Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir – Parkour – an athletic discipline in which practitioners (or traceurs) combine gymnastics, acrobatics, running, and jumping to traverse a variety of terrain – has taken the youth in India-administered Kashmir by storm.
Zahid Shah, 22, a commerce graduate, is the first local traceur. He practises parkour with a group of young people in Srinagar – the summer capital of this disputed Himalayan region.
“It is gaining publicity,” said Shah, the founder of the Kashmir Free Running and Parkour Federation (KFPF).
Shah, who comes from a lower middle-class family and works part-time at a dental clinic to support his parents, was first introduced to the world of parkour and free runners in a National Geographic show.
“That’s when the idea struck me. I started working out at a local playground. I used to watch YouTube videos of traceurs around the world and imitate them,” he said.
“It has been two years and the journey has been tough. With no financial support or proper facilities, this art is difficult to learn and share.”
Members of KFPF come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Z Shafi has a perfectly chiselled body and was into dancing, but he gave it up for the love of parkour.
Shafi said that he and his friends tried to practise parkour in Srinagar’s lone sports complex, “but we were thrown out”.
“The officials argued parkour isn’t recognised as a sport in Kashmir,” he said. “We didn’t lose hope, and we turned every hardship into opportunity, which is what parkour teaches.”
Instead of using proper practice mats for padding, the traceurs practice at Dal Lake, using water as their “practice mat”. They can also be seen using benches and the stairs of Badam Waer – a verdant garden known for its almond trees in Srinagar – as free running obstacles, and they use the Gangbaksh children’s park as a parkour gym.
The traceurs train and practise techniques for almost four hours every day. And it is always surprising for the locals to see these young men climb walls, railings, and perform mid-air somersaults without any support – something Kashmiris have only seen in movies.
Gaza parkour and free runners have inspired many of these local traceurs. Some of these athletes say their performance is also a form of protest against the excesses imposed on the people of Palestine and Kashmir.
The future seems bright for parkour here, with many young boys requesting training sessions on Shah’s Facebook page. But he says it will take monetary support to take the art to the next level.
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