Hardcore parkour

Spinnaker

Do you have what it takes to be the ultimate dare-devil?
Jonathon Santana is a mover, a runner and a climber.

As the UNF public relations junior lines up his course of action across campus, he sprints five miles over the speed limit of your average runner.

As he bounds across the cracked sidewalk, he lands a kick on the wall of the Social Sciences Building, boosting himself up to grip a doorway overhang.

He shuffles his weight and kicks his legs, hoisting his lower body onto the ledge. Once both feet are underneath him, he nonchalantly springs his body into the air, performing a single back-flip off the ledge.

His knees buckle slightly as he sticks a controlled landing.

Santana said the risk of performing ambitious stunts does not phase him, but the adrenaline rush brings alive a combination of nervousness and confidence.

“You can’t be scared,” Santana said. “Fear is your worst enemy. If you psych yourself out, you could really mess yourself up.”

This blend of gymnastic athleticism and speedy daredevil tactics is known as parkour, a method of rural and urban traversal requiring risk and physical endurance.

Santana, 24, began performing stunts with his identical twin, Christopher, when they were 8 years old. The two began competing against each other by jumping off the jungle gym and finding buildings off of which to flip to perform crazy stunts.

“We just found it really appealing of how high we can really jump off of, you know, defying gravity,” Jonathon said.

Christopher said his brother is better than him at parkour.

“He’s very attentive to detail,” Christopher said. “He knows where he’s gonna land, he knows how he’s gonna land, he’s very professional in what he does, and he likes to get the best camera angle.”

Sky High, a local parkour team the Santanas were part of, would perform parkour moves on camera and post the videos online.

Christopher said if you have a stunt you want to do, you have to know your limits. Picture the stunt inside of your head and just do it, he said.

Brandon “Chan” Miyanaga, a member of Sky High and friend of the brothers, said there is one vital characteristic of parkour, one that you are guaranteed to fail without.

“Just be committed to what you’re trying to do whether it’s a front flip or a back flip. If anything, it’s just commitment,” Miyanaga said.

Jonathon learned a lot of different skills from other sports and martial arts. He played flag football, softball and open-gym gymnastics, developing endurance and strength.

His martial arts training holds the greatest benefit. He said Judo and kickboxing developed strength, but his skills in kung fu and capoeira – a Brazilian martial arts fused with dance – have really helped hone his ability to master the free-flowing movement of parkour.

“Capoeira really helps you with your hand movement, your body movement and your flow,” he said. “Kung fu really helps you with your chi and staying calm and having a clear mind.”

Jonathon recognizes that parkour is a potentially dangerous activity and said you should always put safety first when attempting stunts. He said you should wear comfortable clothing that isn’t too tight, so that you can move freely while doing stunts.

He also recommends landing on grass instead of concrete and stretching prior to performing stunts.

As Jonathon cited safety tips, he laughed as he remembered the most important one:

“Don’t show off.”

He learned this rule firsthand when he was a freshman in high school. He boldly performed a back flip off of his 2.5-story high school roof. The stunt did not end well; his right leg landed on the concrete sidewalk, cracking his tibia. He wore a full-leg cast for six months and a half-leg cast for three months.

Christopher said the most important aspect of parkour is how your body reacts once you hit the ground. He suggested you try to perform a roll to counter the effect of hitting the ground.

“It’s not about the jump, it’s about how you land,” he said. “The hard part’s not falling, it’s the landing.”

And while there are no laws against parkour, Melissa Bujeda of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said there is a concern for potential trespassing.

Sky High’s videos can be found at http://dft.ba/-SkyHigh

JOURNAL ENTRY: JONATHON SANTANA

When I’m doing parkour, I feel like I’m in a world of my own. Doing parkour helps me not only physically but mentally. It helps me focus on the obstacles in my life that I need to overcome and the goals ahead. Though somewhat dangerous, parkour can be extremely exhilarating. Every single move must be strategically planned beforehand. The feeling that I get can best be described as sky diving without a parachute. Without proper training, the combination of rush and fear can make anyone lose focus. The training not only helps me in the sport, it also helps in the classroom. Every day of my life is like a jump. I live it fearlessly and with determination.