Parkour life takes off

Dave  Segley red shirt the leader odf Sheefield Parkout team
Dave Segley red shirt the leader odf Sheefield Parkout team
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THE city centre ambassadors are watching Dave Sedgley and his crew with eagle eyes.

THE city centre ambassadors are watching Dave Sedgley and his crew with eagle eyes.

“Sometimes they tell us to stop,” he says. “But that’s because they don’t understand. We don’t damage property or get in people’s way. This is about being at one with your environment.”

Then, this unassuming 29-year-old proceeds to run, vault and jump over walls, bollards and railings in the Peace Gardens with Ninja-like finesse.

This, reader, is parkour or free running – the urban sport fast becoming a craze with Sheffield’s youth.

Practitioners view city clutter as a series of obstacles and seek to pass through them, by climbing, leaping and sometimes handstanding, in as smooth a path as possible.

And, while 10 years ago the sport had literally no presence here, there are now 150 members of the Sheffield Parkour Movement, and six full-time coaches teaching the discipline in the region’s schools, colleges and youth clubs.

Dave Sedgley is one of those coaches, as well as current chairman of the British Parkour Coaching Association.

You might have seen him jumping about outside the Odeon cinema, Hallam University, the Crucible, or any of the city’s parks.

“It’s still a niche hobby,” he says. “But it’s exciting to see it growing in Sheffield,

“We do weekly sessions in different locations where about 15 people turn up and I’ve been into schools from Dore Primary up to City College.

“Kids like it because it’s exciting but teachers understand that it also improves fitness, confidence and can genuinely help you to become a more-rounded human being.”

Improve your fitness it might do, but members of the movement don’t mind admitting they’ve picked up the odd injury too.

“Basically,” winces Sandy Stuchfield, a 19-year-old student of Matilda Street, city centre, “I landed sitting on a bollard once – that was about as painful an experience as I’ve ever had.”

It didn’t put him off?

“Nope, I got up and carried on straight away,” he shrugs. “You risk being injured in any sport but with free running you’re not competing against anyone so that risk is actually far smaller. You only push yourself as far you feel comfortable.”

Injuries aside, there’s also the odd chance of city-wide humiliation.

Dave, of Newfield Crescent, Dore, again: “Me and a mate were crawling round the city, just as an experiment. We went past the Radio Sheffield building and apparently they stopped the broadcast to say there were two guys crawling down the road. That was quite funny.”

Oh, and parkour can also come in handy in practical situations.

“I remember leaving my keys in my old flat,” says Danny Wood, a 27-year-old internet salesman of West Street, city centre. “It was on the second floor so I used what I’d learnt from parkour to half jump, half climb on to the balcony and get in the open door there.”

Now the movement’s members are appearing at this weekend’s Cliffhanger outdoor sports festival at Millhouses Park. They’ll be offering demonstrations on a specially made urban course and encouraging others to have a go.

“We’re also petitioning the council to build a special parkour course in a city park,” says the movement’s current chairman, Ali Saricicek, 22, of Tullibardine Road, Greystones. “We’ve got 800 signatures so far.”

It might just be worth going along and supporting them. If only to keep those ambassadors off their backs.