As our ability to connect grows exponentially, more and more people are learning about parkour, and are interested in finding others to train with. However, due to the rate at which new people are discovering the discipline, there are often too few active groups to accommodate this surge of interest. In South Africa, there are active groups in major cities in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, and Kwazulu-Natal, and so beginners in those areas can find a place to learn and people to train with. However, those in smaller towns, and in more remote areas, often do not have this luxury.
Over the last few years I’ve overseen the growth and expansion of Pietermaritzburg Parkour. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve made some mistakes and bad decisions, but through every experience, I believe that my understanding has improved. In this article, I aim to impart some of that understanding, so that those who find themselves without a group in their area can skip the middle man, and start their own. I’ve broken this process into 11 steps which I believe will be helpful to you in this endeavour. Before all that, however, what is a parkour group?
Simply put, a parkour group is a collection of people who meet together to train. Some may be based in a specific location, with no formalised membership or costs, such as Durban Parkour or Pietermaritzburg Parkour. Others consist of a team of more advanced individuals, with specific members, such as Kaizen Parkour. Others, such as Sabotage Elite or Concrete Foundation Crew, have members in different parts of the country (and in some cases, even overseas) and consist of an advanced team, which produces content and is involved in performance, while also offering formalised classes to beginners. No two groups operate in exactly the same way, but all share certain foundations, and so this guide seeks to provide some general tips in getting one off the ground.
- Find core members
This is probably the most important step of all. For your team to survive, you will need several people who are committed to being at as many sessions as possible, and making sacrifices to do so. These should preferably be your most experienced members, but what is more important is that the people will be there for most, and preferably all, of your meetings. These members will set the example to new people, encouraging them to commit to regular attendance. Without a dedicated core group, you risk poorly attended sessions. This in itself is not a major issue, however, it sets a dangerous precedent. As people see poorly attended sessions, they feel less and less obligated to attend, and newer members are discouraged from committing.
- Set up a communications forum
For this, WhatsApp often works best, but it is by no means the only option. Use something which everyone has easy and immediate access to, so that last minute changes to plans can be quickly communicated. This forum should remain focused on parkour, so that important messages aren’t diluted by spam. It serves not only as an efficient means of spreading information, but furthermore, it allows the sharing of content amongst the group, encouraging members to continually seek to better themselves.
- Attend jams
Try get your group to as many jams where other teams are as possible. Meeting with experienced traceurs will help you learn a lot more about the discipline, and you can gain a knowledge of what team formats have worked and what haven’t. In addition, big jams are often the most enjoyable part of parkour. Without a doubt, my personal favourite aspect of being involved in the South African parkour community is attending gatherings, and meeting and training with like-minded people. Your members will associate this fun with the discipline, making them a lot more likely to train more regularly. Groups around South Africa host frequent events (The Ubuntu Festival, the KZN Gathering, the All Black Jam, etc etc), so if even only one of your members is in the area, they will benefit from joining in. If there isn’t anything happening near you, make it happen! Organise events and get as many people moving together as possible, and you will all learn from each other. Platforms like Facebook make this type of organisation a lot easier.
- Establish a social media presence
Setting up a Facebook account, and later also utilising Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, is the most effective way to find new members. Maintaining your page, posting regular content, providing information about your group, and providing timely responses to inquiries, will ensure that more people find out about you, and are encouraged to get involved. Being organised will show people that your group is active and effective, and people will be more likely to join.
- Establish times and locations
Providing clear and sufficient information pertaining to training times and locations will ensure that your group is seen as reliable. Provide solid information on social media, with sufficient notice before each event, so that people have enough time to make plans.
- Train properly
Watch YouTube tutorials, discuss with experienced people where possible, gather as much information as you can, and above all, use common sense, to ensure that you train safely and effectively. This is absolutely crucial when looking to improve your group
- Find spots
Invest time in finding good locations which you can use. Setting these up as regular locations will make it easier for people to find you. The more locations the better, as variety is crucial. The process of finding the right spots could constitute an article in its own right, but in summary, make sure it is safe, objects are sturdy, and that it is not a location that you will get in trouble for utilising. The better your locations, the more opportunities you will have, but don’t forget, a single wall or a flat patch of ground can keep a creative traceur occupied for hours. The beauty of parkour is that we are only limited by our imagination
- Ask for help
If you’re unsure about something, or are battling, don’t be afraid to ask. That’s how we learn. Get in touch with your regional representative, or contact Parkour South Africa directly via our Facebook page or website, and we will help you work through issues that may arise.
- Don’t spam
in the early days, don’t feel the need to share your content everywhere. People will respect you when they see that you have established a solid team with skilled members, not because you have the most Facebook likes or share your videos on their page. I would definitely recommend filming a short video early on as an introduction to your team – get your name out, show people who you are. But don’t train for the purpose of making videos. Your videos will be good if you train hard, but this should never be a priority. Once again, this is a topic which merits its own article, and there are many interesting discussions online worth reading up on.
- Make friends
Both within your own team and with other groups around the country, establish relationships as soon as possible. If you treat your own members well they are far more likely to want to be a part of your group. If you make friends with other people in other teams, you can count on them for jams, advice or sometimes even a place to stay. Those who tell you parkour is an individual activity are missing out on a large part of what makes it so great. It brings people together in a way that few other things do, and making the most of that will help you to get far.
- Get the word out
Whether it be via a local newspaper, posters or schools or any other means of communicating with the public, make sure your town knows you exist, and the members will flow in. You’ll be amazed at the number of people who have heard of parkour and are interested, or even who’ve tried some out by themselves, but simply never found others to do it with. The only way to connect with these people is to ensure that your group is on the map, and that people know you exist.
All the advice I can give you, however, can’t come close to the experience you’ll gain over time. If you are willing to put in consistent hard work, you will be rewarded. Your group’s growth may at first be slow, but if you remain dedicated your commitment will inspire others to follow suite.
Best of luck!
Head administrator of Pietermaritzburg Parkour
Provincial Representative at Parkour South Africa