Parkour, or free running as it is colloquially known, is a form of improvised outdoor gymnastics. Using no equipment other than good athletic shoes and a healthy dose of nerve, practitioners (who are also called traceurs due to the French origin of the sport) vault over walls, scale buildings and hurl themselves across structures with accuracy and efficiency. Chetan D’souza of Chaos Faktory in Bengaluru, the city’s only parkour training centre, and a free runner himself is one such exhilarating acrobat.
Watching Chetan D’souza and his team of parkour enthusiasts in action is like watching acrobatic ballet. Traceurs jump from buildings as high as two storeys, swing on ropes, scale walls and perform other such daring moves. Spread mainly through videos on the Internet, the parkour movement, which originated in France by actor David Bell who invented the sport, has been widely embraced in Europe and United States. And there’s a few enthusiastic Indians now who have dared to risk it all and take to Parkour.
Chetan has been practicing parkour for a while now. A fitness enthusiast, he began learning karate and is a black belt, third dan in this martial art. “I wanted to learn gymnastics, just to make my body more flexible and was looking around for options,” says the 28-year-old who works at Accenture. He stumbled upon some parkour videos and was mesmerised by the agility and flexibility of movement. “I knew I wanted to try it as soon as I saw the videos.” It was a lot of trial and error at first, wrong movements, injuries and a lot of aches and pains. But his enthusiasm to master the sport was insurmountable, as was his determination and motivation to learn everything he could about it.
A few of his friends joined him on his parkour learning drive and before Chetan knew it, they were having fun, staying fit and had begun a kind of fitness revolution among a group of like-minded people. “Most practitioners in India learn through free online tutorials and have been practising by themselves before they assembled in groups. The action-packed film District 13 by David Belle has achieved cult status among parkour followers. Lots of people want to learn this art but they lack opportunity, knowledge, skill and the required body fitness. Today, Chaos Faktory is a hot destination in the city. Chetan and his teammates, all trained parkour professionals, coach other enthusiasts, but also work with stunt directors from films and for advertisements. Their training centre in Vijaynagar, attracted the attention of some investors and Chaos Faktory, located at the FITT Club is now a full fledged academy that not only trains, but also works hard to promote the sport.
“Taking this into consideration, Chaos Faktory organised Bengaluru’s first ever Parkour-Freerunning Jam where around 50 participants gathered to learn and gain knowledge on the art they have always wished to learn,” tells Chetan, taking great pride in the fact that he is one of the first promoters of this sport in South India. The team has worked for brands such as Puma, Pepsi, IGate, Purvankara Builders, Wildcraft, TCS-10k marathon and Chennaiyin FC, performing stunts for their ad campaigns. They made their sandalwood debut performance in Kichcha Sudeep’s movie Ranna.