From Seattle to Mumbai, the world is full of places to play outside for parkour coach Cordelia Storm.
Parkour is a sport of efficiently overcoming obstacles in any environment by running, jumping and climbing. Combining and refining those movements allows parkour practitioners, or traceurs, to run up walls, jump precisely between rails and balance on narrow ledges.
"I tell people it’s like how you used to play as a kid — if you’ve ever climbed a tree or played "ground is lava," you’ve done parkour. Everyone’s done parkour at some point of their life, just most people stop," Storm wrote in an email interview. "The goal of parkour? To play, to train. Parkour is a lot of things to a lot of people –some people like to push their limits, some people like to feel like a kid again. Everyone has their own reason for it."
Storm, 24, who grew up in Woodinville, now teaches parkour at Apex Movement, a parkour gym in Boulder, Colo. She’s traveled to Calgary, Alberta, to coach a women’s-only parkour workshop, and last summer, she spent a month teaching parkour at a homeless youth shelter in Mumbai. I met her when I took one of her classes at Parkour Visions, a gym in Seattle.
Storm began practicing parkour about six years ago. At the time, she was a film school student with no athletic background, but she was intrigued by a short documentary she saw about parkour.
"I was interested in the way they described it — almost like a meditative practice, of learning your limits with grace," she recalls.
She began taking classes at Parkour Visions, and later, started training outside on her own and with friends.
"It was the most supportive community I had ever been a part of, and in the past I was really intimidated by sports since I never considered myself very good at them," she wrote. "But the constant encouragement never made me feel ‘bad’ at parkour. I recognized that some people were better than me, but I never felt they were competitive about it."
As a coach, she tries to emulate that same supportive environment. When she started coaching parkour three years ago, she had to learn to plan training sessions that weren’t too easy or too hard for students of different levels — "challenging but still fun." She tries to incorporate positive reinforcement, encouraging students through small, repeated successes. She also draws on a scientific understanding of biomechanics and how the body works.
Parkour has filtered into popular culture, with stunts in movies like "Casino Royale," an MTV series called "Ultimate Parkour Challenge" and a comedic appearance of so-called "hardcore parkour" on "The Office," as well as a wealth of user-created videos on YouTube. Those appearances bring attention to the sport, but often portray it as dangerous or risky.
Storm said parkour stunts in movies can be inspiring, but there’s a "misconception about parkour and the way media portrays it." The sport promotes training safely in order to be able to keep playing and practicing for the rest of one’s life.
"Parkour is really for anyone — the youngest and oldest students ever at Parkour Visions have been an infant and 96 years old," she wrote. "Parkour is taught progressively — and if you’re smart about it can reach anyone’s level. If you can play, you can do parkour. Also, all parkour is taught from the ground, up. So some big jump you see in the movies has been practiced thousands of times at ground level over the years of that practitioner."
Storm reflected that parkour has made her stronger physically, but the biggest changes were mental.
"My confidence in myself has increased. I’ve definitely changed physically with more muscle definition, but I find that’s not really my goal anymore," she wrote. "When I first tried parkour I was looking for ways to stay fit and slim down (I actually had an eating disorder), but slowly overtime I learned to train not to look better but to be better at moving … I learned to love to play in my body, not to love it for its appearance."
Photo by Kellen Fujimoto Photography.
Cordelia Storm, a parkour coach, vaults over a concrete barrier at Gasworks Park in Seattle. The goal of the sport is to efficiently overcome obstacles by running, jumping and climbing.