So, where are all the women of Parkour and Freerunning? In a sport dominated by boys, the girls are staking their position in the discipline and taking no prisoners! We went around the world and brought back for you some of the top names in parkour and freerunning – call them the princesses of parkour. Meet Luci Romberg, Britney Jaculina, Charlène Leglise, Erica Madrid and Pam Obiniana. (There are many more amazing female atheletes out there, but we have to reserve some of them for future stories!
Professional Stuntwoman, Tempest Freerunning, Los Angeles, California, USA
Tell us a little about yourself. I am 30 years old, I am from Aurora, CO but I now live in Hollywood, CA.
What is your athletic background? Both my parents had full ride tennis scholarships in college and my dad was a tennis pro for 30 years and my mom is a professional barrel racer (horses) so athletics were everywhere growing up. Growing up I played competitive soccer, softball, tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, and diving. My parents thought it was important to keep my brother, sister, and me active and out of trouble haha. Athletics made me who I am today. It gave me confidence, something to strive for, and a sense of self. I ended up getting a gymnastics and soccer scholarships to Texas Woman’s University. I was captain of both teams and my senior year of gymnastics I was the National All-Around Champion. After college I moved out to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of doing stunts. It was a long hard road but I have worked hard and it has paid off. Once in LA I met Team Tempest and they changed my life FOREVER! They taught me everything I know about freerunning and living the free life I was searching for.
What made you choose parkour and freerunning? Freerunning was so appealing to me because in my eyes, a freerunner is the ultimate athlete! I love movement and it was everything combined into one. It takes courage, skill, and confidence. What could be better than that?
What do you love most about the disciplines? It is hard to say what I love the most but if I had to choose I would say the freedom of the art form. In gymnastics and traditional sports there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” but in freerunning it is an art form so how can you say something is right or wrong? It just IS. It is how an individual moves. It is the purest form of movement.
How do you deal with the “boys”? haha good question. Just kidding… It is normal now. I have been hanging and training with the “boys” as the only girl a lot of the time and it is weird to say but I kind of just fit in. I still stay feminine but I know how to balance my femininity with the craziness of the boys. I just get a long so well with them. They are my best friends, my family!!
Are there advantages or disadvantages to being a female traceurs and freerunners? To me the disadvantages are obvious… we can’t jump as high or as far as the guys but that is what is so great about this movement. It doesn’t matter. You take your personal style and strengths and you adapt them to any given environment. A female freerunner can be just as awesome to watch as the guys in my opinion. I just enjoy watching the human body move and its awesome because everyone moves differently.
Why do you think there are so few female traceurs and freerunners? I think there are several reasons. One reason is because it is scary! The concrete is hard and daunting. Girls aren’t like boys. We are crazy in other ways haha. A lot of boys (not just freerunners) enjoy jumping off of roofs and doing crazy spontaneous things. Most girls don’t have the urge to do crazy things like that. Another reason is because it is intimidating training with the boys. A lot of the time the boys are more athletic and stronger than us, and it is hard to start out and not be even close to their level. I would love to inspire more women to get involved. We can do it too!!!!!
How can we increase the number of women interested in Parkour and Freerunning? I think by setting an example. If I can do it, anyone can! I truly believe anyone can do parkour. If you are passionate about something and you work hard at it, you have no choice than to become good at it. Everyone starts at a different level and it is not about comparing yourself to others. It is about having fun with it and learning at your own pace. It is not about being as good as the person next to you. Its about reaching your own, personal potential.
Guardian Art, Milpitas, California, USA
Tell us a little about yourself. My Name is Britney Jaculina and I am from Milpitas California and I am 10 years old.
What is your athletic background? I have been practicing Guardian Art since I have been 4years old. Free Running is apart of the Guardian Art training at my school, so I think directly…I know (She said while laughing)
What made you choose parkour and freerunning? When I was 4 my dad put me in karate and I hated it because it was boring. At that school there was another teacher there who taught Guardian Art and he was really nice and he taught me how to back flip of a block and I thought it was so fun and cool. I quit karate that day and started doing Guardian Art almost everyday because it was so much fun. That is why I choose free running.
What do you love most about the disciplines? I don’t get it…people say parkour is different than free running, but it looks the same to me. I see parkour people doing flips and free running doing just climbing…so it doesn’t make sense to me. I just say I practice Guardian Art and people seem to get it (said laughing). What I love about practicing is how it makes me feel good.
How do you deal with the “boys”? I scare them. Then hug them. Then scare them again.
