What is Parkour?
Parkour is a sport where the goal is to get from one point to another while utilizing the environment to increase efficiency. What this means is that those who practice parkour train to be able to use their agility and athletic ability to move on foot through any sort of obstacle in their path.
The name “parkour” originated from the name of a French Special Forces training program, known as ““Parcours du combattant”, or in English, “The Path of the Warrior”. The creator of parkour as known today was the son of one of these soldiers, David Belle, who led the way for a group known as the Yamakasi to become the original practitioners of parkour. However, eventually a man named Sebastian Foucan split from the original definition, and created a community that was more about expressing themselves through parkour movements rather than efficiency and speed.
One of the most wonderful things about parkour is its applicability to any environment. Parkour is all about using your own athletic ability and the environment to your advantage, and over the years parkour has been adapted to various terrains and environments. These include forests, cities, beaches, and even college campuses. There are parkour gyms and competitive courses, but many believe that these artificial environments go against the sport’s philosophy, as they are made for parkour, undermining the challenge of utilizing the environment.
Parkour is unique because it does not require any sort of equipment to practice or enjoy. However, there is equipment available that one can use to practice their movements with a higher degree of safety, or if they do not have the necessary structures available. There is also apparel available that is more suited to the fast-paced extreme movements and danger involved with parkour than regular streetwear.
Here is the essential parkour equipment you should have:
- Crash mats
- Pants (loose-fitting and unrestricted)
- Shoes (With grip)
The “objective” within the context of Parkour is a little bit blurry. When parkour was created, the original objective for the sport was to move from one point to another, using the obstacles in your path to increase efficiency. However, as the years have passed, this objective has been somewhat thrown out, as many nowadays prefer to simply express themselves through the stylish tricks and movements of the sport.
Rules and Regulations
Parkour was not intended to be governed by rules or regulations. The only rule to parkour could have been said to be that competition and commercialization are against the rules of the philosophy that says that Parkour is a discipline that people should do and develop on their own. In the end though, competitive Parkour does exist and many people commercialize their parkour through other ways such as Youtube. In the end, Parkour does not have any real rules or regulations, aside from simply not using any objects or items as tools that were not already present in the environment (i.e. rope, harness, and vehicles).
Parkour has a heavy emphasis on learning techniques and moves. Another one of the wonderful things about Parkour is that it is constantly changing and evolving, with new people coming up with new moves and techniques. However, there are some basics that are exceptionally helpful for those just starting out. These are moves that help increase speed, efficiency, style, and/or safety. Safety is one of the most important aspects of learning techniques, as Parkour is inherently dangerous.
Here are the most important Parkour techniques you should know:
- Precision Jumping
- Safety Vault
- Wall Running
Here is the common lingo and slang in Parkour:
- Tic-Tac: To jump/step off a wall to reach another location or to clear another obstacle.
- Kong Vault: To dive over an object so that the body is horizontal over it, push off with your hands while tucking your legs to clear the object.
- Dyno: To leap from a hanging position to grab a higher point. This is also a move in rock climbing.
Despite the emphasis on independence and non-competition within the community, some have made a name for themselves within the sport. Hailing from all over the world, some have bagged Red Bull sponsorships, while others have amassed tens, even hundreds of thousands of Youtube subscribers who simply love to watch parkour done by the best of the best. These people are at the helm of modern-day parkour, and through their fame have spread the word of parkour far and wide.
Here are the most famous Parkourists you should know:
- Ryan Doyle
- Pavel Petkuns
- Jason Paul
Events and Competitions
Competition within the context of parkour is heavily debated. The debate is over whether or not competition has any place in the sport of parkour. After all, artificial environments and heavy commercialization go against the sport’s philosophy. However, despite all this, competitions have been created for those who practice parkour and enjoy competing. Many competitions are not periodic, and there are not many due to the opposition to competition within the community.
Here are the most popular tournaments in parkour:
- North American Parkour Championships
- Red Bull Art of Motion
- Barclaycard World Freerun Championships
What is the difference between parkour and freerunning?
Many use the terms “parkour” and “freerunning” interchangeably. Fundamentally, parkour and freerunning are admittedly very similar, and it would not be difficult to mistake one for the other. That is because the difference lies in their philosophies; Parkour emphasizes the utilization of the environment and obstacles in your path, whereas freerunning is more focused on the ability, style, and expression of the individual.
Is parkour dangerous?
Parkour is inherently dangerous, as it is an athletic activity that does not use an artificial environment. However, parkour is only as dangerous as you want it to be. Beginners in parkour can practice using crash mats and other safety precautions. However, experts in parkour are known for risking extreme danger on their runs, some going as far as jumping and flipping from building to building, or even scaling skyscrapers.
Can anyone practice parkour?
Yes! Unlike some sports that usually require a team, a facility, and sometimes tools (i.e. a ball, protective gear), Parkour only requires your body and any sort of environment. Anyone can head down to the woods, the beach, or even a college campus to practice their moves. There is no barrier to entry in this sport, which is one of the things that makes it so popular.
What is a good first move to learn as a beginner?
The most important Parkour move for a beginner to learn would most likely be the roll, or the dive roll. This move involves rolling over your shoulder back onto your feet. This may seem trivial compared to some extreme parkour. However, this move is essential to many other moves and falling from high distances, which is common in the sport. The roll helps disperse the impact of the fall across your entire body, avoiding injury to your legs on impact, while rolling over the shoulder instead of in a somersault helps avoid injury to the spine.