Saturday, November 27, 2010


Le Parkour is primarily considered a philosophy and includes the physical practice of traversing elements in both urban and rural settings. The goal is to move from one point to another as quickly and efficiently as possible. This discipline was created in France, in Sarcelles, Lisses and Evry by David Belle, Sébastien Foucan, and the founding members of the Yamakasi. It is inspired by "the natural method of physical education" by Georges Hébert who first saw this form of movement done by Africans in Congo. It was then spread worldwide by films, television reports, and amateur videos on the Internet.
The term freerunning is sometimes used interchangeably with parkour. While parkour aims to enable the practitioner to be able to move quickly and efficiently past obstacles, freerunning has a greater emphasis on self-expression within the environment. Freerunning includes tricking moves such as aerial rotations and spins, while the purist definition of parkour founder David Belle would not consider these part of parkour because the moves are merely showy, not efficient, and do not help the participant to get from place to place. Although Sébastien Foucan co-founded parkour, his philosophy differed and so he is generally associated with freerunning (see below).
A practitioner of parkour is called a traceur if male, or traceuse if female. The word is most likely derived from parisian slang verb "Tracer" which means "to move fast" or "to hurry". In proper French "traceur" is an adjective qualifying something that leaves a trace or a trail behind it.


traceur performing a passe muraille
Two primary characteristics of parkour are efficiency and speed. Traceurs take the most direct path through an obstacle as rapidly as that route can be traversed. Developing one's level of spatial awareness is often used to aid development in these areas. Also, efficiency involves avoiding injuries, both short and long term. This idea embodying parkour's unofficial motto is être et durer (to be and to last). Those who are skilled at this activity normally have extremely keen spatial awareness.[citation needed]
Parkour's emphasis on efficiency distinguishes it from the similar practice of free running, which places more emphasis on freedom of movement and creativity.
Traceurs say that parkour also influences one's thought processes by enhancing self-confidence and critical-thinking skills that allow one to overcome everyday physical and mental obstacles. A study by Neuropsychiatrie de l'Enfance et de l'Adolescence in France reflects that traceurs seek more excitement and leadership situations than gymnastic practitioners.


The first terms used to describe this form of training were l'art du déplacement and le parcours.
The term parkour (French pronunciation: [paʁˈkuʁ]) was coined by Hubert Koundé. It derives from parcours du combattant, the classic obstacle course method of military training proposed by Georges Hébert.
Traceur [tʁasœʁ] and traceuse [tʁasøz] are substantives derived from the French verb tracer, which normally means "to trace", or "to draw", but which is also a slang for "to go fast".

Hébert's legacy

Before World War I, former naval officer Georges Hébert traveled throughout the world. During a visit to Africa, he was impressed by the physical development and skills of indigenous tribes that he met:
Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring, and resistant but yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature.
—Georges Hébert, 
On May 8, 1902, the town of Saint-Pierre, Martinique, where he was stationed, suffered from the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée. Hébert coordinated the escape and rescue of some 700 people. This experience had a profound effect on him, and reinforced his belief that athletic skill must be combined with courage and altruism. He eventually developed this ethos into his motto: "être fort pour être utile" (be strong to be useful).
Inspired by indigenous tribes, Hébert became a physical education tutor at the college of Reims in France. He began to define the principles of his own system of physical education and to create various apparatuses and exercises to teach his méthode naturelle, which he defined as:
Methodical, progressive and continuous action, from childhood to adulthood, that has as its objective: assuring integrated physical development; increasing organic resistances; emphasizing aptitudes across all genres of natural exercise and indispensable utilities (walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, equilibrium (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming); developing one's energy and all other facets of action or virility such that all assets, both physical and virile, are mastered; one dominant moral idea: altruism.
—Georges Hébert, 
Hébert set up a méthode naturelle session consisting of ten fundamental groups: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, balancing, throwing, lifting, self-defense, swimming, which are part of three main forces:
  • Energetic or virile sense: energy, willpower, courage, coolness, and firmness
  • Moral sense: benevolence, assistance, honor, and honesty
  • Physical sense: muscles and breath
During World War I and World War II, Hébert's teaching continued to expand, becoming the standard system of French military education and training. Thus, Hébert was one of the proponents of parcours — an obstacle course, developed by a Swiss architect, which is standard in the military training and led to the development of civilian fitness trails and confidence courses. Also, French soldiers and firefighters developed their obstacle courses known as parcours du combattant and parcours SP.

