Parkour (also called Le Parkour, PK, or free
running) is an activity in which participants attempt to clear all
obstacles in their path in the most fluent manner possible.
The ultimate goal in parkour is to ‘flow’ along one’s
path, for the entire journey to be as one fluent movement with no
pauses or breaks. A principal rule of parkour is to never go backwards.
Free runners believe that there is path to every obstacle which
is achieved through forward movement.
The magnitude and technicality of a move in parkour are secondary
to the flow and beauty of it. Explains Jerôme Ben Aoues, one
of the traceurs featured in the acclaimed Channel 4 documentary
Jump London, “The most important thing really is the harmony
between you and the obstacle; the movement has to be elegant, that's
what will make it prettier. Length and distance only add to the
beauty of the move, if you manage to pass over the fence elegantly
that's beautiful, rather than saying ‘I jumped the lot.’
What's the point in that?”
To many, parkour is an extreme sport, to others a discipline more
comparable to martial arts, to others an art form akin to dance,
a way to encapsulate human movement in its most beautiful form.
Parkour also inspires freedom; being free in an urban environment
designed to trap, not restricted by railings, staircases, even buildings..
It is for many people a way of life.
Arguably, the essence of parkour has no origins. Says Sebastien
Foucan in Jump London, “Free running 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 a box.” He makes a comparison
with prehistoric man, “to hunt, or to chase, or to move around,
they had to practice the free run.”
The origins of recognisable parkour, though, lie primarily in the
childhood games of the art’s founders. Growing up in Lisses,
a Parisian suburb, the founders (most notably David Belle and Sebastien
Foucan) would run and jump around and play at being ninja on their
“From then on we developed,” says Sebastien in Jump
London, “And really the whole town was there for us; there
for free running. You just have to look, you just have to think,
like children.” This he describes as “the vision of
Parkour was not an entirely independently developed discipline,
though; inspiration came from many sources, not least the ‘Natural
Method of Physical Culture’ developed by George Hébert
in the early twentieth century. David Belle was introduced to this
by his father, a Vietnam soldier who practiced it. The word parkour
derives from “parcours du combatant”, the phrase referring
to the obstacle courses of Hébert’s method.
According to Sebastien, the start of the “big jumps”
was around age fifteen. The moves of top practitioners have continued
to grow in magnitude, as building to building jumps and drops of
over a storey became common media-fodder, often leaving people with
a slanted view on what parkour is. Ground-based movement is just
as important as that on the rooftops, most free runners would say
The journey of parkour from the Parisian suburbs to its current
status as perhaps the most promising new sport for years saw splits
develop amongst the originators. The founders of parkour started
out in a group named Yamakasi, but later split due to disagreements.
The name 'Yamakasi' is taken from a Zairian word meaning 'strong
spirit, strong body, strong man'
In 2001 French filmmaker Luc Besson made a feature film, Yamakasi
- Les samouraï des temps modernes , featuring members of the
original Yamakasi. The film tells the (fictional) tale of a group
of young thieves who use their parkour skills to evade capture,
while stealing money to fund the healthcare of a child that was
injured copying their parkour training. The first time the British
public were made aware of parkour on a large scale was in the BBC
station trailer Rush Hour This depicted Belle leaping across London’s
rooftops from his office to home, in an attempt to catch his favourite
BBC program. This generated much discussion amongst those that learnt
no special effects or wires were used.
The biggest interest surge to date was created by the documentary
Jump London, which explained some of the background to parkour and
culminated with Sebastien Foucan and two other French traceurs undertaking
parkour at many famous London locations - HMS Belfast, Shakespeare’s
Globe Theatre, Somerset House and the Tate and Saatchi galleries
amongst them. It is perhaps worth noting that David Belle received
no mention in Jump London, despite often being accredited as the
most important founder of parkour. Belle was the person to bring
the basic ideas of le parkour to the suburb of Lisses, and was the
person that brought Sebastien Foucan and the others to the idea
of moving like this.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "parkour".