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Parkour Book Review: "Breaking the Jump" by Julie Angel

I only started practicing parkour six years ago, but I'm keenly aware of its rich, complex history spanning the past few decades. Little did I know, I still had a lot to learn.

A while ago, I bought my Kindle copy of Breaking the Jump: The Secret Story of Parkour's High-Flying Rebellion. I read it back-to-back in a few days, fully immersed in the impressive and sometimes surprising story of parkour and its founders. (To be honest, this book review is long overdo. Not a reflection of the quality of the book, but of my horrendous procrastination. Sorry.)

Alright, so let's jump into it! What is this parkour book all about?

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All the Gritty Details

If you want a comprehensive crash course on the earliest history of parkour, you can't go wrong with Breaking the Jump. Not only does it follow the original practitioners from their earliest training sessions in the forest, following all their growth and trials, but it also details things like the Parisian suburbs where parkour was born, similar disciplines such as methode naturelle, and the life of the major parkour influence Raymond Belle.

Amidst the information itself is an engrossing narrative and thoughtful observations that help you get the most out of every detail.

The Other Side of the Story

One thing I have to point out (which might generate mixed feelings in the wider parkour community) is that David Belle -- the man commonly accepted as parkour's founder -- is not cast in the most glamorous light in this book. But let's face it. Many members of the parkour community view David as an almost God-like figure, a spiritual master of the physical discipline that took the world by storm. It' doesn't hurt to see him humanized a bit. No one is perfect, after all.

Plus, a fresh perspective is exactly what we need. While David's books give us his version of how parkour evolved, Breaking the Jump paints the rest of the picture. Much of the book feels like the long-awaited detailing of the other side of the Yamakasi story, which sometimes contrasts what David has said in interviews and other sources. It's important to note that most of the passages relating to David himself are told through the eyes of his former Yamakasi teammates as well as his pupil and prodigĂ© Stephane Vigroux.

Multiple Perspectives

What I loved most about Breaking the Jump is the well-rounded picture of events we get thanks to the multiple viewpoints Julie cycles through. We get to see the early years of parkour through the eyes of Williams Belle, Stephane Vigroux, Laurent Piemontesi and others, thanks to Julie's working closely with her characters.

Regarding the author, Julie Angel, I have the utmost faith in her passion for the discipline and its history (although I don't know her personally). She went to huge lengths to get to the roots of the complex story of parkour's beginnings. One cool thing about the book is that the narrative is interspersed with chapters detailing her own experience learning parkour. Her thoughts and feelings really struck home with me, leaving me constantly saying "Yes, I've been there!"

The Verdict

Breaking the Jump is a great read for parkour practitioners and anyone curious about the discipline. It's worth re-reading again and again, and although it is sometimes info-heavy, it is never dull or boring.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.

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