebastian領頭制作了 (BBC 紀錄片) ‘Jump London’ (2003) 以及 ‘Jump Britain’ (2005). 這些作品把parkour帶到新觀眾眼前. 互聯網亦加快傳揚了parkour.
實質體驗The Embodiment of Experience
Parkour雖是很有體力需求的活動, 我們也可以從人類學的角度來理解它. 這類研究探討 “人類如何在與社會互動時, 限制或是引發社會的慣有模式, 創造文化” (Blacking, 1977 preface p.v/vi). 就似parkour 這一類的異常運動 (其他例如滑板), 它讓參加者的身心經歷到一個向 ‘慣有模式’ 的挑戰. 研究指出, 它亦讓人的動作變得有目的, ‘變得實在’ (an embodiment). “ ‘動作變得實在’ 是指肉體與心靈沒有分隔, 兩者沒有主賓之分.” (Csordas, 2002 p.59).
練習parkour的時候一定要循序漸進. 每一種新技術都有其困難之處, 嘗試的時候有其未知數, 有特別的恐懼. 在認知的過程中用上適當的心理對策, 加上體適能訓練, 能讓parkour製造莫斯 (Mercel Mauss, 法國社會學家)所說的 ‘身體技能’, 法文 ‘les techniques du corps’. 意思就是 “人體同時是文化發展 (cultural action) 的起源, 亦是文化發展的方法.” (Csordas, 2002 p.30). 人們也覺得parkour 可以令練習的人想到: “原來你身體一直也使用自動導航, 現在才第一次感覺到可以控制自己的身體….這是能讓你發掘自己潛能的運動.” (Jerome, 2006b).
這亦引起另外的問題, ‘何時開始我們失去了控制身體的感覺? 為什麼?’ 在心理學的角度, 人們在孩童時侯會把思想與感情分開處理, 在成長中失去能夠控制身體的感覺是正常的學習過程, 我們可叫作社會化的過程 (socialisation process): “孩子可以流暢地說話的同時, 愈來愈會明白到自然本性與文化規範之間的差別.” (Blacking, 1977 p.10). 或者, 就如Stephane Vigroux 所說:
“每個人心裡都是個小孩子, 我們永遠也不會忘記我們曾經是小孩子. 我就這樣看待每一個遊樂埸. 小孩在玩parkour, 他們自己也不知道, 連爸爸媽媽也都只顧自己看書, 他們都不理. 他們玩的是parkour, 可是以後就停了不玩. 你隨後就要入讀高級的學府, 在朋友面前要看似更成熟, 更像成年人, 要更聰明. 後來便是你就要進打工的生活.” (訪問於19/03/07).
普遍的西方對身體意義的看法與練習parkour所得的看法不一樣. ‘社會影響’ (socialised) 下的普遍看法是 “當權者的利益成了一件緊束衣, 壓抑著人們的自我表達, 扭曲著人們的想法與態度.” (Blacking, 1977 p.17). 這亦可以解釋為何特別是在 ‘西方’ , 或在 ‘城市’ 的現代生活裡不能實現表達自己, 發揮創意, 抒發感情等原始慾望 —— 人們在娛樂場所得到固定娛樂體驗, 在場所以外卻是不能滿足自己這種慾望. “身體與情感的分隔可以被形容為一個文化現象, 一個由某種生產公式或是社會規範而成產物.” (Blacking, 1977 p.18).
資本主義是工業生產與交易商品的體系, 內裡的思想是控制與權力分配. 資本主義將時間與空間變為商品; 而這種資本都市的精神主義正正就被parkour所排斥 . 我聽過有traceurs 說過parkour 是沒政治的消遣活動, 可是我不同意. Parkour 讓人自由地表達自己, 挑戰著社會接受的慣有行為 (social behavior) 與意見表達 (social autonomy), 歸根究底都是有政治意義的 —— 社會應該如何運作的觀念, 我們如何看自己和身邊的人, 以及我們如何看待時間與空間, 統統都被parkour 所挑戰. 我覺得parkour不是沒有政治的. Parkour有可能是革命性的活動. 社會可以由認識parkour開始, 對人愈來愈少箝制. 我們時常受社會影響而改變行為, 令自己變得可以被人家接受. 人與社會兩者互相影響, 加固雙方的思想, 如此不斷循環. “因為這樣, 人體本身就成為受到高度限制的表達媒體.” (Douglas 1973 引述自 Blacking, 1977 p.4). 不過, 我相信parkour 在某情度上挑戰上述現象. 這種現象不一定再發生了.
“用言語所定下的範疇以及思想系統可能會與身體裡面給你的資訊發生抵觸, 因而在情感上增加壓力(tension), 要在行為和社會行動(social action) 上找尋表達自己的方法.”(Blacking, 1977 p.14) 儘管主流社會如何看待, 一些想透過parkour探索自己的身體能力的人想要違抗這種情況. 生活上的壓力在parkour中用實實在在的方式解放, 所以令練習的人有所謂 ‘自由’ 的感覺.
(最少) 在英國社會裡, 人們不重視體格與心理健康, 卻是重視消耗與生產:
“我們住在一個平淡的文化之中, 以方便為黃金定律. 我們四周的事物, 連最悶蛋的生活細節也都是先計劃好, 鋪排好, 包裝好, 務求令我們在消費過程中思考得最少. 你不認同嗎? 看看四周吧.” (Bowman– Borden引述過, 2001 p.190).
