Sunday, 3 August 2014

In Pictures: Kashmir's parkour generation

In Pictures: Kashmir's parkour generation
Inspired by Gaza's free runners and traceurs, parkour is making inroads in India-administered Kashmir.
 Last updated: 03 Aug 2014 , Aljazeera
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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.


/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

Traceur Zahid performs his favourite move at his favourite practice place outside Srinagar. The Makhdoom Sahib Shrine can be seen in the background.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

A stunt called the 'Palm flip' (using palms to push the whole body from the wall) is among the difficult moves for students of parkour.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

'We often see kids jumping from trees, chasing each other. We all are actually born with the skills of parkour, but we just don't realise it,' says Zahid Shah practising at the Makhdoom Sahib Shrine in Srinagar. 



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

'Parkour teaches discipline and strength,' a parkour trainee says.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

A youngster watches Zahida and Z Rafiq synchronising a back flip together at Badam Waer park in Srinagar.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

Traceurs practise in a small martial arts gym at Soura, Srinagar once a week. There are no parkour gyms or facilities in the region at this time.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

The banks of Jhelum River in Srinagar, also known as The Bund, are the most popular places to present or practise parkour.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

'Parkour can help prevent accidents; it makes your movements swift, quick and accurate,' says Rayees Ahmad Bhat, 17, at The Bund in Srinagar.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

Zahid and Z Shafi pose with trainees at KFPF. Their performances are seen as a political message against the rights abuses in the disputed region.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

Gaza's parkour experts and free runners have inspired many traceurs.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

Traceurs in Kashmir don't have one place where they can practise all the moves. So they have chosen a variety of areas to practise. Here, they are seen practising at a shopping mall in Srinagar. 

 


/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

Silhouette of traceurs performing a combination of back flips and headstands along the banks of Dal Lake. The group plans to do shows in the future to attract tourists and bring business to Kashmir. 



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

'Trusting your partner during practice is very important for an easy finish,' says Z Shafi.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

The athletes train at a boatyard at Dal Lake since they don’t have proper mats to cushion their fall during practise.



/Tamim Ahmad/Al jazeera

A Kashmiri free runner tries to perfect a new move where water is spun off his body like he's a spinning ball.