Looking at parkour in London is at times like looking at the progression of parkour itself. Parkour in London has shaped the future and presence of the sport, and alongside other pivotal cities, it’s made parkour into what it is today.
For a long time, a giant question mark seemed to hang over parkour. Very few people seemed to actually know exactly what it was.
The questions asked? What is parkour? What is the difference between parkour and freerunning? Is there such thing as a parkour shoe? Is parkour dangerous? Is parkour illegal? Is parkour a type of fruit? There were endless questions. And they didn’t seem to go away.
But those days are gone.
Now, parkour has risen. Over the past 10 or 20 years it has established itself firmly in the public eye. The questions being asked these days are much more constructive; they’re about where you can find parkour classes in the UK, and about where you can find the best parkour videos – and naturally, parkour fails – online.
The likes of the assassin’s creed parkour series and individual athletes like Jason Paul, Chase Armitage and James Kingston have capitalised on the scene popularised by legends like David Belle and Sebastien Foucan, and rarely a day goes by now without a parkour scene catching your eye online, on the television or even on the side of a bus.
The scene has spread far and wide at this point, but always etched in its history will be London. It’s the capital of the United Kingdom, the heart of so many scenes, and now it’s the place where Parkour UK, the official governing body of the sport, are based, and where Parkour Generations, the largest professional parkour organisation in the world, call their home.
So... let’s look a little bit closer at the current parkour scene in London. Where did it come from? Where can you learn? What made it so special? We’ve got the answers you need to know!
A Brief History of Parkour in London
The history of parkour goes far beyond London, and even the history of parkour in London goes far beyond what we’re about to lay out below; but here are just a few key facts which show how pivotal parkour in London was in making the sport popular across the whole of the UK.
Way back in 2002, when very few people could’ve put an accurate definition on the word ‘parkour’, a certain David Belle appeared in a BBC commercial/short-film called ‘Rush Hour’. David is commonly credited as being one of the fathers of the discipline, and this commercial would be what introduced Britain to parkour.
The advert showed Belle commuting via rooftops in order to make it home in time for, you guessed it, some top quality BBC programming, and to this day, it makes for one hell of a watch:
Parkour pandemonium swept the country, and the next year, in 2003, Channel 4 documentary ‘Jump London’ screened around the UK. The award-winning program featured French parkour athletes Sebastien Foucan, Johann Vigroux and Stephane Vigroux, and provided the British public with insight into the philosophy and movements of the sport.
This program would also trigger the creation of the term ‘freerunning’, invented to mean exactly the same as ‘parkour’, and simply used as a translation of the French term for the UK audience.
After this, parkour crews began to pop up around not only London but the whole of the UK. The documentary was even so successful it spawned a ‘Jump Britain’ sequel two-years later, which was again wonderfully received.
By 2006, the government were employing practitioners Forrest Mahop and Parkour Generations' Dan Edwardes to teach parkour in city schools and run classes. Parkour Generations has since grown to become the largest teaching establishment for parkour in the world – to the point where it even played a pivotal role in the creation of the A.D.A.P.T qualification programme, the only recognised coaching qualification for parkour.
It’s gone from strength to strength ever since that David Belle commercial hit London, and one thing is for sure, it’s not going to slowing down anytime soon. So... how can you get involved?
Where Can You Learn Parkour in London?
Naturally, being the home of the parkour scene in the whole of the UK, some of the best parkour facilities in the world can be found in London. The best of them all?
Parkour Generations: The Chainstore Gym & Parkour Academy
The Chainstore Gym is the UK’s first dedicated parkour centre, and if you want to learn parkour in any shape or form in London, it’s where you want to be.
You’ll find the gym and academy “minutes from Canary Wharf", across the river from the O2 Arena. It’s open every day from 10am-10pm and is tailor-made for all your parkour needs.
They run daily parkour and fitness classes, ranging from beginner to intermediate to expert and everything in between, or you can come by yourself for a personal workout.
The “Parkour Zone" is particularly cool. It’s a 14m x 14m space designed to mimic entirely the feel, atmosphere and conditions of the outside world. You’ll find concrete, metal, wood and all, but of course there’s more relaxed areas and regular gym gear too.
The Best Videos of Parkour in London
If you’re not sure about whether you really want to get into parkour or not, we recommend wholeheartedly trying it out as soon as possible. You won’t regret it. And here's some more inspiration.
We’ve already posted David Belle’s ‘Rush Hour’ and the awesome ‘Jump London’ up above. Give them a watch and we’re sure you’ll be buzzing, but here's a little something extra to get you in the mood...