On a breezy pleasant January morning, a bunch of men get together at Nageshwar Rao Park in Mylapore and dressed in track pants and t-shirt they are seen stretching and readying themselves to leaping over fences, hurdling over obstacles and scaling over walls. Wondering, whether these guys are planning to undertake some rigorous military training? Not really. They are a part of Chennai Parkour, the only registered training and coaching organisation for parkour in the country, along with Tamil Nadu Parkour.
For the uninitiated, Parkour is a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Parkour includes running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, quadrupedal movement, and other movements as deemed most suitable for the situation. It was popularised by David Belle in the 1980s and became vogue after being featured in numerous movies throughout the 2000s.
Over the last three years, Parkour scene in the city has become a major one. The core team members of Chennai Parkour – Vishal Kumar, Vishwendran Dayakaran, Vignesh Raghavan and Siddharth Ravishankar — were athletes, who are big fans of artistes such as Jackie Chan. Chennai Parkour was formed when a group of five enthusiasts found each other on a social networking site. Currently, the group has over 80 students training with it which makes the school the biggest in India. is open to anybody who is interested. There are students here between the ages of five and 50. The group believes everyone learns to condition themselves for the sport.
While the younger lot is taking up parkour to make a statement, especially influenced by action films; the elder lot looks at Parkour as a great workout option for fitness. Moving past what they term the monotony of a gym routine, it is fast emerging as a great workout option for many Chennaiites. It helps people to get in shape on their own terms, using their body weight to work on strength, flexibility and endurance.
Last summer (May 2016), Chennai Parkour organised the first-ever all-women jam session at Anna Nagar Tower Park. While it wasn’t a full-fledged training session, about 18 to 20 women got together and vaulted, landed and practised bar and wall techniques as well as simple jumps, just for the fun of it. It’s largely considered a male bastion, but women are making their presence felt.
Parkour Circle, the other city club, has 40 members. There are an estimated 10 or 11 teams in India in total, the latest of which is a small team just launched in Puducherry.
Quite interestingly, UK’s original and foremost performance-parkour company; The UPG Team has been touring Tamil Nadu in collaboration with the Chennai-based Parkour Circle since January 16. Together they are working to produce Indian Steam – a show with Parkour at its heart. It will be an official UK-India 2017 Year of Culture event, supported by the Arts Council of England’s Reimagine India Fund and the British Council.