IRR with a side of parkour

Exploring the Subcultures of Union College

Stefani Leeper

Parkour is a means of travel, a means of getting from Point A to Point B. At least, that’s how IRR freshman Andrew Pisciotta defines the sport.

Most of those familiar with parkour have discovered the sport through YouTube or through film such as “James Bond: Casino Royale” in which experienced stuntmen scale buildings and propel themselves off of walls onto rooftops, oftentimes throwing flips and tricks into the mix.

While to many parkour may seem a thing of Hollywood or of gymnastics gone rogue, this offbeat sport has picked up popularity in America over the last decade and has become a prevalent pastime of many International Rescue and Relief majors at Union College.

IRR sophomore Joshua Ayala wrote an article for Insight entitled “Finding My Wings,” in which he narrates the story of how parkour saved him from the brink of death. Suicidal, Ayala scaled a building with the intent of catapulting to his demise—but the reward of finding success in his ability to climb the building, developed through parkour, caused him to realize his physical capabilities offered him more of an escape from life’s problems than that achieved through death.

Another thing parkour has to offer, noted Ayala, is community. His statement is founded in his experiences of the past and present, visible in the on-campus group almost entirely composed of IRR majors. “For those in the IRR department, it’s an adventure. Most IRR majors are thrill-seekers.

“Parkour is a good way to be physically fit,” he added. “It’s a really good way to develop the mind. The philosophy of it is that it allows you to overcome virtually any obstacle with the mind and/or body, which is the central premise of parkour.”

“Both IRR and parkour are adventure-oriented,” further explained Pisciotta, who was introduced to the campus parkour group through fellow IRR majors Ayala and Baldwin.

Sophomore IRR major David Baldwin has been involved with the group for six months. Like Ayala, Baldwin first discovered parkour through YouTube videos and immediately assigned it to his bucket list. However, it was never something he thought he would actually do. “It’s very underground. Nobody really knows anybody who does it,” Baldwin explained. “When I met Josh, I realized that I could learn the skill I always wanted to learn. It gives me a sense that I can do anything.”

“Honestly, the school should probably combine parkour with IRR; have a combined class,” Pisciotta said after evaluating the skills necessary for the sport and the program. “Both are active and require a lot of physical movement,” an idea echoed by Baldwin who explained that parkour directly relates to rock-climbing and other physical activities in which IRR majors must excel. Baldwin also argues that the sport promotes physical fitness and agility, which is beneficial for his career goal of being a cop.

The Union College parkour group, currently composed of primarily men, encourages more women to join them on their Sunday afternoon excursions. Parkour is really for anyone, observed Ayala, who noted that Business and Computer Science majors, as well as University of Nebraska—Lincoln students—who have a Facebook page for their parkour group—also partake in the unofficial club. “It brings people together from all different walks of life… and it expands their capabilities.”

Stefani is a sophomore studying communication.