Parkour isn’t just for the young and nimble. Older people are picking up the sport for practical reasons.
Just over two months ago, Ms Ann Tham, 64, needed the help of a trolley cart to keep her balance and move around.
Now she walks unaided. All thanks to the sport of parkour.
The retired graphic designer practises twice a week in Bishan by twisting through railings, balancing off edges and rolling on the ground.
Ms Tham’s moves are slower and less nimble than the bold flips and dives that characterise the sport. But she said the balancing motions and simple core strength-training that form the basics of parkour has helped the senior citizen regain her balance and confidence.
“I used to get anxious in crowds because I thought I would lose my balance and fall, but I’ve also overcome that fear,” she said.
Ms Tham, who is the oldest student training with Move Academy Singapore, discovered the sport after a chance encounter with a trainer from the centre in November (2017) in a foodcourt.
Speaking to The Straits Times after a training session on Jan 19, she said in Mandarin: “He was queuing in front of me and ordered a really big bowl of noodles. I thought it was strange. How can this skinny guy, who looks so gentle and fair, eat so much?”
She approached Mr Tan Shie Boon, 25, who told her about the sport and showed her videos of their practice sessions.
“I asked if he thought it would be beneficial for me, and that’s when he invited me to try it out the next day,” said Ms Tham who before taking up parkour, rarely exercised and would often lose her balance while walking.
Said Mr Tan, a full-time coach with Move Academy: “People are usually quite averse to parkour. They think it’s dangerous, that it’s only for youngsters. But Ann was very open minded and was willing to give it a try.”
Another of Mr Tan’s students who is breaking the stereotype is his own mother, retired teacher, Madam Kimm Chai.
The 58-year-old, who does taiji regularly, picked up the sport in September 2017 after Mr Tan showed her some parkour techniques.
“It wasn’t as dangerous as I thought it was. In fact the sport teaches you to protect yourself from injuries if you fall,” said Madam Chai.
Mr Tan hopes that when people see how his mother and Ms Tham have benefited from parkour, it will help change public perceptions of the sport.