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King of the Swingers: Freerunners Go Ape for Science.

A group of freerunners are set to advance scientific understanding by monkeying around on camera. The team of traceurs has been hired by the University of Birmingham to help academics study the behaviour and movements of orangutans in their diminishing natural environment. The PK athletes will be asked to undertake a specially constructed assault course, designed to encourage the replication of orangutan-like movement. It is hoped that the £65,000 study will better equip the scientific community to address the preservation and protection of the endangered species.
The study is based on the premise that humans and orangutans are closely related in biological and evolutionary terms. The name “orangutan” literally means “forest man”. Speaking to the BBC, Dr Sussannah Thorpe of Birmingham University said that the methods used by freerunners to launch themselves from the ground are very similar to those of an orangutan. As well as this, both utilise similar movements when climbing or swinging. The considerable advantage of using freerunners instead of actual orangutans is that humans can be fitted with the necessary monitoring devices (including masks).
The orangutan has a tenuous connection to the story of parkour already. The sport evolved on the street of Paris and its philosophy is Parisian to the core – being based on the rejection of restriction. In the case of parkour, spacial restriction and the limitations placed on urban movement are rejected. Parisian philosophy has its foundations in the ideas espoused by revolutionary writers, including Rousseau, a thinker whose beliefs centred on man’s artificial separation from nature. The orangutan was one of his preferred symbols for the “natural freedom” man had lost by living amongst others within a society. Practitioners of parkour could be seen as (largely unaware) followers of Rousseau’s orangutan-inspired philosophy.

*** Photo by Daniel Kleeman ***

Tags: Free Running, Freerunning, orangutans, Parkour, traceurs, University of Birmingham

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