I’m here to set the record straight on what, exactly, parkour is.
Parkour is a holistic discipline in which specific movements are utilized to efficiently maneuver through a varied environment.
“Freerunning” was originally intended to serve as the english translation for the word “parkour,” but over the years, the community has designated that term to describe “creative” movement. So anything involving flips, tricks, and anything else that’s non-efficient
But the practice overall is like a spectrum, with parkour (efficiency) on one end, and freerunning (creativity) on the other. Most of us train some of both and fall somewhere in between.
And for that reason, most of us still tend to use the terms “Parkour” and “Freerunning” interchangeably, though we all tend to have a universal understanding of the distinction between the two. And if we have to pick just one word to describe what we’re doing, we usually use Parkour.
Additionally, the french words Traceur and Traceusse are the more or less official terms for parkour athletes. But… you can also just say parkour athletes.
When parkour was first created by a French group called the Yamakasi in the late 80’s, it’s original purpose was rooted in maximising efficiency over obstacles, with the intention of being useful to others. You’ve probably heard before, that the point of Parkour is to take you from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.
But now, practitioners use parkour for all kinds of training purposes.
Traceurs take on challenges that test their power, technique, mental fortitude, creativity, speed, and sometimes even endurance. There are so many different ways to train. So many avenues of movement to explore.
The only “right” way to do parkour is the safe way. The rest is up to you! You can enjoy it as a leisurely exercise, or you can push your skills to the absolute maximum level.
That said, parkour at the most elite level, is generally the same moves as parkour at the most elementary level. The difference is in your choice of obstacles and environment. It really is just a toolbox of movements for you to use on obstacles however you’d like.
And when I say you, I mean literally you. Anyone. Man, woman, non-binary, child, grandparent, dog, parkour is for EVERYONE! And I would recommend it for everyone.
Parkour trains your body to move in ways that it was always intended to move. It improves your proprioception, balance, mobility, strength, and coordination. When taught and applied correctly, it also corrects body mechanics and improves postural imbalances.
Of course it’s not without risk, just like any sport isn’t. But what makes parkour so different is that in addition to overcoming obstacles, it gives you the tools to fall safely and recover effectively when things go wrong, in and outside of parkour. We have a plan B, C, D, and probably even E for most everything we do and practice bail techniques deliberately and early on in our training.
Parkour also provides an avenue for uninhibited creativity and self-expression, as each practitioner develops their own style through training and filming.
And I mention filming because parkour is so much more than just the moves themselves.
Parkour is a community… of people who find joy through movement. People who travel to train with friends from around the world. People who don’t take themselves too seriously. People who are there to help each other on a dime and welcome anyone who wants to join.
Parkour is a philosophy… of overcoming obstacles both mental and physical in nature. Of mutual respect. Of honoring our environment. Of living in the present, but with longevity in mind.
Parkour is a culture… of movement styles that evolved uniquely in different communities around the world. Of inclusivity and understanding. Of clothing trends that reflect who we look up to and how we train. Of video edits that express not just how we move, but who we are.
If you want to give parkour a try, and I highly suggest you do, find an instructor or parkour gym in your area. Some organizations and coaches also offer outdoor classes in local parks and spots.
If you can’t find an instructor near you, search the name of your city with the word “parkour” on facebook to see if there’s a training group in your area. Regardless of who you are, if you reach out to them saying that you’re interested in learning, they will almost definitely welcome you to their training sessions and be more than happy to help you out. You can also find tutorials on youtube to help you get started, but nothing compares to the experience of learning with others if you have the opportunity to do so.
Once you do learn parkour, what do you do with it? Well first and foremost you have fun! Pursue challenges that interest you. Develop your own style. Enjoy the camaraderie of the community. You can keep it recreational, or you can train hard and take it to competitions. Yes, parkour competitions are a thing, and they’re amazing. Here are the three main types.
1. Speed competitions, in which athletes traverse a course as efficiently as possible, and the one with the fastest time wins. What makes these completely different from your standard obstacle course race is that parkour speed comps almost always involve direction changes, as well as multiple options as to how to complete the course. Course markers indicate the direction the athletes need to go in, but the choice of obstacles to use along that path as well as the technique in approaching those obstacles is completely up to the athlete to decide.
2. In Style Competitions, competitors are given a point A and point B, and must utilize the obstacles in their path to create a line that showcases their acrobatic skill and creativity. A panel of Judges usually rate the athletes’ performance based on execution, difficulty level, flow, use of environment, and creativity.
3. Power is nothing without control. And for this reason, Skill Competitions test an athletes’ ability to generate power with optimal technique. Athletes are given a series of challenges that usually involve just one or a small number of movements, and are scored by judges based on completion of the challenge and the quality of their technique.
Career-wise, Parkour is also a skill that can be widely applied in stunts and entertainment. I’ve used parkour to work in theme park shows, Cirque Du Soleil, and Stunts for TV and Film. If you want more details on how to do that, go to Lorenaparkour.com and check out my blog.
In conclusion, parkour is basically the best thing ever.
It’s where sport meets art. Where discipline meets creativity. It’s a feat of athleticism facilitated through self expression.
So that’s it. The next time somebody asks you what parkour is, send them this link. This link is your answer.