Friday, February 3, 2012


Parkour (sometimes abbreviated PK) is a method of movement focused on moving around obstacles with speed and efficiency. Originally developed in France, the main purpose of the discipline is to teach participants how to move through their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping. Traceurs (parkour practitioners) train to be able to identify and utilize alternate or the more efficient paths. Parkour can be practiced anywhere, but areas dense with obstacles offer many different training opportunities.


Two primary characteristics of parkour are efficiency and speed. Traceurs take the most direct path through an obstacle as rapidly as that route can be traversed safely. Developing one's level of spatial awareness is often used to aid development in these areas. Also, efficiency involves avoiding injuries, both short and long term. This idea embodying parkour's unofficial motto is être et durer ("to be and to last").
Traceurs say that parkour also influences one's thought processes by enhancing self-confidence and critical-thinking skills that allow one to overcome everyday physical and mental obstacles.[1][2][3] A study by Neuropsychiatrie de l'Enfance et de l'Adolescence (Neuropsychiatry of Childhood and Adolescence) in France reflects that traceurs seek more excitement and leadership situations than do gymnastic practitioners.[4]


The first terms used to describe this form of training were "l'art du déplacement" and "le parcours".[5] The term "parkour" (French pronunciation: [paʁˈkuʁ]) was coined by Hubert Koundé. It derives from "parcours du combattant", the classic obstacle course method of military training proposed by Georges Hébert.[6][7][8]
A practitioner of parkour is called a "traceur" [tʁasœʁ], with the feminine form being "traceuse" [tʁasøz]. They are substantives derived from the French verb "tracer", which normally means "trace",[9] or "trail" (as in "he escaped without a trace").[10]

Historical precedents

In the film Jump London, Sébastien Foucan states that "Le Parkour has always existed, free running has always been there, the thing is that no one gave it a name, we didn’t put it in the box. It is an ancient art [...] The Neanderthals, to hunt, or to chase, or to move around, they had to practice the free run." The latter was also an inspiration for the famous on-foot chase scenes of Hong Kong stuntman, martial artist and actor Jackie Chan.[11] In Eastern martial arts such as Ninjutsu and Qing Gong, movements similar to those of Parkour have been taught for centuries and with a similar aim. In Jump London, Foucan does acknowledge the influence of martial arts movies on the development of Parkour: "We also climbed onto the roof of our school. We pretended we were Ninja warriors".

A "traceur" performing a "passe muraille"

[edit] Hébert's legacy

Before World War I, former naval officer Georges Hébert travelled throughout the world. During a visit to Africa, he was impressed by the physical development and skills of indigenous tribes that he met:[12] He noted, "their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring, and resistant but yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature." [12]
On May 8, 1902, Saint-Pierre, Martinique, where Hébert was stationed, suffered from a volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée. Hébert coordinated the escape and rescue of some 700 people. This experience had a profound effect on him, and reinforced his belief that athletic skill must be combined with courage and altruism. He eventually developed this ethos into his motto "être fort pour être utile" (" be strong to be useful").[12] Inspired by indigenous tribes, Hébert became a physical education tutor at the college of Reims in France. He began to define the principles of his own system of physical education and to create various apparatuses and exercises to teach his "méthode naturelle"[12] which he defined as: "Methodical, progressive and continuous action, from childhood to adulthood, that has as its objective: assuring integrated physical development; increasing organic resistances; emphasizing aptitudes across all genres of natural exercise and indispensable utilities (walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, equilibrium (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming); developing one's energy and all other facets of action or virility such that all assets, both physical and virile, are mastered; one dominant moral idea: altruism."[13]
Hébert set up a "méthode naturelle" session consisting of ten fundamental groups: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, balancing, throwing, lifting, self-defense, swimming, which are part of three main forces:[13]
  • Energetic or virile sense: energy, willpower, courage, coolness, and firmness
  • Moral sense: benevolence, assistance, honor, and honesty
  • Physical sense: muscles and breath
During World War I and World War II, Hébert's teaching continued to expand, becoming the standard system of French military education and training. Thus, Hébert was one of the proponents of "parcours", an obstacle course, developed by a Swiss architect,[14] which is standard in the military training and led to the development of civilian fitness trails and confidence courses.[12] Also, French soldiers and firefighters developed their obstacle courses known as "parcours du combattant" and parcours SP".[15]

