It is about cal­cu­lated risks. I’m not say­ing I wouldn’t jump off a bridge or out of an air­plane, just for the thrill of it, but that wouldn’t be park­our.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

orig­i­nal blue­print af­ter he served in Africa and adapted the tribal dance move­ments he saw into his “method na­turelle”.

It is get­ting more Hol­ly­wood treat­ment this month cour­tesy of in­de­pen­dent film­maker Daniel Ben­mayor. Trac­ers, fea­tur­ing Twi­light star Tay­lor Laut­ner, re­volves around a New York City bike mes­sen­ger who links up with a gang that uses park­our to pull off heists so he can pay off his debts to the Chi­nese mafia. It hit US the­aters on March 20.

“Hon­estly, be­fore I even learned how to, I was ac­tu­ally do­ing some park­our,” Laut­ner told En­ter­tain­ment Weekly, adding that two of his co-stars broke their an­kles dur­ing film­ing.

“I am that weirdo that chooses the dif­fi­cult route down the side of the street. I could eas­ily just walk on the side­walk but no, I see some ob­sta­cle and I’m like, ‘ Oh, I won­der what it would be like to get over that?’ So, yes, I am def­i­nitely that per­son.”

To give an idea of its broad ap­peal, CBS ran a se­ries of pho­tos last Oc­to­ber of Pales­tinian boys sharp­en­ing their skills amid ru­ined houses in Gaza City af­ter a seven-week Is­raeli of­fen­sive. Videos of young Ira­nian women, and old age pen­sion­ers in the US, train­ing in park­our can eas­ily be found on video-shar­ing sites like YouTube.

Shang­hai, given its love af­fair with all things Gal­lic, could hardly be a bet­ter place to fo­ment in­ter­est in the sport on the main­land.

French restau­rants abound; French-run Bar Rouge on the Bund river­front is the city’s most fa­mous bar; ex­pats drink the nights away in the for­mer French Con­ces­sion; half the for­eign­ers in the city wear chic neck scarves — even when it is warm.

Over in Toronto, Shapiro got hooked as a teenager. He also stud­ied kungfu at the Shaolin Monastery in China’s Dengfeng county, He­nan prov­ince be­tween 2007 and 2009 be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to the coun­try in 2010.

But in-be­tween get­ting his busi­ness off the ground in 2011 and be­ing beaten up by China’s most fa­mous ac­tion star last fall, the self-styled “ac­tion co­or­di­na­tor” must have won­dered if life back in Canada would have been half as fun.

“I orig­i­nally came here to film in ac­tion movies as a stunt­man,” said Shapiro, who spent sev­eral weeks last spring on the set of Chan’s lat­est block­buster, Dragon Blade.

The his­tor­i­cal epic, one of the most ex­pen­sive movies ever made on the main­land, was re­leased in China in Fe­bru­ary. It had a pro­duc­tion bud­get of $65 mil­lion.

Shapiro got to rub noses with Chan, John Cu­sack and Adrian Brody while per­form­ing stunts dressed as a Ro­man sol­dier in Heng­dian, a town in East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

“My role kept switch­ing be­tween good and bad guys,” he said. “I had a few back and forths with Jackie. One stair scene in­volved an ex­change with a spear. He knocks me down and rolls over my back and kicks an­other sol­dier. It was pretty fun.”

“I re­mem­ber he was hand­ing out t-shirts one day over din­ner. When he got to me, he said, ‘Sorry, I’ve only got XL. I didn’t ex­pect for­eign­ers to be so small.’” Shapiro is 173cm. Chan is 174cm.

Dubbed “Chi­na­wood,” the town is home to Heng­dian World Stu­dios, Asia’s largest film stu­dio. It was sparse farm­land un­til busi­ness mogul Xu Wen­rong showed up with a fist­ful of dol­lars, so to speak, and a vi­sion in the mid-1990s.

Chen, who met Shapiro in 2008, said he was drawn to park­our by Belle’s sem­i­nal film.

“I just watched this movie called Dis­trict 13 and thought, ‘I can do that,’” said Chen, who was born in Shang­hai.

“Then I went to Mel­bourne to study and linked up with the Aus­tralian Park­our As­so­ci­a­tion,” he added. “When I came back in 2012 I kept get­ting calls from peo­ple want­ing pro­fes­sional per­for­mances.”

The Dam du Lac (Lady of the Lake) in Lisses is the Mecca of park­our. Most prac­ti­tion­ers hope to make a pil­grim­age there at some point in their lives. Chen did it last year with some other team mem­bers. They now speak in glow­ing terms of this man­made “Great Wall” nes­tled amid a pic­turesque French lake.

Amid an ever- evolv­ing move­ment, Belle con­firmed his sta­tus as a park­our purist dur­ing an in­ter­view with English freerun­ner Ti­mothy Shi­eff last year.

He said the “sport” has two sides: The ac­ro­batic tricks and clown­ing around part, which he com­pared to fixed rou­tines, or kata, in mar­tial arts; and the phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing and nav­i­gat­ing ob­sta­cles with max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency part — the spar­ring or fight­ing, which he prefers.

“Will I do com­pe­ti­tions? No,” he said. “But I never wanted the sta­tus of a boss who says, ‘You must do this, you must do that.”

“I just took a step back to see how park­our was evolv­ing,” he added, ex­plain­ing his long sab­bat­i­cal. “And now I’m back, be­cause I’ve no­ticed some things that could be im­proved.”

Given his en­thu­si­asm for all things park­our, Shapiro said he en­joys the cor­po­rate gigs in Shang­hai just as much as per­form­ing stunts for Chi­na­wood.

His team pro­moted BMW’s Mini Cooper at the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Sta­dium in Bei­jing in 2012 and helped launch Mercedes-Benz new S-class in Shang­hai in 2013. Re­cently, they shot a TV com­mer­cial for Sony’s Al­pha dig­i­tal cam­eras.

For the Mercedes gig, wire part­ner David Wei from Shan­dong prov­ince had to rig up hun­dreds of me­ters of wire.

“He’s a tech­ni­cal ge­nius. His wushu and stunts back­ground is in­valu­able,” said Shapiro. “I learned ev­ery­thing through my ex­pe­ri­ences do­ing stunts in Canada and my time here in China.”

Stu­dents will find his pro­grams rig­or­ous but not cheap — out­door classes are about $15 each or $130 for 10. In­door classes cost roughly twice this.

“One of our main chal­lenges now is reg­u­lat­ing the mar­ket,” said Chen. “The most im­por­tant thing for us is to main­tain a good im­age for park­our and its abil­ity to de­liver pro­fes­sional con­tent and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion.”

co-founder of So­mar­tics Move­ment Group

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED BY DIM­ITRI DANILOFF TO CHINA DAILY

like Shang­hai-based en­tre­pre­neur Kyle Shapiro, park­our has be­come an es­sen­tial part of their tool­kit.

Ninja War­rior pro­gram.

park­our ath­lete Martino Chen trains for the city's only

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