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Parkour: more vision than exhibition
Tyson Cecka wants the world to see things his way. He's the 22-year-old executive director of Parkour Visions, a non-profit group dedicated to teaching parkour.
It's the type of thing that's easier to recognize than to define. Think of a cat falling out of a tree. Now imagine a dog doing the same thing, assuming it could ever make it that high.
The cat has parkour vision. It's almost sure to land on its paws and absorb the impact.
Cecka teaches that type of cat-like grace through parkour, a sort of freestyle activity that focuses on moving from one point to another as nimbly as possible.
The discipline itself lies somewhere between gymnastics, martial arts, and skateboarding, although it's unlikely you'll see any traceurs, as the practitioners are known, tearing up urban landscapes. They have a strict policy of leaving things exactly the way they found them.
"We want to prevent it from becoming an extreme sport that's going to get banned," Cecka said.
Parkour works virtually anywhere, as though the world were a playground. For Cecka, it's become way of life: something that changed both the way he moves and the way he thinks.
"The more I do this, the more it feels natural for me, and the more I feel I should always be doing this," he said. "It changes your entire perspective on the world. Things you used to see as obstacles become opportunities to improve yourself."
Damon Healy, 37, works in finance at Microsoft. He started parkour lessons five months ago.
"It's an integral part of my life now," he said. "Everything has become something I can gain from.
"There's a carryover to the workplace. The stress of prepping for a presentation or dealing with a senior vice president melts away when you're doing parkour."
Parkour isn't an exhibitionist sport, despite the way it looks on You Tube.
Sixteen-year-old Carson Tidyman of Bellevue started a parkour club at Seattle Prep, were he goes to school. He says people tend to drop out of the sport quickly if they're only interested in tricks and flips.
"A lot of people lose interest because they're excited to show off," he said. "It's not about showing off. It's about making yourself better and coping with obstacles in life."
It's that type of mindset that Cecka hopes to spread through Parkour Vision's outreach efforts, which include working with four low-income housing groups in King County and with the Spruce Street Secure Crisis Residential Center.
Beginner traceurs start out learning the basics, with movements that include jumping, rolling, short drops, and bounding around on all fours. Practicing these activities naturally leads to conditioning for those accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle.
Parkour doesn't require any special equipment, and many traceurs even practice barefoot so they can feel the surfaces they're working with.
"It's one of the most accessible and transformative sports you can do," Cecka said.
Parkour Visions hosts weekly classes at outdoor parks and public spaces around Bellevue, generally offering one free session to help people learn about the sport.
See Bellevue Reporter video footage of parkour in action by clicking here