Overcoming obstacles one jump at a time: A 27-year-old’s challenging but fulfilling parkour journey
The full-time digital producer’s interest in the sport sparked close to a decade ago, and she has not looked back since.
From leaping over tall obstacles to jumping across huge gaps, parkour is known as one of the most extreme sports in the world. However, despite its immense physical demands and high risk of injuries, the sport also comes with several positive takeaways.
For 27-year-old Ambry Nurhayati, her hobby of doing parkour opened up a plethora of opportunities for her, including performing at the National Day Parade and even working with Asics to promote their shoes through parkour.
While her interest in the sport first sparked when she saw MTV’s Parkour Challenge series close to a decade ago, her passion towards parkour was only truly ignited when she assisted her friend in the production of a parkour documentary.
Through the experience, she was introduced to the sport’s basics and values and learnt about the presence of the parkour community in Singapore which she was initially unaware of. Close to a decade later, she continues to pursue her parkour journey and has not looked back since.
Despite working full time as a digital producer now, Ambry still sets aside time on weekends to practise parkour with her friends. Typically in groups of three to four, Ambry and her friends would assist each other in achieving certain movements and in filming each other’s movements.
As expected from a high-risk sport like parkour, Ambry has also experienced her fair share of injuries through the years. However, the most traumatising one was way back at the beginning of her parkour journey, when she attempted a move called lache where she had to swing from a bar and grab onto a wall.
She shares: “After I swung from the bar, I grabbed onto the wall but I slipped and crashed, so I hit my head on the floor and I blacked out for a while.
“Till now, I’m still so afraid to do that move because I’m so scared of slipping.”
Although the experience may have been traumatising to Ambry, it taught her a great deal about the importance of minimising the risk of injuries. As it takes time to learn the various techniques and undergo lots of strength conditioning, she advised:
“You start small first, really small first and don’t rush it. Once you get used to it, that’s when you expand it.”
While Ambry has come a long way in her parkour journey, it has also not been an easy one. When she started close to a decade ago, the resources to learn parkour were much more scarce as compared to today, where online parkour communities and workshops can easily be found.
As a result, Ambry was mostly left to her own devices when she started out, and only had the parkour community to rely on.
Another obstacle Ambry had to overcome in the beginning was building up her self confidence and getting over the intimidating nature of parkour. Apart from parkour being a male dominated sport with not many women back then, it was also common to see many guys doing huge jumps and impressive flips.
Seeing this often led Ambry to wonder how long it would take for her to reach that level, especially with the “difference in the male and female physique” which she believes plays a huge role in parkour.
She added, “It can get a bit demoralising sometimes, but as years go by, I learnt that it (parkour) is just like dancing. It’s all about movement and everybody moves differently, so even if you move differently, you’ve gotta own that because that’s what makes you different.”
Like many other sports, parkour also carries many misconceptions. Based on Ambry’s experience, one of the most common ones is that parkour is simply about getting from one point to another. While there is some truth to the statement, there is much more than which goes into parkour.
“There are techniques even when you jump, when you do a vault, when you hang on a wall or when you climb such that it trains your entire body.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that people like myself traditionally start off training with conditioning so that it reduces the chances of you getting injured. We do everything so cautiously, everything is a calculated risk that we know our minds and bodies are capable of doing.”
Apart from the obvious physical benefits derived from parkour due to its strenuous nature, Ambry also believes that the sport has helped her a lot in the mental aspect as well.
“Parkour is one of the ways where I can see and feel myself getting stronger. It’s not just things like how far I can jump, but also mentally as well.”
Ambry also believes that doing parkour has “rewired” her brain, allowing her to stay awake for overnight shoots that are quite common due to her line of work as a digital producer.
Another byproduct of parkour for Ambry was also how it helped her to see environments and appreciate architecture differently. Instead of seeing buildings merely as structures, she sees them as potential obstacles to jump or run on.
While Ambry acknowledges that parkour “may not be for everyone”, she still encourages others to give the sport a try before deciding whether to pursue it or not. She believes that one of its biggest long-term benefits is helping others to maintain their dexterity and stay sharp even as they grow older as parkour keeps both the body and mind active.
As for those who are looking to get into parkour, Ambry highly recommends them to start off at parkour schools to learn the basics and get a feel of the sport. Afterwards, they can reach out to the parkour community on social media to dive deeper into the sport.
She advised: “The first thing you should do is not care about public opinions, especially for the girls. When we start small, people will really say something about it, but they don’t know anything about it.
“You just have to keep practising, keep doing what you do and from there you will progress and get better at it.”