Those that have seen Parkour, the French sport that uses the body to move from location to location while overcoming obstacles in the way, know that the elements of the sport—the vaults, the jumps, and the flips—flow like a dance. People who do Parkour enter into a rhythm with the city similar to partner dances like the tango or waltz. Watching parkour live is impressive. When you meet Patrícia, a member of Parkour Brazil, it isn’t necessary to see her doing Parkour to know that she dances in life with the same force and impeccable timing.
At first sight she is a woman, just barely 5”4’, thin and with brown hair that falls in a wave over one side of her face and lands just below her ear. Everything about her is slight: the silver frame of her glasses, her nose, her hands. Yet, there is nothing slight about the passion she has for life. While the clothes are in the washer, her 13-year-old son brushes his teeth and the beloved family dog whines to go for a walk, she gesticulates to explain what she does to love herself and have the courage to practice Parkour.
Parkour is a physical activity that incorporates exploration, achievement and life lessons. Patrícia started training in August of 2015 and for her it is a compliment to meditation, which she has practiced since her youth. It is a sport that requires mindfulness, and like meditation, provokes internal changes. “In addition to the physical changes, it rewired my synapses. It changed the way I look at the city, my way of thinking, my compassion with my fears, my tolerance of others, and my anxiety.”
At forty-four years old, she is married, a mother of two sons and a dog, and passed the Brazilian Bar in January 2016, ten years after she graduated from law school. Nonetheless, these labels don’t encompass all that she is. Patrícia has always sought to explore her internal and external limits. When she was twenty-one years old, she went to England for a month vacation and ended up staying for two years. With the openness that is fundamental to her personality, she worked as an art model, sang in a Maracatu band (traditional Brazilian music), dressed in costumes to entertain at parties, catered, and cleaned homes.
The humility that allowed her to do any type of work to make a living in England, serves her well in Parkour. She understands that the sport is yet another life lesson in how to respect your own limits, without quitting. When she sustained an injury that required three stitches, she didn’t allow that to keep her from trying the move again. That’s not to say she ignores the risks. Sometimes if she isn’t able to accompany the rigor of the techniques they are practicing, she’ll practice with the children’s group. “I don’t mind practicing with children. That type of pride doesn’t limit me.”
Her lack of ego doesn’t signify a lack of self-esteem. Her life experiences, including Parkour, have led her to believe that in today’s world Brazilian women need, “to have open conversations. Perhaps we have a tendency here in Brazil to allow things to become unbearable before we take action. We (women) need to position ourselves (in reference to unequal salaries, a government with only male cabinet members, and a culture of rape). Another tendency (we have) is to not say what we don’t like because we don’t want to risk a friendship. We need to change this culture. We can be kind and position ourselves.”
Being a woman, for Patrícia, means taking care of others, embracing the physical realities of her body (cramps, PMS, breast feeding) and being in charge of her life. The primary success of her life is her sons’ character. She intentionally raised them to be men who don’t participate in cultural norms of machismo.
She works as an independent realtor and gives English lessons. In addition to these jobs, she fully dedicates herself to her family; something that she perceives is not socially accepted. She noted that when a magazine article was published about Marcela Termer (the interim President’s wife), describing her as retiring and a lucky woman (to be married to such a powerful man), that many criticized the fact that Marcela “does nothing”—something that Patrícia hears about her own life. This bothers her, but she is more comfortable than ever with herself, “I am who I am. I don’t worry anymore about meeting other people’s expectations of me.”
In her life trajectory she has traveled the world, ended an abusive relationship, constructed a second marriage of mutual respect and equality, worked for a multinational corporation, opened a non-profit to support breast feeding, and spent five years without purchasing anything. For her, “everything has its time. Life is an exercise of faith. We are responsible for ourselves, including our thoughts.” She hopes that women are, “more kind to themselves, more respectful of their fears and limits, and can look at their shadows with love.”