Run Free (Exclusive Interview with Tan Chi Ying of A2 Movements Parkour Academy)
We are big proponents of play, because we understand that play is a major element of childhood!
At Bloom School of Music & Arts, we play music, instruments, and musical games during our Musikgarten classes for babies and toddlers.
We recognise why music and movement are vital for children:
- Music is a language, and children are oriented towards learning language
- Music evokes movement, and children take delight in, and require movement for their development and growth
- Music is a creative experience which involves expression of feelings. Music & Movement offers children positive ways to release their emotions
The Musikgarten curricula is research-backed, and includes developmentally appropriate music activities that involve the whole child and enhance their learning abilities: the child’s desire for language, the body’s urge to move, the brain’s attention to patterns, the ear’s lead in initiating communication, the voice’s response to sounds, as well as the eye-hand coordination associated with playing musical instruments.
Bloom School of Music & Arts is proud to be one of the few schools in Singapore offering Musikgarten. Come experience this stimulating musical environment with your child!
We have got Children’s Day coming up, so let us talk more about play, because that is what children are really good at!
We have talked about play a few times now, with this being our most recent article about open-ended play and its benefits: Exclusive Interview with Nur Waheeda of ODN (Of Dear Nature). Let us explore other ways we can play: parkour!
Read on to find out more!
My daughter takes parkour classes, and game time is structured into lessons, mainly because it is fun, and it is also a time to practise the skills she has learnt. This video above is of her progressing towards a full wall spin.
One of the games my daughter played was a lightsaber fight with her coach, and it made me think of actual fight sequences in Star Wars movies. Did you know that the stunts include parkour moves such as flips, wall runs, and precision jumping? Check out the video below to see parkour moves in real life!
When parkour is paired with fitting accompanying music, the action movie experience is enhanced, and makes the fight scenes more thrilling and exciting. Shout out to Michael Giacchino, the composer who has written music for Star Wars; Happy Birthday in advanced, Michael!
Parkour (which comes from the French word parcours meaning “the way through”) is a discipline developed in France in the late 1980s. It is the practice of traversing obstacles in a man-made or natural environment through the use of movement (such as running, vaulting, jumping, climbing, rolling) to travel from one point to another in the quickest and most efficient way possible without the use of equipment.
In the years before World War I, Georges developed the physical education and training methods known as la méthode naturelle. The regimen consisted of training in running, jumping, climbing, balancing, swimming, defending, and the use of obstacle courses called parcours du combattant. Later, while in the French military in the 1940s to ’50s, a man named Raymond Belle received instruction on Hébert’s methods, and Belle subsequently used that training to become an elite firefighter; safely and quickly moving along ledges, scaling buildings without using a ladder, and leaping across rooftops of buildings. Belle’s son, David Belle, is generally credited as the ‘father of parkour’. Parkour has since been popularised through internet videos, TV commercials, documentaries, and feature films.
Over time, parkour got split into separate but parallel paths. David Belle led the original Yamakazi group—focused on using parkour for efficiency—and his fellow traceur, Sebastian Foucan led a new group for others who decided they wanted to stylishly express themselves through movement: freerunning.
Whether parkour or freerunning is better;
whether you are a boy or a girl;
competitive or expressive;
practising in an urban environment or the forest;
in the end, this is all “just movement, and more importantly,
it (i)s all just play”.
– World Freerunning Parkour Federation
I first heard about parkour when I was studying French, and watched the French film, Banlieue 13 (District 13). I was impressed, but never got around to learning it for myself. Two decades and a daughter later, out of curiosity, I asked her
“What would you like to be when you grow up?”
She confidently replied, “Ninja!”
And thus began our search for a space to learn parkour.
We decided on A2 Movements Parkour Academy, and there we met the Founder and Coach, Tan Chi Ying. Qi, as he is also known as, is an accomplished entrepreneur and professional Freerunner. He graduated from the University of Manchester with a Bachelor of Science in Business, and used his business knowledge to start up A2 Movements. He also studied Interior Architecture Design at Temasek Polytechnic, and designed the Free Runner Lodge where he holds both private and group classes for children and adults. The Free Runner Lodge is cosy, unintimidating, and makeshift—designed for every level from beginner to advanced.
Chi Ying is a stoic, down-to-earth, and passionate parkour instructor. He cares deeply about safety and getting techniques right to prevent injuries, and is generous with his encouragement. In his leisure, he engages in fencing, and Wu Dang sword play. He is also a Star Wars fan, as we can see from this video:
I am very thrilled to interview Chi Ying to talk about parkour and its features, and ask if parkour is a sport children can learn. Once again, I present, Chi Ying, from A2 Movements Parkour Academy (email interview has been edited for clarity and continuity):
How did your passion in parkour get started?
I always have an affinity for movement because of my desire for exploration and games. As with every other kid, I loved superheroes, spies, ninjas, and (Star Wars) Jedi. This love and (movement) capabilities carried through my young adulthood. My abilities became apparent especially so in my young adulthood. It’s no longer just because I am physically fitter than my my peers; there is a stark contrast against my peers in the way I observe and utilise my surroundings.
What are some misconceptions about parkour?
