An interview with: Josué Di Stefano – the pioneer of Parkour in Argentina
From the last six months, I started a journey through South America by bicycle. I started pedalling in Patagonia and I am now heading north, passing through Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. I have decided to stop in every country to learn and practice parkour with the local traceurs. My first stop was Buenos Aires, Argentina where I trained for a few weeks. In this time I met Josué Di Stefano, 30 years old, head of the Escuela Integral de Parkour (Integral Parkour School) in Buenos Aires. He has been a traceur for the past 21 years. After talking to him, I have learned that he is also one of the original pioneers of parkour in Argentina, and he was happy to tell me how parkour reached this country.
Origins of Parkour in Argentina
Back in 1999 Josué saw a video of the Yamakasi through a TV news program. Since a young age, he was always training to jump and climb all over the city, and he was completely astonished when he first saw the Yamakasi’s movements. He was happy to find out that what he had been practicing since a child had a name as well as being performed and implemented by people older than him. That inspired him to contact some of his friends, and start their first practice sessions. He admitted that in the beginning their practice was very reckless and even ‘irresponsible.’ As at this time, they did not have the internet to gather more information on the discipline. So, they developed their practice mainly through videos of the Yamakasi jumping or being interviewed. For this reason they did not initially call this practice parkour, instead they would say: ‘’we practice Yamakasi’’. In their youth, they also aspired to move like ninjas, leading them to study martial art and ninja movies to grasp various techniques like the tic-tak, ways to climb a wall and precision jumps.
Years went by, and then in 2004 an important event within the origins of the Argentinian parkour community occurred. A local stuntman named Walter Bongard, who implemented parkour movements in his practice, united different parkour practitioners from the whole country to teach and share different techniques.
Additionally during this time, an open source file sharing application called ARAS was launched. This meant they could download parkour videos. These videos were not tutorials, but short videos (5-10 seconds) where they could see each technique in practice. The local traceurs considered this a very precious material and shared it fervidly between each other. Josué said, that in this time practitioners would religiously study these videos in front of a computer, watching the video over and over to grasp the technique, so they would be able to practice it outside. He points out how this is very different from nowadays where one can just watch a YouTube tutorial on the phone.
Around 2006 Walter decided to retire from the discipline and left Josué in charge of the group and assist the practice. In this moment the Escuela Integral De Parkour was founded. It is still up and running with daily activities to this day.
Parkour today in Buenos Aires
The school and more generally Argentinian traceurs have a very different philosophy of parkour compared to the originally more incautious one.
The school is doing activities outside and has created a roofed gym where they can train with mattresses. The goal of the school is to bring this activity to the new generation in a safe and more conscious manner. This is quite a drastic change to the initial practice of parkour here, where Josué said people would throw themselves at obstacles. He believes now that risking one’s own life in jumps was not necessary. He says that the original practitioners would showcase parkour in extreme ways to give it popularity and expand it. Since parkour it is now widely known, there is no reason to push oneself to the extreme limit and injure oneself. So, the philosophy of the school and its traceurs is to bring the practice with conscience and safety while strengthening the body, the mind and share significant moments with other practitioners. Also, this parkour brotherhood extends outside the borders of Argentina. Josué tells of the time when he went to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, he was pleasantly surprised by the incredibly warm welcome he received from the Uruguayan traceurs who organized a welcome party, hosted him and showed him all the spots around the city.
Best Outdoor Places to train in Buenos Aires
Josué says there are plenty places to train here in the Argentinian capital however, the ones that are closest to his heart are:
These are the places where the practice of parkour started here in Argentina. Today many of these places have changed since parkour began here and the traceurs have adapted to it. On the day of this interview, we met in Cuesta Nera Sur (Porto Madero) which is a spectacular place to train. Indeed, it is very aesthetically pleasing and it is also full of structures and heights to explore.
From my Londoner point of view, the architecture here is very different. It is generally more flat so the spots where one can find different levels are scattered and usually hidden. A clear element in parkour that is visible here, as in other parts of South America, is the importance of acrobatics and flips in their lines and routes.
How authorities see parkour
The ways police and other authorities view parkour here in Argentina changed greatly through time. Now the relationship between the two is very positive, but it took many years of fusion to reach this point. Josué tells different stories where in the early days this relationship was very rough and traceurs were at times victim of violence. However now, authorities know that this is an acrobatic discipline where practitioners jump from height.
He remembers an event 10 years ago when he and 11 of his buddies were on the top of a swimming pool gym, at approximately 1 am, and some police officers arrived and thought they came to steal. So the police forced them to lay on floor while waiting for the rest of the patrol to arrive. It was a very tense situation, but when the commissioner arrived, he recognised Josué and the other traceurs from the newspaper ‘’Carin’’ from the week earlier, and so let them go. Lucky, now the situation is very different, police are very friendly with traceurs and some of them even became inspired and joined the school to practice with them.
The future goals of Josué is to be able to invite international traceurs to the school to teach his students foreign ways of movement.
His dream would be to be able to welcome someone of the Yamakazi and founders of parkour to come to Argentina and share their training and philosophy of movement.
More info on the Integral Parkour School and Josué can be found at:
YouTube: Parkour Integral
Parkour Argentina -Buenos Aires- -Escuela Integral- Video: Parkour Integral
Interviewer: Chiara Fabbri
Interviewee: Josué Di Stefano
©World of Parkour 2019