Are there advantages or disadvantages to being a female traceurs and freerunners? No being a boy or girl doesn’t matter. You just have to want it and try…that is all. At my school we have a lot of girls who are awesome, and better than boys…hehehe
Why do you think there are so few female traceurs and freerunners? I don’t know. Maybe they just don’t know about it yet. I know that a lot of girls message me on Guardian Art’s youtube on how to practice, so I know there are a lot of girls who want to practice. Maybe they just don’t know were to go.
How can we increase the number of women interested in Parkour and Freerunning? Mmmm….maybe making more youtube videos of girls like me and lucy to show them that girls can do it just as good as boys. One day I want to compete in the redbull to show more girls.
Ape Connection, Vienna, Austria
Tell us a little about yourself. My friends call me Pam! I am 25 years old and i live in austria! When I was 9 years old, i started doing gymnastics for 10 years and i also did competitions. After school i quit doing gymnastics and i started to study ( sport science). I visited a freestyle course where i met the Ape Connection which is a freerunning and parkour team. I tried to do some basic elements i knew from gymnastics on different obstacles and from different levels. I saw people doing tricks i never thought people can actually do. For example a „palm spin“. I was so excited to learn new tricks and i had so much fun hanging around and training with the ape connection. I started to rotate and use my body in different ways. But not all of it came that easy, learning the „cork“ was hard, because in gymnastics you don‘t do tricks like that. But it its fun to accept challenges and after a hard training day if you had success in whatever you tried to accomplish, it feels amazing. That‘s what makes this sport so exciting.
I love to watch other freerunners, because i can see new tricks and i learned that there is much more than just doing tricks…. i started to train parkour and i went outside on playgrounds. I recognized that this sport gives me strength and the opportunity to adapt to obstacles. What i love most about it is that there is no right or wrong in doing tricks. And everybody has there own style, there are break-dancers, gymnasts, martial arts, and everybody moves in a different way, but the key-aspect stays the same, body-control.
How do you deal with the “boys”?..^^ This is a good question, actually i don‘t know,.. It‘s the same like with the girls. I talk, train and hang out with them just like with my girls, there are just a few things i rather do with girls than with boys, like shopping =P
Are there advantages or disadvantages to being a female traceurs and freerunners? The only disadvantages i know right now, is that i can not jump that far..=-( And i don‘t have that much courage, but maybe that‘s just me
Why do you think there are so few female traceurs and freerunners? I am not sure, but it is the same in other sports too. First there are men doing the sport and than women start doing it as well, like soccer or ski jumping…
How can we increase the number of women interested in Parkour and Freerunning? I think there are different ways. I am coaching a freerunning and parkour class only for girls, because than you can make the bars a little lower and the gaps little smaller. . Maybe more will start doing freerunning because they can see that girls are also able to do it! My favorite female freerunner is Luci Romberg, she inspired me doing this sport.
ETC and Pink Parkour, Paris, France
Tell us a little about yourself. My name is Charlène. I am 28 years old. I was born in Dijon and lived there until I was 23, then I moved to Paris for professional reasons.
Je m’appelle Charlène, j’ai 28ans, je suis née à Dijon et j’y ai vécu jusqu’à mes 23ans ensuite je suis venue sur Paris pour des raisons professionnelles.
What is your athletic background? I have never really done any sports, just a little dance for fun with friends about an hour a week.
Je n’ai jamais vraiment fait de sport, juste un peu de danse en loisir avec des amies, environ 1heure par semaine.
What made you choose parkour and freerunning? I did not know this sport existed. It was while I was talking to a friend that I discovered this sport called parkour. I found it very interesting to use your immediate environment to practice a sport as well as pushing your personal limites and being part of a group. I started parkour in February 2009 in Paris. My first training sessions were difficult, especially physically, but the group helped me hang in there and pushed me to come back!
Je ne savais pas que ce sport existait, c’est en en parlant avec un ami que j’ai découvert que ce sport s’appelait le parkour. Je trouvais intéressant le fait d’utiliser notre environnement immédiat pour faire du sport, le dépassement de soi aussi et le fait d’être en groupe. J’ai commencé le parkour en février 2009, sur Paris, les 1er entraînements ont été difficile surtout au niveau physique mais l’ambiance m’a permis de tenir et surtout de revenir!
What do you love most about the disciplines? Helping each other out. I love to surmount an obstacle because someone taught me a new technique. I love this exchange.
L’entraide, j’aime arriver à passer un obstacle parce que quelqu’un m’a donné une technique, j’aime cet échange.
How do you deal with the “boys”? I am part of the boys group called ETC. Everything goes very well, I follow the same physical and parkour training that they do. On the spots, I am always with the boys from my group or with traceurs that I know. I have never had problems with any of the boys, they are always ready to give me some advise or spot me. I feel equal to them eventhough I don’t do the same jumps. For example, we challenge each other and if I don’t make it, its not a big deal but I still try because when I make it its truly rewarding. Yes I actually make it some times!!!
