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What is Parkour?


Parkour has exploded in popularity over the years. What started as a simple form of exercise and mental training has grown into a global phenomenon. You have probably heard a lot about the sport. However, many outsiders still don't know what exactly is going on.

Here is a quick guide for those interested:

A Sport of Movement

In its simplest form, Parkour is a sport of movement. The goal of the game is just as simple: get from one location to another. However, practitioners of this sport, called "traceurs,” are not just looking for any style of movement.

They want to move from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. This journey from point A to point B is called a "run" or a “line” in the community. A run can be as long or short as the traceur likes. The rules and goals are set by the individuals who practice the sport. It is a game defined by the people who do it, and is often just as much about personal development as it is about physical accomplishment.

The environments that traceurs navigate are usually complex and multi-leveled.  Traceurs are required to swing, jump, climb, run, vault, roll, and even use quadrupedal movement to reach their goal. They are expected to do this without the aid of equipment, and as fast and efficiently as possible.

A common thread in all of these runs is overcoming obstacles. Traceurs rarely move in a straight line, and much of the sport revolves around learning new movements to overcome a variety of hurdles that stand in their way. These hurdles are not only the physical objects we encounter, but psychological roadblocks that stand in our way (but more on that later).

The most common obstacles encountered are things like benches, walls, handrails, stairs, and cement structures. However, there are no rules to this definition – and obstacles can be anything in your way.

Below is an example of a traceur doing a run. The video is titled Speed Air Man, and is legendary in the Parkour community. The traceur in the film is David Belle, one of the pioneers of the sport and all-time greats. This was one of the first widespread films showcasing Parkour. It is partly responsible for the take-off the sport has experienced over the past decade.


With that said, the majority of traceurs won’t be climbing gigantic cement sculptures most of the time. Rather, they will quickly traverse their local environments.

This video is a great example of what most traceurs aim to accomplish:



Basic Movements

As mentioned before, there is no official list of movements or way of doing Parkour. However, there are a set of common moves that most traceurs use. Here are some examples of the most common:


Vaulting



OR




Precisions

(Jumping and landing accurately with the feet on small or narrow obstacles)


Cat Grabs

(Jumping and landing feet-first on a vertical surface, catching the horizontal top with the hands)


Rolls

(Using a rolling motion to help absorb impacts from larger drops)


Wall Runs

(Running towards a high wall and then jumping and pushing off the wall with a foot to reach the top of the wall)


Where is Parkour Done?

There are no rules or restrictions on where a traceur can perform a run. One of the hallmarks of Parkour is the freedom it provides its practitioners to do what they want. As traceurs continue to practice and get more experience, they begin to see the world differently.

As beginners, they will usually start training in parks. These areas are great for those starting out because of the open space they provide and the abundant supply of simple obstacles (like benches and picnic tables).

As time goes on, however, traceurs will eventually see physical challenges all over their environment. They will start doing runs throughout their neighborhood, the forest, and a host of other locations that would not seem obvious to the casual observer.

In short, Parkour is a sport that is possible anywhere humans can move. That’s the point. The freedom it provides athletes to explore their environment is one of the main reasons people become infatuated with the discipline.

Why do We do Parkour?

There are many answers to this, and every person is different. Today, most young traceurs start with Parkour after seeing a series of videos on YouTube. There are countless YouTube stars these days, and their torrent of impressive videos is often the motivating factor behind newcomers joining the sport.

Others join because they are looking to get in shape. Parkour can be a rigorous physical discipline with great benefits to cardio and strength. This coupled with the fun-factor of exploring your environment via a series of ninja-style moves is a great combination for those who don’t like hitting the gym.

However, no matter what reason people start the sport, they usually remain for another: self-development.

As mentioned before, Parkour is a sport about conquering the physical world and the mental world.  Traceurs often apply rigorous physical and mental exercises during their training, similar to what martial artists use to develop themselves into trained fighters.

In this sense, the journey of becoming a traceur is not about becoming a YouTube star, or impressing one’s friends. The goal is to become the best human being you can by fortifying your mental and physical abilities in order to reach your human potential.

In our next article, we will break down some of the benefits of Parkour – both mentally and physically.

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