FACETIME- Peter Parkour: Seigler 'flows' over buildings

He might not be slinging webs and fighting crime, but Justin Seigler is used to his friends calling him Spider-Man. That's because of his unusual hobby, the sport known as parkour.

Started in France in the 1990s, parkour combines elements of rock climbing and martial arts, but 19-year-old Seigler, a PVCC student, says the sport is actually "80 percent" gymnastics.

The basis of parkour is "learning how to flow over objects in your path," Seigler explains. Those objects might be park benches, low walls, or even entire buildings. Pipes, uneven bricks, and ledges are used to assist the climber. Remaining in motion is another mainstay of parkour.

While the sport is relatively new and few have heard the name, millions of people have seen parkour in various movies, perhaps without realizing it. For instance, the opening chase scene in the recent James Bond film, Casino Royale, features parkour founder David Belle as a terrorist running along rooftops, chased by Daniel Craig.  

Seigler, who was home-schooled through high school, hasn't ruled out becoming a stunt man, and he practices parkour as often as he can.

"Doing a roll is one of the main moves," says Seigler, demonstrating by diving over a sandwich board on the downtown mall, tucking his head, and rolling forward. Though he's just landed on brick, he's uninjured. 

"It's a little bit scary," says his dad, Steve. But "as long as he understands the dangers," he adds, "it's okay."

Seigler says he's been on the roofs of many buildings around downtown, but only with permission from the property owners. And he says he'd never scale a wall without checking it for safety first. A loose pipe could lead to serious injury or worse.

While he's never broken a bone, Seigler says that in one careless moment, he recently jumped from a ledge and landed on a large nail, which pierced his foot. Despite the mishap, he insists he doesn't take unnecessary risks. 

"You have to know what you're capable of," he says. 

While Seigler has certain moves down, he says he still has a lot to learn. "I'm not a professional," he admits, adding that he wishes he could find a parkour community in Charlottesville. In larger cities such as Richmond, D.C., and New York, Seigler says, groups of parkour practitioners run through streets, with one leader determining the path. "One will go, everyone will follow," he says.

While each person uses his or her own style based on height, speed, and strength, Seigler says he gets to work his brain while he works his body.

"I enjoy the challenge of trying to push myself to different and harder limits," he says. "You have a mind block that says, 'No, I can't do this,' but your body says, 'Of course I can do this.'"

Justin Seigler