Parkour ( PK or (French: l'art du déplacement English: the art of moving)), is a physical discipline in which practitioners aim to move quickly and efficiently using only their bodies and the environment. It was founded by David Belle and the Yamakasi. Male participants in Parkour are referred to as traceurs and females practitioners are called traceuses. Parkour can be thought of as the flight response where as a martial art could be considered a fight response.
Georges Hébert (27 April 1875 – 2 August 1957) was an officer in the French navy during the First World War. He happened to be stationed near St. Pierre, Martinique in 1902 at the time of a catastrophic volcanic eruption. Hébert aided in rescuing the wounded and trapped. His experiences led him to believe that athletic skill is needed in order to more effectively help others, as reflected in his motto - "Être fort pour être utile" ("Being strong to be useful").
Hébert traveled around the world and was impressed by the physical accomplishments of indigenous people of such places as Africa, noting that even though they had no formal training, they were strong, flexible and nimble. When he returned to France, he began developing his own system known as the Méthode Naturelle, or "natural method". The Méthode Naturelle was based on a number of influences, including the indigenous people he observed, classical Greek gymnastics, and acrobats, gymnasts, and naturists of the time such as Francisco Amorós, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, Paul Carton, and Georges Demenÿ.
He began teaching this method to the French marines in the French seaport of Lorient, and by the Second World War the French military had adopted his training methods as the standard for system for physical education. He also criticized the physical inactivity social norms imposed on women of the time, and believed they should strengthen themselves physically. He died in 1957, but his method continues to be taught, and is considered a major influence on modern Parkour.
Raymond Belle (3 October 1939 – 1999) was born in Vietnam as the son of a French doctor and Vietnamese mother. His father died in the First Indochina War and he was separated from his mother. He was put into a military orphanage at the age of 7. There he took it upon himself to train longer and harder than the other orphans so he would not fall victim to them. He would sneak off to abandoned military training courses, and build his own courses as well. In 1954, he was sent back to France, where he went into military training. At the age of 19, his physical fitness and agility had impressed his superiors enough to let him join the sapeurs-pompiers (military firefighters). He quickly rose through the ranks, eventually joining the regiment's elite team.
David Belle and the Yamakasi
David Belle (born 29 April 1973) grew up in Paris with his grandfather (also a skilled rescuer), although he staying in contact with his father. As a young boy, he was not especially talented, either physically or in academics. He experimented with gymnastics and sports clubs, but quickly become disinterested. After reading some newspaper clippings about some of his father's achievements as a firefighter, he asked his father how he was able to accomplish such impressive physical feats. He realized that he wanted to develop skills that would be useful, rather than training to preform in a padded, safe environment or kicking a ball.
He learned of how his father practiced for long hours on obstacle courses, and how he preformed similar movements thousands of times to find the best way to do them. David decided that he too wanted to pursue this method, and gave up school and other commitments to begin training in the same way as his father.
He initially trained on his own, but soon found other people with the same passion as his, among them Sébastien Foucan and a group that later became known as the Yamakasi. They changed the name of the practice to Lé Parkour.
In the late 1990's. Belle's brother, Jean-François Belle, sent in some photos and video footage to a French TV station. They were impressed, and invited the Yamakasi to be in several programmes. This was the first time Parkour was introduced to the world, and it quickly gained popularity.
The Freerunning and Parkour split
David Belle's and Sébastian Foucan's later came to a disagreement about what Parkour (at the time also called freerunning) really was. Sébastian Foucan was dissatisfied with the limited room for creativity in Parkour, believing it should be a form of self-expression through movement and did not believe it was something which a practitioner should take very seriously. David Belle strongly disagreed with this, believing Parkour training should be taken seriously as it was originally designed for life-or-death situations. This lead to a split; Belle continued to practice the original form of Parkour while Foucan adopted the term Freerunning for the emergent art.
Parkour philosophy is a widely disputed subject yet can be reduced to this: Parkour is the discipline of fluid human movement. Often Parkour takes on the definition as a system of the most efficient movement from point A to point B. However, many of the founders see Parkour as more than just movement, a traceur must understand more about the discipline before attempting its movements. Parkour is sometimes considered the idea of "human reclamation", or learning to interact with your environment rather than seeking shelter from it.
Parkour requires much physical training known as conditioning in order to strengthen the body to the intense strains that this art puts the body through. Also an important part of this sport is progression, in which the tracuer slowly builds up confidence and skills before taking on large challenges in order to prevent injury. Therefore, safety is a very important part of this sport, as being efficient is impossible if the tracuer falls and hurts himself.
David Belle has stated that Parkour training is not always easy or fun.
So many people try to train easy. 'Come do Parkour! It's really cool!' But if tomorrow I made you do real training, you would end up crying. That's what you need to know: you are going to cry, you are going to bleed and you are going to sweat like never before. - David Belle
The use of flips and other tricks while practicing the discipline is often contested in Parkour communities. Although most tricks have no practical application in terms of efficient movement there are a couple benefits to learning them. Learning these tricks will increase one's perception about how one's body moves through space and one's understanding of flow (see Flip#Usage in Parkour). Although flips and other such tricks are technically not Parkour movements they certainly won't hinder anyone's progress. David Belle himself often practices flips.
Organizations / Notable persons
- David Belle
- Sébastien Foucan
- Ryan Doyle
- Daniel Ilabaca
- Urban Freeflow
- Parkour Generations
- World Freerunning and Parkour Federation (WFPF)
- New York Parkour (NYPK)
Parkour in other media
Parkour has become very popular in media.
Films and Documentaries
- Yamakasi (2001)
- Jump London (2003)
- Casino Royale (2006)
- District B13 (2006)
- District B13: Ultimatum (2009)
- The Tournament (2009)
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
- Brick Mansions (2014)
- Tracers (2015)
- Assassin's Creed (franchise)
- Uncharted (franchise)
- Mirror's Edge (2008)
- Infamous (2009)
- Prototype (2009)
- Brink (2011)
- Minecraft (2011)
- Sonic Lost World (2013)
- Watchdogs (2014)
- Dying Light (2015)