First there was Parkour, the French-based urban movement that used city landscapes to accomplish impressive acrobatic feats.
Now, there's street workout, which has a similar ethos but goes into even more extreme environments with an emphasis on functional fitness. And, according to Palestinian photographer Mohammed Abed, it is now bringing a sense of empowerment to the youth in Gaza City.
Abed told The Huffington Post that he was introduced to the global trend by his son, Osama, who discovered the local street workout group Bar Palestine in their community via Facebook. Abed found the sport fascinating, offered to create an exclusive photo story for the young men on the team, and they enthusiastically accepted.
This photograph of Palestine native and street workout practitioner Eyad Ayad is one of the many Abed captured during his time with the sports team last week. Here, Ayad engages every muscle from head to toe to suspend himself in the air horizontally, balancing above the rubble that covers most of the war-torn streets in Gaza City.
While parkour focuses on moving from one place to another in the most efficient way possible, street workout is all about using existing constructs to perform athletic feats and crazy calisthenics. It takes headstands, push-ups and pull-ups to an entirely new level.
The art of street workout is even more striking in Abed's photos as the Bar Palestine team practices their best moves among the destruction and turns their streets into a fitness playground. In the middle of the siege with the borders closed and communities just beginning to heal, youth life in Gaza City is particularly turbulent. Poverty and unemployment are the norm rather than the exception, according to Abed, and this sport gives these young men hope.
"Bar Palestine decided to practice the game in Gaza because it doesn't exist in Palestine yet," he said. "The members adore the game and follow the hard exercises through YouTube channels. The team members [are] determined to introduce their selves (sic) to the world as a team from Gaza... but they don't have [a] professional coach, athletic federation or place for practicing. They do not find work, [and] do not have possibilities to travel to express their talents which they learned online. They didn't find anything better than forming a team to do what they love, and performing sports movements in the streets."
While this Palestinian club is clearly impressive, they are far from the only team in the game. The World Federation of Street Workout and Calisthenics has been around since 2011 and the first Street Workout World Championship was hosted in Latvia that same year.
Since discovering the street workout movement in Gaza City and photographing this particular group of young men, Abed began encouraging his son to join in while he studies at the nearby university. He has few hobbies amid the siege, and has now seen firsthand how beneficial this sport could be for him.
Take a look at the amazing new photos of the Bar Palestine team below, combining the arts of strength and balance in some seriously impressive ways.
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