雖然社會有很多不同方面, 這句話語勾劃出了社會過份規管人的可能性. 可是, 亦會出現上述的 “在進化的過程中, 生物在某時間地點與環境的互動關係” (Blacking, 1977 p.10), 是不能避免的. 我相信這種相互影響的關係吸引了很多新的parkour 練習者, 將來亦也繼續吸引到更多的人去練習.
練習的人時常說, 發現parkour 是改變自己生命的經歷: parkour 讓他們做到他們從前以為不可能的事. 這方面, 他們聲稱parkour在訓練體能和發展技巧的時候, 增加人對自己身體的認識, 增加對傷痛以及挫折的認識. 練習的人亦說parkour 促進人與內裡的自我 (the self) 聯繫, 也與外在的練習環境與空間聯繫, 他們從來都未試過這樣. 一個準確的描述可以為:
“你感覺與你的環境連接起來, 與你的身體連接起來, 與四周流動的力量, 身體內的力量以及與環境也都連接起來了. 你感覺有點控制不到身體, 有一半你控制著它, 有一半卻是被它牽著走. 可是你確實在那裡, 在那個環境裡, 你不可以想著其他事情… 這是十分有動感的感覺, 令你覺得有生命, 有活力, 像充滿力量一樣.” (Dan Edwardes, Angel 引述過, 2006).
梅洛龐蒂 (Merleau-Ponty, 法國哲學家) 指出, 這種與環境合而為一感覺, 令參與者覺得, “我不在這時間和空間之中, 也不用理會時間和空間, 因為我屬於它們的一部份, 身體已與它們融合起來.” (Borden, 2001 p.110).
很多練習的人都說感覺到與環境有連繫, 控制到自己的力量.身體與心靈合為一體, 帶來一連串的感受. “Parkour 不只是表面上好看的活動, 它讓你深深的發現自己. 我這樣練習是為享受這感覺, 為了認識自己.” (Forrest 曾於Angel引述過, 2007a). 像parkour這樣具創意的活動利用右腦的思考模式, 不只是左腦的直線思考(linear thought). 更完整的人類意識應使用兩邊大腦 (Blacking, 1977 p.20). 兩邊大腦的思考可能有更 ‘完整’ 的感覺, 令練習parkour的人感覺多麼 ‘有生命’.
一旦練習到了一定程度, 練習者會感覺到體內早就存在的力量, 驅使著身體. 看不見的力量, 一連串的能量帶領身體, 驅使身體習慣地做出早計劃好的動作. 當練習去到愈來愈高的層次, 練習的人愈來愈覺得自己的動作以及與環境的互動是 “由身體內裡所控制, 不只是有意識的控制, 而是由某能量的流動所監察著(Blacking, 1977 p.14). 當動作做到有效率的時候, 人們說實際地感受得到這是有效率的, 是省力的. 控制本能上的恐懼時, 練習者會一步步放鬆自己懼怕的心, 好像與四周合而為一, 正正就使用那種方法去移動. “很多田徑, 體操或是音樂的技巧都在於放鬆自己, 找到節奏. 在練習過後, 這成了習慣, 讓身體自行工作– 與利用意識控制身體的方法完全相反.” (Blacking, 1977 p.23). 以上可見, parkour 不是讓人尋求刺激, 而是需要慢慢進步, 發掘自己原有的潛能. Parkour在認知與情感上的感染力令法國的parkour原創者領會到這樣的哲理.
初學的 traceurs或許會較難明白, 練習不能不顧自己的恐懼. 他們要接受自己的感覺才可以進步. Silvan Tomkins (1964 – 於 Blacking 引述過, 1977 p.5) 解釋說人類的動作主要由情感所驅使. 身體習慣了以這樣的動作與環境互動. 這情感 “對於認知以及實際行為有著重大的影響” (Blacking, 1977 p.5). 此原則可以是雙向的 ––– 認知以及實際行為亦可以影響到感情, 就如認知和感情影響行為一樣. Parkour練習者說會得到不少的情感, 例如心裡衡量一個動作的實質效果, 滿意地做出一個動作的感受, 自由的感覺, 興奮與高興的感覺, 感到自己有力量, 能夠準確控制等等. “情感是領悟知識的催化劑, 情感在行為上加上了一個層面, 讓人真切的追求 (commitment).” (Blacking, 1977 p.5). 練習者普遍相信這不是單憑思考就可以領悟得到. 要達到真切追求的層面, 只有透過練習, 反覆地做出動作, 變得更有信心, 減少恐懼, 加深了解自己與自己的身體. 一旦有真切的追求, 就可以追求更大的動作, 嘗試一些壯觀的動作, 甚至將動作熟練了.
“Parkour 視覺” 下的空間/ 都市
實現parkour需要使用不同的表面, 如空隙, 高點, 欄杆, 樹木, 建築物等等. 雖然也可以在樹林和郊區訓練與練習, 可是大部份的練習者訓練時都遇上市區的環境. 人口密集的地方有一定的文化規範, 限制人的行為. 可是parkour, 或是更早的踩滑板等活動, 不遵循這規範. 人們會覺得這些地點“不是為這種活動而設”. 這種活動等如對於社會認為可接受的行為與動作的觀念作出挑戰.
