Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Superheroes in Our Midst

Late one night, several years ago, I found myself standing on an empty subway platform, waiting for a downtown train. The only other person in the station was a tall man across the tracks on the uptown platform. He seemed harmless enough, so I allowed my attention to drift to a magazine article on celebrity fashion disasters. Suddenly I sensed movement. I glanced up to see the man walking on the wall of the station--his body perfectly horizontal and parallel to the ground. He took five or six steps in this fashion before flipping backward into a standing position. For a minute or two, he remained completely still, and I started to wonder if I might have hallucinated. Then he did it again.

When I told Kiki about my encounter with a real-life superhero in the bowels of the New York City subway, she simply scribbled something on a piece of paper. (She can be mildly annoying at times.) The note she handed me read, "le parkour."

I mention this because before I can continue with the French Adventure, I must introduce you to parkour--the phenomenon known in France as the art of displacement.

In the 1980s, a fifteen-year-old Parisian named David Belle invented parkour--a discipline in which the sole aim is to get from one place to another in quickest, most efficient manner using only the power of the human body. Sounds easy right? Not if you're traveling across rooftops or climbing water drains. In order to perfect their art, practioners of parkour (called traceurs if male and traceuses if female) must learn how to walk on walls, leap wide chasms, and jump from heights that would flatten an average person. Seeing them in action is enough to make you start shelving your comic books in the non-fiction section of your home library.

But not everyone with superpowers becomes a superhero. There are quite a few villains out there as well.

Click here for a New Yorker article on the art of parkour.

(Below: A video of the master, David Belle. Do I need to say, "Don't try this at home?")



Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my GOD GOD GOD!!!!!!!!!!

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats awesome.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Alexxis said...

Are u serious...

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Ananka said...

Serious about what?

9:36 PM  
Blogger Alexxis said...

that people can really do that kind of stuff, it sounds a little extreme to me

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Ananka said...

I'm totally, 100% serious about that. There really are people who can do this stuff. Check out the links in the post--or go to youtube and type in David Belle or Sebastian Foucan (his childhood best friend) and you'll see some amazing stuff.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Hi Ananka, I've tagged you. You don't have to do it if you don't want to, but I was curious to hear your answers...

2:33 PM  
Blogger theatre said...

i wonder how they shot that video? i'll bet it was a lot of fun :)

5:11 PM  
Blogger Alexxis said...

That is like... omg

11:34 PM  
Blogger CosimaCat said...

NĂ¢ren alive...
Muse did an article on it, but I have never understood how.
*looks up at imaginary sky* HOW?

2:35 PM  
Blogger theatre said...

all my old friends (before i moved) are now all talking about it on their blogs(they are all big gymnastics junkies)!!

5:51 PM  
Anonymous ginnyweasley007 said...

omg Omg omg

9:19 PM  
Anonymous kitty said...

At the end of the video, the guy's sitting on the couch, right?? He looks kinda like my clarinet teacher... ox0'

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!! I do parkour and am happy that I found this

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sebastoan foucan was the co-creator of parkour then he and David went different ways David with PK and Seb. With freeruning a version of PK but with flips
On sept. 3 there will be a barclaycard world freerun championship that might air on ESPN at 6:00 eastern standerd time

12:28 PM  

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