Friday, May 28, 2010

Making the Jump

This blog is my attempt to share some of the adventures that I will be experiencing over the next year and to give people an insight into my thoughts and observations throughout my year-long adventure.

To start off with, I should explain the premises of the Watson Fellowship. Started by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation in 1968, the Watson Fellowship is awarded to 40 graduates of participating schools across the country. Davidson has been a participating school since the beginning, and has a long tradition of Watson fellows, one that became increasingly obvious to me when a flood of emails from former Davidson Watson fellows arrived right after the announcement of the 2010-2011 fellows. As stated by the Watson Foundation, “The mission of the Fellowship Program is to offer college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel outside of the United States in order to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.” For more information about the fellowship, and to see the other 39 fellows' proposals visit

The subject of my fellowship is parkour (aka freerunning or l’art du déplacement). My project seeks to go beyond the high-flying moves of parkour to search for the philosophy that unites practitioners around the globe. My global tour will encompass a wide spectrum of training environments; urban jungles, forest paths, municipally-funded training facilities, beach-side dunes, and the gritty, under-developed neighborhoods that were the birthplace of parkour. While searching for the emerging identity of parkour amidst increasing commercial interest, I will also investigate why it appeals to people and how best to use the philosophy at the heart of parkour as an agent for social change.

As I prepare for the year ahead, I will start my journey off with four primary research questions:
1) What are the best methods to impart not only the physical aspect of the discipline, but also the philosophy, which I believe is the most important and influential aspects of parkour?
2) How has parkour evolved from a phenomenon of the French banlieue into an international sport that has unique flavors and styles in different countries around the world?
3) How is the discipline changing due to influences large companies and sponsors who recognize the potential of the sport as a way to attract people’s attention?
4) How can the sport best be used as an agent for social change? *

*I hope to focus my study of this question on low-income areas where youth may not necessarily have access to organized sports, and the values that come with parkour could have a significant impact on their lives, both in teaching important life-values, and in creating potential job opportunities.

My proposed itinerary, with a rough timeline is:
United Kingdom (London) June 28th - August
Denmark (Copenhagen) August - September
Australia (Sydney, other cities TBD) September - January
New Caledonia (Noumea) September - October
Argentina (Buenos Aires, other cities TBD) January – February
Brazil (Rio de Janiero, Sao Paulo, other cities TBD) February – March
Italy (Salento, Milan, other cities TBD) March – June