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Challenge Yourself with Parkour

MIT Parkour

May 11, 2017

Running through obstacle courses? Climbing up walls? Twin sisters Rachel and Carissa Skye ‘19 never thought they’d be able to do these activities at MIT while earning Physical Education credits, but they were given the opportunity to do so through Parkour. Parkour is a new PE course in the practice of moving over, around, and through obstacles. The course focuses on developing the fundamental attributes required for movement, which include balance, strength, dynamism, endurance, precision, spatial awareness, and creative vision. It is a way of training one's body and mind to be functional, effective, and liberated, and it is a way of thinking based on rigorous self-discipline, autonomous action, and willpower.

Carissa is a currently a sophomore in Course 8 (Physics), and Rachel is a sophomore in Course 3 (Materials Science and Engineering). When asked why they decided to enroll in Parkour, Carissa stated, “Because it sounded awesome, and running obstacle courses is fun.” Rachel agreed and also mentioned that it seemed like one of the more physically active PE courses. They previously took ballroom dancing and yoga classes together, and when asked why they wanted to take parkour, Carissa replied, “Doing a scary thing with someone you know is less scary.” And, luckily for the twins, they are not competitive with each other. Instead, they’re there to support and encourage each other, especially during a new and sometimes scary activity.  

A valuable lesson the girls learned from Parkour was camaraderie. “We were all learning something new and hard together, and even if some of us were better than others, ultimately we were all doing the same thing, and all falling over sometimes as well,” mentions Carissa. 

Even though parkour is technically an individual activity, there is still a lot of teamwork involved. “The instructors would sometimes split the class into two groups and would give us a task that was hard to accomplish for only one person, but possible to do if we worked together as team,” Rachel said.

During one lesson, the instructors took the class outside and showed them how to do parkour in a non-structured environment. There were two pillars placed near each other and the students were instructed to jump from one to the other. On the ground, this would be an easy task, but the added height created an additional fear. “You had to get past the mind block of ‘but what if I fall?’ and know what you are capable of achieving,” Carissa recalled as she remembered her thoughts when presented with the new obstacle. This activity enhanced their trust in themselves and took them outside of their comfort zone.

Eli Stickgold ’11, a Parkour instructors, added a unique twist to the class in that he is an MIT alumnus. “I tend to have probably the most analytical approach to teaching, of the local Parkour coaches,” he stated. “I try to emphasize not only what to do, but some of the underlying physical mechanics behind why it works. It's not the only way to coach by any means, but it can be very helpful in getting beginners, especially MIT students, onboard with our activities.” Stickgold believed that MIT students would enjoy the activity, as they are similar to many parkour enthusiasts in the sense that they like to explore and push boundaries. 

Both Carissa and Rachel agreed that the class was tough, but extremely fun, and they would definitely recommend it to a friend. After the course, Carissa found herself to be a bit more in control of her body, and more aware of where she was stepping. The class teaches you how to to take on new obstacles, trust yourself, and safely learn your limits. 

To find out more information about Parkour, check out the PE website!

Written by Hallie Shepps, video by Stephanie Tran.

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