Parkour is a primarily non-competitive discipline and philosophy where practitioners adapt their movement to overcome physical obstacles in their environment.
The Philosophies – How do you think?
There are three core philosophies that parkour practitioners typically ascribe to:
- Être et durer – to be and to last (to live and train in a sustainable manner),
- Être fort pour être utile – be strong to be useful (use the skills gained through training to benefit others) and
- Obstacles can be overcome (the inherent philosophy that must be believed in order to practice parkour).
The Movement – How do you move?
The physical component of parkour involves adapting one’s body to overcome obstacles in the environment. The following is not a checklist of movements, but a general overview of the movement categories that parkour practitioners utilise to overcome physical challenges (watch a video):
Environments & Obstacles – Where do you do it and what do you do it on?
Parkour is sometimes poorly defined as an “urban” activity, however parkour is not confined to any one location. Parkour found its feet in the suburbs of Paris in France, so there is definitely an urban history to it, but the nearby forests were also significant training grounds for the early practitioners. This demonstrates that parkour can be done anywhere that obstacles can be found (which is basically everywhere).
What is an obstacle? Obstacles can include a wide range of things, including flat ground, physical protrusions, spaces, gaps and holes. You can do parkour on anything you can find, so long as you’re not going to damage it or yourself.
- In an urban environment, obstacles can include curbs, railings, walls, benches, stairs, etc.
- In a natural environment, obstacles can include hills, rocks, trees, streams, bushes, etc.
It should be noted that while the immediate obstacles are always the physical ones, mental obstacles (such as fear) are often even bigger challenges to overcome.
History – Where did it come from? / Who invented it?
Instead of reinventing the wheel, for a full in-depth look at the history of parkour, read the Parkour History article by Parkour Generations.
The “too long, didn’t read” version is:
- It was birthed in France in the suburbs of Paris in the 1980’s by a group of young men – including but not limited to David Belle, Sebastien Foucan, Yann Hnautra and Chau Belle-Dinh.
- The roots of their training can be traced back to (among many other things) the training systems of George Hébert, a French physical educator.
- Due to differences in personal philosophy their initial training (that had no real name) split into slightly different activities and became parkour, l’art du deplacement and freerunning.
- The word parkour comes from the French word parcours, meaning ‘course’.
- Parkour exploded onto the global scene when the documentary Jump London aired in 2003.
Benefits – What is it good for? / How can it help me?
The immediate benefits are the physical ones – moving around your environment in creative ways will make you fit, strong and flexible. That’s only scratching the surface however, the real lasting benefits are mental, social and spiritual. For an in depth look at how parkour has changed people’s lives and how it can change yours, read Self-Development through Parkour.