A Concrete Playground

SF Bay Area Asian American Group Takes Parkour to New Heights

December 15, 2010

Parkour traceur Justin Tang jumps around the UC Berkeley campus. (Photo by Seng Chen)

Admit it. When you watched your first Jackie Chan movie as a kid, you probably proceeded to mimic the same gravity-defying stunts off of your living room furniture.

But while your reenactment may not have progressed beyond the privacy of your home, the growing Parkour community in the San Francisco Bay Area is perfecting environment-based movement into an art form.

“Did you see that?,” a bystander says as Albert Kong, a six-year Parkour veteran, sprints and uses the flat face of a stone planter to launch himself several feet to a ledge. “He looks like a character in a video game.”

I can see the reverence for classic Hong Kong action films as I watch Kong and other Asian American “traceurs” — those who practice Parkour — at a jam session on the University of California, Berkeley, campus.

“Good spots tend to be universities and schools.” says Kong. “They have a lot of diverse, interesting architecture that’s close by.” These traceurs see more than just a walkway or a balcony — they see a route for escape.

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