Parkour, movement, philosophy and art.
Parkour is kwon as the art of moving through your environment using only your body and the surroundings to propel yourself. It involves running, jumping, climbing, even crawling, if that is the most suitable movement for the situation. Parkour could be grasped by imagining a race through an obstacle course, the goal is to overcome obstacles quickly and efficiently, without using extraneous movement. Apply this line of thought to an urban environment, or even a run through the woods, and you’re on the right path. Because individual movements could vary so greatly by the situation, it is better to consider Parkour as defined by the intention instead of the movements themselves. If the intention is to get somewhere using the most effective movements with the least loss of momentum, then it could probably be considered Parkour. It is not just acrobatics, tricking, stunts, recklessness, or jumping off high objects for no reason. It is predefined and has a purpose, if something doesn’t suit that purpose, it is not Parkour.
Origins and History
If you think about it, Parkour has been around as long as man’s need to hunt and avoid being hunted. Humans naturally have an astounding range of motion and range of options for how to move through a given set of obstacles. Further, children naturally move about with grace and ease, we only start to lose this later in life as we start to move with conscience. There have been several people throughout history to work on concepts of human movement and development, however, to look specifically at Parkour, we need to look at Raymond Belle, a French soldier in the Vietnam war. He and his companions worked to develop efficient methods “to reach or escape”. These were then handed down to David Belle, who has spent a majority of his young life working on these principles specifically as Parkour. There were some others who worked with him in the developing stages of Parkour in Lisses, Sebastien Foucan is probably the most well known.
The start of the “big jumps” was around the age of fifteen. Over the years as dedicated practitioners improved their skills, their moves continued to grow in magnitude, so that building-to-building jumps and drops of over a storey became common in media portrayals, often leaving people with a slanted view on the nature of parkour. In fact, ground-based movement is much more common than anything involving rooftops.
The journey of parkour from the Parisian suburbs to its current status as a widely practised activity outside of France created splits among the originators. The founders of parkour started out in a group named the Yamakasi, but later separated due to disagreements over what David Belle referred to as “prostitution of the art,” the production of a feature film starring the Yamakasi in 2001. Sebastian Foucan, David Belle, and Stephane Vigoroux were amongst those who split at this point. The name ‘Yamakasi’ is taken from Lingala, a language spoken in the Congo, and means strong spirit, strong body, strong man.
The Free Running Philosophy
When you begin doing Parkour for a while, you begin to see things from a different point of view. Parkour is in essence, the search for freedom. Parkour is a feeling trapped in each of us. Parkour wants to jump high and higher. Parkour means wishing to be better everyday, day by day, little by little. Parkour means taking control of your mind, your body and your soul. Parkour is about washing off fear from our Soul. Parkour means nurturing the mind. Finding balance. Parkour is a life style, a search for joy.
There are a large number of Parkour moves that are often used and have been given names. Though Parkour practitioners are encouraged to be creative with their movements and exert individual imagination, the basic moves still are in need such as landing. The following are a few of many Parkour landing basics:
- Landing: This is the most basic move after a small jump. The landing is toes first then the heel. You are never to land flat footed as the impact of your landing is not absorbed and could cause severe injury.
- Land and Roll: This technique spreads the impact throughout your entire body to even it out so it is not all absorbed in your feet and legs. This technique is used in larger jumps.
- Diving Roll: This is most used when passing railings and small fences. The practitioner jumps over the obstacle head-first and lands hands first and performs a roll. Because of the jump and roll, this technique permits fast recover of speed so the practitioner can keep moving at a continuous pace.
- Precision Landings: This group of techniques deals with landings where one lands on solid a solid obstacle and does not move. In most cases it is used when jumping to a structure with a narrow surface such as rails and walls. These techniques require both extreme balance and leg strength.
A main group of techniques in Parkour is jumping. Jumping is definitely the most attractive aspect of Parkour to viewers, it is also extremely important for getting across large amounts of space. The following are a few basic jumping techniques:
- Gap Jump: A gap jump is used when crossing long distances. The practitioner will run at a high speed and kick off the ground with one leg and then pulling the same leg to the front along with the other leg to prepare for landing. The landing is usually a Land and Roll because Gap Jumps usually are the longest and highest jumps.
- Vault Jumps: There are several different types of Vault Jumps that include the arms. Most Vault Jumps are used when passing an obstacle that is roughly two-thirds the height of the user. The practitioner will then jump up and catch the obstacle with his arms and push himself or herself upward over the obstacle.
Balance is one of the most important factors in becoming a successful Parkour practitioner. Without balance, a majority of the moves will not be able to be exercised. Balance not only requires practice, but also requires a great deal of strength and physical shape to be well performed. The following are a few of the basic balancing techniques:
- Cat Balance: This technique is most commonly used to climb up the railings of stairs. All four limbs are used directly on the railing. The user slowly climbs up the railing using both hands and feet. This technique takes extreme focus and concentration to perform.
- Precision Techniques: Precision landings require the user to be fully balanced after landing. The landing is usually upon a narrow strip of a solid object and the practitioner must maintain balance upon the object after making a large jump. This technique requires large amounts of practice and planning of the jump so the user lands without having to move have his or her feet has touched the ground.