You may have noticed a sudden surge in the popularity of the sport of parkour. Recently it’s been featured in a variety of forms of media ranging from movies, tv-shows, and video games. However, you may be wondering “What exactly is parkour?”. In this article, you will learn what parkour is, where it came from, and how it rose to such booming popularity in such a seemingly short amount of time.
What is Parkour?
Simply put, Parkour is the art and discipline of movement.
Doing parkour would mean that one is overcoming obstacles in an efficient or creative manner using only their body. Parkour often includes: running, jumping, swinging, flipping, vaulting, and climbing.
par·kourpärˈko͝or/noun: the activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.
Parkour is very similar to gymnastics, martial arts, track & field, and ninja warrior (TV game show). All of these things on their own are not necessarily what someone would consider to be parkour, but rather, parkour exists in the intersection of all these sports. Parkour is a little hard to describe. It’s a lot easier to just show you what parkour is.
The History Of Parkour:
The word “parkour” comes from the French phrase “Le Parcours Du Combattant” which was the word for French Military training as proposed by Georges Hébert. In the 90’s, a firefighter named Raymond Belle taught his son, David, these techniques. David Belle and his friends eventually developed these techniques even further and created the basis of what we know today as parkour.
Through films, documentaries, advertisements, and other media outlets, parkour has been gaining mainstream attention since the early 2000’s and has only been on the rise. Since 2006, “parkour” was searched more times on Google than many other action sports such as mountain biking and rock climbing. In 2010, parkour passed skateboarding in Google search volume. This precedent is expected to continue.
Different styles of Parkour
Parkour is generally perceived as either scaling building or just various acrobatics on concrete. While both of these styles are present in parkour, there is a wide variety of fundamental skills present in the sport and a myriad of styles have emerged because of it. Some people have a very efficient and fast, point A to B style. Others train in a trick-centric, artsy way. And some find themselves somewhere in the middle. It’s also important to consider that doing or learning Parkour can be as simple as learning how to safely walk down a flight of stairs or stand up out of a chair without any assistance. As Parkour is the “art of movement” what movements the sport may entail to the individual is highly practitioner specific.
Ryan Doyle, a well-known parkour/freerunning athlete filming parkour stunts in Santorini, Greece in collaboration with Red Bull.
There are a number of misconceptions about Parkour. These may range from “Parkour is only for young boys” or “Parkour is dangerous”
When people hear the word parkour, sometimes they think of stuff like this. And while all of the stunts in popular videos like this are entertaining and high-level, there’s an element of progression and control that is simply absent to the viewer. I can assure you that almost no one trains like that, and if they do, they’re not going to have cartilage in their knees for much longer. Most practitioners are aware of the risks of parkour and actively take steps to ensure that they can fall safely and train safely. After all, Parkour unofficial slogan is “To be and to last” essentially describing how essential longevity is within the sport.
In line with this, it takes hundreds of hours of focused training to become proficient in many of the higher level movements that are possible within the sport of parkour. Here’s one of my videos from 2012. I had only been doing parkour for about a year. In comparison, here’s my latest video over 6 years later (2018). Parkour is very progression based; anyone can do it, it’s just important to understand that it takes time and training.
A female-only parkour jam led by coach Brandee Laird in Seattle Washington.
And since anyone can do parkour, and I mean anyone, I’d like to talk about some similar misconceptions for a minute. There’s a huge stigma that “girls don’t do parkour” which simply isn’t true. There are many examples of women practicing parkour with many different styles performing just as well as their male contemporaries. If you’re a female and want to start parkour, don’t be discouraged. The same can be said for any adults who see themselves as too unfit or not coordinated enough to begin training Parkour. These misconceptions are simply untrue. Movement is for everyone.
Benefits of Training Parkour
Parkour has been proven to provide a number of physical and phycological benefits to its practitioners. Apart from the obvious strength and agility gains learning parkour provides, the sport also can increase self-confidence, improve bone health, and speed up accurate decision-making.
Want to learn more about the top benefits to your health parkour can have? Read more here.
For many early adopters of parkour, learning the sport has essentially been watching youtube videos and practicing easy-to-digest movements in the yard. Now with the uprising of parkour gyms ( like Freedom in Motion Gym in California for example ) and online learning tools like the variety of online tutorials being uploaded daily, learning parkour is easier now more than ever.
We’ve put together an article laying out the best ways to begin learning Parkour. We highly encourage you to check this out and give learning to move freely a go for yourself.
Parkour practitioners training balance skills using elements of the built environment.
Share your experience
Are you a parkour athlete? Are you a friend or a family member to someone interested in Parkour? Is this your first time ever learning about this sport?
Let us know about your experience in the comments below!
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Did you Know?
We wrote the book on Parkour! Freedom in Motion’s book titled “This Is Parkour” is the only book that combines parkour training, learning parkour, community, and the culture within parkour all into one easy-to-read book. If you’re new to the sport, we highly recommend that you begin here! Great for all ages. Find it here on amazon!