Originally printed in the January 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia.
“I’ve always been called the ‘monkey’ of the family,” says Amal Murad, who forayed into the disciplined sport of parkour at a young age. “Since childhood, I used to climb walls and vault over boxes in the neighborhood, pretending to be a ninja. The truth is, we all practiced parkour when we were younger but we never called it anything; we were just being our fearless and brave selves.”
The majority of people grow out of the “brave” phase as doubt sneaks in, which is a dangerous sentiment for a parkour enthusiast, as any slight hesitation can lead to injury. Parkour was developed in France in the 1980s as a fast-moving sport where practitioners aim to get through a complex environment – like a city – using no equipment and in the fastest, most efficient way possible. This involves jumping, running, and climbing.
Murad is the only female Emirati parkour expert and trainer. She’s also competed in parkour competitions against men – and won; an impressive feat for someone who fell into the sport by chance when her cousin opened a gym to practice the sport. The Dubai-born athlete recently quit her full-time job as a graphic designer at a governmental firm to focus on her career as a parkour and fitness coach. “I’d work until 3pm and then go to the gym until 7pm to coach and train,” she says. “This drained my energy as I had no time to spend with family, friends, or even myself. Instead, I chose to do what I loved. Although it is financially much more challenging, I haven’t regretted the decision.”
It proved to be a life-changing decision, since parkour has helped her grow strong physically as well as mentally. “It helped me overcome my mental barriers through the process of learning how to overcome the physical ones. I don’t think either me or my family realized just how much parkour was going to change my life. Most of my family members are entrepreneurs and have always supported me to become my own boss and pave my own path in life. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if it wasn’t for them.”
While injuries are part of this dynamic and sometimes risky sport, Murad is philosophical about it. “Injuries are part of any sport. Sometimes they put things in perspective,” she says. “Being injured teaches you to be patient and reminds you to be humble.”
As a sporty role model to others, Murad feels the responsibility to be a positive influence. “I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to change people’s lives somehow, or at least change the way they think,” she explains. “I want to teach women not to be scared. We all are battling our own demons and fears. Take your time to understand what your fears are and work hard to overcome them.”
Words by Alexandria Gouveia.