When people think about parkour, they think about the high level stunts they see on media. There is this perception that parkour is dangerous. The stunts people see on media are done by practitioners who have undergone years of training.
Otherwise, the public tend to think that parkour consists mainly of flips.
Parkour, in essence, is really about mastering your bodily capabilities, and subjugating (bringing under control) your environment with your movements. Adopting this approach changes your mindset towards challenges and obstacles in life. We seek out challenges so that we might grow as a person, and not because we are adrenaline junkies or reckless.
We only have one life to live.
We might as well do our best to experience as much as possible; ideally, as wholesome as possible.
Some negative experiences might set us back or hinder us in the future.
Here is something closer to home: a behind-the-scenes look at the ninja behind McDonald’s Ninja Burger!
Is parkour a sport appropriate for children? What are some benefits for children learning parkour?
Beyond merely just improving the physical aspects, such as muscular and ligament development, parkour helps children become more acquainted with their bodily capabilities against their terrain of choice. They learn how to size up their personal risk appetite through progression. These are gradual, innate lessons where we teach children techniques, and put them through challenges, and they learn through experiential learning.
The above is just one of the many values imparted through parkour.
Is there an age limit, or specific body type for learning parkour?
It depends on your perspective towards parkour itself.
Parkour is for everyone, especially if your intent is for self-betterment: First, understand personal limitations, and then build towards breaking through limitations.
It is important to stay nimble through fitness and bodily awareness. Wellness through diet, muscular strength, self-awareness, and flexibility are key aspects.
We lose what we don’t maintain—relationships, health, finances, etc.. And falling is a matter of when, not if.
Thus, it is vital we maintain physical prowess as best we can, while attaining the know-hows to deal with falls.
We have students who are above 50 years old who seek to regain mobility and nimbleness. We also have fitter students do their utmost best to check off a bucket list item (e.g. doing a back flip). So, parkour as a lifestyle discipline, has no age limit or specific body type for learning and training.
However, if your aim is to compete (given that parkour is now an openly-accepted concept), there will be standards and limitations imposed; then, parkour would be for selected people. Parkour is moving in the direction as other sports—e.g. basketball, and soccer—such that there are different stages of engagement. Everyone can attempt to play, but only a selected few will be in the different tiers of professionalism, or coaches.
If a person’s intention for learning parkour is merely to impress people, or they are reckless in dealing with challenges, it is clear that they will not have sustained interest as they do not learn from the painful lessons parkour imparts in due time.
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What are some important elements of parkour?
I feel parkour is rather wide and all-encompassing.
Safety is, no doubt, one important factor, and it is inculcated through learning falling drills, checking training spots before moving, having self-awareness of personal capabilities, and the know-hows to gradually progress.
Challenges are identified because we develop an eye for it—also known as urban vision. We see the world differently with the technical knowledge of parkour; every wall is possible to scale; bars able to be balanced on; gap jumps; tables vaulted across if we have the skills for it.
We can transfer this skill to life: Keep a keen eye out for possible opportunities, because you have a degree of skill in a particular area. When you are willing to step out of the comfort zone, you are taking on a challenge towards bettering yourself.
We develop a degree of creativity towards expression of self. There isn’t always only one way to approach an obstacle. There are multiple ways to tackle an issue. The only limiting factor would be the lack of skills and capabilities.
Other elements include leadership development.
First and foremost, leaders (as the name implies) lead. They are problem solvers, and they are the ones who have experiences.
Why do we keep seeking out challenges, and betterment of self? There is a key saying in parkour, ‘Être fort pour être utile’, which is ‘Be strong to be useful’. When we have conquered a challenge, it isn’t a once-and-done. Getting a move right the first time is luck. Getting it right the second time is for yourself—you know you’ve got it. The third time is for someone you love, so you develop the strength and capability not only to take care of yourself, but also others around you.
Do you have a favourite music playlist you like to listen to when training?
Personally, I don’t have any, given that I have been training before it was a popular sport/discipline. Back then, I didn’t train with any devices. The medium of inspiration is movies and shows, but the accompanying music, sound effects and high-paced music wouldn’t have matched training.
Having my own training space now means I get to dictate what music will be played. I find calming indie songs and music (with low and high feels) most suitable. These offer a gentle vibe that people will move to, and more importantly, reminds them to take a chill pill to recompose.
What would you like to say to aspiring traceurs and traceuses?
Head out and train. Don’t just admire what you see on social media. If you want to be the one that people see, do the work.
Start with small steps, and don’t despise small beginnings. A stable foundation will allow you to outlast. Don’t seek to be fast to stand out—that is the sure way to get injuries. In other sports, there are equipment. When these equipment are spoiled and destroyed, they can be easily disposed of and replaced. However, in parkour, the equipment is our body. We only have one body, that cannot be replaced. As such, we need to go to great pains to build and strengthen our bodies.
Seek to be strong, and to last. Count the risks and rewards. Don’t shy away from challenges and opportunities for growth.
May the Force be with you!
I hope you have enjoyed this special feature for Children’s Day, and learnt something new about parkour.
Let us continue to celebrate play for our children, and let us also remind ourselves to bring out the child in us, sometimes.
With that said, let me leave you with this cute and playful dinosaur doing a ‘cat hang’ (a parkour move).
Happy Children’s Day!