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‘Conquer your fears’: Meet Manchester’s parkour guru teaching the art of movement – with a little James Bond thrown in

By James Scott

Parkour is blowing up in Manchester and Evolve Gym are at the forefront of teaching the discipline of getting from A to B as quickly as possible.

MM went down to Evolve Gym, Worrall Street, Manchester, to witness a training session involving gravity-defying leaps, flips and twists around an impressive indoor assault course.

Away from the climbing frames, ropes and gigantic tyres, 33-year-old Phillip Hanna of Evolve Gym believes the growth of parkour in Manchester is down to fitness benefits.

“It’s really taking off in Manchester, we’re at the forefront of the sport in the north of England and we’re getting more and more people joining each year,” he said.

“The ethos of this centre is continuous improvement and personal development in all aspects of their lives and parkour provides an outlet for that.

“Parkour is something I’ve been interested in for a long time and I believe it’s a great way of strengthening and conditioning the body.

Evolve Gym have been running parkour classes for two years and are affiliated to Parkour UK, the national governing body for the discipline.

It was originally developed as a non-competitive sport, but Phillip suggested the increasing interest in the discipline would naturally bring calls for a larger stage.

“I can definitely see it being an Olympic sport in the future,” he said. “I think for parkour to progress you need that competitive edge.”

Though the origins of parkour are often disputed, the name derives from the French word ‘parcours’, which means ‘route’ or ‘course’.

The discipline centres on training one’s body and mind to negotiate obstacles in your path via dynamic movement, involving balance, strength, spatial awareness and creativity.

Upon watching the training sessions at Evolve, it is evidently clear that fitness is a necessity, highlighted by the number and variety of warm-ups prior to practising.

The band of traceurs – a male practitioner of parkour – range in age from 8-30 and are put through the paces by their teacher, 21-year-old Hung Dante from Cheetham Hill.

Hung has taught parkour at Evolve for a year, and has plenty of star quality, having worked as a stuntman on Skyfall and with Keanu Reeves on 47 Ronin.

Away from James Bond and Hollywood productions, Hung has been a welcome addition to the coaching of the discipline at Evolve, and explained why he teaches parkour.

“I was a big fan of Jackie Chan when I was growing up and I loved the way he used the environment around him in his fighting scenes,” he said. “That’s what inspired me to train.

“It’s moving to see people conquer their fears and do things they never thought they’d be able to do, such as jumping off something ten feet high off the ground.”

Despite calls for the spotlight on the sport to increase and for a competitive element to be introduced, Hung believes the discipline does not necessarily seek the attention.

“Some people see it as underground and want to keep it that way,” he said. “There are big events such as the Red Bull Parkour Competition but I think people don’t want to see it go mainstream.”


EQUIPMENT: A typical Parkour gym at Evolve

Kayvon Dehgan, a 28 year old from Withington has been practicing parkour, tai-chi and martial arts for the past 18 months, and enthused on the joys of the discipline.

“I love all physical movement,” said Kayvon. “I see parkour as making movement a discipline, or an art of movement.

“It’s great how you can accomplish things you never thought you could achieve.”

Kayvon also stressed the high-intensity nature of the sport, and the need to be mentally and physically prepared in order to develop as a traceur.

“There are a lot of walls to get over and you need to rest and eat well to succeed,” said Kayvon.

“Cardiovascular fitness is important, but you also need to have the right mental attitude in order to constantly push yourself to improve.

“To keep bringing out your potential and increasing your skills takes a lot of time and dedication, and you need to be fit and healthy.”

Despite the high level of interest in the discipline in Manchester, Kayvon insisted London remains the epicentre and it can be tough to persuade others to join.

“If you want to qualify as a parkour teacher you still have to go down to London and most of the famous people in the discipline are there” he said.

“It’s difficult with everyone’s private lives and work lives; I’ve got friends who I’ve been trying to get to come to parkour practise for ages.”

As leaders of parkour in the North West, Evolve Gym are making an appearance on the Young Apprentice next week, as contestants make an urban based brand around parkour.

For more information on Evolve Gym visit www.evolvemanchester.com, call 01618778657, email on [email protected] or follow Evolve’s twitter page on www.twitter.com/evolvemcr.

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