What is Parkour? Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Action Sport...
Parkour definition? Parkour or freerunning? Parkour training? Here are the answers...
what is parkour?
Parkour is quickly becoming one of the stand-out movements of the 21st century, and yet for something growing so fast, many aspects of parkour remain a mystery to the every day city-dweller. But really, what is parkour?
Parkour can be defined as the practice of moving logically and creatively through a - typically - urban setting to get from a start point to an end point as quickly as possible. This involves physically overcoming barriers on any given route, creating inventive but practical ways in which from get from A to B as efficiently as possible.
Practitioners of the discipline are often referred to as tracuers or traceuses, and the word parkour actually derives from the French ‘le parcours’, which Raymond Belle, the father of the ‘father of parkour’ David Belle, used to encompass all of his numerous training methods, from climbing and running to jumping, balancing, vaulting and more.
After growing through the late 80s and 90s, parkour really broke into the mainstream after the millennium, coming to the UK after David Belle starred in 'Rush Hour', an advert aired on the BBC in 2001. Since then, it's not been uncommon to see parkour practitioners go viral online - the likes of James Kingston climbing the arch over Wembley Stadium or the video-game enthusiasts who brought 'Assassin's Creed video game to life in parkour'.
Still a little confused? Well fear not, because we got in touch with Dan Edwardes, discipline expert and managing director of Parkour Generations, the largest professional parkour organisation in the world, to talk us through some of the basics.
Parkour Generations are a pioneering company that work across every field in their discipline; from training and educating people about the art of parkour to participating and consulting in professional projects, film-making, and even advising and testing out the strength of high-security facilities.
So we ask Edwardes, "What is parkour? How would you define it?". “Parkour is a training method for body and mind," he tells us. “It enables us to overcome variable terrain and obstacles using just our own physical capabilities, typically relying on running, jumping, climbing, crawling and vaulting.
“It’s also a transformative practice which aims for self-improvement on all levels in the practitioner, developing resilience, courage, strength of mind, adaptability, humility and a sense of community.
“People get involved for all sorts of reasons, but often just for the sheer enjoyment and pleasure of moving and using the body the way it has evolved to be used. It's a challenging activity that actually asks you to use your physical and mental capabilities to overcome movement tasks and achieve more than you thought possible."
What is parkour? - Parkour or Freerunning
So, what’s the difference between parkour and freerunning? Or are parkour and freerunning actually the same thing? It’s a question that not that many people are actually able to answer. Luckily for us, Dan is able to shed some light.
“Freerunning was simply a translation of the French word ‘parkour’ for a 2003 documentary called Jump London," he says.
“The term freerunning has since been misunderstood to mean a different or offshoot discipline, but historically they are simply different names for the same discipline, or movement."
Indeed, it’s common to hear that freerunning ‘offshoot’ Dan refers to described as a different art. It’s often said that while parkour and freerunning both involve running, jumping and climbing, the goals and philosophies are entirely different.
Parkour is said to be a practice that sees the athlete take the most direct route possible between two points, whereas freerunning values more self-expression, improvisation, and the use of movements for aesthetics-only, such as flips and twists, that would not be seen in parkour.
You can get a detailed guide to parkour terminology from Edwardes’ company here though, and his team argues that the practise itself is much more important the tag that’s attached to it.
“Freerunning and Parkour have become the most widely used terms to refer to this one discipline," the site reads, “and this has created various misinterpretations attempting to define them as separate practices.
“In fact they are all different names for one art: the Art of Displacement... With this in mind, we tend to utilise all three names interchangeably to refer to the practice. It is our hope in doing so that people will be encouraged not to attach any great significance to these simple labels and may instead come to focus on what actually matters: the practice."
What is Parkour? - The Gear You Need To Get
What is parkour gear exactly? Is there such a thing? You do not need any specialist parkour gear at all to get involved in the parkour movement. Wearing gloves while you train and participate is actually detrimental to the practice and is chalked down as a common beginner’s mistake by Edwardes, who does however note that a good pair of parkour shoes will serve you well.
He informs us: “You don’t need any specific gear beyond shoes you are comfortable moving. Typically practitioners go for cheap, light running shoes or thin-soled shoes to be able to feel the ground better.
“Gloves do not help. Actually they hinder the grip and sensitivity of the hand in movement, so they’re not recommended."
You’ll often see tracuers wearing long hoodies, t-shirts and trousers as well. This is because it offers that bit much more protection against grazes while practising, something that will inevitably happen given the nature of parkour.
What is Parkour? - How to Get Involved
Parkour is often grouped with the likes of BMX or skateboarding in terms of urban culture, but the difference - apart from the fact that parkour can actually be done anywhere, and was as much born in the forests as it was in the city - is that anyone can get involved and learn basic parkour techniques fast, regardless of previous experience, weight, age or wealthiness.
We're sure you've probably seen numerous nasty parkour fails around the internet, but don't let them put you off. Sure, experience and athleticness is great when you get started, but really, if you’ve got the will, then with some practice and parkour training you can learn some of the parkour basics without any priors at all.
It goes without saying that parkour can be practised near enough anywhere. Parkour in London is the famous one of course, partly due to the fact that a lot of the most watched parkour videos, the likes of the hilariously named 'Peter Parkour', are filmed there.
The reason parkour in London is so big though is simply because it's such a vast urban environment, and that's all you really need. Any city will offer a variety of tantalising problems that lend themselves perfectly to parkour.
Parkour classes and parkour training is becoming more popular and more common across the UK from outfits much like the London-based Parkour Generations. A quick Google search should tell you what the scene is like in your area.
Edwardes believes that the best way to train and to learn parkour is to simply do parkour, whether that be on your own or under the expert guidance of a company like his own.
He concludes: “The best training for practical movement skills is to actually do the skills as often as possible.
“We have tried and tested methods for improving these skills by applying the movements in different ways and in different terrains. We'd recommend anyone come train with us and be guided by experienced practitioners so as to avoid mistakes and inefficiencies in learning the discipline – but, in short, if you want to be able to move then start moving!"
For more information on parkour, hit up the Parkour Generations website, or hit up Parkour UK. If you're still looking for more information meanwhile, check out the video below. It's only got the 72 million YouTube hits...