In Idlib, just like in Gaza and Kashmir, Parkour and Freerunning have become not only resistance tools but also means to affirm life in the midst of destruction, as well as the possibility to overcome apparently unconquerable obstacles. Meet Obada Jbara, the king of Idlib Parkour.
Whenever we hear the word Parkour, our mind immediately goes to groups of young people – somehow dangerously— jumping, flipping and capering from roof to roof, though metropolitan landscapes. And this is a truthful representation. Born in France at the beginning of the 1980s, Parkour is indeed the art or discipline of movement through urban spaces. Freerunning is a related discipline. The differences between the two can be a little blurry but experts highlight that, while Parkour focuses more on the obstacles found in the environment, Freerunning is more about the athlete’s abilities and expression. Interestingly enough, over the last few years, both disciplines have become increasingly popular in conflict zones; most of us are, for example, familiar with the experience of the Gaza Parkour, documented by Italian film director Manu Gerosa in the film One More Jump (2019).
Obada Jbara is 24 years old and lives in Idlib, Syria. In his YouTube videos you’ll see him Freerunning with his companions through a city that has often appeared in news headlines for being heavily bombed by Russian jets. As Obada jumps and capers through ruins, but also through squares and parks, we find out that Idlib is not only beautiful, but alive and kicking.
We caught up with Obada and interviewed him online.
Obada, when did you start becoming interested in Parkour and Freerunning?
I’ve been interested in these disciplines since I was a kid. I love moving my body and, first of all, I learnt how to breakdance and hip hop watching YouTube. When I was 17, I started doing Parkour with my friend Aamer. There was no gym for this type of sport, so we watched a lot of YouTube tutorials. Move after move, day after day, we improved. We mainly used to train in Idlib Central Park and sometimes in a judo gym. At first we had no equipment for training, nothing.
Do you have a team? How many hours a week do you train together?
We have a team called Tafani (dedication) and we train at least seven or eight times a week. We created this team, because we wanted to train younger athletes. This is what we’ve done and some of them have become part of our group. Kids who come training with us are excited at the idea of learning unusual things like jumps and flips. They feel special because they’re practicing an uncommon sport.
When the Syrian revolution and war started, you were very young. What has sport meant to you throughout these difficult years? How can Parkour and Freerunning help kids living in a reality like the one you live?
Sport is very important to make children focus on something fun and playful, and to help them forget about the reality of war, if only for a short time. At the same time, it strengthens their character and teaches them that they can overcome obstacles and do amazing things when they persist. Just think that once we trained with Russian fighter jets flying over our heads …
You take a lot of videos of your Parkour activities and post them on YouTube and social media. Is there a message you want to convey to those who watch?
I want to show the world what we’re doing here in Idlib. I wish I could take part in global competitions or practice this sport with young people from all over the world, but we can’t leave Idlib easily, so I use the only means I have, the Internet, to connect with those who have similar interests.
Tell us about some of your future projects…
I’m working on a fusion between Breakdance and Freerunning, and I plan on improving my YouTube channel. Through my videos, I want to go on showing the world what can be achieved, even in dire circumstances, through self-confidence, hard work and the power of God.