為研究空間以及研究parkour如何將公眾空間重新量度, 我會從踩滑板的活動中引述一些經驗與看法. “踩滑板的人在通常沒有人的公共空間做一些 ‘違反正常人習慣’ 的活動. 公共空間的擁有權是含糊不清的, 公共地方或是半公共地方的功能亦是不清楚的. 踩滑板的人利用了這一點” (Borden et.al, 2001 p.181). Parkour的練習亦會經常發生這種情況; Parkour練習的公共地方的行人走道是被設計成一個阻隔, 將人群慢慢引導向目的地. 這些公共地方或只是為了分隔別人, 而沒有其他目的.
為什麼parkour 練習者看待這些地方可以與其他公眾不盡相同? 我們會用 ‘parkour vision’/ ‘parkour視覺’ 一詞去形容這現象. 在參加者的世界裡, ‘parkour 視覺’ 是以一種分析都市的輪廓以及建築的特別方法. 當今的主流文化使得我們沒有想過一塊牆, 一個沒有東西的空間, 一條欄杆可以有什麼用處. 體驗parkour是挑戰了從來未有人質疑過的概念. 與踩滑板一樣,同樣是挑戰了這般的心理.
“扶手欄杆是十分有用的東西; 何時使用欄杆, 何以使用它是很早就安排好的事. 假如欄杆是有什麼意義的話, 就是與其安全的功能有關. 踩滑板使用欄杆的時候, 令人最驚訝的事在於踩滑板將這件與每天大眾安全有關的物件, 變成一件帶來風險的事物.欄杆之前卻是用作清除危險之用.” (Borden et.al, 2001 p.185/6).
練習的人說, 他們能夠用新的方法去欣賞不同的建築物和都市的輪廓. 對於從未想過的環境互動的方法, 他們思想可以十分開放.一個traceur 經常都在衡量身旁的環境, 尋找移動, 跳躍或是其他動作的挑戰. 如此觀察和分析, 將身邊的環境城市的元素簡化到一次 ‘run’裡, 也就是在某環境裡的一連串移動動作. “建築物建築起開放的思想” (Borden et.al, 2001 p.187). 這 ‘思想開放’ 的觀念可以是減輕‘大人’ 壓力與煩惱, 是理想的 ‘返老還童’. 一般小孩都看似擁有這方面的好奇心. “對我來說城市就是遊樂場, 而你要用小孩的眼睛去看.” (Forrest, Angel 引述過, 2007a). Parkour 是嚴謹的修養. 有哲學深度, 亦需要非常嚴格的體能訓練, 可是訓練的人仍然說parkour有一種玩耍的感覺. 練習用的整個城市, 牆壁, 欄杆都是 traceur 的 ‘玩具’.
他們好像擁有這些地方, 將平日常見, 意料之內的枯燥事物從常規之中解放出來, 萌生自由的感覺. 儘管如此, 由於這活動異於平常, 看見parkour可是不明白這運動會覺得traceur 的訓練是在破壞公物, 例如弄花牆壁等等. 可是,
“我比起任何人更加需要這塊牆, 它就是我的寶貝. 我需要這塊牆去練習, 去訓練自己. 我很不想這塊牆磨損, 更不想它失去摩擦力. 我需要它保持這個樣子, 好讓我練習. 如果有一塊磚頭脫落了的話, 我會很傷心, 因為我不能夠有這牆上做出很多的動作.” (Sticky, Angel 引述過, 2007b).
牆壁或是欄杆是不動的, 有一個不容置疑的功用; 它們是計劃, 設計好的產物, 人們建築起來, 為的就是它們不能改變. Parkour 或踩滑板提出了問題: ‘這物件是為了什麼而設? 可以怎麼使用?’ 這些活動都指出 “建築物不單是一件死物, 而是空間, 時間與社會觀念 (social being) 而成的產物.” (Borden, 2001 p.1). 再一次說, 資本主義受在將時期與空間商品化的態度遭到直接挑戰. Borden 認為這類活動 “與資本主義的主題相對立… 這些活動要消耗大量能量, 卻是沒有可以用作交易的產品.” (ibid.). 這些資本社會 “崇尚物品的交易價值, 物品的用途或是實用價值卻是被忽略, 這樣或多或少將實用價值壓低了.” (Lefebvre – 引述在Borden, 2001 p.238). 所以經常有這個問題: 你從parkour ‘可以得到什麼?’ Parkour 將會逐漸會有一個可作交易的價值, 例如拍廣告影片, 造廣告版, 做教練等等. 可是, 對大部份練習者來說, parkour對 ‘自己, 自我’ 才有用. 這是社會將時間與空間商品化的現象而來的解放, 帶來有力量, 有擁用者 (ownership) 的感覺. 這字的用意不在於平常的資本主義方面: parkour (和踩滑板) 的自由給予人擁有者 (ownership)的感覺, 而非擁有物件 (possession)的感覺. 這些活動裡, 人們一起使用大家共同擁有的空間, 可是這空間亦不屬於任何人. (Borden, 2001)這擁有者的感覺是例如訓練的時候, 練習parkour 的人普遍覺得 ‘這是我的街道, 這是我的空間’. 但這不是在損害別人相似的擁有權. 公共空間畢竟是公共的, 不過可能因為資本主義對於 ‘擁有者’ 的思想, 公眾好像不願意擁有這些公共的`地方.