Belle family

David Belle, parkour founder, at The New Yorker Festival
Raymond Belle was born in French Indochina (now Vietnam). His father died during the First Indochina War and Raymond was separated from his mother during the division of Vietnam in 1954. He was taken by the French Army in Da Lat and received a military education and training that shaped his character.
After the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Raymond was repatriated to France and completed his military education in 1958. At age 19, his dedication to fitness helped him serve in Paris's regiment of sapeurs-pompiers (the French fire service).
Raymond introduced his son David to obstacle course training and the méthode naturelle. David participated in activities such as martial arts and gymnastics and sought to apply his athletic prowess for some practical purpose.[ At age 17, David left school seeking freedom and action. He continued to develop his strength and dexterity in order to be useful in life, as Raymond had advised him.

Development in Lisses

It was the end of the day. I was just doing stuff with a bunch of kids. I fall all the time — I fall like the monkeys — but it never shows up on film, because they just want the spectacular stuff.
—David Belle on his video, The New Yorker 
After moving to Lisses commune, David Belle continued his journey with others.] "From then on we developed," says Sébastien Foucan in Jump London, "And really the whole town was there for us; there for parkour. You just have to look, you just have to think, like children." This, as he describes, is "the vision of parkour."
In 1997, Yann Hnautra, Charles Perriere, Chau Belle, David Belle, Laurent Piemontesi, Sébastien Foucan, Guylain Perriere, Malik Diouf and Williams Belle created the group called Yamakasi, whose name comes from the Lingala language of Congo, and means strong spirit, strong body, strong man, endurance. After the musical show Notre Dame de Paris, Belle and Foucan split up due to money and disagreements over the definition of l'art du déplacement, The film Yamakasi, in 2001, and the French documentary Génération Yamakasi were created without Belle and Foucan.
Over the years, as dedicated practitioners improved their skills, their numbers of moves grew. Building-to-building jumps and drops of over a storey became common in media portrayals, often leaving people with a slanted view of parkour. Actually, ground-based movements are more common than anything involving rooftops, because legal accessibility in urban areas is difficult. From the Parisian suburbs, parkour went on to become a widely practiced activity outside of France.{citation needed}


A campaign was started on May 1, 2007 by Parkour.NET portal to preserve parkour's philosophy against sport competition and rivalry.In the words of Erwan LeCorre:
Competition pushes people to fight against others for the satisfaction of a crowd and/or the benefits of a few business people by changing its mindset. Parkour is unique and cannot be a competitive sport unless it ignores its altruistic core of self development. If parkour becomes a sport, it will be hard to seriously teach and spread parkour as a non-competitive activity. And a new sport will be spread that may be called parkour, but that won't hold its philosophical essence anymore.
—Erwan LeCorre


Saut de précision
There are fewer predefined movements in parkour than in gymnastics, as there is no list of "moves". Each obstacle a traceur faces presents a unique challenge. The ability to overcome the challenge depends on multiple factors, for example, on body type, speed, angle of approach, the physical make-up of the obstacle. Parkour is about training the "bodymind" to react to those obstacles appropriately with a technique that is effective. Often that technique cannot and need not be classified and given a name. In many cases effective parkour techniques depend on fast redistribution of body weight and the use of momentum to perform seemingly difficult or impossible body maneuvers at great speed. Absorption and redistribution of energy is also an important factor, such as body rolls when landing which reduce impact forces on the legs and spine, allowing a traceur to jump from greater heights than those often considered sensible in other forms of acrobatics and gymnastics.[citation needed]
According to David Belle, you want to move in such a way that will help you gain the most ground as if escaping or chasing something. Also, if you go from A to B, you need to be able to get back from B to A, but not necessarily with the same movements or passements.
Despite this, there are many basic versatile and effective techniques that are emphasized for beginners. Most important are good jumping and landing techniques. The roll, used to limit impact after a drop and to carry one's momentum onward, is often stressed as the most important technique to learn. Parkour has sometimes received concerns for its health issues due to large drops. Communities in Great Britain have been warned by law enforcement or fire and rescue of the risk in jumping off high buildings. Although David Belle has never been seriously injured while practicing parkour, there is no careful study about the health issues of large drops and traceurs stress gradual progression to avoid any problems. American traceur Mark Toorock says that injuries are rare "because participants rely not on what they can't control -- wheels or the icy surfaces of snowboarding and skiing -- but their own hands and feet," but Lanier Johnson, executive director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, says "It's really hard to get people to report these kinds of injuries.

