By Matt Goad
Asked if he’s ever hurt himself, Tegan Kelleher, president of the N.C. State Parkour, Freerunning and Tricking team, and he says, “Oh yeah. Right there.”
Kelleher points toward a brick wall with a ledge about a foot height maybe 10 feet away. He tried to jump from the ledge to the top of the wall, but it was too far. “I head butted a brick rail,” he said.
But luckily no concussion was involved.
At the time, Kelleher, now a sophomore studying philosophy, was not even in college but was a high school student in Raleigh training with the State club, and didn’t have a lot of parkour experience.
Kelleher and Alec Hobbs, the club’s secretary gave The Spring Magazine a demonstration of what they can do, bouncing and flipping around the State campus on Monday. The club has about 15 members, both State students and others, but many have gone home for the coronavirus closure.
Kelleher and Hobbs, though, are both from Raleigh.
That fear of getting hurt is always there, Kelleher and Hobbs agreed, but participants learn to manage it. As they progress, they learn the limits of what they can do.
In more than an hour of demonstration on the State campus, neither of the pair falls or hurts himself. Club members sign a waiver with the state taking responsibility for all injuries.
Although the discipline is commonly referred to as parkour, they explained that parkour was only a part of it. They refer to what they do as PFT, for parkour, freerunning and tricking.
Parkour is getting from point A to B in the most efficient and fast manner available, playing off obstacles. Freerunning evolved from parkour and involves artistic movement with obstacles. Tricking, or martial arts tricking, involves chaining together combos. Tricking draws from martial arts, breakdancing and tumbling. Tricking doesn’t use obstacles.
State’s campus is particularly suitable for PFT, Kelleher said, with its numerous brick obstacles on a human scale. He looks for new spots as he goes between classes.
The club is an official State organization. Kelleher said the campus police know the club and don’t give members any trouble. The club does all it can to foster a good relationship with everyone on campus.
Other students, he said, either know what’s going on or are mystified. “It’s a ‘and you’re telling me you can teach me to do that’ kind of thing,” he said.
Training others is a big part of the club, a part that Hobbs said he particularly enjoys. “When they make a breakthrough, you make a breakthrough,” he said, “and I like that feeling.
Some think of parkour as rebellious, a kind of revolt against the surroundings as they are, but Kelleher likes to think of that instinct instead as creativity and pushing boundaries.
The State club was started in 2009 by two then-students who went on to start Enso Movement, a parkour gym in Raleigh and Durham. That was where Kelleher and Hobbs learned when they were in high school, both starting when they were 14.
Kelleher said he didn’t know of any other college or university clubs in the state, but Appalachian State teaches Parkour classes.
He added that parkour is generally not competitive, except for practitioners pushing each other and themselves to get better.
Kelleher said as soon as he started training, he liked the confidence it made him feel. It’s also a great way to stay in shape.