Tuesday, February 21, 2012

East Coast Mini Road-trip: UNC Chapel Hill with TK17

I was first introduced to Duncan Germain, known to most of the world by his internet screenname of “TK17”, through our mutual friend Dr. Julie Angel, who put him on the list of parkour people I should make sure to meet during my time back home in the USA.

A bit of background on Duncan before I talk more about the visit.  Duncan was one of the first traceurs in the US, starting way before most Americans knew what it was.  Like most of the earliest practionners in countries around the world, he was introduced to the sport via the internet and received much of his inspiration and information from the videos and forums that were the basic links between the earliest generations of traceurs outside of France.  Over time he became very involved with the 3Run forums and became close friends with a number of traceurs in the UK after visits there where he was hosted by some of the guys.  Despite his early start in the sport, Duncan seems to be fairly unknown today, both because of a long hiatus after he broke his foot and “retired” from the sport for 2 years, and because he has remained fairly aloof from the American scene due to  differences in the training and philosophy of many American traceurs.  As an American that was introduced to parkour in France and the UK, I can understand the culture shock that comes from the differences between the continents and we had a lot in common in the way that we approached parkour and our training.  In addition to have tons of parkour experience, Duncan is also a fairly accomplished filmmaker (the video below shows him in a trip to Lisses/Evry outside Paris a few years ago).

Duncan met me at the bus station and in true parkour globetrotter fashion we immediately drove to UNC Chapel Hill for a training session that Duncan and some of the other guys had organized.  The session went really well and I was surprised to find that not only did they have a clear objective of “show Blake as many of the key spots on campus as possible”, but unlike a lot of training sessions I’ve been to, we didn’t waste much time messing around at and between spots.  This was refreshing change of pace from the “jam mentality” that seems to dominate so many training sessions and also gave me the chance to see most of the best spots at UNC Chapel Hill in the span of a few hours (there are a lot).  For those that are not familiar with American universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the biggest schools in the country with over (28,000 of students), and is very well respected for both its academics and also its top-level sports teams (Michael Jordan played college basketball there before going to the NBA).  The campus itself is beautiful in any season and I’d been to a large number of track meets hosted on its top-notch indoor and outdoor tracks.  The campus also happens to be an amazing place to train and has a ton of great spots for traceurs of all skill levels to train any manner of movement.

One spot with a ton of potential.  Perhaps one of the most variety I've seen in one place outside of Elephant & Castle in London.

From another vantage point.

You would think that they were specially designed for parkour...

After 3 hours of training and jogging around the campus, I realized that I had spent nearly the entire session in constant motion and by then it was too dark to take pictures of the places that I’d visited so I decided to come back the next day to document some of the spots.

And it continues...

One of the more daunting gap jumps that is on my list of stuff to do on a return visit.

Even the track stadium, where I raced multiple times when at Davidson, had a ton of stuff just right outside.

During my day hanging out at Chapel Hill I spent some time with Colin from 5th Ape, a parkour, crossfit, and fitness company in the area that offers classes and teaches workshops in their unique style of movement and fitness.  Like with Duncan, I immediately found that Colin and I had a lot in common and we spent an afternoon talking about his experiences and plans for 5th Ape.  For more information about 5th Ape, check out his site here.

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