Woman Represents Big in Parkour

Vast majority of participants are male, but that’s about to change


Hikari Izumi

Women compete at the Air Wipp 2017 conference.

Elise Bickley took first place in the world-class parkour competition within the Air Wipp Challenge women’s division, even though she is just 13 years old. She looks very small and thin, but has so much energy. On her stage, she performed difficult tricks that even other professional parkour competitors do not attempt at competitions. Her performance proved that women have potential to stand on the same stage with men.

        Have you ever seen videos of people doing incredible stunts, like jumping from rooftop to rooftop and performing complex acrobatics in extreme environments? At first glance, it seems completely risky and insane to whoever is watching. But in reality, the people that perform these death-defying stunts have learned to control their bodies to such accuracy and capacities that only they understand. This is through the training discipline known as parkour.

Parkour was developed from French military training practices. The player’s intended goal is to get from one point to another in a complex environment without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Learning about parkour and doing parkour can benefit and improve your physical and mental capacity, according to trainers. It can also lead to careers. “I want to be a stunt double for movies,” said Bickley.

        The training discipline is still relatively unknown, and there are more men than women in the parkour community because it has an “exclusive boys’ club” image in the world, except the United Kingdom. In the U.K., parkour is getting more common. The participation figures for parkour are 96,700, according to Sport England‘s Active Lives survey. There are enough gyms, parks, and instructors that help boost its popularity.

Bickley started parkour training two years ago in the U.K. environment. Before she started parkour, she was often scolded by her mother because she was jumping around the furniture at home. Her parents took her to a small parkour club to stop her from jumping inside the house. She has not only the best environment in the U.K., but also an aptitude for parkour. She grew to a world champion with only two years of training.

        The world-class competition, the Air Wipp Challenge, has been held every year in Sweden since 2012 by Air Wipp, the parkour brand that was established by two parkour trainers in 2008. Today, the competition has become as big and famous as the Red Bull competition, in which parkour is also featured.

Red Bull does not hold women and youth competition, as did Air Wipp in 2017. It was Air Wipp that held the first youth and women divisions at world-class competitions. The participants were chosen from online video submissions. Thirteen women participated in the women’s division from all over the world and 15 boys participated in the youth division from all over Europe. The schedule was divided into two days. The first day for on-site qualifiers, women, and youths.  Even though it was the first time to hold the two divisions, people filled up the audience seats to watch the competition.

The stage was lighting up, the chairman excited the audience, and the competition was broadcast live on YouTube. In such as high-stress situation, the youngest girl took first prize. She decided to participate in the competition because she just wanted to meet everyone and to have fun. “I don’t think it’s right to just care about the competing side of it,” said Bickley.  It is an important mindset in the parkour culture.

Nowadays, the number of parkour competitions is growing as the development of the parkour scene expands. However, competing with others is not preferred in the parkour culture. Competition is necessary for the development of parkour, but players must not forget about respecting others and competing with only their former self. Bickley knew the parkour spirit already in spite of being so young. She also said that she loves the community and the progression of completing skills that she couldn’t do before.

        When the chairman announced her name as the first prize recipient, not only was she completely overwhelmed and shocked, but so were people in the parkour community. It was definitely one of the most historical events in the sport’s history. A 13-year-old girl took the first prize in the world-class women competition, doing many difficult tricks which even the male professional athletes did not attempt at competition. “I think my parents are happy for me to do parkour because I don’t have to jump around their furniture anymore,” said Bickley. “It’s just quite difficult to fit everything in because I have training and other things on as well as school and [a] social life so sometimes I miss out on things with my friends but I don’t mind.”

Hikari Izumi can be reached at [email protected]