Free Running Under Occupation: Kashmiri Youth Find Liberation In Parkour

Posted on August 11, 2014 in Culture-Vulture, Sports, Staff Picks

By Heeba Din:

Moving through his immediate environment, swinging on a wall, tackling an underbar on the stairs and practising precision, Zahid shah, 22, Kashmir’s first traceur (an athlete who practices parkour), calls parkour his way of life and a personal way of overcoming obstacles.

Originally named l’Art du Deplacement and Le Parkour, now popularly known as Parkour, the sport that is often referred to as an art, was developed in France by Raymond Belle, David Belle and Sebastian in the 1980’s. Essentially the sport consists of moving through obstacles, one’s immediate environment like walls, buildings and stairs, as swiftly and as efficiently as possible using only one’s body. An Intensely physical sport, parkour draws its influence from a myriad of other sports like martial arts, gymnastics and military obstacle training courses, which allow one to propel forward traversing varied terrain only by channelling their body’s kinetic energy.

Zahid shah - first traceur of Kashmir, doing a parkour move. Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem
Zahid shah – first traceur of Kashmir, doing a parkour move.
Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem

Zahid’s tryst with parkour and free running started two years back, when he saw an episode about the sport on National Geographic channel and instantly found a liking, which further turned into his passion. Now, two years later, Zahid is the proud founder of the Kashmir Free Runner And Parkour Federation(KFPF), Kashmir’s only and foremost organisation trying to bring the internationally recognised sport on the streets of Kashmir.

Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem
Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem

KFPF presently consists of a group of 12 young boys led by Zahid, who trains and practices the sport with them. Talking to YKA about his passion, Zahid said, “Being a sports person, I realised parkour is more of an art then a sport and it basically has no rules. You do parkour by your own rules. You create your own rules; you build new obstacles and overcome them, all on your own. Like David Belle said, it’s just you against you. Every person has their own way to do parkour. It is a much wider concept.”

KFPF team with French Traceurs who visited Kashmir  Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem
KFPF team with French Traceurs who visited Kashmir
Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem

Having nothing but his passion, dedication and YouTube videos to train him, Zahid started right from the scratch amidst the bemusement of people, who mostly remained slack jawed, seeing Zahid practice mid-air somersaults, one legged flips, and many other moves. Now with the slow but steady recognition from locals as well as the media, Zahid says, “My future plans with KFPF is to train more and more youth and make KFPF a fairly bigger group. With parkour, your main goal is to cross the obstacle in front of you. I used parkour to give direction to my life, to find meaning while navigating the obstacles and that is what I want to achieve with KFPF and make every moment worth it.”

With Bollywood’s foray into parkour and bigwigies like Salman Khan and Akshay kumar seen doing parkour moves on silver screen, Zahid feels the sport is getting due fame and also that it can be used as a perfect opportunity of making your passion your profession, as there are not many parkour professionals in India.

KFPF member and Kashmir’s first Bboy
KFPF member and Kashmir’s first Bboy

Talking about the phenomenal support and liking for the sport among the youth, Zahid says Parkour may seem very pleasing to the eye. The young generation finds instant liking to it because of the dare devil moves and cool attitude, but it takes years of hard work and dedication to master one move, one wrong movement and you can seriously injure yourself.

KFPF member performing a Parkour move  Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem
KFPF member performing a Parkour move
Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem

They religiously practice for 4-5 hours a day in sprint, plyometrics, gymnastics and martial arts along with parkour and free running moves. Zahid and his fellow KFPF members can be seen practicing on the waters of Dal lake to master their moves without the fear of injury, and mostly in local playgrounds. Zahid says “Parkour doesn’t demand boundaries of equipment and place like other sports, you can do it anywhere in the world and that is its best quality.”

Zahid practicing with French traceurs  at Kashmir University  Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem
Zahid practicing with French traceurs at Kashmir University
Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem
Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem
Photo Credits — Hashim Ahmad Hakeem

At its core, the means, the end, the method and the goal of parkour is ‘Movement’. To be able to achieve flow in one’s movement that parallels the thought is considered to be the holy grail of parkour. Which basically means that parkour isn’t just about navigating through the obstacles but it’s more of finding a path, looking for new angles, ideas, reinterpreting the things in a new manner each time you see them.

Living in the world’s most militarised zone, where every movement is being monitored, Parkour and free running is like a breath of fresh air, which is all about free movement and crossing barriers. A sport, as Zahid rightly puts it, to make one lead an entirely autonomous life and overcome its obstacles.

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