Uruguay is both one of the least well-known countries in South America and is being rated the most socially advanced country in Latin America.
On the 21st of September 2019 traceurs from all around Uruguay gathered in Montevideo for the first time this year. This was a particularly significant event because it was the first time in a long time that Uruguayan traceurs met up again in one big jam. This event was organised by one of the parkour founders here in Uruguay: Jerónimo de León. He said that the aim of this jam was to see how many people were actively training today in Uruguay. It was also a way to wake up some of the traceurs who were ”dormant” and, to kick-start as well a series of events which will take place this year to reunite all traceurs from Uruguay. I was lucky enough to be present on the day this gathering happened, and it gave me the chance to check out some amazing spots on the coast of Montevideo, as well as seeing the style of the Uruguayan movement. Jerónimo (J) was also happy to have a chat and explain to me the evolution of parkour in this peculiar country.
Jerónimo de León
K: Tell me how you got into parkour and how parkour started here in Uruguay?
J: I’ve been doing parkour for the past 13 years (since 2006), 9 of which I have been teaching. I discovered parkour through an interview of Jam London. From there I investigated more and found out about David Belle, the Yamakasi and the natural method. I grew very passionate about this discipline. However, at the time, I lived in a small village so I started training alone, and gathered my technique through the information I could retrieve online. Both my parents were PE teachers so they helped me to form physically. After a couple of years, I decided to move to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Later, through online forums, I met other practitioners’ and so the first group of parkour in Uruguay was formed, we simply called ourselves ‘Parkour Uruguay‘. In the beginning, we were only 6 people, and after we got interviewed and broadcast on TV, parkour gained popularity and more people started joining our practice.
K: How did Uruguayan parkour evolve from there?
J: The way parkour evolved in Uruguay possibly mirrored what happened in the rest of the world. At the beginning parkour here was a very strict discipline, where original practitioners criticised those who mixed ADD with gymnastics. When I started doing parkour I already knew how to do acrobatics, so to me, it was kind of funny to see how some traceurs were annoyed by people adding tricking to the lines. Nevertheless, I was really passionate about the philosophy of being strong and useful. Later, internationally, this attitude started to change, and also people in Uruguay started to accept that movement is very broad, and that the important thing is to be authentic to oneself. This new wave facilitated the break of the old barriers, and as a consequence, the existing community of tricking got closer and mixed with the one of parkour. At the end of the day, we are all friends, we all love to move, and each one of us decides where to put more energy into. The community today here in Uruguay is still not very commercialised as it can be in places like Europe or Asia or US, where one can find parkour specific brands and huge events. Only recently with this project of Kinetik, there is a stable and strong offer of regular classes. Also, we are introducing the first speed courses here in Uruguay to see how the community responds to this type of competition. To be honest, I initially had some doubts myself about this, since in the original spirit of parkour there never was a competition mentality. So, I am proposing this type of event in a more ludic form, as an occasion to reunite different traceurs to share our movements and inspire each other, where the prize is not too high so that participants will not risk their lives to win. I will also compete and measure my own time.
K: Is Kinetik the only school of Parkour here? Could you tell me something about it?
J: Yes it is currently. There are people who teach individually but Kinetik is the only school so to speak. I started teaching 4 years after the beginning of my practice. When I started I didn’t have all the answers, but I could make my students’ start easier, and most importantly safer. I first had the chance to start teaching in a fitness gym, which also gave me the means and supported me to form myself even more as a teacher. This gym helped me to complete level 1 and 2 of the ADAP course in Brazil. After 8 years of teaching both parkour and gymnastic in this gym, together with Franco Faccennini, a student of mine, we created Kinetik in 2018. We have given it this name to emphasize the importance of holistic teachings of movement, since the objective of the school is to give the students a wide range of movement skills. Parkour is the motor at the base of this project, but we also offer programs of gymnastics, street dance, and callisthenics.
K: What is your philosophy of movement?
J: My personal philosophy of movement is a holistic one: to really have a wide range of virtues, to be complete as a practitioner but as a person as well… hehehe which is a quest of its’s own. After parkour, I started looking at what was missing in my movement, so I passed through the techniques of Olympic gymnastics, and later I investigated strength training, elasticity and mobility, as well as recuperation techniques like massages and meditation. In general, I am not looking to be the best in a specific discipline, I want to be complete and be skilled in different things.
K: Interesting, so where are your favourite outdoor spots to train here in Uruguay?
J: Well there is one in Minas, the place I was born, which is around 120km North of Montevideo. There is an incredible spot where two roads are united by a set of stairs. The routes you can make out of it are very physical and you end up exhausted. In Montevideo, you can’t find spots big like that. Also in Paysandú, which is even further from Montevideo, there is an enormous plaza where you can start running from one side to the other with a sequence of walls. Another positive thing about this spot is that it is very quiet and nobody will disturb you. Also the parkour community there is very warm. Generally, the coast is very nice. Maldonado is also a very good city to train, you have this mix that you can train parkour in a beautiful plaza and at the end of the session, you can swim in the sea. I highly recommend this. Montevideo has some spots which are a bit far from the centre like Parque Capurro. But where we usually train for comfort are spots along the Rambla (the coast) which again is next to the beach. These spots are not too challenging and are quite small, but since the city is not too big one can move quickly from one spot to the other and go through many challenges. Also, this area is very safe, so you can train undisturbed.
K: How would you describe the typical traceur here in Uruguay?
J: The characteristics of people who train here is that they are very passionate, they put in a lot of effort, and since the spots are small we are more acrobats than climbers since we don’t really have many tall walls to climb. The Uruguayan traceur is very welcoming of foreigners so you are all very welcome to come and visit us.
K: Cool, yeah I had that feeling. Are there any particular strong athletes here that we should check out?
