(sometimes also abbreviated to
) or l'art du
( ) is a non competitive physical
discipline of French origin in which participants run along a
route, attempting to negotiate obstacles in the most efficient way
possible, as if moving in an emergency situation, using skills such
as jumping and climbing, or the more specific parkour moves. The
object is to get from one place to another using only the human
body and the objects in the environment. The obstacles can be
anything in one's environment, but parkour is often seen practiced
in urban areas because of the many suitable public structures that
are accessible to most people, such as buildings and rails.
The official definition from the American Parkour website says,
"Parkour is the physical discipline of training to overcome any
obstacle within one's path by adapting one's movements to the
Parkour practitioners are often called traceurs
Parkour is most often practiced outdoors, usually without
spectators, and is not considered to be performance oriented.
According to REFO, "the physical aspect of Parkour consists of
getting over all the obstacles in your path as you would in an
emergency. You want to move in such a way that helps you gain the
most ground on someone or something, whether escaping from it or
moving towards it." As martial arts are a form of training for the
fight, parkour is a form of training for the flight.
Two primary characteristics of parkour are efficiency and speed.
Practitioners are supposed to take the most direct path around an
obstacle as rapidly as that path can be traversed. Developing one's
level of spatial awareness
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
be and to last). Those who are skilled at this activity normally
have extremely keen spatial awareness.
Parkour's emphasis on efficiency distinguishes it from the similar
practice of free running
, which places
more emphasis on freedom of movement and creativity. However, it is
not certain whether free running was initially intended to be
similar to parkour.
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
The first terms used to describe this form of training were
l'art du déplacement
and le parcours
The term parkour
( ) was coined by David Belle
and his friend Hubert Koundé
. It derives from
parcours du combattant
, the classic obstacle course
method of military training
proposed by Georges Hébert
derived from the French verb
which normally means "to trace", or "to draw", but
which is also a slang for "to go fast".
Before World War I
, former French
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:
On May 8,
1902, the town of Saint-Pierre, Martinique, where he was stationed, suffered from the volcanic
eruption of Mount
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
" (be strong to be useful).
by indigenous tribes, Hébert became a physical education tutor at
the college of Reims in
He began to define the principles of his own system
of physical education and to create various apparati and exercises
to teach his méthode naturelle
, which he defined as:
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
- 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
— an obstacle course, developed by a
Swiss architect, which is standard in the military training and led
to the development of civilian fitness
French soldiers and firefighters developed their obstacle courses
known as parcours du combattant
Belle was born in French Indochina
father died during the First
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
Battle of Dien
Bien Phu, Raymond was repatriated to France and completed
his military education in 1958.
At age 19, his dedication to
helped him serve in Paris's
regiment of sapeurs-pompiers
(the French fire service).
With his athletic ability, Raymond became the regiment's champion
rope-climber and joined the regiment's elite team, composed of the
unit's fittest and most agile firefighters. Its members were the
ones called for the most difficult and dangerous rescue
Lauded for his coolness, courage, and self-sacrifice, Raymond
played a key role in the Parisian firefighters' first
helicopter-borne operation. His many rescues, medals, and exploits
gave him a reputation of being an exceptional pompier
inspired the next young generation, especially his son, David
Born in a firefighter's family, David was influenced by stories of
heroism. 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
Development in Lisses
After moving to Lisses
commune, David Belle
continued his journey with others. "From then on we developed,"
says Sébastien Foucan
, "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."
David Belle, Laurent Piemontesi, Sébastien Foucan, Jordan Hess,
Yann Hnautra, Charles Perrière, Malik Diouf, Guylain N'Guba-Boyeke,
Châu Belle-Dinh, and Williams Belle created the group called
Yamakasi, whose name comes from the
Lingala language of Congo, and means strong spirit, strong body, strong
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
Over the years, as dedicated practitioners improved their skills,
their moves grew. Building-to-building jumps and drops of over a
story 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, due to accessibility
to find legal places to climb in an urban area. From the Parisian
suburbs, parkour became a widely practised activity outside
Philosophy and theories
According to Williams Belle, the philosophies and theories behind
Parkour are an integral aspect of the art, one that many
non-practitioners have never been exposed to. Belle trains people
because he wants "it to be alive" and for "people to use it". Châu
Belle Dinh explains it is a "type of freedom" or "kind of
expression"; that Parkour is "only a state of mind" rather than a
set of actions, and that it is about overcoming and adapting to
mental and emotional obstacles as well as physical barriers.
A recent convention of parkour philosophy has been the idea of
"human reclamation". Andy (Animus of Parkour North America)
clarifies it as "a means of reclaiming what it means to be a human
being. It teaches us to move using the natural methods that we
should have learned from infancy. It teaches us to touch the world
and interact with it, instead of being sheltered by it."
It is as much as a part of truly learning this activity as well as
being able to master the movements, it gives you the ability to
"overcome your fears and pains and reapply this to life" as you
must be able to control your mind in order to master the art of
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 (Hebertiste):
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
, allowing a traceur to jump
from greater heights than those often considered sensible in other
forms of acrobatics and gymnastics.
