Over the past year, you may have heard your child mention 'free movement' or even witnessed their developing parkour skills in the living room. You might have seen them demonstrate a new movement on the rugby field, or watched them 'fall' in a more controlled and deliberate way. Tanglin has recently become one of the first schools worldwide to move to a fully integrated approach to Movement Education; adopting parkour and free movement fundamentals as the very foundation of all sport and physical education programmes across the school.
Research continues to show the fundamental role 'free movement' skills play in the development of athleticism. The idea is that skills in one sport can be significantly improved through early and continued involvement in other related sports, or 'donor' activities, that share similar opportunities for action.
The sport of parkour is an enormously effective platform for developing athletic skills such as coordination, timing, balance, agility, spatial awareness and muscular strength. At Tanglin, we continue to offer parkour at all levels across the school, with the aim of developing students' general athletic skills in what we call 'opportunity-rich environments'. Training programmes for our sports teams now also incorporate parkour-style training, due to the sport's exploratory and adaptive movements, and the way it requires students to utilise opportunities for innovative and autonomous performance.
While traditional school systems tend to favour an early specialisation approach – often overemphasising repetitive, drill-like practice that can hinder a child's development – at Tanglin, we continue to encourage participation by offering diverse opportunities. Our combination of varied, relevant activities develops athleticism and skills that can be applied to numerous sports. Below, we explore two – parkour, and 'Freestyle' movement.
What are the benefits of parkour?
Integrating parkour-style activities into students' practice develops and maintains athleticism, and promotes 'skill transfer', in an enjoyable environment. Our athletes, both in individual and team sports, benefit from the performance enhancing, adaptive, functional, goal-directed movements of parkour. They also learn to:
- Recognise foundational parkour movement patterns
- Understand, but not eliminate, risk; how to fall, fall to learn and learn to FAIL (First Attempt In Learning)
- Appreciate the purpose of the 'training environment' as a physically and emotionally safe place to make mistakes
- Learn independently, utilising online tutorials and videos to improve
- Put movements together
- Create movement signature sequences through discussion, experimentations and group creativity
- Rehearse and improvise
- Perform and demonstrate; and celebrate others' efforts.
What are the benefits of 'Freestyle'?
'Freestyle' movement combines the swiftness of parkour, the power of tricking and the elegance of dance. In freestyle, athletes of all ages perform combinations of jumps, climbs, swings, and to create a new art form. This empowering experience has a strong community aspect, and can transform every inch of Singapore's urban environment into a playground. Tanglin's Freestyle Movement program is an explorative learning journey that teaches students the elementary skills of the sport, and nurtures a love for creative movement arts. It is often said that 'play is the highest form of research' and this is also true of freestyle, through which students discover their inner motivations and movement capabilities. Specifically, students learn to:
- Face and overcome challenges through skilful performance
- Find their own path
- Understand there is no right or wrong way, but rather only good techniques that can be applied to solve movement problems
- Move forward through play and experimentation
- Listen to and apply feedback from their coaches and peers
- Gain in confidence through fun, identity building exercises
- Start and finish together as a team
- Respect the environment.
In addition to parkour and freestyle, Tanglin offers a variety of other activities and sports that support our approach in developing adaptive, highly-skilled movers. Programmes such as Fun to Move with Gym, judo, dance, climbing, multi-skill games, multi-sport games, cross country and athletic movement development all build athleticism in fun, engaging ways.
So, with free movement at the core of our approach, we can look forward to a bright future in Sport and Movement Education.
- By Dr Richard Shuttleworth, Director of Sport & Methodology, and Muhammad Asraf, Freestyle Specialist