Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The first few days with Streetmovement in Denmark

 When my flight arrived in Denmark on a night in early June it was dark, cold (relative to Italy), wet, and raining.  Needless to say, as I stood on a street corner in downtown Copenhagen waiting to meet my contact I wasn't too excited about finding myself bundled in a jacket and a sweatshirt for the first time in 8 months.

However, things started to shift toward the better the moment that Martin arrived, and continued getting better and better over the two and a half weeks that I was in Denmark.  The next morning, we were up bright and early so that Martin could head to Streetmovement headquarters and the moment I stepped outside I realized that Denmark during the day wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been the night before.  As we stepped out into the street I noticed that Martin wasn’t wearing any shoes, but despite this, the people we passed only gave him a cursory glance as he jogged by (we only had one bike, so Martin had opted to run the first leg to the office).  This would be the first of many slightly quirky observations about the Danes that I would make during my time in Denmark, but the vast majority of them paint a slightly more optimistic picture for the future of humanity that the one that I’d gotten used to living in the US.

After a quick tour around the Streetmovement office, Martin showed me around the surrounding area.  The office is located in the part of downtown Copenhagen called “Carlsberg”, named for the fact that it was the site of Carlsberg Breweries until 2006, when the company moved all of its production and most of its infrastructure to another part of Denmark.  Since then, the area has been redeveloped for commercial use and 5 years later the results are pretty impressive.  Carlsberg is now home to a number of hip and “artsy” companies, and the building complex that the Streetmovment office is located in also hosts a number of architectural firms, designers, dance companies, artists, and theater groups. Pieces of “interactive artwork” are spread throughout the Carlsberg development and many of the pieces make for great training spots, especially since some of them were designed by the Streetmovement guys as part of a beautification project for the site.  One of them in particular, nicknamed “Rail Heaven” by the traceurs, is pictured below and definitely lives up to its name.

Rail Heaven.  Photo courtesy of Streetmovement. 

Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.
Another one of the "interactive artwork" pieces. Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.  
Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.
A bit more background and images of the Carlsberg site:

After spending the morning wandering the grounds while Martin had a meeting with one of the other Streetmovement directors, Mikkel “Hipster” (there are two Mikkels at Streetmovement, both are bald and very fit so I’ve included their nicknames for identification purposes), Martin and I headed back to his house to pick up some of the “Young Gunz” and head to Gerlev.  The Young Gunz are the “second generation” of Streetmovement guys, and as I was soon to discover, they are a lot of fun to hang out with in addition to being some of the most skilled practionners that I’ve met.  Packed into Martin’s small car with Thais, Oliver, and Andreas for the hour-long drive to Gerlev I found that the trip flew by in a blur of music sampling (both good and bad), a constant stream of banter, and me asking lots of questions about the Danish parkour scene.

A video of the Young Gunz a few years ago when the park was first built...

My first encounter with Gerlev was brief but made me realize just how lucky I was to have the opportunity to visit with the Streetmovement guys. We arrived at the school just in time for lunch, and upon entering the dining hall I realized why we had been so concerned about getting there in time for the midday meal.  The dining hall itself was bright, simple, and packed with more blonde hair that I’d seen in a while, but my attention was immediately arrested by the huge platters of food stretching, buffet style, down the center of the room.  Upon closer inspection I found that not only did the multicolor smorgasbord include everything needed in a healthy and balanced diet, but it was also completely composed of organic and locally grown produce. The result was a meal that had me coming back for thirds, with a brief interruption halfway through my second helping for my official “introduction” to the Gerlev student body (a slightly objectifying, but very welcoming experience).

After lunch I joined in the “Terrible Tuesday” afternoon conditioning session, which gave me the chance to begin getting to know some of the students at Gerlev, and also to train with another one of the Streetmovement directors, Mikkel aka “Babyface”.  The training session went really well and I got a good glimpse at the unique way of training that the Streetmovment athletes have developed.  This method seems to be a sort of hybrid that incorporates many of the Yamakasi’s values and basic conditioning techniques into a more modern and scientifically based training regimen, supplemented with a very sensible “Danish/Nordic” attitude toward proper nutrition and lifestyle.  After the session, which included lots of running, hills, squats, and quadrupedal movement, we headed back to the main hall for a quick “snack” (freshly baked bread, homemade jams, honey, and carrots) and then back out to the structure for the second afternoon session.  I spent the rest of the afternoon training with the Streetmovement class and getting to know the structure that I would be spending a lot of time on for the next two weeks.  At the end of the second session Martin took me on a brief tour of the rest of the facilities before we headed back to the dining hall for dinner (Note: this was the third meal since my arrival only a few hours before), which proved to be just as amazing as lunch.  After dinner Martin and I headed back to Copenhagen to pick up Brian, who was flying in the next morning from Parkour Generations to be a guest instructor at Streetcamp 7.

The Structure in all her glory right after construction a few years ago.  Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.   
The rails right next to the structure.  Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.
When we learned that Brian had missed his flight and would be coming Thursday morning instead we found that we had a lot of free time on our hands so Martin and I spent the morning catching up on sleep and hanging out at his apartment.  In the afternoon we went over to Street Mekka, a facility in downtown Copenhagen that opened in 2010 to offer “street based” leisure and sports activities to the youth of the city.  Street Mekka was created by a company called GAM3 and a large chunk of municipal funding for the restoration of an old warehouse in central Copenhagen into a vibrant and beautiful community center.  The facility offers classes and safe training environments for breakdancing, parkour, graffiti, dee-jaying, street basketball, street football, and hip hop dance throughout the week.  As the Streetmovment classes are an integral part of the “positive street culture” that Street Mekka is working to promote, a permanent parkour structure dominates the central courtyard area outside the building and Streetmovement classes are offered several times a week.

The entry to Street Mekka. Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.   
The main hall of the facility.  Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.
Children's classes at Street Mekka.  Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.
The adult Streetmovement class that I hopped into after a tour of the facilities proved to be just as well-run and challenging as the ones I’d seen in Gerlev, and like the classes I had seen at Pakour Generations in London, they seemed to cater to an older group of “working professionals” (both men and women) looking for alternative ways to keep fit, as well as the typical parkour demographic of boys aged 16-22. 

The adult Streetmovement class.  Photo courtesy of Streetmovement.
After the class Martin and I headed back to his place to grab some food and hang out a bit before heading to bed in order to pick up Brian the next morning and head straight to Gerlev for the start of Streetcamp 7…


  1. Oh it has been a great summer! Thanks for all the kind words - peace, Martin.

  2. No problem man, can't wait to head back to Denmark!