Sports & Wellness

Parkour – an art of running away?

11 Apr 2022

What is parkour and why it is not the sport we see in movies all the time? Read our piece to know how to 'parkour' your way from any place.

Perhaps, you saw this popular meme: “Pugilism is the martial art of fighting with the fists. Judo is the martial art of gripping. Parkour is the martial art of running away.” But is this really so?

Some people think this is the case. Nowadays parkour indeed has been represented in videogames, movies and TV shows as a way to escape danger. For example, you are running from bad guys, dogs, zombies etc, and you need to run away quickly. However, it is not about that at all.

If you look at the beginnings of the parkour and understand the philosophy behind it, you’ll see, that parkour is anything but running away.

Parkour or free running is an art of movement, the practice of overcoming obstacles in an urban or natural environment. It became widely popular in the late 1980s in France and since then developed into a cultural trend depicted on Internet, on TV shows, in documentaries and feature films. However, the discipline existed a long time before.


What French military has to do with it?

Parkour takes its origins as far as the 1900s. At one point a French naval lieutenant George Herbert noticed that modern people had lost the ability to move efficiently and effectively. They preferred to choose familiar pathways and in case of emergency struggled to come up with alternative routes to make their way through the obstacles, manmade or natural.

So Herbert developed a physical training discipline called “the natural method”. It combined climbing, running, swimming and using tactics to overcome different obstacles. Soon Herbert’s “Natural Method” got accepted for military training in France.

Later parkour was introduced for firefighters' training as well. And we can understand why. Firefighters needed to move quickly and efficiently in dangerous circumstances to save people’s lives. You can’t get these skills by simply training the muscles. This is where parkour proved to be useful.

Do you see it now? Parkour was originally used by warriors and saviours. It was not the way to escape and hide. It was the way to face the danger well prepared and use your strength and wit to help the others. This is what lies in the core of parkour’s philosophy: “Be strong to be useful”.


Parkour movement in France

In the 1980s David Belle, a son of a French firefighter, developed the father’s training routine into the sports art we know today. He even gave it the modern name “parkour”. Together with his best friend Sebastian Foucan, they established a “Yamikazi” group, which popularized parkour techniques and philosophy across France and far beyond its borders.

Unfortunately, later an argument occurred between two friends and each of them chose a different path. Foucan brought the discipline to the UK and called it “Freerunning”, while Belle remained in France. If you are confused now, which style is the real parkour, the answer is both of them. Though, “Parkour” is defined as the most efficient way to move from point A to point B, and “Freerunning” as the most creative way from A to B. From this perspective, Bell’s parkour remained faithful to its routes and Foucan’s freerunning went more into art and entertainment. You could even see Foucan in James Bond Casino Royale movie.


Parkour becomes official

In 2008 parkour was officially recognised as a sports art when World Freerunning Parkour Federation (WFPF) was formed. WFPF then launched a groundbreaking MTV series “Ultimate Parkour Challenge”, which rose the discipline to the rank of a cultural phenomenon. Now parkour was featured in movies, commercials, music clips and all other manifestations of youth culture.

In 2014 WFPF founded the International Parkour Federation, a US non-profit organisation, dedicated to the advancement of parkour worldwide. Together WFPF and IPF create training programs, curate professional instructors and provide insurance to hundreds of gyms and colleges practising parkour.

What is parkour now?

So what is common between a French navy officer training in the 20th century and a modern sportsman running an obstacle course in an international competition today? Yes, the style of their run has changed a bit but the purpose remains the same.

Real parkour is not about showing off and trying to impress everyone with your tricks. It is about wit, strength, resourcefulness and help. A traceur never runs from something but rather towards something: a place, a person, a dream.


Parkour training

Of course, doing parkour includes the risk of injuries. So we strongly recommend you not to try parkour on your own. Your parkour coach at Sport Session will teach you how to run, jump and tumble. But what is more important, the coach will teach you safety precautions. Because there is no use in being strong and useful with a broken leg.

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