Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes
Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes

Rise of the Traceuse: Finding Our Place in the Parkour World

The average parkour practitioner is still a dude in his teens or 20s. But that doesn't mean women aren't out hitting the streets and vaulting their way to that same recognition.

Well, perhaps "slowly crawling" would be more accurate.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article titled Where Are All the Parkour Women? I mused about how, after all this time, the number of women training has remained pretty small. We were a vast minority then. But in a way, we still are. In fact, in many communities and training groups, there are only one or two women training -- or even none at all. Then again, female communities are booming in other places.

So, what gives?

When I first started writing this article, my goal was to talk about the overall growth of the female parkour community. Then, I brought the topic up on a parkour girl Facebook group, and the results were pretty surprising. Reading opinions of women from Russia to Brazil and beyond, I soon realized that the rise of parkour women isn't as clear-cut as I'd first thought.

Let’s take a closer look.

Is the traceuse community growing, or have we stagnated?


The Struggles of Building the Female Parkour Community

Across the planet, parkour communities have been using a variety of initiatives to get women training, including “girls only” classes and training sessions. While we applaud the effort, even these big pushes for a stronger female presence can fail to gain traction. A number of traceuses have said the effects of these initiatives are often temporary at best. While this is debatable, one fact remains solid. With or without women’s classes, getting more women training can be a huge challenge.

Athletes Yann Daout and Leonie Brodmann from French-speaking Switzerland know this all too well. According to Yann, the female parkour community there has experienced no growth. “Local initiatives like female-only classes have a temporary effect, but seem to fall flat when there's not as much effort put into it. It doesn't seem to sustain itself.”

Leonie is one of the few women still training regularly in her community, but it wasn’t always that way. Women-only training sessions brought a lot of ladies to the parkour scene for some time, but this collective enthusiasm eventually died away. “It seems that constant effort is needed to promote parkour for women, * and these training sessions don't seem to be enough anymore,” says Leonie.

Viktoriya Shvechikova, a traceuse from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, has had a slightly different experience. In her area, there are no women’s communities. While the Women Parkour School in St Petersburg had some success, she says, Viktoriya began training when it had already gone down. In regards to that, Viktoriya brushes it off. “So I have to train with guys, but its not really bad, they give good motivation to be more powerful than before.”


“Local initiatives like female-only classes have a temporary effect, but seem to fall flat when there's not as much effort put into it. It doesn't seem to sustain itself.” - Yann Daout

Swedish traceuse Annsofie Svensson gives some insight into why these types of cases might arise:
“What I've seen is that without constant promotion directed to women* or without a female role model in the local community, girls seem to still be hesitant to practice parkour. Some communities, as the larger ones, seem to have succeeded in this though, but they also seem to constantly make sure women are getting seen in their community.”

Regarding women’s initiatives in general, she adds: “I do believe girls-only practices are great to start with for many, but there's usually a problem with integrating these girls to the rest of the community* and therefore it limits women to get further in their practice.”

Where the Traceuses Are Rising Up


Despite the difficulties of building traceuse communities, some places are seeing booming growth. Traceuse Alex Gregg, who has trained with the Parkour Generations community in London for around five years, says the community hosts tons of women of all abilities. She also raves about the support of the community. Of the PKG women-only basics classes, she says “It's just nice to be amongst a supportive group who don't have the huge jumps and crazy stuff in mind, just want to explore movements and spend time with nice people.”




Traceuse Karen Ameal Vera from Buenos Aires, Argentina has also seen great turnouts. She uses a Facebook page alongside Whatsapp to schedule training sessions with other women in her city, helping to bring the community together and create a sense of consistency. On the other hand, regarding women-only classes, Karen isn’t quite as optimistic. Like Annsofie, she believes this isn’t the best way to recruit traceuses, on one hand teaching them to be strong but on the other, fostering the idea that women need lessons apart from the greater community.

The Uptick of Women's Jams

Although I've never attended one myself, from what I can tell, traceuse jams such as the North American Womens Parkour Gathering are bigger than ever. The way I see it, these jams play an important role in getting more women involved in the parkour community. They also give novices a chance to learn from more experienced traceuses during coaching sessions and workshops. Will this trend of womens parkour jams continue in the coming years? We're crossing our calloused fingers for that.

Parkour Girls Dominating the Online World

One place where growth is undeniable: YouTube, one of the oldest online focal points for parkour practitioners to share their training videos. Once upon a time, a video of a woman practicing parkour was a rare, unexpected finding. Like a unicorn. A few years later, you could watch a few more, but you could list off most of the videos available from more experienced traceuses. Today, so many badass, high-level girl parkour videos are being uploaded all the time that I can't even keep track!

This is important for two reasons. First, it lets us know who's training and what they're doing. Second, it provides some great inspiration for women looking to start parkour and freerunning. The rise of traceuse communities is just as present elsewhere online. When I first posted "Top Tips for Becoming a Parkour Girl" on Yahoo a few years back, I never expected it to explode the way it did. From Facebook groups to projects by American Parkour and WFPF kickstarting women's communities, the online resources for traceuses are constantly growing. So that’s a win.

Are Women Sticking With It?