可能影響到parkour文化的形成是在二十世紀中頁的 ‘Situations’ (情況主義)運動. 這思想批評人們對城市的看法. ‘The Derive 衍生’ 是有創意地分析城市環境的方法, 思考一個人可以走多少路線, 當中會遇到多少的可能性. 這理論與 ‘parkour 視覺’ 十分相似: “只有察覺到現有環境的影響才能夠鼓勵人去質疑日常生活, 可是現有的環境正正就讓人忽略這問題.” (Debord, Plant 引述過, n.d.). ‘The Derive 衍生’ 和parkour 兩者都針對這被忽略的問題, 讓這成為活動的主要目標.
“嘗試, 樂趣與玩樂都可能埋藏在日常生活之中. ‘情況’主義者 (situationists) 認為一點混亂可以有利地令資本生產所生的體驗重新配置到一個新的社會關係制度.” (Plant, n.d.)
‘The Derive衍生’ 所引起的社會改變走出了本文的範圍以外. 可是現在的parkour 可能包含了許多相似的地方, 例如城市環境的可能性. 或許這個思想的現代版本會對世界有更深遠的影響. 當然那就必先需要: “在人們心目中, 社區融和, 統一和公共空間的價值…會比商品化, 分化, 以及私有化的價值更可取.” (ibid.)
作為需要很少器材, 裝備或是金錢的運動, parkour 有潛質成為很多社會層面的流行活動, 特別是感到被剝奪的都市年青人. 屋村與高樓大廈上工工整整的線條, ‘荒蕪’的空間, 眾多牆壁欄杆就是parkour 常常利用的地形. 以traceur的眼睛分析這些地方, 屋村的居民從前以為沒有創新可能的居住環境變成一個偌大的遊樂場. “Chombart de Laue 指出 ‘都市裡的社區不是由地理與經濟因素所界定, 而是在乎於居民以及其他人對於那一區的看法.” (Debord, 1958).
Westminster 區 (倫敦) 的年青人行動與Parkour Coaching (Parkour教導組織, 活動名為 ‘Positive Futures’ ‘正面的將來’) 聯手, 在區內學校教學, parkour 已顯示在一些被定為容易受毒品影響, 容易犯罪, 有反社會行為以及容易受社會排斥的小孩子身上收到積極正面的成效. 八至十九歲的犯罪案例在parkour 教授期間下跌了69% , 而有不少小朋友未接觸parkour之前都避免運動, 例如穆斯林的女孩. 她們找到有創意的運動方式, 或是發洩方式. 她們覺得感同身受. (Angel, 2007c) 利用一個環境吸引著孩子的想像力, 因為從前運動的概念是有組織, 需要器材, 或是在外在壓力下成就一些事情. Parkour的流傳以及社會/文化上的改變, 很可能在新一代成長之後才會更明顯. 新一代將會擁護parkour給予的自我, 環境和生活的新觀念, 新角度.
Parkour 愈來愈流行的同時, 社會對於時間與空間的觀念面臨 parkour更大的挑戰. 現時, 影響只是限於練習者身上, 在練習者的圈子裡, 而兩方面都指出parkour可能引致很多社會上的改變. Parkour 讓練習者重新塑造對自我, 身體以及環境的觀念, 挑戰人的極限, 讓人克服恐懼.
自我觀念, 初初是來自當代歐美社會的主義, 將時間與空間變為商品. 現在的觀念改造可以直接挑戰這種主義, 改變人們對身體與環境的看法. 練習者從parkour上得到更大的自我與擁有者 (ownership)的感覺, 一開始令練習者質疑四周空間的使用方法, 隨後便質疑自己的能力. 透過認識自我以及環境, 練習者有可能挑戰社會的常態, 重新建立這些觀念.
面臨艱難時刻, 面對社會經濟與政治的束縛, parkour對這些社區的居民發掘了新的可能, 帶來更大的轉變.
Parkour as a challenge to social perceptions of body and space
By Neill Brown
Translated by Daniel Wan
The ‘art of displacement’ and ‘free-running’ are terms used for what I shall refer to here as parkour. Practitioners have found parkour to be an activity which requires many qualities but also one which leads to insights into their mental, emotional and physical states; bringing feelings of freedom, ownership and expression not previously encountered in their day-to-day lives. In this dissertation my aim is to explore practitioners’ claims that parkour has the capacity to encapsulate many factors of life that shape people in the direction of honour, trust, integrity and creativity. As individuals influence society, I also argue that parkour offers possibilities for change within the nature of culture in the direction of freedom and respect.
Although the meaning and uses of parkour are diverse and numerous, I will initially explain what parkour ‘is’ and give some background to the discipline. I will then look at practitioners’ belief that the individual processes of mind and body can find a greater connectedness through parkour; leading to a sense of a fuller consciousness and a felt experience of ones body being the physical agent of the mind. As parkour continues to grow and develop globally, I will address whether this seemingly ‘universal’ appeal stems from some ‘natural’ human capacity or desire, whose appropriate outlet of expression has lain dormant.
Social constraints are placed upon movement through space; as parkour directly challenges city planners and architects in their vision of the use of buildings and space, I will explore some of the ways in which practicing parkour can change perceptions of the possibilities presented by the environment. This will also lead me to examine briefly the possible cultural and social impacts which parkour could have.
In researching this topic I have drawn upon the experiences and opinions of many practitioners of parkour; both through formal interviewing (Stephane Vigroux) and informal discussions over an 18 month period. I will be examining many of these perspectives within my thesis.
