Overcoming obstacles, creating ‘routes’ in one’s natural environment and getting from point A to B in the most efficient way… Parkour and free running athlete Kundai Kenji Murapa from Zimbabwe chats about the latest craze to hit SA, the risks that come with his stunts, and how fitness helps his creativity. – BY LAUREN VAN DER VYVER
MA: For those who don’t know, please explain what parkour / free running is.
KM: It’s a form of training where you negotiate obstacles in your natural environment. Apart from the physical running, jumping, swinging and climbing, there is mental engagement and problem-solving skills. When parkour athletes train, we ‘jam.’
How did you get into it?
I found out about it online and with some background in dance and basic martial arts as a kid, I definitely had the basis for it. Eventually, I learnt the basics and it became a hobby. I found some people to train with and it developed into a passion – and now I’m getting paid for something I love. There’s a growing market for it in SA, and I’d like to see parkour grow with more crews and opportunities.
How does overall fitness and strength play a role in your jams?
Your fitness improves your technique. You need to be strong and we do a lot of conditioning to get to a state where we can perform at our peak. Our bodies need to deal with intricate movements and skills, so we have to maintain that. Soon, my team Sabotage Elite will be doing some cross-fit classes because conditioning sets the tone for longevity in the sport. I also do a lot of obstacle-based marathons and races. I love those events because it engages stamina and creativity!
There’s obviously a lot of risk that comes with the sport. Have you experienced serious injuries?
I was competing at a meet called Urban Sessions where I fell through a wooden floor that had collapsed. I fell one storey and I seemed alright at first, until I patted myself down and saw a nasty gash on my knee – right before a marathon I was supposed to do the next day! But for me, parkour has never been dangerous. An athlete’s priority is to train safe and within our means. People get fixated on the flash and danger of the sport, when it’s not like that. I pursued it because the sport pushes your body and mind to the limits.
You founded your own team, Sabotage Elite. How often do you guys meet and where do you like to jam?
The team meets the first Saturday of every month, and we’re involved in a lot of commercial and community projects that get the word of parkour out there. There are 12 members now, with the core being in Pretoria. Personally, my favourite place to jam is a place at the University of Pretoria and any gym. A gym’s springy floors are a help, and we like to use the equipment for some of our skills.
You won the parkour competition at the Mr Price Pro and there are more comps and opportunities in the country. Any plans for you in 2014?
The Mr Price Pro was definitely one of the bigger showcases and there will be some future events with New Balance this year, as I’ve been a brand ambassador since 2010 and they’re very invested in the sport. I’m also a stuntman, so there are a couple of international TV shows that I’ll be working for – I can’t say which yet! I’d like to see parkour gather a critical mass and carry itself. Apart from that, I’m also doing tricking around Cape Town, which is a form of acrobatics mixed with martial arts kicks.
What characteristics do you think you possess that help you in the sport?
I’m actually very impatient. When I want to do something, I do it and I remove all doubt in my mind. Of course, you have to remain within your limits, but I go that touch beyond what I’m capable of in terms of pulling off skills. There is always a place for progress. I’ve also realised how when I’m walking down a street, I see routes around me. It’s what we call “Runner’s Vision.” It’s just your mind adapting to what you love, and the more you do it, the more you see how you can overcome any obstacles around you.
For more info on parkour and Sabotage Elite, visit