For the global traceuse community to be sustainable, we need to have parkour veterans as well as a healthy influx of new practitioners. While we certainly have more women training at a high skill level than we did a few years ago, are the new practitioners sticking with it?

Many of the traceuses I’ve talked to say getting women to start and continue training can be tough.

“It seems difficult to associate femininity with parkour and I guess most women don't identify with this image of masculinity in the discipline,” Says Leonie. While she is unsure why the traceuses who were on a good roll dropped off the radar, she believes it’s related to a lack of motivation from what feels like slow progression.

Leonie Brodmann vaulting. Photo by Nathalie Weber.


Here’s my own take on the topic based on my seven or so years of training in the USA and Brazil: People have always dropped like dry leaves from the parkour world. Some try a few times before calling it quits, and other stick with it for years before slowly losing interest and moving on. The thing is, we notice this a lot more in the women’s community since we already have a smaller number of practitioners. Fewer women training creates a ripple effect that can lead to the female presence completely dying out in some communities.

A Transformation of Perspective in the Greater Community

Even if traceuse communities aren’t exactly surging in many parts of the world, their presence is still having an impact. While I wasn’t around during the early days of parkour, I can say that the idea of women training parkour has become more and more normalized.

U.S. traceuse Cordelia Storm puts it this way: “I've found that communities where there's a bigger presence of girls and women naturally begins to let go of the "hyper-masculine" vibe* sometimes seen in mostly-male-only communities. I think just consistent exposure therapy to more girls being around over time often breeds a more inclusive environment."                                                                                                                                                                                     
Alex Gregg says, “I don't ever feel like I have been treated differently as a woman at any point in my training, but I'm also aware that I go to classes mostly and don't go out and train with large groups of men I don't know, maybe then I would feel more self-aware and judged. But one of the things I loved the most about training was that it was very welcoming and you were expected to just try your hardest and learn just like everyone else and was nice to train with men and women as everyone has their strengths and weaknesses."

Cinthia Fernanda from Brazil believes that the mentality in places where traceueses were not well-accepted, due to the stereotype that parkour is only for men, has turned around. She adds that women are finally finding our place in the parkour community. And our presence is growing, one small step at a time.


* Emphasis mine.

Comments

  1. À girl friend of mine has moved on to another City. She found a local Parkour association, with a dedicated training evening for girls, which might be a good thing.

    Unfortunately, the group isn't very pushing it durintg training sessions, and especially during these girls session. They are not pushed to do anything, so the level remain pretty low (and my friend is boring herself on there, as she has years of training behind her).

    I'm not sure why this happen. It's like theybare affraid to push girls into efforts. Sad thing...

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    1. That's a tough situation. On one end, it's great that those women are just getting out and moving. But on the other, everyone should be encouraged to push their limits and improve.

      I hope your friend is able to find her own way to train hard and evolve!

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  2. Age is a factor too. I know several women around my age (39) who are interested in parkour, but the double whammy of being the oldest person at a class and female is a bit intimidating. When the community is made up of younger people who are mostly male, the lack of shared experience means you don't really feel you fit in. Lots of women get into fitness after having children (rediscovering the self yada yada) and I've always felt a yearning for parkour. But it is difficult to put yourself out there, especially if you don't have the athletic/gymnastic background (that I know a lot of younger traceuses have). I keep saying "I'll just get a bit stronger and work on my cardio endurance and THEN I'll go back". :-/

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    1. I can imagine how that would be difficult. Every factor that sets you apart from the crowd is bound to make you feel a bit alienated, and we really don't see a lot of people over 30 getting into parkour (unfortunately). Not having an athletic background myself, I can somewhat relate, having felt consistently behind everyone else.

      I really hope you can sum up the willpower to train despite that major challenge. Know that you'll be an inspiration for other women in your age range who may be wanting to try but just need to see someone else doing it first.

      Remember that your parkour journey is your own! Everyone is more focused on themselves than on you, so don't be afraid to get out there and suck until you don't. That's what I did, at least :) Plus, cardio and strength training on the side are great confidence boosters.

      Good luck!

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    2. Don't worry about not being awesome at the beginning. These things take time, and if you're like me and have a lot of previous injuries, there are going to be days when you can do the cool moves and others when every injury you've ever had is nagging. Right now, the only cool move I have is a desire to show up every day. I think it's enough.

      I'm 52 and my goal this year is to learn how to do parkour. I'm 5 weeks into an 8-week workout program to regain strength and improve cardio so I can get myself back to the point where I'll feel like I can actually start doing parkour training.

      As for the likelihood of being the only woman in the room, who cares?

      It doesn't matter if they ignore you or laugh at you. With time they'll get used to you and start treating you like one of them, but you have to keep showing up and making the effort. If it feels like a hostile or unsafe environment, find another place or make your own.

      It's fun to do things with other people, but at the end of the day it's an individual sport. If there aren't any other women and you're not comfortable with a bunch of strange young men, find women training for marathons, women training for strength, or women training for anything. Even if you're not training for the same activity, you will have companionship and support of working towards a workout goal. Once you reach a comfort level for strength and mobility you'll feel a lot better about joining a mostly men parkour group.

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