Greg Veis, YouTube Hunter: Are You Ready for Some Parkour?

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My first thought, so stereotypically Jewish it's guilt-inducing, is a practical one: that cannot be good for the joints. The resulting arthritis is going to be monumental. And yet, what I'm watching is something I'd never imagined a human body to be capable of. It is exhilarating.

It's the first long action sequence of the new Bond film, Casino Royale, and the burnt-faced bad guy is trying to escape 007 in a conveniently located construction site. He's climbing walls, jumping from metal beam to metal beam, executing truly expert flips and rolls. This isn't the standard stunt man preening; it hardly looks human. But it is. And apparently what he's doing has a name: Parkour.

Apologies if you've already grown hip to Parkour (French for "course"). It's been around for some years now, and two of its original practitioners, or, as they call themselves, traceurs--David Belle and the Bond bad guy, Sebastien Foucan--are legitimate stars in Europe and, increasingly, here. (The Wikipedia entry is quite comprehensive if you're interested in the history.) My friends and I have been trying to describe it for the last couple days, and despite our best efforts, words can't do Parkour--or its flashier cousin, free running--proper justice.

One writer from The Independent said it uses "the idea of the city as a playground." A co-worker said it looked "like an X-Games event where you can only use your body." I think it most closely resembles dance and will cause monumental arthritis. And Sebastien Foucan says this on his website: "Parkour isn't a fashion phenomenon, it's an evolution of the mind," which doesn't rise above the level of well-intentioned pabulum.

So, clearly, we have to go to the YouTubes. And none to soon, since they're excellent. Let's start with a "Best of" compilation for our boy Foucan:

And here are two from David Belle. The first is from his movie District B13, and the second is another "greatest hits" deal:

Only watch the first two minutes of this clip, soundtracked by a YouTube Hunter favorite, the Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc.:"

Lastly, in case the above clips have moved you to try Parkour at your nearest industrial complex, a gentle reminder that maybe you should breathe deeply, count to ten, and play some ping pong instead:

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November 21, 2006 - 6:24am
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