The Formation of Parkour
Originating in the suburbs of Paris in the late 1980s, parkour is a physical activity adapted to the prevailing environment and is a dynamic interaction with that environment. Practitioners of parkour, sometimes referred to as ‘traceurs’ from the French word meaning bullet, can be found swinging in trees, jumping from buildings, vaulting railings or running up walls. In recent years parkour has spread around the globe.
One culturally influential figure upon the inception of parkour is George Hebert. Hebert was a French naval officer who travelled the world pre-WWI and came to have an influence upon physical training within the French military and upon large parts of the western world. Hebert’s ‘Natural Method’ was influenced by the observations he made of ‘native peoples’: “Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skilful, enduring, resistant and yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature” (Tony Wolfe, 2007). Influenced by Rousseau’s concept of the ‘noble savage’, he formulated a physical training programme that utilised at its core, the activities of; “walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, equilibrism (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming” (ibid). Heberts’ influence can be seen in ‘adventure playgrounds’, ‘assault courses’ and other such physical activity apparatus, which utilise ‘natural’ environments. Heberts motto: “to be strong, to be useful” (ibid.) seems to sum up the ethos of his vision.
However, it was not solely a physical approach which Hebert was championing, the spirit of the ‘Natural Method’ “resides not only in the muscles and the breath, but above all in the “energy” which is used, the will which directs it and the feeling which guides it.” (Wikipedia, 2007). Parallels can be drawn here with the spirit of parkour. Hebert also spoke of the importance of ‘virile qualities’, which are:
“Obtained by the execution of certain difficult or dangerous exercises requiring the development of these various qualities, for example while seeking to control the fear of falling, of jumping, of rising, of plunging, of walking on an unstable surface etc.” (ibid.).
Hebert’s ideas influenced military training (“parcour du combatant”) and that of fire fighters (“parcour SP”). A French serviceman and decorated athlete, Raymond Belle, who served in Vietnam and also worked as a fireman, embraced the challenge of Heberts ideas. Belle’s son, David, inherited his father’s determination and aspired to achieve his strength. David is considered by many to be “the creator, the originator” (Jerome, 2006a) of parkour. David’s “obsession to release himself from all obstacles, constraints and fears, and to be able to go wherever he chose to go; achievements owing as much to mental development as to physical prowess” (ibid.) was at the heart of the development of this new discipline. In his own words:
“While running, I’d fix on a point to represent an objective, and tell myself: ‘I’m going to go there; I’m going to go there directly; I’m going to go there quickly; and nothing will stop me’. I must add that I was always an enthusiastic admirer and reader of Daredevil, Spider-Man and other superhuman characters from comics, animation and action. All excellent warriors, and all so free” (Jerome, 2006b).
With a physical background in gymnastics, athletics, climbing and martial arts, plus grit, determination and the inspiration to be a ‘superhuman’, Belle soon found a group of friends who were willing to join him and help him to advance this new way of moving, of being, called “parkour”. In ‘Jump London’ (Christie, 2003), Sebastian Foucan (a long-time associate of Belles’) also sites ‘The Matrix’, ‘Star Wars’ and Bruce Lee as being influential to the philosophy of parkour. It seems that going beyond the ‘normal’, the expected, challenging perceptions of what is possible and being strong, are all-important factors in the creation and continuation of parkour. Stephane Vigroux, a student of Belle’s tells of ”the philosophy; to be natural and to be strong. Also it was to be like a superhero! Most of the influence was to challenge and challenge and dream about, yeah superhero” (interview conducted 19/03/07). The mind state of the early practitioners and the influences upon them was to:
“Just have this kind of martial arts and kung fu stuff in mind, the superhero stuff and I think they just decided to say to do something in their life and, use this energy, channel this energy, in this original way. Maybe they wanted to be just apart, to not fit in the same box with everybody else. In the beginning it was a bit rebellious. A way to express yourself differently” (ibid.)
However, the philosophy developed by David, Sebastian and others, is, according to Stephane, something which came after the physical experimentation:
“Some of the founders found a way to use these tools to develop each person’s life. They found through parkour, by training and giving a lot of themselves, parkour gives them back something and they use this thing to influence life and achieve things” (ibid.).
The group of friends who had developed this discipline began to gain some attention; local news stories evolved into a full length feature film, “Yamakasi- The Modern Samurai” (2000) – which Belle was not a part of, calling it “a prostitution of the art” (Shephard, 2007 p.34). The splintering of the original ‘crew’ led to other projects such as ‘Jump London’ (2003) and ‘Jump Britain’ (2005), both spearheaded by Sebastian. These projects opened up new audiences to parkour and the spread of the discipline has emanated from such filmic exposure and through the Internet.
The Embodiment of Experience
Being an activity that requires such physicality, parkour can be understood through studies into the anthropology of the body. Such studies have as their subject matter a “concern with the interface between body and society, the ways in which the physical organism constrains and inspires patterns of social interaction and the invention of culture” (Blacking, 1977 preface p.v/vi). Activities such as parkour (and skateboarding, to name but one other) place the participants body (and ‘mind’) within an experience that challenges social norms, due to its non-normal occurrence. Such activities also bring a reported sense of purpose through movement, an embodiment of intent. “Embodiment has as a principle characteristic the collapse of dualities between mind and body, subject and object” (Csordas, 2002 p.59).
