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A parkour world champion

Free running man

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Ryan Doyle is tired. As a freerunner and parkour practitioner, you'd probably expect him to be exhausted from all the practice hours that he puts in. But Doyle is just jet-lagged, from his new globe-trotting project, 'Parkour World Wonders. '

"I can't train much really because I have to stay healthy, " is his intriguing revelation. "I can't take the risk of getting hurt, can't do anything dangerous without the camera rolling, " he says of the project that will see him travel to the new 'seven wonders of the world'. The Red Bull athlete has made stops in Italy, Brazil, Peru, India and Jordan, and will swing by China in August. "The Taj Mahal was just mindblowing. It has a sense of mystery that I just loved, " he exclaims.

Doyle, probably one of the few Liverpudlians who likes neither The Beatles nor the Liverpool football club, is a parkour world champion and is, frankly, a little tired of explaining what it is.

"I'm fed up of telling people what parkour is, what free running is, " he says, without any rancour. "It's an underground style of sport. It's a discipline, an art, a way of life and thinking. We will never be seen as a sport so there are no rules. People can set their own criteria. Everything is available online and one can learn everything and anything, " the 2011 Art of Motion champion says.

A-JUMPING WE WILL GO


Watching the acrobatic 27-year-old execute some of the twists and flips with practised nonchalance is exhilarating. He usually trains on flat surfaces or in the gym, so the chance of jumping off the hundreds of old structures at Machu Picchu or flipping in front of the Colosseum or the Taj Mahal was too good to pass up. Add to that the fact that Doyle is always up for new experiences and a world tour seemed the perfect project to undertake.

"I released a showreel on YouTube and 26 countries contacted me to come and perform. My manager then suggested we do an international tour and put together a travel story around the wonders of the world, " Doyle told TOI-Crest.
According to Doyle, all parkour atheletes or traceurs are addicted to problem solving. "Give us a Rubik cube and most of can put it together within a minute, " he laughs. "For me parkour is a personal way of overcoming obstacles, both physical and mental.

I practice efficient physical movements using the body to get from Point A to Point B and I use that philosophy when I need to achieve a goal. Subconsciously, you apply that on a mental level. If there's a death in the family or you're jobless, you figure out how to get out of it. You are conditioned to be like that, " the Jackie Chan fan says.

Developed in France by David Belle, the main purpose of parkour is to teach participants how to move through an (usually urban) environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and leaping. Increased use of the discipline in popular culture first sparked global interest in the art. Hollywood films like Casino Royale, The Bourne Ultimatum and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, among others, have showcased action sequences based on parkour. Closer home, Akshay Kumar's stunts in advertisements for a fizzy drink are parkour-inspired and even Aamir Khan learnt some techniques for his role in Dhoom 3. Yet while Doyle - who's also acted as a hyperactive ninja in a small indie film called Shinobi Code - and his ilk are mostly happy for the attention, he's not convinced it's for the best.

BREAKING RECORDS, AND BONES


"Kids are seeing parkour in movies and music videos and want to try the moves out, not because it would make them feel great. They think it's cool, " points out Doyle, whose favourite activity when not flipping is sleeping. Incidentally, it was his apparent disinterest in football - "Can you imagine growing up in England and you don't like football?" - that saw Doyle take up martial arts. He learnt the Korean martial art of Kuk Sool Won, and developed his style of parkour by adding his own free-running movements to the martial arts techniques he learned.

Injuries, of course, are an integral part of Doyle's life. He famously won the first official international free-running event: Red Bull - Art of Motion in Vienna in 2007 and broke his left leg, right at the moment of triumph, when he missed the landing mat from a 12ft jump in the final. He now has a 33cm bar held on to his leg with 14 screws as a permanent reminder. "Bones can heal but cartilages don't grow back, " he says ruefully. "I have several broken toes. There's an annual ankle injury. I have some new teeth, " he says, pointing to his jaw, and adds, "there are calcium buildups and broken fingers. "

Amazingly, for a man who has to quickly estimate the distance between two ledges or drops, Doyle has very poor eyesight, which he claims is an advantage, because if he could actually see the true height of a jump he was on, he'd probably chicken out.
Though there's not much money in parkour, Doyle, like many ace sportsmen, believes in the abiding power of sport, of the good something like parkour can bring to the world. "Parkour is an altruistic sport. It teaches you to respect your environment, your neighbours. I don't try and teach people how to parkour. You can't teach them. I teach them how to be safe. I don't want to create copies of me. I want them to be the best people they can be. "

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