My UAE: Jumping for joy with Emirati parkour coach Amal Murad

Through her cousin's calisthenics class, Amal Murad was able to “find a way into that world” and get the training she needed to learn parkour and teach it to others as well.

Amal Murad, who takes part in and coaches parkour. She learnt the freestyle sport by taking classes at her cousin's gym in Dubai. Courtesy Nike
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When Amal Murad was a child, she enjoyed playing outside, climbing onto roofs and jumping from one place to another. At the time, she didn’t realise that what she was doing was essentially parkour, a freestyle sport that’s gaining in popularity in the UAE and around the world.

“Parkour is going from point A to point B in the quickest and most efficient manner by overcoming obstacles,” she explains.

Murad grew up in Dubai and became a freelance graphic designer, but “I felt like I was caged in, stuck at a desk all day”. She was looking for something different to inspire her passion. “With parkour, they looked like they were flying and I wanted to feel that freedom. It turned out to be something I needed,” she says.

Murad’s cousin was opening Gravity Calisthenics Gym in ­Dubai, and it offered parkour classes. Through the new gym, she was able to “find a way into that world” and get the training she needed to learn parkour and teach it to others as well.

A fear of falling and getting hurt weren’t Murad’s biggest obstacles when she was learning. It was a fear of what people would think about her for choosing such an unconventional interest. “The biggest thing for me, the physical part, even the falls, they weren’t as painful as what I thought people would say about me, but I felt like as long as I respect myself I’ll get the same respect back and that’s exactly what happened,” she says.

“The people I thought would be my biggest critics have been my biggest supporters, and it’s society. I’ve had so much support from people, but it was unexpected just how much people were reacting to my videos and telling me I inspired them and I never expected that.

“I never expected people to tell me that I inspired them or their kids to live a healthy lifestyle. It’s the biggest motivation.”

She was also surprised by the support from her family, who she says are now her greatest fans. “When I first told my dad I wanted to start parkour and that I went to the gym, he said: ‘As long as you stay respectable and know your boundaries.’

“My mum never comes to my events because she’s scared I might fall, but I know she watches my videos. I often hear the music that I put on my videos ­throughout the night, so I know she is supporting me through that.”

Murad shares her parkour videos via Instagram, Amal (@leap.of.hope) , and says she’s not afraid to let people see how much effort goes into each of her moves, even when it ends in a fall. “In my videos, I make sure ­people can see how many times I worked for a specific move. Many athletes only post beautiful posts and it makes people feel like they can’t do that. “They think it’s effortless, but I want people to know that parkour is an extreme sport and there’s a lot of effort involved that,” she says.

“The reason I teach parkour is that there’s a lot of mental barriers that you set for yourself. I want to show people that it’s OK to fall and it’s OK to fail, as long as you get back up and do it again.

“Don’t stay put, don’t wait for things to happen. Go out. Take that leap of faith.”

What is an average day for you?

I wake up at 6am and get ready to go to my full-time job, where I work as a graphic designer. I then finish about 3pm, and go directly to the gym. I usually don’t have time to grab lunch, so I order for delivery before teaching my kids’ class at 4pm. I sometimes have one more class from 6pm to 7pm. I then train on my own from 7pm to 8pm, go back home, have dinner with the family and sleep.

What's your favourite travel destination?

Anywhere that is isolated from civilisation. I’m more of a hike-in-the-middle-of-nowhere kind of girl rather than someone who goes shopping in the city.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what three things would you like to have with you?

The Quran, a picture of my family and fishing gear. Gotta be smart about it since I'd still have to survive.

What's your favourite food?

French fries, because who can live without fries? Even when I work hard to eat healthy, fries are my kryptonite.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Making my parents proud. It is something that I’ll continue to strive for as long as I can.

What music do you listen to in the car?

Nothing in particular. I try to stay away from radio music because it’s usually the same loud music playing over and over again. I’m that girl who listens to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald – more jazzy types of songs.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My parents and sister. As cheesy as it sounds, they have taught me everything I know and are hard-working individuals who never give up on their dreams.

What has been your worst parkour injury so far?

Falling on my neck because I didn’t commit to a backflip. Yes, I was injured, but the mental shock was harder to overcome than the physical pain.

How do you relax?

Spend time alone or with very few friends. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take time off to remind yourself what your true goals are and what you want to achieve. Usually we are surrounded by so much going on that we stray away from what we really set out to do in the first place. I need to have time alone to hear myself think away from all the noise.

What's your favourite movie?

I don’t have one. Every movie impacts me.