What is Parkour 1
Credit: Ultimatetraeur.com

What is Parkour?

About the Art of Movement

What is Parkour? In its most simple and basic nature, Parkour is getting from point A to point B in the quickest and most efficient manner possible using only the power of the human body.  In a more broad sense, Parkour is about efficiency and overcoming obstacles in an effective manner.

Parkour history is very interesting.  Parkour was originally developed in France by David Belle and others, who created a discipline devoted to the idea of efficient movement through and around obstacles.  This efficient movement often includes vaulting, jumping, climbing, and rolling.  A practitioner of Parkour is called a "Traceur".  Since each person is inherently different, and each obstacle unique, Traceurs undergo intense physical training to help sculpt their bodies into works of efficient, powerful art.

Parkour training involves undertaking repetitive, physically demanding tasks, and training your body to achieve the desired result in response to an obstacle.  While Martial Arts is considered an art of fighting, Parkour may effectively be thought of as an art of flight, or fleeing.  When presented with a situation that you must escape, and escape quickly so as to circumvent danger, there is nothing better than Parkour.

Parkour Movements

Parkour is similar to a sport in many aspects, but different in that it is not usually competitive.  Traceurs usually train together and help each other with their movements and technique.  Parkour does not have a set of perfect techniques to use for each obstacle, but there is the idea that each obstacle must be approached and overcome differently.  Therefore, Traceurs train in as many areas and confront as many different environments and obstacles as possible so that eventually their bodies and minds will have the ability to pass through any environment with ease.

There are, however, many universally accepted "moves" that are of great benefit for many situations.  Here is a list of some of the more fundamental Parkour movements:

  • The Roll: Similar in usefulness to the martial arts roll, the Parkour Roll differs in that instead of rolling down the spine, you roll across your back to create as little contact as possible with your spine to the ground.  Rolling from shoulder to opposite hip keeps your spine protected and helps you to continue your momentum.
  • Vaults: A Vault is simply the action of moving over an obstruction, and leaving the ground to do so.  There are many types of vaults, but the most common, and probably most useful, is one called the Kong Vault.  This vault requires you to dive towards an obstacle with your hands outstretched.  You plant your hands on the object and allow your momentum to bring your feet and the rest of your body over the object.  Proper hand placement allows you to correct your flight and continue your vault into a run or for the next obstacle.
  • Precision Jumps: Precision jumps require intense focus and great body control, and involve jumping over a gap and landing in a precise spot.  Precisions are common in places where your movement area is fairly restricted and you do not have room for a running start or for much error in your landing.  You are usually jumping from one small, elevated platform, bar, wall, etc. to another similar surface.
  • Cat Leap: A cat leap is used in overcoming tall obstacles, such as a wall, that cannot be vaulted over. In order to perform this move, you must run or jump to the obstacle and grab on to the top of the obstacle with both hands, landing with your feet against the object in preparation of your next movement and to protect your body from slamming into the object.  You'll be hanging from the object with your feet planted.  From this point you can either climb up or drop down.
What is Parkour 2
Credit: Ultimatetraceur.com

Parkour vs Freerunning

Parkour and Freerunning are two terms that are often used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.  More often than not, it is actually Freerunning that people are talking about, since Freerunning is what involves flips, tricks, and other such techniques.  Free running was originally an off shoot of Parkour that allowed for less stringent adherence to efficiency and effective obstacle training, and focused more on the idea of freedom of expression and movement.

Flips and tricks are almost entirely for visual appeal and offer little to Parkour because they will generally make overcoming an obstacle more difficult.  Almost all of the youtube videos that are Parkour related, usually have very little Parkour aspects within them, and are almost entirely comprised of Freerunning tricks.

It is very common for Traceurs to participate in both Parkour AND Freerunning activity, since the environment necessary for both disciplines are the same.  There are Parkour "purists" who are entirely against flips and tricks because of their inefficient nature and incorrect labeling as Parkour movements, but these individuals are becoming more rare since most who begin training in Parkour usually incorrectly assume that Freerunning aspects indeed ARE Parkour.  regardless of ones preference and the differences between the two arts, Traceurs and Freerunnners usually flock together, have great respect for one another, and uphold similar ideals for their respective crafts.

The following video is a great example of pure Parkour, having little to no Freerunning aspects:

Parkour and the Art du déplacement: Strength, Dignity, Community
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