Friday, March 11, 2011

Parkour School in Chile

My introduction to parkour in Chile was with the “Parkour School” in Vina del Mar/Valparaiso/Villa Alemana. I had been invited by Carlos Hidalgo, the instructor for the class and founder of the Parkour School.

A bit of background about Carlos and the Parkour School before I talk more about the class. Carlos started doing parkour more than 6 years ago with a group of friends that named themselves “Gorilla Attack”.  Following in the footsteps of David Belle, who he's been in email contact with for a number of years, Carlos and his friends were some of the first traceurs in Chile.  After finishing high school he entered the university and graduated in 2010 with a degree in physical education in which he did an extensive thesis project that developed a working methodology to teaching sports and fitness to children. This method, called E.V.A.U.T.I.L.E., which stands for “Educación Valórica Para el buen Uso del Tiempo Libre, (loosly translated as “Educational Program for the Productive Use of Free Time”); was created with parkour but can be used with any number of “urban” activities such as breakdancing, skateboarding, juggling, graffiti, and deejaying. Carlos will actually be publishing a book detailing his research later this spring and I’ll be sure to post details on the final product when it’s ready.

The Parkour School is a program that Carlos has been running for the past few years for the youth in the Villa Alemana/Valparaiso/Viña del Mar region. The school runs for 1-3 hours everyday after school during the week and also includes a longer training session on Saturday mornings. Participation in the program is open to all the kids in the area and is totally free (no payments, no forms to sign, no red tape). Carlos is the primary instructor but he has also been helped for a while by a fellow student at the Universidad de Playa Ancha.  The program started off with just a few kids from the area but the first class I went to had more than 30 students from all over the area.

My first visit to the “school” was at a training spot called “La Fabrica del Sol”. Walking up to the factory I had to pinch myself and check the road signs to make sure that I wasn't dreaming or hadn't taken the wrong bus to one of those crazy eastern European parkour environments that one sees on Youtube but can’t quite believe actually exists in real life. Well, being there in real life is definitely more impressive than seeing it on YouTube. The factory is the perfect training spot, a fact that is supported by the “parkour”, “freerunning”, and “pk school” tags that cover the walls alongside the work of the area's local graffiti artists. The bursts of color from the graffiti made a great backdrop for the class, and I tried to capture a bit of both in the videos that I took. Since my legs were still pretty sore from a solo training session that I had done before leaving Santiago I decided to take the day off and film the whole class. Here is a look at a class with Parkour School:

The class itself was very well run and it was clear that not only had Carlos been doing this for a while, but that there was a definite method to the apparent madness of a parkour class that was not only free but also didn’t involve waivers, insurance, or over-concerned parents. Talking to Carlos after the class, I learned that the classes are planned in 6-month blocks that are aimed at bringing all the students to the next level in a manner that ensures that everyone is constantly challenged while allowing for newcomers and less physically capable members of the group.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the class for me was how closely it paralleled many of the classes that I had attended in London and Melbourne despite the fact Carlos has never been to either of those places or had contact with any of the instructors there. While the warm-up exercises were different, there were a lot of similarities in the way that he approached developing the “touch” of the students, as well as an awareness for their surroundings (the exercise in which everyone seems to be jumping into each other is designed to forces students to stay aware of what is happening around their training environment). I was also struck by how much the students seemed to enjoy the class. While it was evident that there was a huge range of skill levels present at the class (ages ranged from 12 to 28, with both boys AND GIRLS present), Carlos managed to keep everyone engaged the entire time. While some of the more experienced guys couldn’t help throwing in the odd flip off the dismount every now and again, everyone, of all skill levels, seemed to get a kick out the class. 

For more information on Carlos’s work with the EVAUTILE program and the Parkour School take a look at his blog HERE.

(It’s in Spanish but Google does a pretty good job at translating it for those that don’t read Spanish)

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