Je fais parti d’un groupe de garçons appelé ETC, ça se passe très bien, je suis les entraînements physiques et de parkour avec eux . Sur les spots, je suis toujours avec des garçons de mon groupe ou des traceurs que je connais, je n’ai jamais eu aucun problème, les garçons sont toujours prêts à me donner des conseils ou à me parer. Je me sens à égalité avec eux même si je ne fais pas les mêmes sauts. Par exemple on se lance des défis si je ne réussis pas, ce n’est pas grave mais je tente leur défi tout de même parce que ça fait plaisir quand je les réussis, oui oui ça arrive des fois! ! !
Are there advantages or disadvantages to being a female traceurs and freerunners?
Concerning the disadvantages: (1) Strength comes more slowly so you feel a little discouraged at the beginning when you see the boys you started with progressing faster than us. (2) Maybe the “boy talk”, who when they see that we are girls don’t think we can stick to training. But what they do not know is that it motivates us even more. (3) I don’t see any other disadvantages. I have always been well trained and accepted in the community.
Concerning the advantages: (1) maybe fluid motion and flow are easier for us. (2) also the fact that we are girls encourages the boys to help and train us. Its probably easier for a girl to start parkour then for a guy.
Concernant les désavantages: (1) la force vient plus lentement donc on se sent un peu découragée au début quand on voit que les garçons avec qui ont a commencé réussissent plus rapidement que nous. (2) Peut être le discours de certains garçons qui, en voyant que nous sommes une fille pensent que nous ne pouvons pas réussir à tenir un entraînement. Mais justement ça devient un défi de leur prouver qu’on peut tenir ! (3) Je ne vois pas d’autres désavantages, j’ai toujours été très bien conseillée et acceptée.
Concernant les avantages : (1) peut être dans tous les mouvements de fluidité, (2) le fait que nous soyons peu de filles encourage les garçons à nous aider, à nous conseiller, à nous entraîner. C’est peut être plus simple de débuter en étant une fille qu’un garçon finalement!
Why do you think there are so few female traceurs and freerunners? Maybe because girls are afraid they might not be strong enough to practice parkour or maybe because it is hard to be a girls in the middle of a group of boys or maybe just because they don’t really know a lot about the sport.
Peut être que les filles ont peur ne de pas avoir assez de force pour réussir, peut être qu’il est difficile pour elles d’être seules au milieu d’un groupe de garçon, peut être qu’elles ne connaissent pas bien ce sport…
How can we increase the number of women interested in Parkour and Freerunning? I think girls feel more comfortable to start training when they are in a structured environment. Therefore increasing the number of groups with female trainers who can focus their training on women.
Je pense que les filles sont rassurées par le fait d’être dans un cadre structuré pour débuter, donc augmenter le nombre d’associations avec une fille dans l’équipe encadrante pour que des conseils plus ciblés puissent être donnés.
Tell us about your organization, Pink Parkour in Paris, France. With Stella, a Parisian traceuse we met at the PK75 association in September 2009. We noticed that quite a few women were present at the beginning of the year, but that a lot of them would quickly abandon. During the summer of 2010, Vinh a member of ETC and Stella organized sessions with girls from various associations. These sessions allowed us to exchange training tips and techniques. Following these sessions, Stella and I decided that it would be useful to create a federation for all females belonging to french parkour associations as well as beginners in order to continue this exchange and these meetings. Pink Parkour site.
Avec Stella, une traceuse de Paris, nous nous sommes rencontrées à l’association PK75 en septembre 2009, nous avons remarqué qu’un certain nombre de filles étaient présentes en début d’année mais qu’elles abandonnaient rapidement. Durant l’été 2010, Vinh (membre d’ETC) et Stella ont organisé des sessions en rassemblant les filles des diverses associations, ces sessions nous ont permis d’échanger sur nos pratiques ou nos astuces de passement. Suite à ces sessions, nous avons pensé avec Stella qu’il serait utile de créer une association afin de fédérer les filles des différentes associations françaises et les filles débutantes afin de continuer ces échanges et ces rassemblements.
ERICA NICOLE MADRID
Apex Movement, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Tell us a little about yourself. My name is Erica Nicole Madrid, I’m 20 years old and I was born and raised in Colorado. I currently live in Boulder, Co and am getting my undergraduate degree in Integratie Physiology at CU Boulder.
