SINCE 2005, THAT PHENOMENON KNOWN AS YOUTUBE HAS BEEN CREATING OVERNIGHT SENSATIONS, from Susan Boyle to Justin Beiber, The Sneezing Panda and the Blow On The Pie Guy. YouTube’s ability to take something obscure and bring it to worldwide attention makes it a platform for things like Parkour to go from unknown philosophy to sporting trend through just a few Facebook posts.

Parkour started in France as a noncompetitive physical discipline of training, where the individual tries to overcome obstacles within their path by adapting their movements to the environment. The obstacles can be anything, but Parkour is often seen practiced in urban areas because of the many suitable public structures available such as buildings and rails.

It was a Facebook post that caught Parkour enthusiast Pete Hodkinson’s eye Just over six months ago. “I guess its just like anything that You Tube’s helped take out of obscurity,” says Hodkinson.

“When something becomes broadly accessible, looks cool and is exciting, then the more people who can see it the more people are going to get into it.”

“I got involved by seeing a video of a guy called Damien Walters appear on my Facebook page with a comment from my friend saying: “We’re doing this, okay?””

“It was one of those things where I was all of a sudden just captivated by the movements. We just started training. You know simple stuff in a park jumping over rails and that kind of thing and just gradually became more confident. The moves got harder and harder and we started going to gymnastics.”

Hodkinson explains that the Parkour “family” of sports is broken into three different factions. Parkour is the traditional concept of finding the fastest way from Point A to Point B. Skills such as jumping and climbing, or the more specific Parkour moves can be employed. “It’s all about the efficiency of movement, says Hodkinson.

Free Running is a “little bit flashier” doing tricks while getting from Point A to Point B and expressing yourself within your environment.

“Tricking is the other side of the scale where you pretty much have a flat space, quite often in gyms and you’re literally just doing flips. I guess Free Running is an amalgamation of tricking and Parkour.”

Hodkinson says he, like many other enthusiasts, was attracted to the noncompetitive nature of Parkour.

“You play football or baseball or whatever and they are really heavily focused on competition. But with Parkour and Free Running everyone that I’ve ever trained with has just been against that competitiveness. It’s much more about improving what you are doing yourself and helping other people improve.”

He believes it has huge potential as a school sport because it teaches people good values early on, rather than waiting until it’s too late and they’re stuck in a “competitive spiral”.

“Kids that are still in primary school will see me out with a group of people training and if we are both doing handstands at the same time they’ll assume we are having a competition and stop to watch.”

“You have to make a point of telling them that that’s not what it’s about at all. Most of them actually catch on quickly and get into that buzz.”

He has quickly found that Parkour crosses over into many other areas of life. A fellow Unitec student asked him to star in a short film which explored the relationship between Parkour and spatial design. “He had to create a video on architectural design and how something could influence it,” says Hodkinson.

“He approached me about using me as a case study for his project, where he explored how a person who practices Parkour, Free Running and tricking will interact differently with pieces of architecture than a normal person would. And how that process might, in turn, influence architectural design.”

The pair shot footage of Hodkinson interacting with objects around Unitec’s Mount Albert campus, including The Hub, Building One and Th e Student Village.

Hodkinson says you gain a different perspective of what you are experiencing in your environment through the practice of Free Running. “Objects become much more than just inanimate pieces of architecture. You’ll see a sign and wonder how you could get up there. It becomes a much more creative process. Your life turns into a gym.”

Words by Amanda Haxton.