The aim of Parkour is essentially to overcome obstacles, both natural and artificial; obstacles can be everything from rocks, rivers, or branches to walls, terraces, or railings. A traceur cultivates the ability to trace alternative means of movement and direction, which may be used both in everyday life as well as in emergency situations. This is why it is difficult to categorise Parkour, because some consider it an extreme sport while others a martial art. There are many, however, who are eager to class Parkour in its own category: “Parkour is Parkour.”
Parkour was established by David Belle in the 80s, and its birthplace is Lisses, a Parisian suburb. Born in Vietnam, the soldier, firefighter, student of Methode Naturelle, and father and mentor of David Belle, Raymond Belle, is also considered as an inspirer of Parkour. The term Parkour comes from Parcours du Combattant, the classic obstacle-course method of military training. Hubert Kounde, David Belle’s friend, had the idea to borrow the word parcours (which means route), replace the letter “c” by the letter “k” to suggest aggressiveness, and remove the soundless letter “s” as it was contrary to the philosophy of Parkour for minimum energy consumption.
A big part of Parkour is defined by the saying “être et durer” which literally translates as “to be and to last”. This means that the traceur`s movement should not only be effective as to its direct target, which is the transfer from A to B, but also as to the traceur`s “lifetime”. Practice should be executed in a manner so that there is no injury or stress to the body, particularly to the joints. Another part of Parkour is defined by the development of one’s ability to find (alternative) solutions to the problems and obstacles of everyday life. Specifically, Andi Kalteis, an Austrian traceur with extensive experience, says in documentary Parkour Journeys:
“When you start to move with your own personal way, you will realize how Parkour also changes other things in your life. And you see that you approach problems - in your job for example - differently because you have practiced to overcome obstacles in an optimal way. [...] This comes early to some and late to others. [...] I am no longer saying 'I am doing Parkour', but 'I am living Parkour' because its philosophy has become my life, the way I do everything.”
Others talk about the capacity to move without thinking. Just like a person who walks and drives without thinking his movements one by one, a traceur can learn to overcome obstacles by using only his subconscious. Some people call this state “flow”, according to the theory of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor of Psychology, even though the use of the term is disregarded by many as they find it distasteful. Finally, it is noted that Parkour is a noble activity that advocates, among many other virtues, solidarity, lack of competition, altruism, respect for foreign-owned property, and the law in general.
The movement of Parkour is complex, but is based on some fundamental movements or categories of movements, from which all secondary movements come from. These are the following:
Franchissement (Breakthrough/Underbar): Passing between two barriers, usually horizontally.
Laché (Release): Releasing hands from a (horizontal) barrier, either for the traceur to grab onto another barrier or land on the ground.
Passe Muraille (Wall run): Ascending and climbing or jumping over a wall.
Passement (Speed Vault): Passing over an obstacle, usually with the help of hands.
Planche (Muscle up): Ascent of an horizontal barrier using hands only.
Roulade (Roll): Roll, which is used to maintain the horizontal speed vector after a diagonal landing.
Saut des Bras (Arm jump): A jump where the traceur grabs onto a (horizontal) barrier, usually on top of a wall, with his feet against it.
Saut de Détente (Gap/Distance jump): Jumping from a distance.
Saut de Fond (Jump from height - Drop): Jumping from a higher level to a lower level.
Saut de Précision (Precision jump): Jumping to a particular point where the traceur must maintain his balance after landing.
Tic-Tac: A jump where an obstacle functions as a step to climb over an obstacle or to cover distance.
In the Passement category, there are several techniques, such as the Saut de Chat (Cat jump), Passement Rapide (Fast Pass), Passement Reverse (Reverse Pass), Demi Tour (Half Track), among others.
Just how dangerous it is, depends at a maximum extent directly from the traceur himself. If one advances patiently, methodically, and with discipline, the chances of an accident are reduced dramatically. Small injuries in Parkour (bruises, scratches, abrasions, etc.) are extremely frequent, but the most important is that if you get hurt it mainly depends on you, not on whether you got hurt by an overzealous fielder. The reason that many young people are injured often is obvious. They are in an extreme hurry to improve themselves and end up with a bunch of injuries: from broken arms or teeth to permanent joint damage. Of course, everyone will fall down at some point. This is certain. That is why traceurs are practicing in rolling, so that they can minimise the damage when they fall down.
One of Parkour’s features is the complete lack of competition. This occurs for several reasons. First of all, Parkour has borrowed an important part of East Asian philosophy and specifically the philosophy of Bushido, and thus embodies the mentality of self-discipline and self-improvement, where the individual learns things for himself, not for the others. Secondly, because Parkour is potentially dangerous and often people succumb to the temptations presented to them, competition may lead to the overestimation of one’s self or the underestimation of the obstacles, leading to the risk of injuries, both short-term and long-term. Also, competition - and more specifically, a competition for champions - has previously caused damage to several other body arts, such as martial arts, so the Parkour community is concerned that Parkour might walk the same path. The two main communities that promote competition in Parkour are the Urban Freeflow (UF) and the American Parkour (APK) with Paul “EZ” Corkery and Mark “M2” Toorock in charge respectively. As the number of people who support the competition because of financial interests grows, the international community of Parkour started on May 1st, 2007 a campaign against the competition in Parkour, which is called “Keeping Parkour Rivalry-Free”.
DJNK PARKOUR http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=djnk&aq=f A few Parkour videos from Greece.
Parkour Greece - The most active community and most complete source of information about Parkour in Greece.
Parkourpedia of Australian Parkour Association