What is Parkour?
Let’s get this out of the way first – the definition of Parkour for this site, and all instances in which you see it is:
“A training discipline using your environment to challenge yourself through movement – can you reach that? Can you jump from A to B, or can you climb that? It is a natural activity, so no equipment required – simply use whatever obstacles you have to inspire movement. The nature of the challenge is individual – speed, power, efficiency, creativity etc; it’s up to you.”
Is it the same as Free Running?
A long time ago I would not have differentiated between the two however now that is no longer the case. There is a difference, and that goes beyond simple motivations. Free Running is effectively “competitive Parkour” – it has become its own beast, closer to street stunts & urban acrobatics than its original form.
Both ideologies are fine in their own right; they’re just different. Neither is superior than the other. It is simply the difference between the philosophical side of a martial art, and the competitive ‘points-based’ side. How can you grade spirit, motivation or the like? You can’t. Instead you focus on the things that can be marked – speed, power, technical difficulty, and of course the negative reinforcement of deductions.
What is L’ADD/ADD?
Sometimes you may see reference to yet another discipline called the Art of Displacement (EN), or L’Art du Deplacement (FN). This is simply another name for Parkour, at least as far as I’m concerned. Traditionally it focuses on the more creative aspects of movement using quite intricate elements, whilst continuing to move fluidly throughout an area. It is not as extreme as Free Running (has become).
Taken by its name, the obstacles displace you, and you adapt to the surroundings.
Where did it come from?
Parkour originated in Paris, France. It was propagated by a group of 9 friends whom wanted to train themselves to be stronger, faster, more able-bodied. Joined by camaraderie as well as the oppression of serious social issues plaguing Paris (ghetto suburbs & corrupt police).
From humble beginnings of simply doing press ups, pull ups etc, to climbing and challenging each other to go further. Inspired from Methode Naturale the training progressed to more movement orientated, and the group each explored movement from their own background (dance, martial arts etc).
Unfortunately life has its ups and downs, and soon the group had a falling out – there were 3x camps; David Belle, Sebastien Foucan, and the rest. Obviously it wasn’t that simply, but effectively you had David Belle laying claim to Parkour, Seb claiming/coining Free Running, and the Yamakasi calling it L’ADD. They were all the same, and it is only with the proliferation of competition that it has changed. Parkour & L’ADD are still interchangeable, whereas Free Running is more geared towards competition.
How do you start?
Isn’t that the philosophical question – how do you begin? Well that is up to you. You can attend classes or training sessions to learn from more experienced practitioners, or you can go it alone. In this day and age there are many tutorials to explain pretty much everything.
Personally I would recommend getting out, learning how to precision jump (this combines launch & landing techniques, as well as developing your awareness), the cross-roll, climb ups, and lazy vault. These give you a wide variety of skills, skills which can be applied to a myriad of obstacles – if enough time is devoted you will be able to adapt to pretty much any obstacle, and your movement will be solid.
With a solid foundation, you can learn pretty much anything else safely as the ground-net is in place. You have the reactions, and your body will better know what to do (and how to react!).
Ok, I’m sold – what do I need?
There is nothing that you need, however some things do help. Non-restrictive clothing e.g. tracksuit bottoms, combats etc, runners/trainers (grip in as solid a piece as possible for less wear & tear), a bag for your belongings on the move (less in your pockets the better). Water is absolutely critical – your reactions are much slower when dehydrated.
If you’re training alone a camera is a great way to review your technique to make changes etc.
I want to train, but…
Excuses. Seriously, stop. You can fabricate all the excuses in the world but the root-cause is still the same; you. Parkour is about overcoming obstacles, and the biggest one is going to be you. To help, here are the most common:
1.) No Time.
Make time. There are 24 hours in a day – 6 of which (at minimum) are required for sleep; that leaves you with 18 hours to play with. Given that a standard work day is 8 hours, and allowing for an hour either side for commute/food etc you have 8 hours left. That’s 56 hours a week – so what do you need to do? Write it down, and plan out your week. You can find the time to get out and train.
2.) No good places to train.
There are. Your local area has everything you need to keep you going. Parkour grew out of Lisses/Evry, and yes that place is amazing…but it is not unique. If you just have open space you can still work on Precision Jumps, Sprints, Rolls, Gap Jumps, Vertical Jumps etc. It is not as entertaining, true. But few places just have open space. You can usually find a wall to work on climb ups, or rails/walls to vault etc.
There is often confusion as people think of training as “jamming” – training is about repetition, whereas jamming is more about experimentation. When you’re drilling a movement, your requirements drastically reduce. This is where time management and proper planning really come in – if you can be open minded and think critically about how you train, you can make serious improvements by honing in on a particular area.
3.) Recurring injuries.
Rest. Recover. Rehabilitate. Train smarter. This is life – there are many set backs along the way, but it’s how you deal with them that matters. It’s one more obstacle in a discipline designed to overcome obstacles. Be smart, and train smart. If you have knee problems stay away from impact & adapt to the limitations you have…there is always another route.
For injuries, especially recurring ones, invest in your health – go to the doctor (or several; get different opinions) and follow their advice. Let the injury heal, and wait until you are told it is safe for you to train. Only then begin your rehabilitation work, and when your strength improves (whole body) you can begin training. It’s not an excuse; it’s a wake up call.
Fear is natural. Fear is good. You should work through it, as opposed to letting it control your training. Sure that sounds drastic, but if you are being held back because of fear then in some way you are letting it control you. Take small steps regularly to acclimatise yourself and slowly push yourself to go further. It’s not a race, and you shouldn’t take big risks just because, however it is important to do things that scare you a little.
5.) Not Fit enough.
Neither am I – that’s the point. There are things that I want to do that I am not yet able for, but this is a training – I’ve challenged myself so I will get there. Provided you train smartly you will see gains in strength, power & endurance. However if you are still not convinced you can of course compliment your training with resistance training to build up your body as you learn the basics.
OK, no excuses. So when do I start jumping between buildings?
Parkour is an activity based on challenge – the risks are there, but it is smart training to mitigate and minimise those risks. A 9ft jump between two fixed points is the same 1ft off the ground, or 100ft high – the only difference is what happens if it goes wrong. The former you get up, dust yourself off and learn from your mistakes…the latter is a phone call to your next of kin asking them to collect their splattered beloved. Risk over gain…the risk should never outweigh the gain – if it does, there’s something wrong.
Some people choose to go up high, increase the risk etc, some choose not to; it’s down to the individual.
Where do I start?
Start with the basics and build from the ground up. Parkour is made up of running, jumping, vaulting, and climbing. In videos you primarily see vaulting & flips (permutation of jumping) – but in reality the biggest obstacle is open space…running & endurance is the most important, yet least focused on. It is also the most boring, which is partly why it is virtually abandoned by all. Jumping is the next most valuable skill, followed by climbing and only then does vaulting come in. Personally I recommend learning how to jump (Standing Broad Jump, referred to as Precision Jump in Parkour, as well as the box/vertical jump) as this teaches you to land as well, focus on tacs & climb ups, and the roll. For vaulting I’d go with the lazy first and foremost, as it is one of the most adaptable in you repertoire.
If you are having difficulty with any techniques, please don’t hesitate to visit the Tutorials section.