August Stahl

Equinox Staff


With a deep breath, he sprinted.

There were people flying everywhere, doing flips off railings and walls, but he was concentrated, focused on his footsteps.

The wall came closer and closer until he planted his hands and vaulted.

He flew 16 feet head first onto a neighboring rooftop, rolled and kept on going, losing only a fraction of momentum.

With another roll he flipped off the roof onto solid ground, and in a flash was through a railing and over a fence.

This is parkour or freerunning, as defined by American Parkour, “the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment.”

This highly stylized and speedy way of movement has been popularized within the past two decades through film and competitions. David Belle was one of the trailblazers for the sport, and made it more accessible through his film “District B13.”

It incorporates hundreds of movements, varying from vaulting over obstacles, flipping around, and diving over gaps.

One of the more famous examples of this is from the opening chase scene in the 2006 James Bond film, “Casino Royale.”

Disciples of this modern art of movement can do some mind-boggling things, and recently have been snatched up by Hollywood as stuntmen and acrobats.

People practice all the time, training in parks and towns, but on March 17 in Boston, people from all across the nation came to practice together for this year’s installment of Hubbable, a Parkour Jam right in Boston.

It had rained the night before, and there weren’t many people at Baby Pool, one of the predetermined meeting places of the Parkour Jam at 9 a.m.  But as the morning coninued, they started to arrive.

One, two, three at a time, guys of all ages, all dressed in sweatpants, began to gather at the waterside park.

What was at first a few guys jumping off a ledge became 100 people, all talking, doing tricks, and learning.

The overwhelming feeling of community was powerful among all the participants.

It was common to see someone launch themselves 10 feet through the air then go introduce yourself.

There were people of all ages at the park, and of all different skill sets.

There were the professionals from the World Freerunning and Parkour Foundation and American Parkour helping those who were just starting, giving tips and explaining certain moves.

More than 100 people were at the park by 11 a.m., all meeting and showing off.

There were members from various freerunning groups, including the APK, WFPF, and Hub Freerunning going around and doing crazy tricks then helping people begin to do it themselves.

By noon the crowd had begun to tear through Boston, stopping on the Harvard campus and continuing through the city and finally ending near Faneuil Hall.  But it wasn’t the end of the jam, just the day portion of it.

At 7 p.m. a gym just outside Boston continued the jam, with a DJ and a completely open gymnastic floor for participants.

Again people gathered to watch the best put on a show while others practiced in a setting unfamiliar to most.

The gym was thriving all night, as people would sleep for a few hours and wake up to do more.

“The first Hubbable Jam was St. Patty’s day of 2011,” Shane Merritt explained, a parkour artist and participant in this year’s Hubbable. “And it was started by Hub Freerunning that comes out of Boston, who’s head is Dylan Polin. They wanted to do a jam in New England and show how great of a spot Boston was and to get the parkour name out there,” Merritt said. “There was gonna be a lot of famous people and a lot of people who didn’t really know a lot, and they just kind of started it to see how many people would show up and then 300 people showed up and this year more than 500 people showed up.”

He continued, “It started as a complete joke and then it turned into this massive thing.  [There are Parkour Jams] normally once a month. There’s a pretty solid jam somewhere, huge jams like these happen like once every two months, but there’s normally a state jam once a month.”

Parkour is a sport fast gaining followers, with television shows and videogames all jumping on the bandwagon, but that isn’t the philosophy of practitioners.

They believe the sport is about freedom and movement, training one’s body to push conventional limits.

It is one of the most rigorous activities, but also one of the most rewarding.


August Stahl can be contacted at

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