In parkour, the practitioner must progress steadily. As each new move is attempted, it is accompanied by its own specific set of uncertainties, complications and fears. By a process of awareness and applying appropriate mental tools, combined with physical training and conditioning, parkour produces effects such as Mauss’ “notion of ‘les techniques du corps’, in which the human body is simultaneously the primordial object of and tool for cultural action.” (Csordas, 2002 p.30). Parkour has the perceived ability to allow its practitioners to feel as though “your body has always been on autopilot, and you’ve discovered for the first time that you are able to control it…. it’s a sport that permits exploration of the potential offered by your body” (Jerome, 2006b).
A question that arises from this is, ‘why or when do we lose this ability to feel in control of our bodies’? Much like psychological explanations for the separation between thought and emotion that occurs during childhood, this process can be seen as part of a ‘socialisation process’: “as children become fluent in language, so the barrier between biological proclivity and cultural constraint becomes even more acute” (Blacking, 1977 p.10). Or, in the words of Stephane Vigroux:
“We all have a kid inside; we never forget that we have been kids before. And I see in every playground park. The children play parkour and they don’t even realise, even the parents, they just read their books, they don’t care. It’s parkour, they just stop. Then you have to go to higher school and look more adult in front of your friends, be more smart and after it’s working life which begins” (interview conducted 19/03/07).
The accepted symbolic nature of ‘body’ within the ‘western’ cultural perspective is not congruent with the felt experiences of parkour practitioners. Such ‘socialised’ and accepted views may in fact have their origins in subtle expressions of “the interests of a dominant group, and become a straight jacket that inhibits self-expression and distorts posture” (Blacking, 1977 p.17). This is one possible explanation as to why modern, especially ‘western’ and ‘urban’, life is so devoid of physicality combined with expression, creativity and emotion, especially outside of the compartmentalised experience of the leisure centre. This separation, “the mind / body dichotomy can be partly explained as a cultural phenomenon as an artefact of certain modes of production and social formulations” (Blacking, 1977 p.18).
Capitalism as a system of production and exchange also has at its heart, control and power. Capitalism commodifies time and space; the ethos of a capitalist city is rejected by parkour. I have heard some ‘traceurs’ say that parkour is a non-political past time, however, for me this is not the case. Parkour brings a sense of freedom of expression, challenge to social behaviour and autonomy that is inherently political. Perceptions of the way society works, how we view ourselves and those around us, as well as time and space, are all challenged by the practicing of parkour. I see parkour not as an apolitical activity but in fact as a potentially revolutionary one. The physical body becomes less constrained by societal views through the practice of parkour. Social factors are always acting upon us to modify physical behaviour into accepted categories. This interaction of the social and physical is self-fulfilling, both aspects being re-enforced by the process. “As a result of this interaction the body itself is a highly restricted medium of expression” (Douglas 1973 quoted from Blacking, 1977 p.4). However, I believe parkour challenges, to some degree, this otherwise true statement.
Regardless of the prevailing social conditions, for those wanting to explore their own physical capabilities through parkour, the fact that “word-based categories and systems of thought may conflict with information that comes from the within the body, and so build up tensions in feeling-sates that find expression in behaviour and social action” (Blacking, 1977 p.14) is to some degree negated. The tensions of life find a physical manifestation for release through parkour, leaving the practitioner with the relative and reported feelings of ‘freedom’.
In Britain (at least) society does not stress the physical and mental well-being of its population, over say consumption and production:
“We live in a bland culture governed by the sacred principle of convenience. Everything around us, right down to the most mundane aspects of our daily lives is pre-planned, pre-arranged and pre-packaged so as to ensure as absolute minimum of the consuming, conscious involvement from us. You don’t think so? Look around you” (Bowman– quoted in Borden, 2001 p.190).
Although there are many facets to society, the above comment illuminates a felt sense of ones possibilities being overly restricted by society. However, there exists an inescapable “evolutionary relationship of the species and its environment at any given time or place” (Blacking, 1977 p.10). I believe it is this relationship that has drawn and continues to draw many new practitioners to parkour.
Practitioners often claim the discovery of parkour is a life-changing experience: that it enables them to do things they had previously considered impossible. In this respect, they claim that parkour involves a developing knowledge of the body; acquired through training and the advancement of one’s skills, as well as injury and set-back. Practitioners also claim that parkour encourages a connectedness with the self – and the physical space in which parkour is practiced – that they had not previously experienced. A succinct description of one aspect of parkour’s affect was given thus:
“You feel connected to your environment, you feel connected to your body and you feel connected to the forces at play around you and within you, and between you and your environment. You feel sort of not in control of them, but sort of half in control of them and half controlled by them. But you’re 100% there, in your environment, you can’t afford to be thinking about something else… it’s a very dynamic feeling, you feel very alive, vibrant, sort of full of power” (Dan Edwardes quoted in Angel, 2006).
Merleau-Ponty suggests that this feeling of being ‘at one’ with the environment, leaves the participant feeling that, “I am not in space and time, nor do I conceive space and time, I belong to them, my body combines with them and includes them” (Borden, 2001 p.110).
