Srinagar: In 2015 he bagged first prize in the gymnastics category of Kashmir Got Talent. He is now a trainer at Kashmir Harvard Educational Institute and is enlightening students about Parkour. 25 years-old hailing from downtown Srinagar, he is the founder of Kashmir Parkour (Free Running). He also started martial arts at a very early age and has bagged First Degree Black Belt in Renmei Gojuryu Karate, Second Degree Black in Seiko Kai Karate. He is an inspiration for many athletes and is training the first generation of Kashmir Parkour with zeal and zest.
In conversation with Adil Amin, Zahid Yaqood Shah talks about Parkour, its historical background and his future plans thereof.
KV: What is Parkour?
Zahid: Parkour is the act of moving from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ using the obstacles in your path to increase your efficiency. It is an activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. For me, Parkour is a freedom from everything that tries to cage me, and it is a moment of peace, love and happiness.
KV: Does it have any historical background, or is it a new discipline?
Zahid: In 1902, a catastrophic volcanic eruption obliterated the town of St. Pierre on the Caribbean Island of Martinique, killing 28,000 individuals in a flash. A young, French naval lieutenant, George Hebert valiantly coordinated the evacuation of over 700 people, both indigenous and European, from the outskirts of the town. The experience had a profound effect on him. For as he watched people move in those crucial first moments, it seemed that the indigenous people overcame the obstacles in their path with grace and creativity, while the Europeans moved badly, searching for familiar pathways, which now no longer existed. It was clear to him that “modern man” had lost the ability to move efficiently and effectively in all but the most routine environments. In addition, the heroism and tragedy he witnessed on that day reinforced his belief that, to be of real value, athletic skill and physical conditioning must be joined with courage and altruism, an epiphany which gave rise to the original motto of Parkour, “Etre fort pour être utile” – “Be strong to be useful.”
Travelling extensively, Hebert continued to be impressed by the physical development and movement skills of indigenous peoples in Africa and elsewhere. Based on these observations, Hebert formulated a physical training discipline that he called “the natural method” using climbing, running, swimming and man-made obstacle courses to recreate the natural environment.
Hebert’s “Natural Method” soon became the basis for all French military training, and the first organized obstacle course training in the modern era. Inspired by his work, units of the French Special Forces in the 1950’s further developed Hebert’s work into what came to be known as, “parcours du combattant.”, or “the path of the warrior”.
Years later, Raymond Belle, a fireman and veteran of the French Special Forces, returned to his hometown of Lisses on the outskirts of Paris, where he introduced the discipline of parcours du combattant and the teachings of Hebert to his young son David and a group of David’s close friends, who then set out to adapt Raymond’s teachings to their “natural setting”, giving birth to what we now know as “Parkour.” And furthermore it was given a shape of family/organisation by World Free Running Parkour Federation with immense efforts bringing athletes all around the world under one umbrella.
KV: How you got to know about Parkour, as we know that still many young Kashmiri’s are not aware about it?
Zahid: I came to know about Parkour from the National Geography’s Show called as Fight Science. Martial arts was fantasy for me from very beginning of my life and in that show they used to show extreme forms of martial arts and relating it to science. There was one episode in that show called Stealth fighters and it introduced to me something new and out of the box, and it was Parkour. This new sport occupied my mind and I felt like I have to really do it. But it is not so easy to adopt new sport which has never been played by any Kashmiri. I learned all the techniques and skills about the Parkour from the YouTube and practised wherever I got space. With time other guys got interested in this discipline, when they saw me practising Parkour. Now we are about team of 15 guys practising together, thus gava birth to Kashmir Free Running Parkour family.
KV: You recently got sponsored by World Free Running Parkour (WFPF) Federation, tell us something about it?
Zahid: The WFPF is an organization of athletes from around the world, some on teams, some not, who’ve come together to help bring the sport and philosophy of Parkour to mainstream audiences everywhere. Every person who makes a discovery and posts it on YouTube contributes to that process. Once Parkour stops changing, once someone defines what it is in a neat set of rules, it’s over. By bringing together a diverse group of practitioners from all kinds of places and backgrounds, each with their own unique mentality, and each with deep roots in the wider community, the WFPF’s goal is that the voices of the movement will continue to shape that change in a positive direction. WFPF Sponsored Athletes are individuals with a real passion for Parkour & Free running culture. Being physically talented is certainly an important component of this; however, as the global community continues to become more connected, those who regularly appear in videos, photography, and have a strong community involvement will continue to shape the future of the movement. I am the only and first Kashmiri who got sponsored by WFPF. It was a dream that took about seven years of hard work and practise.
KV: What are your future plans and is Parkour anyway growing in Kashmir?
Zahid: Well, about plans, there will be a certification course that I will be doing at Airborn Academy, Liverpool London; in this regard, International Parkour Federation (WFPF) will bear some of my expenses like lodging, food, certification fees and travel in London. I would like to thank Chairman of Kashmir Harvard educational institute, where, as I already said, I am working as a trainer, for extending his support and sponsoring 50% of my travel expenses. These days I am busy with paper work of visa and other things. Hopefully, if I will get my visa before 25 November then I will be flying to London for the said Certification course. I am surely going to learn lot of new things by taking up this course and it will shape up my skills. I have started awareness about Parkour and am currently training youth about the basics of Parkour. Plans are to take up the initiative on the large scale in future.