Basic movements

Some movements defined in freerunning (tricks are not part of parkour) are:
Atterrissage [ateʁisaʒ] or réception [ʁesɛpsjɔ̃]LandingBending the knees when toes make contact with ground (never land flat footed; always land on toes and ball of your foot, or whole footed).
Équilibre [ekilibʁ]BalanceWalking along the crest of an obstacle; literally "balance."
Équilibre de chatCat CrawlQuadrupedal movement along the crest of an obstacle.
Franchissement [fʁɑ̃ʃismɑ̃]UnderbarJumping or swinging through a gap between obstacles; literally "to cross" or "to break through."
Lâché [laʃe]Lache, swingHanging drop; lâcher literally meaning "to let go." To hang or swing (on a bar, on a wall, on a branch) and let go, dropping to the ground or to hang from another object. This can refer to almost all hanging/swinging type movements.
Passe muraille [pas myʁaj]Pop vault, wall hop, Wallpass, wallrunOvercoming a tall structure, usually by use of a step off the wall to transform forward momentum into upward momentum, then using the arms to climb onto and over the object.
Dyno (shortened from "Dynamic", opposite to "Static")This movement comes from climbing terminology, and encompasses leaping from a position similar to an armjump, then grabbing an obstacle usually higher than the initial starting place, often used for an overhang. This movement is used when a simpler movement is not possible.
Passement [pasmɑ̃]Vault, PassTo move over an object with one's hand(s) on an object to ease the movement.
Demitour [dəmi tuʁ]Turn vault, Turn DownA vault or dropping movement involving a 180° turn; literally "half turn." This move is often used to place yourself hanging from an object in order to shorten a drop or prepare for a jump.
PassementSpeed vaultTo overcome an obstacle by jumping side-ways first, then placing one hand on the obstacle to self-right your body and continue running.
Thief/Lazy vaultTo overcome an obstacle by using a one-handed vault, then using the other hand at the end of the vault to push oneself forwards in order to finish the move.
Saut de chat [sod ʃa]Cat pass/jump, (king) kong vault, monkey vaultThe saut de chat involves diving forward over an obstacle so that the body becomes horizontal, pushing off with the hands and tucking the legs, such that the body is brought back to a vertical position, ready to land.
Dash vaultThis vault involves using the hands to move oneself forwards at the end of the vault. One uses both hands to overcome an obstacle by jumping feet first over the obstacle and pushing off with the hands at the end. Visually, this might seem similar to the saut de chat, but reversed. Allegedly David Belle has questioned the effectiveness of this movement.
Reverse vaultA vault involving a 180° rotation such that the traceur's back faces forward as they pass the obstacle. The purpose of the rotation is ease of technique in the case of otherwise awkward body position or loss of momentum prior to the vault.
Kash vaultThis vault is a combination of two vaults; the kong vault and the dash vault. After pushing off with the hands in a kong vault, the body continues past vertical over the object until the feet are leading the body. The kash vault is then finished by pushing off the object at the end, as in a dash vault.
Planche [plɑ̃ʃ]Muscle-up or climb-upTo get from a hanging position (wall, rail, branch, arm jump, etc.) into a position where your upper body is above the obstacle, supported by the arms. This then allows for you to climb up onto the obstacle and continue.
Roulade [ʁulad]RollA forward roll where the hands, arms and diagonal of the back contact the ground, often called breakfall. Used primarily to transfer the momentum/energy from jumps and to minimize impact, preventing a painful landing. It is similar to the basic kaiten or ukemi and it was taken from martial arts such as judo, ninjutsu, jujutsu, hapkido and aikido.
Saut de bras [sodbra]Arm jump, cat leap, cat grabTo land on the side of an obstacle in a hanging/crouched position, the hands gripping the top edge, holding the body, ready to perform a muscle up.
Saut de fond [sodfɔ̃]DropLiterally 'jump to the ground' / 'jump to the floor'. To jump down, or drop down from something.
Saut de détente [sodə detɑ̃t]Gap jump, running jumpTo jump from one place/object to another, over a gap/distance. This technique is most often followed with a roll.
Saut de précision [so d presiziɔ̃] or précision [presiziɔ̃]PrecisionStatic or moving jump from one object to a precise spot on another object. This term can refer to any form of jumping however.
Saut de murWall Jump, Tic-Tac or Tac VaultTo step off a wall in order to overcome another obstacle or gain height to grab something
Saut de rotationRotary jump (or vault)Similar to a kong vault, the person dives and then rotates their lower body around the obstacle. Used for shorter to medium obstacles. For people that have trouble with kong vaults.