Many practitioners describe feelings of connectedness and power. The body and mind combine, bringing a depth of experience. “Parkour is not just a superficial activity; it allows you to discover yourself very deeply. I do it to enjoy myself and to understand myself” (Forrest quoted in Angel, 2007a). Creative activities, such as parkour, utilise the modes of thought located in the right hemisphere of the brain, as opposed to the linear thought patterns of the left hemisphere. A more complete human consciousness should utilise both hemispheres (Blacking, 1977 p.20). It is possibly this more ‘complete’ felt experience that affects practitioners to feel so ‘alive’.
Once a level of proficiency has been achieved within parkour, there is a felt experience of ones body being an agent for existing forces to act upon or through. Invisible forces and lines of energy are reported to take ones body and propel it through the pre-planned routine of movement. Increasingly, as one becomes more proficient within the discipline, movements and interaction have a felt sense of being “shaped from within the body and monitored by patterns of energy flow that transcend the actors’ conscious attempts to manipulate the situation (Blacking, 1977 p.14). When a move is executed efficiently, the forces of physics are reportedly felt within the participant. By overcoming the desire to panic, the practitioner relaxes his / her fears and seems to become one with his / her surroundings, moving through it exactly in the chosen fashion. “The secret of many athletic, gymnastic and musical techniques is to be found in relaxation and rhythm, and leaving the body to do its own work after a period of practice – which is surely the very opposite of mind over body” (Blacking, 1977 p.23). This argument illustrates that parkour is not exactly an activity for “adrenalin junkies”, but one that requires steady progress and fulfilment of existing potential. It was the cognitive and emotional affects of parkour that presented the original French practitioners with its philosophy.
Although a difficult concept for many new ‘traceurs’ to initially grasp, the accepting of ones emotional state, rather than the denial of fear is the way to progress within parkour. Silvan Tomkins (1964 – quoted in Blacking, 1977 p.5) explains that human activity is primarily motivated by emotional affects. Physical activity and the body are used to communicate this relationship between self and the environment. These emotional “affects have profound effects on cognition and action” (Blacking, 1977 p.5). This principle works from both directions – cognition and action also effect emotional state, as cognition and emotion effect action. By weighing up the physical actuality of a movement and executing it satisfactorily, feelings of freedom, euphoria and joy, strength and control, amongst others, are reported to arise within practitioners of parkour. “Feeling is the catalyst that transforms acquired knowledge into understanding, and so adds the dimension of commitment to action” (Blacking, 1977 p.5). Practitioners commonly believe that this insight is not one that can be arrived upon by cognition alone. Only through practice, by repeating movements and becoming confident, relaxing fear and understanding ones self and body can the commitment to action be increased. Once one has greater commitment to action, greater actions can be committed to and more (visually) spectacular moves can be attempted and mastered.
Space / Cities Through “Parkour Vision”
The physical manifestation of parkour requires surfaces, gaps, heights, rails, trees, buildings etc. with which to interact. Although parkour training and practice also occurs in woodland and rural environments, most practitioners encounter the urban geography of the city during their training. Heavily populated areas have certain cultural norms of behaviour, to which parkour or other activities, like skateboarding before it, do not conform. To perform a physical activity in a place deemed “not designed for purpose” challenges and changes ideas of culturally acceptable behaviour and action.
For the examination of space and how parkour re-appropriates public spaces, I will be drawing upon the experience and insights of skateboarding. “Skaters undertake a ‘counter-habitation’ of habitually uninhabited but nonetheless public spaces. Skaters exploit the ambiguity of the ownership and function of public and semi-public space” (Borden et.al, 2001 p.181). The practice of parkour often happens within these public spaces; areas designed as walkways to filter the population towards their destination, or within dividing areas with no obvious purpose other than to segregate.
What is it that makes practitioners of parkour view these areas in such a markedly different way to the ‘general public’? Within parkour, the term ‘parkour vision’ is used to describe this phenomenon. ‘Parkour vision’ describes the altered way of analysing lines and architecture that occurs within the participant. The prevailing culture ushers us to not consider the use of a wall, of an ‘empty’ space, of a rail. Experience of parkour challenges these previously unchallenged notions. A psychological challenging shared with skateboarding:
“A handrail is a highly functional object; both the time and nature of its use are fully programmed. If there is a meaning at all in a handrail, then it is directly related to function; that of safety. The surprise of the skateboarder’s reuse of the handrail…is that it targets something to do with safety, with everyday security, and turns it into an object of risk, where previously it was precisely risk that was being erased” (Borden et.al, 2001 p.185/6).
Practitioners report a new appreciation of architecture and the lines of the city. The mind is open to possibilities of interaction that had previously not been considered. A traceur is constantly weighing up his / her environment and looking for new possibilities for moves, jumps or challenges. This way of viewing and analysing ones surroundings reduces all elements of the city to components within a ‘run’, or series of movements through an area. “Buildings are building blocks for the open minded” (Borden et.al, 2001 p.187). This ‘open minded’ view can be seen as he relaxing of ‘adult’ tensions and preoccupations, perhaps an idealised ‘return’ to childhood. Certainly, it does seem that children generally posses this inquisitive kind of approach. “For me the city’s a playground, you have to see it through the eyes of a child” (Forrest quoted in Angel, 2007a). Parkour is a serious discipline with philosophical depth, requiring highly disciplined physical training, yet this feeling of being at play is repeatedly reported to accompany its practice. The city, the walls and railings used to practice upon become the traceurs ‘toys’.