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, wherever you go, you must be able to get back, 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
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. Despite this, the American
traceur Mark Toorock and Lanier Johnson, executive director of the
say that injuries are rare because parkour
is based on the control of movements, not on what cannot be
Some movements defined in parkour are:
|Atterrissage [ateʁisaʒ] or réception [ʁesɛpsjɔ̃]
||Bending the knees when toes make contact with ground (never
land flat footed; always land on toes and ball of your foot).
||Walking along the crest of an obstacle; literally
|Équilibre de chat
||Quadrupedal movement along the crest of an obstacle.
||Jumping or swinging through a gap between obstacles; literally
"to cross" or "to break through."
||Hanging 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.
||Pop vault, wall hop, Wallpass, wallrun
||Overcoming 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
||To move over an object with one's hand(s) on an object to ease
||Turn vault, Turn Down
||A 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.
||To overcome an obstacle by jumping side-ways first, then
placing one hand on the obstacle to self-right your body and
||To 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
||Cat pass/jump, (king) kong vault, monkey vault
||The 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.
||This 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.
||A 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.
||This 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 of
the object at the end, as in a dash vault.
||Muscle-up or climb-up
||To 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.
||A 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 identical to the basic Kaiten
or Ukemi and it was taken from Martial Arts
such as Judo, Ninjutsu,
Jujutsu, hapkido and
|Saut de bras
||Arm jump, cat leap, cat grab
||To 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
||Literally 'jump to the ground' / 'jump to the floor'. To jump
down, or drop down from something.
|Saut de détente
||Gap jump, running jump
||To jump from one place/object to another, over a gap/distance.
This technique is most often followed with a roll.
|Saut de précision or précision
||Static or moving jump from one object to a precise spot on
another object. This term can refer to any form of jumping
|Saut de mur
||Wall Jump, Tic-Tac or Tac Vault
||To step off a wall in order to overcome another obstacle or
gain height to grab something
For certain terms, the French version is used, commonly "lache",
and some will be used in English, usually with simple names such as
"catpass" and "precision".
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
, 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
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. Figures within the parkour community, including parkour
instructors and David Belle, 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.
There is no equipment required, although practitioners normally
train wearing light casual clothing:
The only gear really required is comfortable athletic shoes
that are generally light, with
good grip. Various sport shoes manufacturers around the world
started offering parkour specific lines. Some traceurs use
sweat-bands for forearm protection, or even thin athletic gloves to
protect the hands, but most traceurs advise against this as it
reduces grip and feel.
However, since parkour is closely related to méthode
, 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
, as a way to
present parkour to the English-speaking world. Often misunderstood
as separate arts, the founders and principal practitioners in
Europe do not consider any distinction, and use all names
interchangeably for the discipline.
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.
After the attention that Parkour received following the film
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
Parkour has appeared in various television advertisements, news
reports and entertainment pieces, often combined with other forms
of acrobatics, such as free running, street stunts and
- Banlieue 13 features
parkour and stars David Belle and
- Casino Royale
features Sébastien Foucan in a
chase that implements many aspects of parkour.
- Breaking and
Entering includes a parkour scene.
- Live Free or Die
Hard includes a parkour sequence.
- Cops and Robbers includes parkour sequences.
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
- Through the Assassin's
Creed protagonist Altaïr and the Assassin's Creed II protagonist
Ezio, the player uses parkour.
- Crackdown is an Xbox 360 action game and it has a parkour
- Tony Hawk's
American Wasteland: one of the several techniques that the
player can do whilst not on your skateboard is free-running,
although it is called parkour in the game. Also, it's possible to
wall-run, wire-grab and other parkour movements.
- Mirror's Edge: a
critically acclaimed Xbox 360, PlayStation
3 and PC game with the main focus being on a gang of outlaws
called "Runners," who excel and specialize in parkour.
- In The
Office , characters Michael Scott, Andy, and Dwight became
fascinated with Internet parkour videos. The three decided to
attempt parkour in the office and outside of the building, all the
while yelling "hardcore parkour!"
- The Road
to El Dorado, a 2000 movie made by Dreamworks, sees the two main characters (Miguel and Tullio)
performing multiple Parkour-type stunts.
- The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
mentions parkour by name and plays a vital role in the game.
- In House , the
opening sequence features parkour in a chase scene.
- the Xbox 360 and PC title Left 4
Dead has a character, known as a "Hunter", whose design
and abilities are based on parkour. This character also returns in
the sequel Left 4 Dead 2
(with a slightly modified appearance).
- Madonna made use of 3 Parkour
performers, including Sébastien
Foucan during her 2006 Confessions
Tour, and Parkour featured heavily in her music video to
- Buildering - the act of climbing the
outside of buildings and other urban structures. The word is a
portmanteau combining the word
"building" with the climbing term "bouldering".
- Dérive - a French situationist philosophy of
re-envisioning one's relation to urban spaces (psychogeography) and acting
- Free Running - a form of urban
acrobatics in which participants, known as free runners, use the
city and rural landscape to perform movements through its
- Tricking - an art with roots in
different forms of martial arts and gymnastics, often mistaken for
parkour by the media and public.
- Qing Gong - a traditional chinese
martial arts that translate into "light body skill" where the
martial artist would perform feats of great agility and jump to
great heights. Certain Wudang martial artists
are seen using this skill to scale vertical heights in a way
similar to parkour movements.
- Urban freeflow
- Yamakasi - a group founded by Yann
Hnautra, David Belle, Laurent Piemontesi and Chau Belle Dinh 3
years before parkour with emphasis on style, fluidity and freedom.
It is also a 2001 movie.