David Nelmes is a Parkour/Freerunning athlete who has climbed, moved and jumped across the streets of Leeds since discovering the sport as a teenager. Now he travels the streets of the world to experience Parkour’s adrenaline highs and unique views. Here is his story of a Parkour life…
Parkour is useful movement; getting from A to B as fast and efficiently as possible. Freerunning is movement in general, expressing yourself with any style you want. There isn’t really much difference between the two, and these days we all train how we like, and call it either of the words. There are no boundaries; new moves and styles are being made up every day. I train mostly Parkour based movement, but I also like to throw in a lot of flips, just for the hell of it! Everyone has their own style.
I first found out about Parkour when I was 16, through Youtube videos. As soon as I discovered it, I was hooked, and started trying it out straight away. I didn’t know of anybody in Leeds who did it, and so I would just vault over bins in my garden onto my trampoline to learn, and sometimes I’d go to my local park to climb and jump off things.
Eventually, I discovered videos of people doing the sport in Bradford, and got in contact with somebody through a name I found at the end of a video. They told me they meet up every Saturday to train Parkour/Freerunning, and invited me to join their team – before I’d even met them! They all had their own matching hoodies, so I went online and bought one too; the team name was ‘UNPK’, which stood for ‘Urban Ninjas Parkour’!
The first day I went training with them, I could not move my body or walk without pain for weeks, as I was aching so much with not being used to such exercise. Parkour is one of the rare sports that uses every part of the body and pushes every muscle you can think of to the max! It’s a very good way to keep fit and work your body to its full potential.
Shortly after, I found Leeds Parkour videos online, and got in touch with a guy who trained in Leeds. That Saturday, with my new joggers and trainers, thinking I was cool, I met up with him and the rest of the Leeds community. It was one of the best days of my life! From then on, I trained almost every single day of every single week.
There was a gym that we would go to in Bradford that’s still around today; it was for freestyle gymnastics but everybody would go there to practice Parkour & Freerunning. In Little London in Leeds, there was also a small area we could practice at, in a community centre. It was just a hard floor, a stage, one crash mat and a few horse vaults; but at the time it was awesome!
The same guys who organised this went on to form a brand called ‘SingleBound’, which started as a large spring floor area in Soccer City on Elland Road, and is now the leading Parkour and Freerunning group in the city. This was all made possible because of a small collection of Leeds Freerunners, who had been pressing the council to make it happen for years, and now SingleBound are the official Parkour and Freerunning coaches for Leeds City Council.
SingleBound went on from hiring out a gym in Pudsey for a few hours every week, to achieving their dream, when they were able to get a huge warehouse to build a Parkour park inside! They spent months completing the setup, with the spring floor and a foam pit, and finally opened its doors to the public at the end of 2015. This gym is called ‘Level Up Academy’ and is thriving. As well as Parkour and Freerunnning, they keep busy with many other activities and classes throughout the week. They have since sponsored me as an athlete and I represent the gym whenever I can.
Since I started Parkour, my life has completely changed. I have made so many new friends and I have a place to stay anywhere in the world I might travel. That is the strongest part about Parkour; the community. Back in the beginning, you could turn up at Leeds Art Gallery – the meet spot – and there would always be somebody there training. Even if they were a stranger to you, if they did Parkour, you would become good friends in no time. Anyone from anywhere of any age will get along. There is no conflict, no leaving people out or ignoring anyone. It is one huge worldwide family where everybody knows everybody and can stay and train with one another across countries and continents.
Without Parkour, my life would be a routine; go to work, come home, sleep; bored, tired, maybe stressed; blowing off steam by going out for drinks at the weekend. Instead, it is exploring a new country, or climbing to the highest points of Leeds for breathtaking views; testing my limits, achieving new goals and learning new tricks my body can do. Parkour comes with so many benefits; it allows you to see the world; to see obstacles in a different way; it enables you to escape; it can open up job opportunities, lead you into new hobbies and paths; you gain a lot of confidence, relieve stress, and feel better about yourself.
Parkour teaches you to know your limits and not to try something you might not make. The sport does not tell people to jump off buildings or do huge movements; it is ground level based, and practiced repeatedly before trying the same move at a height where people would call it ‘dangerous’.
We know if we can land it 1000 times on the ground, height doesn’t make any difference. It’s a mental game, it’s very good for discipline of the mind.
I know of many people who grew up with a difficult life, and by finding Parkour, it gave them something to do, a distraction against negativity. It gave them friends and support; it kept them out of trouble or in the wrong gangs. Everybody I know who does Parkour gets a better outlook on life, and is generally happier. It puts the youth back into some people, and the self expression is enjoyable. When training, you are having fun, socialising, discovering, and it’s all very essential if you don’t have something else in your life that provides this.
I know a lot of other sports can offer the friendships, the positivity and the fun, but to me Parkour is very different. It’s the only sport I know where everybody is so connected. Where it is pushing your body to the limit. And where it is showing you parts of the world only we can see. Without Parkour I could never do that.