A kind of possession is felt towards these public spaces, a freedom which comes from being released from mundane preconceptions and familiarity. Despite this, due to its unusualness, some people who see parkour and do not know about the discipline can conceive that the traceur is in some way vandalising the wall etc. he / she is training on. However,
“Over anyone I need this wall more than you because this is my baby. I need it to practice on, I need to train here, I don’t want it to be worn away, I don’t want the grip to go away, it needs to be all like this so I can train. If a brick falls off I’ll be devastated coz I might not be able to do like a dozen moves on it” (Sticky quoted in Angel, 2007b).
The static nature of a wall or rail suggests an unquestionable function; planned, designed, built, and unchangeable. Parkour or skateboarding pose the question, ‘what is this for and what can it be for’? These activities show “architecture not as a thing, but as a production of space, time and social being” (Borden, 2001 p.1). Again, the capitalist commodification of time and space is directly challenged. Borden sees these activities as “antithetical to capitalism…it involves great effort, but produces no commodity ready for exchange” (ibid.). Within capitalist societies “exchange value is so dominant over use and use value that it more or less suppresses it” (Lefebvre – quoted from Borden, 2001 p.238). A question often reportedly asked, in relation to the practice of parkour, is ‘what do you get from it’? Increasingly parkour does hold an exchange value; advertising, displays, teaching etc. However, for most practitioners parkour is useful to the ‘self’. It is a release from the time / space commodification of the society around them and brings a great sense of power and ownership. These words should be understood as differing in meaning from the usual capitalist connotations: the freedom of parkour (and skateboarding) creates a sense of ownership, but not possession. It uses space that we all own but no one possesses (Borden, 2001). It takes that ownership; when training, a common felt perception of ‘these are my streets, this is my space’ is reported. However, this is not to the detriment of similar claims by any other person. Public space is public, however, possibly due to the capitalist concept of ‘ownership’, the ‘general public’ appear unwilling to take ownership of these spaces.
A possible influence upon the cultural formation of parkour, the ‘Situations’ movement in France in the mid-twentieth century, critiqued the way a population views a city. ‘The Derive’ was a way of creatively analysing the possibilities of a city and the routes one could take and possibilities one could encounter. The theory of the Derive has many similarities with the affects of ‘parkour vision’: “only an awareness of the influences of the existing environment can encourage the critique of the present conditions of daily life, and yet it is precisely this concern with the environment which we live which is ignored” (Debord quoted in Plant, n.d.). Both ‘The Derive’ and parkour challenge this ignored concern, making it a primary aim of each respective activity. There exists a
“concealed potential of experimentation, pleasure, and play in everyday life, the situationists considered a little chaos to be a valuable means to exposing the way in which the experiences made possible by capitalist production could be appropriated within a new enabling system of social relations” (Plant, n.d.).
The social change bought about by the theory of the Derive is not a subject within the scope of this paper. However, it is possible that parkour, which incorporates many similarities in the analysing of the possibilities of a city, could be the modern incarnation that will prove to have a more far-reaching influence. That is of course, if “communality, unification, and public urban space…emerge as more desirable than commodification, fragmentation, and privatisation” (ibid.).
Possibilities for Social Change
As a discipline that requires very little in the way of equipment or cost, parkour has the potential to become a very popular activity among all sections of society, especially disenfranchised urban youth. The uniform lines, the ‘desolate’ spaces, the abundance of walls and railings to be found within council estates and on the edges of high rise tower blocks are precisely the terrain utilised to great affect through parkour. By looking at these spaces with the altered analysing eye of a traceur, residents of council estates who have previously viewed their environment as devoid of possibilities for productive activity, could be offered a giant playground. “Chombart de Laue notes that ‘an urban neighbourhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other neighbourhoods have of it’” (Debord, 1958).
Through a youth incentive in Westminster in conjunction with Parkour Coaching (‘Positive Futures’) and teaching within schools in that area, parkour has already shown some measurable positive effects upon school children deemed ‘at risk’ from drugs, crime, anti-social behaviour and social exclusion. Crime rates among the age group 8-19 were reduced by 69% during the time period teaching was taking place and many children previously avoidant of and difficult to engage in physical activity, e.g. muslim girls, have found a creative sporting outlet with which they have identified (Angel, 2007c). The utilizing of ones environment has captured the imagination of children whose concepts of sporting activity invariably involve organisation, equipment and external challenge to achieve. The possible spread of parkour and the social / cultural changes it may lead to, will possibly not be known until a new generation has grown up embracing the new perspective on self, environment and life which parkour offers.
As parkour continues to grow in popularity, the degree to which its practice challenges social perceptions of the body and space will become more apparent. At the present time, an affect is reported within and upon the lives of those practicing this discipline which suggests it could facilitate many social changes. Through the process of challenging and overcoming ones capabilities and fears, parkour offers its participants an activity that re-shapes ideas about the self, body and environment.
The re-shaping of these initial self-perceptions, initially imparted through the commodification of time and space by contemporary Euro-American societies, may also directly challenge ideas of the body and environment within a population. Through the practice of parkour a greater sense of self and ownership is reported to lead practitioners to question the use of space initially, and their own capacities subsequently. Through greater awareness of the self and the environment, it is possible that participants will challenge societal norms and a reconstruction of these ideas will take place.
In communities where residents presume the future to hold hardship, socio-economic and political constraints, parkour is an activity that presents possibilities for even greater change.