Welcome Back: Work out with Cathedral, a parkour hotspot

By Kat Prosachik / For The Pitt News

For Andrew Obenreder, parkour is not a hobby, a fad or an exercise routine — it’s a lifestyle. 

Parkour is an activity that involves running, jumping and scaling urban areas that have obstacles for the traceur to use for training.

Obenreder, 23, describes parkour as “a method of training and discipline that helps overcome obstacles in life using the capabilities of the human body.” 

“In essence, physical problem solving,” he said. “While math teaches you to problem solve numerical equations, parkour teaches you to problem-solve life through physical challenges. Parkour is about being able to overcome fears and other obstacles in life by taking what we learn physically and applying it every day [to] life situations.”

According to Parkourgenerations.com, parkour started in France, where Yann Hnautra and David Belle formed a group that began running through the streets of France. They later refined the practice by adding military training to their routine. 

Dan Edwardes wrote “Parkour History” on Parkourhistory.com and said the two men were “reviled by the French authorities and seen as wildmen by the local public.” Today, parkour practioners are known as traceurs.  

Obenreder, who now works as a photographer, has journeyed across the world with parkour since November 2003, documenting his journey in a short film series called the Nomadik Projekt, which he posted on YouTube. 

Many of the videos include Pittsburgh locations and highlight parts of the city that are best for parkour, including the Cathedral of Learning and Pittsburgh Athletic Association. Each railing and window ledge on campus is utilized for traceurs to jump off, onto or over. 

ETRE-FORT, a company that sells clothing specifically for parkour training and one of Obenreder’s parkour financial sponsors, contacted him after seeing some of his videos. 

ETRE-FORT co-founder Felix Iseli said Obenreder produces “great work.”

The Nomadik Projekt, according to Obenreder, brings together a group of people for experience and to use the media they create to inspire others. Obenreder said his films are not traditional and they let the viewer be part of the experience. Through the films, the viewer can see the city from a unique point of view. 

Obenreder is also part of the Pittsburgh Parkour Association. Lucas Dimoveo, an instructor at PPA, said Pittsburgh has a “dense concentration of universities, which provide unique places to train.”

“The city has unique architecture, both old and new,” Dimoveo said. “There are a lot of decaying structures in the Pittsburgh metro area due to the economic collapse in the ’70s. There are many vacant places to explore and train without being bothered.”

Pittsburgh hosted the Steel City Jam, a national parkour session, July 11-13. 

“We jam in the exact same way musicians would,” Obenreder said. “Jams provide a platform to learn parkour, try new things, push each other, meet new people and see people we haven’t seen in awhile. Parkour is very community-based, and we are constantly traveling because of it.”

Obenreder said national jams, such as Steel City, are just as much for catching up with friends as they are for training.

“I personally enjoy training in a smaller group setting or alone, as I feel I get more accomplished. However, major jams are fantastic in the sense that so much can be learned in a short amount of time because you see so many other training styles and the way people utilize a particular space,” he said. 

Piarry Singh, also an instructor at PPA, said parkour jams are like family reunions. 

“I was inspired by some friends who were training in Central Park, New York [City],” Singh said. “I found what they did very intriguing, and it looked like the movement itself would be quite fun.” 

Although there aren’t any Pitt students currently in the Pittsburgh Parkour Association, Obenreder said Panther Parkour Club at Pitt gives students a good opportunity to participate in parkour. To Obenreder, anything can inspire an interest in parkour and anyone can start at any time. For him, it was a 2003 episode of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”

Dimoveo uses parkour as a type of therapy, something Obenreder said can be another benefit in addition to the physical fitness aspect.

“Initially, I started parkour because I was afraid of heights,” Dimoveo said. “Parkour, other than helping remedy my fear of heights, has allowed me to tap more into my emotional and intuitive instincts.”

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