When I first started training Parkour, there was a female presence in the sport and we had a smattering of strong figures on social media, but it wasn’t massively visible. It was generally the case that I was the only female at a jam or class with our numbers occasionally soaring as high as 3 or 4 and most Parkour/Freerunning teams contained one female, but never more.
After coming back into the discipline after over a year break from it, I feel like there’s a powerful forward surge occurring amongst female practitioners for a variety of reasons. Social media is helping a great deal but the people you can see coming together to make things happen is not only great for women in parkour, it embodies the very nature of this discipline. This surge may have begun before I stopped training and I might have just not been paying enough attention, but it’s been lovely to come back and find that it’s building in momentum.
It seems to be the case that this increase in the visibility of female practitioners is being somewhat driven by Instagram. Instagram is not a platform I’ve used up until this year and previously it always seemed really difficult for me to come across videos of female practitioners via youtube because, as you can probably imagine, typing ‘female parkour’ into Youtube doesn’t really throw many useful videos your way. Using Instagram has felt like opening a floodgate and the platform seems like such a good tool for movement practitioners. I now have access to video clips from a multitude of talented women and it’s honestly wonderful, as someone who often lacks so much confidence, for me to see other people of my size and physique achieving things I often perceive to be out of my reach is extremely empowering.
Aside from social media, there is just an increasing and tight-knit community of women coming together to create events and support each other. In a discipline that’s still seen as predominantly male, having these strong centres for women to come together and grow in confidence together is vital for the growth of the discipline as a whole. As friendly as the Parkour community generally is, it’s still incredibly easy to feel really self-conscious when you’re the only woman training in a group of often slightly boisterous lads. This sort of experience can be incredibly off-putting and has indeed put me off training in the past, just through me struggling to feel like I’m really a part of the group, so knowing that there are groups of people like you out there, is important for maintaining the confidence to keep training.
The women’s Jams that occur every year in London and over in the US are excellent and it was awesome to see Pamela Forsters Parkour and Movement jam have such a great female turn out. Although it wasn’t a women-only jam, it’s clear that Pam’s presence has a huge positive impact and her strong visibility in the sport encourages many to follow her. These fantastic roles models are vital and I’m so pleased we have more and more people like her coming through into the light.
There’s still a long way to go. I’m currently located in the deep south of the UK and I am not aware of any other women currently training down in the South West corner. Whether we’ve just not yet found each other I don’t know, but to my knowledge, the nearest other women training might be Bournemouth, which is 2 hours drive from where I’m based. Further along the coast to Brighton, the female community starts to have more visible figures, but again, that’s a reasonable trek for me. Despite being the only woman currently training in Exeter, I feel elated and excited for the future knowing that the female community is growing and going from strength to strength. I look forward to being a part of it.