What is your athletic background? I was put in gymnastics at the age of two and was training elite level tricks by the age of 9. This was at a time when I could be at the gym 24/7, but then of course school and life took over a bit, especially since I was in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program in high school. Eventually I had to quit because I wasn’t getting enough sleep and was so busy with piano and school. From there I tried picking up skateboarding. Since I could do that whenever I wanted it made it a lot easier to work into my schedule. I was training 4-8 hrs a night and got pretty good fairly quickly. That’s the best thing about Parkour and Freerunning too, now that I’m in college I only have to be at school 2 days a week, and I get to train every day!
What made you choose parkour and freerunning? I still love skateboarding, and still do it, but it didn’t quite satisfy the full body challenge that gymnastics gave me, so I kept looking. I randomly found APEX Movement while looking online for a gym I could just go to open gym at and train. I still didn’t really know what Parkour was and didn’t really care. The only time I remember seeing it before I really got into it was one day while I was at the skatepark. A beginner class from APEX Movement was training precisions at the skatepark, not knowing what they were doing I ran over near them, did a backflip, and then a skate trick, and skated off. I still find it funny that the thing I was making fun of, is now my life, lol. While I was training at APEX Movement, throwing just some gymnastics stuff (giants, double fronts, tumbling, etc), Ryan Ford (owner) came up to me and had already talked to the rest of the team and offered to sponsor me through classes and invite me to be on the pro team!
What do you love most about the disciplines? There is no 1 thing I love most about Parkour and Freerunning. There’s just sooo many amazing things to say about it. The community is absolutely unbelievable. I didn’t know so many nice, supportive people existed on the planet! If anyone needs to restore their faith in humanity, they need to start training Parkour and Freerunning! The sport itself is so versatile and really allows you to express yourself in any way, shape, or form. I love that I can make up new tricks all the time, it’s such a cool feeling to be able to create your own artwork, rather than always feel like your doing what everyone else has, and still is.
How do you deal with the “boys”? Fortunately I was already used to being in a male dominate sport because of skateboarding, so it didn’t come as much of a shock. But there are definitely some things that you need to be aware of. For example, just from a pure biological standpoint, as a girl you are not going to be able to jump as far as the guy who can jump the farthest, or lift the most, or who has the best wall run, etc. But because of this you have a completely open playing field that guys don’t have. This is also pretty well recognized in rock climbing. A lot of guys use brute strength to climb, where maybe some of the girls don’t have the strength to do the same climb the same way, so instead they use technique! This allows them to a) be more creative, and b) not tire themselves out as much. A good example of this is when we (APEX Movement pro team) did our Move Beyond Possible tour last summer. We only had a day or two in most locations, which was kind of awesome because it really helped me push myself and go for things faster and understand my abilities better, since you had a matter of minutes, to decide if you could do something. As opposed to looking at it, training it at a gym, coming back, etc. But anyway, on the tour I was really forced to be creative because when you’re training with a bunch of guys and they’re all looking at the 12 foot roof gat they want to jump, that’s not really an option for me. So instead I would have to come up with new ideas, new ways around things, new tricks, etc.
Are there advantages or disadvantages to being a female traceurs and freerunners? I think there are so few female traceurs and freerunners because of how intimidating it can be, and partially because of the limits society tries to set on them. My parents did a really good job raising me to know that I’m the only one who can set limitations on myself. But even then, I know how it feels to walk into a male dominate sport and not know what your doing. I did that with skateboarding. I remember going to the skatepark at 5 am by myself so that I could skate before school when no one was around. And then when other people were around I would keep my headphones in so that no one would talk to me, haha. I would get sooo nervous every time I went skateboarding. You honestly just have to push through it. And the reality is, it’s all in your head. No guy was looking at me thinking, WOW she sucks at life, look at her trying to learn stuff, dumb girl, she should just go do ballet or cook. And once I felt comfortable enough to take my headphones out and actually talk, everyone was so nice and supportive and just wanted to help me learn. The same goes for Parkour and Freerunning.
How can we increase the number of women interested in Parkour and Freerunning? Honestly the best way to increase the number of women, is to increase the number of women, because the more women that do it, the more that will want to do it ; ) But really… there’s been so much support that I’ve gotten from the community, I’ve never felt like I don’t belong or anything like that, and that is SO important! APEX Movement is going to start up an all girls class which I’m going to teach, which will help with the intimidation factor, because learning from a girl makes it easier to see yourself doing it. I started a new website called strongisthenewsexy.com where my whole goal is to promote health and fitness to women. The focus of the website isn’t just on Parkour and Freerunning, but I am bias, so I do tend to have a lot of articles and exercises that relate to Parkour and Freerunning.
So here you go! We need more girls in parkour and freerunning. We are one community with a single goal and love for the discipline. Lets all enjoy it together!
Below are some resources.