[edit] Belle family

David Belle, parkour founder, at The New Yorker Festival
Raymond Belle was born in Vietnam, at the time part of French Indochina. His father died during the First Indochina War and Raymond was separated from his mother during the division of Vietnam in 1954. He was taken by the French Army in Da Lat and received a military education and training that shaped his character.[16] After the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Raymond was repatriated to France and completed his military education in 1958. At age 19, his dedication to fitness helped him serve in Paris's regiment of "sapeurs-pompiers" (the French fire service).[16]
David participated in activities such as martial arts and gymnastics and sought to apply his athletic prowess for some practical purpose. He trained extremely hard mostly to try to win the approval of his father (Raymond).[15] At age 17, David left school seeking freedom and action. He continued to develop his strength and dexterity in order to be useful in life, as Raymond had advised him.[15]

[edit] Development in Lisses

After moving to Lisses commune, David Belle continued his journey with others who would later form the group the Yamakasi.[15] Sébastien Foucan noted in Jump London "From then on we developed and really the whole town was there for us; there for parkour. You just have to look, you just have to think, like children." This, as he describes, is "the vision of parkour."
In 1997, Yann Hnautra, Charles Perriere, Chau Belle, David Belle, Laurent Piemontesi, Sébastien Foucan, Guylain Perriere, Malik Diouf and Williams Belle created the group Yamakasi,[17] whose name comes from the Lingala language of Congo, and means "strong spirit, strong body, strong man, endurance". After the musical show Notre Dame de Paris, Belle and Foucan split up due to money and disagreements over the definition of "l'art du déplacement",[18] The film Yamakasi (2001), and the French documentary Génération Yamakasi were created without Belle and Foucan.[citation needed]

[edit] Philosophy and theories

According to Williams Belle, the philosophies and theories behind parkour are an integral aspect of the art, one that many non-practitioners have never been exposed to. Belle trains people because he wants "it to be alive" and for "people to use it".[3] Châu Belle explains it is a "type of freedom" or "kind of expression"; that parkour is "only a state of mind" rather than a set of actions, and that it is about overcoming and adapting to mental and emotional obstacles as well as physical barriers.[3]
A newer convention of parkour philosophy has been the idea of "human reclamation".[19] Andy (Animus of Parkour North America) clarifies it as "a means of reclaiming what it means to be a human being. It teaches us to move using the natural methods that we should have learned from infancy. It teaches us to touch the world and interact with it, instead of being sheltered by it."[19]"It is as much as a part of truly learning the physical art as well as being able to master the movements, it gives you the ability to overcome your fears and pains and reapply this to life as you must be able to control your mind in order to master the art of parkour."[20]
A point has been made about the similarities between the martial arts philosophy of Bruce Lee and Parkour.[21] In an interview with The New Yorker, David Belle acknowledges the influence of Lee's thinking: "There’s a quote by Bruce Lee that’s my motto: ‘There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. A man must constantly exceed his level.’ If you’re not better than you were the day before, then what are you doing—what’s the point?".[22]

[edit] Non-rivalry

A campaign was started on 1 May 2007 by Parkour.NET portal[23] to preserve parkour's philosophy against sport competition and rivalry.[24] In the words of Erwan 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."[23] According to LeCorre, those who truly practice Parkour have the same mind aspect of each other, therefore it brings people to work together rather than compete, it allows them to be united internationally and forget the social and economical problems which separated them globally, ultimately leading one giant community working and growing together.

[edit] Free running

Free running is a form of urban acrobatics in which participants, known as free runners, use the city and rural landscape to perform movements through its structures. The term free running was coined during the filming of Jump London, as a way to present parkour to the English-speaking world. Parkour's emphasis on efficiency distinguishes it from the similar practice of free running, which places more emphasis on freedom of movement and creativity.
The man who coined the phrase, Sébastien Foucan, defines free running as a discipline for self development, of following your own way[citation needed]. His dissatisfaction with the limited creativity and self-expression in Parkour was the motivation for Sebastian Foucan to develop a similar but also very different art of movement that became known as free running.[25] He notes "Understand that this form of art has been created by few soldiers in Vietnam to escape or reach: and this is the spirit we'd like parkour to keep. You have to make the difference between what is useful and what is not in emergency situations. Then you'll know what is parkour and what is not. So if you do acrobatics things on the street with no other goal than showing off, please don't say it's parkour. Acrobatics existed a long time ago before parkour."[6]
When questions are raised between the differences of parkour and free running, the Yamakasi group deny the differences and say: "parkour, l'art du deplacement, free running, the art of movement... they are all the same thing. They are all movement and they all came from the same place, the same nine guys originally. The only thing that differs is each individual's way of moving". [26]

