Syrian Parkour: The Art of Overcoming Obstacles
By: Malorie Lewis / Arab American Contributing Writer
Parkour, a training method founded in the 1980’s, is the practice or Art of overcoming obstacles found in natural and urban environments. A major goal of the sport being to go from point A to point B using the quickest most fluid path. The art comes from using natural movements and techniques including, but not limited to, jumping, vaulting, flipping, and balancing. It is intended to help strengthen the practitioner mentally and physically, with the goal of being useful when you need to be.
“Parkour is firstly about the useful side, to teach people how to trust themselves, to learn to be careful. The philosophy is always to advance, never to stop. If some time you have problems, like in life, if you have an obstacle, you must always continue forward.”
Parkour founder David Belle
Parkour in Conflict zones
Parkour is non-competitive and can transform any public space into a playground. This incredibly unique sport has spread across the globe in the last few decades and has become increasingly popular in conflict zones.
In 2019, an Italian film director documented the experience of Parkour in Palestine. The film One More Jump highlights Gazan Parkour and the themes of sports, friendship, and exile. Rise, a short film by Mohamed Samy, documents children in Yemen participating in Parkour in the midst of violence in a conflict torn region. It can be viewed as a metaphor for the barriers experienced in Yemen brought on by the continued war.
Finding a Purpose
Around 2018, Obada Jbara and Aamer Samson founded the first Parkour team in Idlib, Syria. Their team Tafani, meaning dedication in Arabic, formed as a tool of resistance and means of affirming life despite the surrounding destruction. The name rings true of these youth as they practice 7 or 8 times a week in order to hone their skills. They are a physical representation of the essence of Parkour; showing that any obstacle that was once a barrier can become an opportunity for challenge and growth. Even if that obstacle is the aftermath of a Russian jet strike.
“The message that we want to send to the world is that we can practice this sport despite the difficulties and struggles that we face and despite the shelling that happened here,”Obada Jbara
Obada and his team utilize platforms like Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more to display their art and show that despite the destruction, Idlib and her people are still alive and thriving. The team can be seen free running and flipping over and around the ruins of destroyed buildings in the city. The site is truly something to behold. There is a sort of freedom in the sport that allows them to escape their reality. An opportunity to take control of themselves and accomplish new peaks of flexibility and strength.
Obada has been practicing this sport since he was 17 with his friends. They utilized YouTube as a source to get started because there was no gym or physical sources at the time. As they practiced and improved their skills the team began training the youth of their town. “We created this team because we wanted to train younger athletes. This is what we’ve done and some of them have become part of our group.” Obada mentioned in an interview.
“Sport is very important to make children focus on something fun and playful, and to help them forget about the reality of war, if only for a short time. At the same time, it strengthens their character and teaches them that they can overcome obstacles and do amazing things when they persist. Just think that once we trained with Russian fighter jets flying over our heads …”Obada Jbara
The group is quite resilient given their circumstances. For these guys its all about rising above, teamwork, and making their community better. The video above was really cool initiative Team Tafani took on, passing out gifts to children in the streets of Idlib in a unique way! Parkouring through town, while bringing gifts and joy to the lives of the children during the month of Ramadan this year!
Recently, the team performed at a local school in celebration of the end of the school year. Just another amazing example of the emphasis this team places on the community and the youth! The team displayed their amazing acrobatic skills as a treat for the First Pioneer School in Idlib, Syria. They will be uploading the performance on their page linked here!
They keep updates on their social media in order to show the world what they are passionate about. Obada also hopes to expand his social media to other sports and spread the joys of free running and breakdancing (his childhood hobby) to the children of Idlib and the world!
Due to the circumstances of Syria, it is unfortunately not a simple task to just leave the country to compete in global competitions. They do dream of competing one day and showcasing what Syria and their Team have to offer on the global stage! It is a big goal, but with the work they do, I am sure they will be able to achieve it in the future!
You can find more of their content on your favorite social media platforms:
- Tafani Facebook
- Obada’s Athlete Facebook
- Tafani Instagram Official
- Obada Free Run Instagram
Check out Arab America’s blog here!