Training places

Unlike many other activities, parkour is not currently practiced in dedicated public facilities (e.g., skateparks), although efforts are being made to create places for it. Traceurs practice parkour in urban areas like gyms, parks, playgrounds, offices, and abandoned structures. Concerns have been raised regarding trespassing, damage of property, and the practice in inappropriate places. However, most traceurs will take care of their training spots and will remove themselves quickly and quietly from a public place if asked. The Magpie Youth Center free running club has raised 40,000 to build a free running park/training utility on the park opposite the youth center.
There is also the concern that practitioners are needlessly risking damage to both themselves and rooftops by practicing at height, with police forces calling for practitioners to stay off the rooftops. Some figures within the parkour community agree that this sort of behaviour is not to be encouraged. These issues, however, do not appear to apply to the majority of practitioners whose relationship with authorities is generally a positive one.][not in citation given]


There is no equipment required, although practitioners normally train wearing light casual clothing:
  • Light upper body garment — such as T-shirt, sleeveless shirt or crop top.
  • Light lower body garment — such as sweatpants, tracksuit bottoms or light shorts.
Comfortable running shoes, that are generally light, with good grip, are encouraged. Many traceurs think cheaper and easier to replace shoes are much more practical.[citation needed] More experienced traceurs with stronger feet tend to train barefoot, which is the best way to feel the environment. Various sport shoes manufacturers around the world started offering parkour-specific lines. Some traceurs use sweat-bands for forearm protection.[citation needed] Some use thin athletic gloves to protect the hands; those who do not, prefer to "feel their environment" directly, developing thick callouses.
Since parkour is closely related to méthode naturelle, sometimes practitioners train barefooted to be able to move efficiently without depending on their gear. David Belle has said: "bare feet are the best shoes!"



The term freerunning was coined during the filming of Jump London, as a way to present parkour to the English-speaking world. Although, as noted above, parkour and freerunning are considered to be slightly different by some people, the founders and principal practitioners in Europe do not recognize any distinction, and use all names interchangeably for the discipline.
The founder and creator of freerunning Sébastien Foucan defines freerunning as a discipline to self development, following your own way[citation needed]. His dissatisfaction of limited creativity and self-expression in parkour was the motivation that made Sebastian Foucan to develop a similar but also very different art of movement that became known as freerunning.
Understand that this form of art has been created by few soldiers in Vietnam to escape or reach: and this is the spirit we'd like parkour to keep. You have to make the difference between what is useful and what is not in emergency situations. Then you'll know what is parkour and what is not. So 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.
—David Belle or PAWA team, or both, 
When questions are raised between the differences of parkour and freerunning, the Yamakasi group deny the differences and say: "parkour, l'art du deplacement, freerunning, the art of movement... they are all the same thing. They are all movement and they all came from the same place, the same nine guys originally. The only thing that differs is each individual's way of moving". Thus leading to what they view as separation of parkour community or wasting energy debating the differences when one should follow his/her own way and find why practice.

Military training

After the attention that parkour received following the film Casino Royale, militaries from different countries began looking for ways to incorporate parkour into training. The British Royal Marines hired parkour athletes to train their members. Colorado Parkour began a project to introduce parkour into the U.S. military and parkour is slowly being introduced into the USMC.

