Pushing the boundaries
The founder of Movement Singapore is showing that age shouldn’t limit someone from trying parkour.
Tan Shie Boon, 31, is not only pushing the boundaries but is also breaking down stereotypes of seniors at the same time. He is the founder and instructor at Movement Singapore that holds parkour for seniors sessions three times a week at Ang Mo Kio using man-made structures that are already in the park. His simple philosophy is – “No matter our age, we all still have that magic of a child within us that learns to ride a bicycle by simply trying”.
More than 75 seniors have gone through his programme so far, with the oldest being 72. His most memorable story of one of those seniors is Ann Tham who at 64 in 2018 needed help of a trolley cart just to keep her balance and allow her to move around. But with her regularly coming to his sessions, she started enjoying the benefits. Though she has stopped coming, Shie Boon shared, “She was able to walk without her usual physical aid and navigate stairs again in just three months and that probably meant something to her.”
He added, “I’m confident that a large number of my current students would say that they have benefitted. They have told me that it has helped them in small ways, like no longer being afraid of stairs, hiking overseas without breaking a sweat, being able to righten herself from a potential fall, experiencing a lot of joy in exercising now or having a new perspective in fitness.”
There are also other benefits of doing parkour including increased strength and bone density, movement confidence, agility, practical movement techniques that can get you out of trouble, blood circulation and joint lubrication, independence in keeping fit and creative joy through movement expression.
How it all started
So how did he get into parkour in the first place? Shie Boon experienced parkour in 2014 from the original founders of MOVE Academy when they visited LASALLE College of the Arts, where he was taking a diploma in dance, to do a dance-cum-parkour workshop. Parkour is the practice of using body movements to efficiently and creatively overcome obstacles in the environment. “After the workshop, I found the ethos of parkour to be very much aligned to my chosen life direction and so I left LASALLE after my first semester in the diploma, went to work and studied parkour under a local parkour gym, ADD Academy Singapore, which was also affiliated to the original founders.”
From a student, he rose to the ranks of a coach, and eventually took over as director in 2018. ADD Academy Singapore also changed its name to MOVE Academy Singapore to be easier understood by the public to be a fitness provider. He invited new partners into the business but with different directions, the business got shuttled and Shie Boon then started Movement Singapore to continue his existing services to his students including teaching parkour to children and teenagers. But it is the parkour for seniors programme that has given him exposure in the media and rightfully so.
Seeing the possibilities
He said: “The number one priority is that I wish to prove to seniors that they need not lose hope with a deteriorating body (and mind). And that they can still perform all sorts of movements and manoeuvers that they might have deeply believed they could not, or were bad for their body.
“The second priority would be to help seniors achieve independence in fitness – wherever they are and no matter in what condition they might be; a human body and their imagination is all they need to have a joyous and beneficial bout of exercise.” In one of the many videos he has of seniors doing his parkour sessions, he had one with a man on a wheelchair who not only climbed over a short ledge but also got onto a higher one and slowly walked a bit with Shie Boon watching and assisting him! Even his mother Kimm Chai, who is 64, joins in his sessions.
He said: “The thing that I find missing in modern fitness are the elements of fear and curiosity. I believe very much in attaining a high standard of fitness through task-based challenges – setting a simple, absorbing goal and letting our bodies’ natural intelligence figure out the solution.
“Modern fitness focuses on aesthetics and knowledge of the body, and less about the diversity of physical challenges one can overcome when push comes to shove. In parkour, we encounter fear when we climb up high places and curiosity when we ask ourselves if we can possibly go through a small hole. Fear is a strong emotion that can arrest the body. Curiosity’s bodily sensations are more subtle, but brings a sense of openness and empowerment.”
He continued: “It is wrong to think that fitness is about ‘feeling the burn’ at different areas of our bodies, an emblem of modern fitness. It is actually about experiencing an interconnectedness between mental and physical states through movement initiations and crafting a strategy towards achieving a higher frequency of joy and physical strength.”
His sessions are one hour of muscle conditioning and another 30 minutes of interacting with obstacles. The activities including running, jumping, climbing, rolling, vaulting and balancing (and strictly no flips). For those who want to be a part of his sessions, each session costs S$35, however, if you buy more passes, it will be cheaper. Also important before participating is that you possess an “adventurous personality, the type that refuses to resign to the fate of ageing”, shared Shie Boon on his website. So take up the challenge and see your possibilities.
** Read more about parkour for seniors at www.agelessonline.net/parkour-for-seniors/.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Movement Singapore)