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Japan's Kanazawa holds int'l 'Ninja Parkour' tournament online for 1st time

Participants are seen during the second annual national ninja parkour tournament, held at Kanazawa Castle Park in Kanazawa, in this May 3, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Shun Iwakabe)

KANAZAWA -- "Ninja Parkour," this Sea of Japan coastal city's variant on the French acrobatic movement sport in which people run and vault over urban terrain and obstacles, is currently holding its first ever online international tournament.

    About 150 people from 15 countries entered the 2020 Ninja Parkour Online World Championship, and local university students and others were involved in judging the event.

    "We want to use young people's strength to revitalize a society compromised by the coronavirus crisis," one organizer commented. Information about the sport can be found at its official website: https://ninja-parkour.org/

    Parkour is a sport in which participants train their bodies by running, jumping and climbing. It was also briefly considered for inclusion at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games as a new entry in the gymnastics field.

    The tournament is hosted by sports doctors and professors at universities in the prefecture. To give the event aspects combining parkour with an introduction to the Kanazawa area and its cultural landscape, the organizers named it "Ninja Parkour." Since 2018, they've held a national edition of the tournament at Kanazawa Castle Park, and the addition of an international event was planned for this year, too, but the outbreak of the coronavirus forced it online.

    Video submissions of people performing parkour began arriving in late November, with entries from Japan, China, the United States, Iran and elsewhere. Organizers also reported a huge range in entrants, from 5-year-old children to world-class athletes.

    The first round of judging commenced on Dec. 20, with around 60 students from Hokuriku University and Kanazawa Seiryo University assessing entrants' accuracy, creativity and other criteria as they watched videos of them effortlessly vaulting fences and handrails, and landing backflips.

    The second judging phase will go ahead in January, and the final round in February. In addition to the rulings from judges, the number of likes a performance gets on social media will reportedly also influence the results.

    Ninja parkour association head Sachio Takeda, who is also a visiting professor at Hokuriku University, said, "I'd like it to become an opportunity to understand the diversity on this planet by seeing the performances of athletes from various countries, and a way to spread Japanese culture."

    (Japanese original by Hirotaka Abe, Hokuriku General Bureau)

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