Video games

  • Splinter Cell series feature the protagonist Sam Fisher using parkour moves to infiltrate, escape, eliminate enemies steathily to accomplish missions.
  • Assassin's Creed 's protagonist Altaïr and Assassin's Creed II 's protagonist Ezio use parkour (although the action is referred to as "free-run" while in-game).
  • Mirror's Edge is about a gang of outlaws called "runners," who excel and specialize in parkour.
  • Prince of Persia and its sequels use parkour consistently throughout the game by the main character, the prince (although the portrayal is taken to superhuman levels).
  • Flashback also uses rotoscoped parkour in a similar way to Prince of Persia.
  • Prototype mentions parkour by name and it plays a vital role in the game.
  • True Crime, a to be released sandbox game set in Hong Kong is to feature a blend of parkour and freerunning style movements mixed in with the game's combat, reminiscent of the Hong Kong action genre.(Character is seen in early gameplay videos of being able to lazy vault over objects and kick enemies or objects while doing so).
  • Tony Hawk's American Wasteland has several techniques the player can do while not on the skateboard: free-running (although it is called parkour in the game), wall-run, wire-grab, and other parkour movements.
  • Brink, which will feature S.M.A.R.T. (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain)
  • Infamous's protagonist Cole uses parkour extensively.
  • Tron Evolution producer, Alex Peters, said in an interview with Gamespot (Pre-E3) that Tron's basic movements and combat were based on parkour and capoeira. 
  • Tomb Raider's Lara Croft character often employs parkour moves when moving through the game.
  • Crackdown 2 Agents use parkour and other agility movements to clear obstacles and buildings.
  • Left 4 Dead and its sequel Left 4 Dead 2 feature the special infected character known as the Hunter whose appearance and movements are based on Traceurs.
  • Free Jack is a parkour mmo-racing game that players compete races against each other.

Film and television

  • Banlieue 13 features parkour and stars David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli.
  • Banlieue 13 Ultimatum features parkour as well with David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli starring.
  • Yamakasi - Les samouraïs des temps modernes 2001
  • Yamakasi les fils du vent//The Great Challenge 2003
  • In many films starring Jackie Chan, parkour-like and free running-like moves can be seen, before the invention of both (for example in the Police Story film series, Rumble in the BronxMr. Nice guy)
  • The Australian version of 60 Minutes featured a segment of parkour on September 16, 2007, which featured Sébastien Foucan on a trip to Australia, and French traceur Stephane Vigroux.
  • The plot of Breaking and Entering, starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, set in London, revolves around the story of a high school boy from Sarajevo who uses parkour to break into office buildings.
  • Top Gear (series 8) episode 7 (and The Challenges DVD) has James May racing two parkour athletes across Liverpool in a Peugeot 207.
  • My Playground Documentary by Kaspar Astrup Schröder. It explores the way parkour and freerunning is changing the perception of urban space and how the spaces and buildings they are moving on are changing them. Mainly set in Copenhagen the film follows Team JiYo as they explore the city and encounter the obstacles it presents
  • Point B, a documentary by Michael Alosi, deals with the development of Parkour and the obstacles faced by traceurs (both physical and social).
  • Jump Britain and Jump London are also freerunning/parkour documentaries.
  • Jonas Brothers: Living The Dream featured an episode where the brothers took Parkour classes.
  • In the 2010 film Cop Out, the character Dave uses parkour to rob houses and escape from the police. (As they watch Dave rob the house they've staked out, Jimmy (Bruce Willis) exclaims, "Woah! What is that?!" Paul (Tracy Morgan) replies, "That's called parkour. It's a french martial art to get you around and over stuff.")
  • Die Hard 4.0 includes actor and traceur Cyril Raffaelli as a henchman to the main villain, with limited use of Parkour in several action scenes.
  • The US incarnation of "The Office" includes an episode in which several characters climb on desks and jump off chairs in an attempt to emulate Parkour.
  • In James Bond movie Casino Royale, Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan) uses Parkour to flee Bond.
  • In The Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne uses parkour to evade police while chasing an assassin sent to kill him and his companion Nicky.
  • In Unnatural History, Henry Griffen uses Parkour in the pilot episode.
  • WWE wrestler, John Morrison, was shown performing Parkour during the September 13, 2010 edition of Monday Night Raw.
  • Bear Grylls in television series Born Survivor, known as Man vs. Wild uses Parkour and mentions it in "Texas" episode (Season 4).
  • Demonstrated on the "Martinez Family" episode (2008 season) of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition .
  • The Crow cult movie starring Brandon Lee in his last role, does a bit of parkour in a couple scenes.

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