[edit] Military training

After the attention that parkour received following the film Casino Royale, militaries from different countries began looking for ways to incorporate parkour into training. The British Royal Marines hired parkour athletes to train their members.[27] Colorado Parkour began a project to introduce parkour into the U.S. military[28] and parkour is slowly being introduced into the United States Marine Corps.[29]

[edit] Criticism

Parkour is not widely practiced in dedicated public facilities such as skateparks. Although efforts are being made to create places for it, most Traceurs do not like the idea as it is contradictory to the philosophy of freedom. [30] Traceurs practice parkour in urban areas such as gyms, parks, playgrounds, offices, and abandoned structures. Concerns have been raised regarding trespassing, damage of property,[31] and the practice in inappropriate places.[32] However, most traceurs will take care of their training spots and will remove themselves quickly and quietly from a public place if asked.[33][34] The Magpie Youth Centre free running club in Glen Parva, Leicester has raised 40,000 Euros to build a free running park/training utility on the park opposite the youth center.
Concerns have been raised by law enforcement and fire and rescue teams of the risk in jumping off high buildings.[35] They argue that practitioners are needlessly risking damage to both themselves and rooftops by practicing at height, with police forces calling for practitioners to stay off the rooftops. [36][37][38] Some figures within the parkour community agree that this sort of behaviour is not to be encouraged.[37][39][40][41]
American traceur Mark Toorock says that injuries are rare "because participants rely not on what they can't control – wheels or the icy surfaces of snowboarding and skiing – but their own hands and feet," but Lanier Johnson, executive director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, notes that many of the injuries are not reported.[42] Even when injuries do occur, many members in the parkour community encourage pursuing the most scientifically sound method to recovery and future prevention. [43]
Comedian Daniel Tosh made fun of the discipline on one episode of his show, Tosh.0, calling it "Nothing more than extreme walking."

[edit] Movements

There are fewer pre-defined movements in parkour than in gymnastics, as there is no list of "moves". Each obstacle a traceur faces presents a unique challenge, committed Tracuers tend to shy away from defining movement. The ability to overcome the challenge depends on multiple factors, for example, on body type, speed, angle of approach, the physical make-up of the obstacle. Parkour is about training the body and mind to react to those obstacles appropriately with a technique that is effective. Often that technique cannot and need not be classified and given a name. In many cases effective parkour techniques depend on fast redistribution of body weight and the use of momentum to perform seemingly difficult or impossible body maneuvers at great speed. Absorption and redistribution of energy is also an important factor, such as body rolls when landing which reduce impact forces on the legs and spine, allowing a traceur to jump from greater heights than those often considered sensible in other forms of acrobatics and gymnastics.
According to David Belle, the practice is to move in such a way that will help you gain the most ground as if escaping or chasing something. Also, if you go from A to B, you need to be able to get back from B to A,[44] but not necessarily with the same movements or "passements". Despite this, there are many basic versatile and effective techniques that are emphasized for beginners. Most important are good jumping and landing techniques. The roll, used to limit impact after a drop and to carry one's momentum onward, is often stressed as the most important technique to learn.





