What is Parkour?

April 3, 2013 in Articles by indianparkourassociation


Hey, I found this thing called Parkour on the web. Could you tell me what it is?

Parkour is the art of getting from one point to another as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible, overcoming all obstacles in between, using only the abilities of the human body. Alternatively, it is the skill of gaining as much ground on something or someone when escaping from, or chasing towards it. In many respects, it can be compared to martial arts. As martial arts are training to fight, parkour is training to flee. A person who practices parkour is referred to as a ‘traceur’ (male) or as a ‘traceuse’ (female).

Flee? Escape? Why? I have no enemies.

Well, the concept here is like martial arts. A person learning martial arts may never actually use it in a real-life situation. Parkour, like martial arts, is practiced by many as a means to remain fit, as a recreational activity, or as a part of some other training (eg: firefighters learning parkour). People proficient in parkour tend to be confident and have a sense of security that grants peace of mind.

How did this all start?

How many times have you walked on dirt/through fields to avoid the long pavement to the gate? How many times have you jumped a fence when chased by dogs? How many times have you dashed over your bed to get to the toilet in an urgency? All these times, you unknowingly did parkour. You chose a faster, more efficient path than the conventional path between two points. So parkour has been here for as long as humanity has existed.

However the credit of organising it into a well-defined and structured art goes to David Belle. He is a Frenchman who along with some friends perfected the art and gave it a name during the late 1990′s. Their motive was to create a small set of movements, using the variations of which, almost any obstacle can be overcome. Some of these techniques were given names like kong vault, speed vault, wall-run, precision, cat balance, and the all important – roll. (The names were originally in French.)

What do I need to get started then? Strength? Stamina? Muscles?

You need just one thing – “passion”. You need to love the art. Passion spawns dedication. With dedication, comes motivation. And with dedication and motivation, you can obtain all the strength, stamina and conditioned muscles you need for parkour.

Alright! I’m ready to go. Which vault do I try first? Speed? Kong? I can’t wait!

You may start vaulting 3-feet walls very slowly and doing 4-feet precisions on ground level for three-four days. This is just to make sure that you really want to this, and that parkour captures your interest and keeps you motivated through what will follow. These three-four days will be the honeymoon period with parkour for you.

Ok, now STOP! Hold it! You are ready to go, but your body isn’t. Even if you think it is, it isn’t (yes, I’m an arrogant bastard). You need to condition your body for parkour. Conditioning, essentially means exercising to make your body fit for parkour (or any physical activity, for that matter). At this point youshould must go through the article - The Importance of Conditioning and thereafter How do I Condition for Parkour?. Parkour without conditioning will not be called parkour at all. It would just be reckless jumping around.

What else do I need to know?

You need to know that parkour focuses on speed, efficiency, safety and flow. Now, speed, efficiency and safety are quite clear, but what, exactly, is flow? Flow means moving in a fluid rhythm. The transition from one movement to another should be seamless. Any technique that breaks the flow of movement (flips, twists, spins, etc.) are not considered as efficient parkour techniques.

Then why are the parkour videos on youtube full of flips, twists and spins?

These techniques are a part of a visually similar art (but different in terms of content and philosophy) called Freerunning. The media (and many people) knowingly or unknowingly use both terms – `parkour` and `freerunning` interchangeably. Pakour is the art of efficient movement. Freerunning is the art of visually appealing movement, which may not be efficient. A thing to be noted is that parkour and freerunning though different, are not opposing or conflicting. There is mutual respect between traceurs and freerunners. Some even want them unified and do not distinguish between them (Daniel Ilabaca, to mention a prominent one) [citation needed, I'm not sure, it just seems like that].

So when is the next Parkour World Championship?

Never. Parkour is strictly non-competitive in nature (a characteristic that distinguishes it from other sports, including freerunning {World Freerunning Championship is held by Urban Freeflow}).

Parkour strongly discourages any form of competition both formal (championships, etc) or informal (my friend can do this vault, why can’t I?) The only person you compete with, is yourself – constantly practicing, improving, evolving.

In the words of Erwan `Hebertiste` LeCorre:

“Competition pushes people to fight against others for the satisfaction of a crowd and/or the benefits of a few business people by changing its mindset. Parkour is unique and cannot be a competitive sport unless it ignores its altruistic core of self development. If parkour becomes a sport, it will be hard to seriously teach and spread parkour as a non-competitive activity. And a new sport will be spread that may be called parkour, but that won’t hold its philosophical essence anymore.”

So, now you know what you need to know. Once you are into it, parkour will change your world. Obstacles will start looking like opportunities, both in the physical world and in your life. Train hard, train safe.

Parkour for life

- K9 on Mar 9, 2010