June 12, 2020

Stuff you have to know about Parkour

What is parkour

It is hard to imagine that anyone going through the rigors of military training would say that they 'enjoy' tackling an assault course. They subject their bodies to enormous strain, pushing themselves to new limits. They will have a sense of achievement, but there is another purpose; to be fit and battle-ready.

The sport of parkour, however, has no such aims - there is no reason for it other than the pure exhilaration and enjoyment of the experience. It exists for its own sake, and those who engage in it do so for the mental, physical, and almost spiritual stimulation. And yet it has very close connections with the military. To those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, parkour may seem an alien, dangerous, and even pointless pursuit.

So, let's explore the parkour definition, and find out what drives people to do it.

Why do they call it Parkour?

The name in this form was coined in 1988 by a small group of enthusiasts gathered in the Lisses suburbs of Paris. Among them were David Belle and Sebastian Foucan, names now legendary in parkour circles. However, the modern name was derived from the French term 'parcours du combattant'. meaning 'obstacle course'. The use of these to train military personnel was introduced by the French naval officer Georges Herbert, who was inspired by the strength and physical agility of indigenous African tribes, even though they had no structured training. They were naturally fit, through interacting physically with their native environment. Around 1988, the 'C' was replaced with a 'K' to give a harder sound to the name, and the 'S' was dropped. And so, parkour began to sweep across the world.

How did it start?

As we have seen, any parkour definition has to accept that its roots lie in Africa and the introduction of obstacle courses to military training. But neither can we ignore the importance of two figures; Raymond Belle, and his son, David.

Raymond Belle was born in Vietnam in 1939, and at age 7 found himself in a military orphanage. Determined to avoid being a victim, he trained hard, especially at night, by running and climbing trees. He even used the military obstacle course in secret, pushing himself harder each time.

This notion of self-improvement through physical endurance, strength, and flexibility was passed on to his son, David, who inspired his peers to join in, combining these ideas with influences from Asian martial arts. And so, parkour was born.

What is involved in Parkour?

As with other disciplines, there are different interpretations, but there are core ideas that cover the main aspects of any parkour definition.

Why is Parkour so popular?

Itt isn't simply about running over rooftops. It is seen as a means of achieving freedom, using physical gifts and critical thinking to overcome obstacles that can be applied to all aspects of life. It is about engaging with and being part of the urban environment in unique ways.

Will parkour get you in shape?

Parkour will definitely get you in shape. Can short people do parkour? Yes, short people can also do this sport. It is a common misconception that you have to be tall to do Parkour. 

Although many parkour enthusiasts film themselves (youtube has thousands of clips) it isn't about competition or boasting, but rather about self-control and self-confidence.

How can I practice parkour at home?

It is so important to push yourself and your limits. David Belle stresses the importance of pushing yourself to ever new limits; "If you're no better than you were the day before- what's the point?'. So, any parkour definition must accept that it means extremely hard work!

There are no set moves, the participant is expected to act 'fluidly', using the most economical means of overcoming the obstacles.

What do you call a person who does parkour?

Usually people that do parkour call themselves ‘Tracers’.

Is parkour and freerunning the same thing?

The actual physical act of parkour, undertaken by traceurs/traceuses (from the French, meaning 'tracer', which can translate as meaning 'to hurry') takes place, of course, in generally urban environments. The idea is to get from one point to another using only the objects before you, along with the strength and agility of your own body, to overcome any obstacle in your path. That's it. It isn't a race, there is no competition.

How many people have died from parkour?

It is often dangerous and the risks are high, with injuries and deaths being tragically frequent. There have been deaths from Parkour, as it is a dangerous sport. At least 10 people have died. 

Finally, if anything can capture essence of the parkour definition, it is these words by Raymond Belle;

"If two roads open up before you, always take the most difficult one. Because you know you can travel the easy one."

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