Basic movements

Some movements defined in parkour are:[45]
Synonym Description
French French pronouncation English
Atterrissage [ateʁisaʒ] Landing Bending the knees when toes make contact with ground (never land flat footed; always land on toes and ball of your foot, or whole footed).
réception [ʁesɛpsjɔ̃]
Équilibre [ekilibʁ] Balance Walking along the crest of an obstacle; literally "balance."
Équilibre de chat
Cat Crawl Quadrupedal movement along the crest of an obstacle.
Franchissement [fʁɑ̃ʃismɑ̃]Z Underbar Jumping or swinging through a gap between obstacles; literally "to cross" or "to break through."
Lâché [laʃe] Lache Hanging drop; lâcher literally meaning "to let go." To hang or swing (on a bar, on a wall, on a branch) and let go, dropping to the ground or to hang from another object. This can refer to almost all hanging/swinging type movements.
Passe muraille [pas myʁaj] Pop vault, wall hop, Wallpass, wallrun Overcoming a tall structure, usually by use of a step off the wall to transform forward momentum into upward momentum, then using the arms to climb onto and over the object.

Dyno (shortened from "Dynamic[clarification needed]", opposite to "Static") This movement comes from climbing terminology, and encompasses leaping from a position similar to an armjump, then grabbing an obstacle usually higher than the initial starting place, often used for an overhang. This movement is used when a simpler movement is not possible.
Passement [pasmɑ̃] Vault, Pass To move over an object with one's hand(s) on an object to ease the movement.
Demitour [dəmi tuʁ] Turn vault A vault or dropping movement involving a 180° turn; literally "half turn." This move is often used to place yourself hanging from an object in order to shorten a drop or prepare for a jump.
Turn Down
Speed vault To overcome an obstacle by jumping side-ways first, then placing one hand on the obstacle to self-right your body and continue running.

Thief To overcome an obstacle by using a one-handed vault, then using the other hand at the end of the vault to push oneself forwards in order to finish the move.
Lazy vault
Saut de chat [sod ʃa] Cat pass/jump, (king) kong vault, monkey vault The saut de chat involves diving forward over an obstacle so that the body becomes horizontal, pushing off with the hands and tucking the legs, such that the body is brought back to a vertical position, ready to land.
Passement assis Dash vault This vault involves using the hands to move oneself forwards at the end of the vault. One uses both hands to overcome an obstacle by jumping feet first over the obstacle and pushing off with the hands at the end. Visually, this might seem similar to the saut de chat, but reversed. Allegedly David Belle has questioned the effectiveness of this movement.
Saut de chat inversé Reverse vault A vault involving a 180° rotation such that the traceur's back faces forward as they pass the obstacle. The purpose of the rotation is ease of technique in the case of otherwise awkward body position or loss of momentum prior to the vault.

Kash vault This vault is a combination of two vaults; the kong vault and the dash vault. After pushing off with the hands in a kong vault, the body continues past vertical over the object until the feet are leading the body. The kash vault is then finished by pushing off the object at the end, as in a dash vault.
Planche [plɑ̃ʃ] Muscle-up To get from a hanging position (wall, rail, branch, arm jump, etc.) into a position where your upper body is above the obstacle, supported by the arms. This then allows for you to climb up onto the obstacle and continue.
Roulade [ʁulad] Roll A forward roll where the hands, arms and diagonal of the back contact the ground, often called breakfall. Used primarily to transfer the momentum/energy from jumps and to minimize impact, preventing a painful landing. It is similar to the basic kaiten or ukemi and it was taken from martial arts such as judo, ninjutsu, jujutsu, hapkido and aikido.
Saut de bras [sodbra] Arm jump To land on the side of an obstacle in a hanging/crouched position, the hands gripping the top edge, holding the body, ready to perform a muscle up.
cat leap
cat grab
Saut de fond [sodfɔ̃] Drop Literally 'jump to the ground' / 'jump to the floor'. To jump down, or drop down from something.
Saut de détente [sodə detɑ̃t] Gap jump, running jump To jump from one place/object to another, over a gap/distance. This technique is most often followed with a roll.
Saut de précision [so d presiziɔ̃] Precision Static or moving jump from one object to a precise spot on another object. This term can refer to any form of jumping however. Often abbreviated to "pre"
précision [presiziɔ̃]
Saut de mur
Wall Jump To step off a wall in order to overcome another obstacle or gain height to grab something
Saut de rotation
Rotary jump Similar to a kong vault, the person dives and then rotates their lower body around the obstacle. Used for shorter to medium obstacles. For people that have trouble with kong vaults.
Rotary vault

Side vault A vault where the person is parallel to the obstacle and places one hand on the obstacle. When performing the vault, the person's back should be facing down.

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