The World of Parkour
Some see the cup half empty; some see the cup half full; and some see the cup as a stepping stool which can be used to climb to the top of a wall. If you are one of the privileged few who view the world as an obstacle course, then you probably are a daring practitioner of parkour.
Perhaps nobody describes parkour better than its founder, David Belle. On his website he says, “parkour is an art to help you passing any obstacle to go from point A to point B only with the human possibilities…this art has been created by few soldiers in Vietnam to escape or reach: and this is the spirit I’d like parkour to keep. You have to make the difference between what is useful and what is not in emergency situations.” Right. Never mind; perhaps it could be better described. But before we jump all over Belle’s grammar, let’s keep in mind that he’s French. And he can probably jump a wall and get at us quicker than we can hit the backspace key and delete. So easy does it, Belle; it’s all good. Never mind the punctuation. We’re more interested in your art anyway. What is parkour?
Parkour is basically a discipline in which traceurs—practitioners of the discipline—run, jump, climb, etc. through an “obstacle course” in the most efficient manner possible. The “obstacle course” is actually the environment around the traceur. While parkour can be practiced anywhere, an urban environment is viewed as the optimal place due to its abundant structures: walls, steps, rails, buildings; all these and more make for better obstacles. The objective of this discipline is to train the body to efficiently navigate itself through its environment during an emergency.
There aren’t many set “moves” in parkour, because the ideal move for a particular situation varies based on the traceur’s body, the speed at which he/she is moving, the obstacle acted upon, etc. The challenge is to train the “bodymind” to react with the most efficient technique in any situation. There are, however, some basic movements that a traceur will learn including landing, balance, swing, vault, climb-up, gap jump, wall jump, etc. Yes, they are what you think they are.
It is likely difficult to truly understand what parkour is without seeing it for yourself, so have a look:
While it appears entertaining, it is important to stress that parkour is specifically intended for use in emergency situations, and its practice is geared toward that. “If you do acrobatics things on the street with no other goal than showing off, please don’t say it’s parkour. Acrobatics existed long time ago before parkour,” says David Belle. So be inspired! Learn the discipline. But not for acrobatics things on the street. Only to “help you passing any obstacle to go from point A to point B only with the human possibilities.”
- Rachel Weissman