Yeah there are quite a few. The ones that come to mind are:
Joel Sosa / @iou.pk
Douglas Rodríguez / @2222bull
Johnatan Molina / @johnatanpk
Fabián Erroizarena / @erroizapk
Adrian Rios / @adrian.rios_
Geronimo Arrizala / @geroarrizala
K: That is awesome! Final question: what are your own future goals, and the future goals of the Uruguayan parkour community?
J: As an athlete my goal is longevity, I am 34 and I feel full, I will keep paying attention to my physical preparation which is what allows me to have fun with parkour. I believe that many sessions of parkour and tricking are really where I apply what I trained previously, and where I really have fun, for this reason, I focus a lot on my physical preparation. I want to keep studying movement and form myself, I plan to do ADAPT level 3, as well as travel and get to know more cities and parkour communities. I am very open to how the future is unfolding for me.
For Kinetik we have different goals, which will also probably take more time. Today we are forming people who want to have fun and want to learn more about movement. We would like to professionalize this more and form professors for a school of movement, where people can take an intensive one to two years course, and grow as artists of movement by learning all the subjects that we teach here. To achieve this we need to keep growing and expanding the teachers we already have here.
Also, the oldest traceurs among us in Uruguay are trying to find the means to build the first parkour park here in Montevideo, a place with better conditions for parkour, to complete the movement repertoire that we miss in some of our streets. So yeah this is the big objective of the parkour community at the moment. And the duty of Kinetic is to put a bit more entrepreneur power in this project since Kinetic is the only school of parkour here, and in turn, it has more weight in some state decisions. So yeah, this role is up to us in order to push forward for our community, and we do it with pleasure. Also, the majority of parkour meeting and reunions usually happen here in Kinetick. In a way, this is the house of the community.
During the event, Jeronimo introduced to me another traceur from the first generation of parkour who could have given me some insight into the origins and evolution of Uruguayan parkour.
Lucas Gonzales Blatt
K: What is your name, and how long have you been training?
G: Lucas Gonzales Blatt, they call me Stitch, and I have been training parkour since 2006.
K: You are one of the first then?
G: Yeah I am of the first era, with Jeronimo, Fabian and so on.
K: How did you start, how did you find this discipline?
G: In reality, I don’t remember what the first thing I saw of parkour was, possibly the movie of David Belle, and later I used to visit the page of Monos Urbanos, traceurs from Mexico. In this site there weren’t any videos, they just had photos of people jumping with a written description of how to do each jump, and that was it. In reality, I started alone, I was 12/13 years old and I just got out and jumped, I tried to copy those pictures, and I didn’t have much preparation, so I would go out and play. I tried relentlessly the techniques and it took me months sometimes to learn them well. So from there, I did a little video on my phone, I uploaded it on youtube and then I got contacted by Guillermo who was the first to reunite traceurs here in Uruguay, and they invited me on a Sunday morning. At that time, my mum told me: ‘Well if they meet on Sunday morning they must be good people.’ This was in 2008, we were only 6 traceurs in the whole of Uruguay. And I remember I went to this meeting with an injured wrist. There I met Jeronimo and Fabian, and we started meeting more often, and giving more importance to this practice.
K: What would you say was the difference between the Uruguayan parkour at the beginning and how did it change?
G: Since we were such a small group at the beginning we were ‘Parkour Uruguay’, now that more and more people are joining in from different disciplines, the traceurs kind of divided themselves into different small groups. They were not ‘Parkour Uruguay’ anymore, they were Wparkour, Parkour Palermo, and Parkour Escape, all mini-groups of 4/5 people. What I see that has changed the most now is the way of teaching. Before we didn’t have any tutorials, we didn’t have a teacher who did parkour before us, we learned between each other, we inspired one another, and we learned from the few videos we had at our disposal, so the majority of practitioners from the first epoch, we all had some serious injury, we fell more frequently, injured ourselves much more, because we didn’t have so much theoretical knowledge of what we had to do in each jump. We risked and jumped without knowing much. Now over time, the traceurs of the first era have gained experience, and we taught to the new generations those things that nobody explained to us when we first started. So now you can see that traceurs improve and grow much faster, and they almost don’t get injured. There are traceurs, who have a very high level and have no lessons whatsoever. If you ask anyone from the first wave we all have had some fracture or big sprain. So yeah, now it is more formal, and in reality, it is a beautiful advancement in the discipline. So what we advanced in one year, now they learn it in three months.
K: That is very interesting. Have you been training in other parts of South America as well?
G: In 2011 I went to Argentina, for a competition by Puma, they invited Kie Willis, and I had the opportunity to train with him. When I was in BsAs I had a sprained ankle so I couldn’t train at my full potential, but now that I am well I look forward to going back.
K: Did you see any difference between parkour here and in Buenos Aires?
G: In reality, there are not many differences, I trained with Baires Family and what I noticed was that they had a lot of energy, they had a lot of motivation, they risked more, and so they inspired us a lot. At this moment, Argentinians were very explosive, they threw Kong Gainers, or Double Sides even if they didn’t do it perfectly they would still throw themselves and do it. Big Things. So in 2012 and 2013 they came here, and again they inspired us a lot, they raised our energy.
K: Back to Uruguay, and our final question, what are some spots that someone visiting should not miss out?
G: Mmmm…let me see. I would definitely recommend Plaza Tomás Gomensoro, Plaza Gabriela Mistral, Plaza Liber Seregni, Plaza Bellavista in Paysandu, and now I can’t remember more, but there are a lot of great spots here in Uruguay.
Photos taken by:
Gastón Pombo: https://www.instagram.com/gepe.cph/
Emiliano de León: https://www.instagram.com/emidleon/
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