Wuhan, China — a new disease is born. COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the recently discovered coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). But how bad is it? Mild for most, death for many. For those who are affected severely by the virus, it’s survivable if you have the beauties of modern medical care and knowledgeable professionals to apply it for you. Suddenly these impenetrable, imperfect institutions show their holes. Raw light revealing the rotting concrete in their foundations over which dedicated professionals, people, dance, and now race to compensate. Over which we are all to be stretched and tried.
COVID-19 — born in an unsuspecting city, in an unprepared world. If you had polled a handful of individuals from every nation when the first whispers began, you would likely have found little alarm. Maybe an anxious few would try to laugh off hypochondria fueled visions of the apocalypse. Still, many would sit back in easy-found faith. Faith that something — be it geographic distance, healthcare systems, governments, their unflinching well-being, or the humanity of others — would hold back the coronavirus’s determined march into their lives.
As of this moment, March 29th, 2020, a third of the world is under government-imposed restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Although lockdown isn’t an official term, it is a word cropping up in increasing frequency to describe the various ways countries are handling the situation. From shutting borders to closing shops, enforcing curfews, and imposing quarantines — all to slow the flow of people that fuels COVID-19’s rampage.
We are a community that stretches across the world and unique in its ability to do so. Regardless of where you are or what particular movement you identify with, we are all affected by this global crisis. We all see and feel the shudder in the economy, healthcare systems, and in day to day life. Within the realm of parkour practitioners, a normal life includes moving and chasing the freedom in our bodies and in the spaces that surround us. In places like Spain, you are required by the threat of a fine to show grocery receipts to walk around, and numerous other cities are asking us to be just as strict about leaving home. These restrictions can devastate a socially-driven community that is so radically transparent about the demons that inspire many of us to move. Limits on our ability to play, escape, and move can be isolating and confining. They can feel too much to bear on top of losing jobs, homes, and the comfort of our futures.
But they don’t have to be. We train to reject the idea of obstacles as something that inhibits us. For some, that logic has been tied strictly to movement, but now, I encourage you not to let it end there. Many haven’t. London-based Esprit Concrete has been hosting video-call workshops and movement support groups that are free and open to donations. The Seattle community is using the Seattle Jumps Facebook page to share challenges and continue a form of community training in the absence of their traditional Friday jams. Kent Johns, accompanied by friends from around the world, are hosting Netflix watch parties through the Method Podcast to combat social distancing. Movement challenges are popping up across social media, providing the space for personal challenge, and encouraging international community play. Mathieu Sabourin and Tamila Benabdallah‘s quarantined play on Instagram inspire us to have just as much fun at home as we do outside. These demonstrations of collaboration and outreach go beyond a webinar workout or a viral challenge because parkour has always gone beyond the purely physical.
Now is the time to apply our trained resilience, fortitude, and creativity to step up and meet the chaos of the world right now. We don’t need to confine our problem solving to movement alone. So, please, as a valuable member of this community, take care and lend what you can to thriving together in these difficult times, in whatever form that takes. Independently and together, this is a time to be strong to be useful — a time to be and to last.