I only know what parkour is because of action films. All that flipping around on buildings is super cool. The fact that parkour is an actual thing, rather than just some special effect in movies (although those are rather exaggerated) just adds to its cool. Determined to see this awesome sport in action, I began researching the parkour scene in Cape Town, and discovered something quite remarkable.
The Moya Centre, a wellness centre dedicated to health and happiness, have a programme designed to help kids from underprivileged communities express themselves and keep off the streets through climbing and parkour.
The Empowering South-African Climbing And Parkour Evolution or ESCAPE has become a big part of the lives of the participants and their trainers do everything they can to help them do what they love.
Zack Wright, co-founder of Moya and leader of ESCAPE is an exercise scientist and counsellor who trains the boys in the programme. For him, sharing the joy of fitness and empowering the community is a big part of the centre.
Moya has a number of programmes and classes, but only a select few who prove themselves get to be part of the elite ESCAPE crew. The crew is mostly teenagers who are already Ocean View breakdancers and interested in pushing their physicality further. That made finding people for ESCAPE much easier.
‘Reaching out was easy as we had made friends with a breakdancing group who in turn introduced us to others. As soon as we showed them how easy it was to have fun in their own neighbourhoods, no encouragement was needed, they were all hooked and joining in whenever and wherever possible. They loved it from the start and have enjoyed learning the acrobatic moves in particular, as these new tricks complement the breakdancing they are still doing.’
The ESCAPE boys are at an advanced level compared to the general parkour, climbing and fitness classes, but they still have to train hard.
‘They have dedicated classes on Wednesdays. Their body-IQ and daring expressive nature they’ve achieved through dancing has helped them learn faster than average. As with any sport or movement, there is risk of injury. However, as it is essentially teaching your body how to efficiently move (and in particular how to fall, land and roll), the practitioner is less likely to get injured in this sport. Parkour is about finding the fun in the challenge and mastering yourself.’
Zack and his business partner Eva are dedicated to ESCAPE. They transport the crew to training sessions, and set up sponsorships to help the programme.
‘Moya Centre, private sponsorships and the amazing business tool Ttrumpet, all support ESCAPE in various ways from clothing donations, lesson fees, transport, team gear, food for outings and more. We are in need of on-going support to cover running costs and training fees as well as improved transport, clothing and specialised training equipment.’
This is vitally important as many of the kids in the ESCAPE programme join to keep out of trouble.
Kamaal, an ESCAPE member said: ‘I joined to get away from dangerous things like drugs, and to become a role-model to young kids in the community, and I love doing it!’
His sentiments are echoed by crew member Shakeel who said: ‘I joined the E.S.C.A.P.E. crew to inspire other children to do it.’
Here is a great video showing the ESCAPE crew at their best.
When ESCAPE is not at the Moya Centre, they are training in parks or the beach. So the next time you see a group of kids, flipping around and being cool, go give them a shout out. They worked hard to be there.