One of the methods of movement that has captured my imagination for a long, long time has been parkour. It’s fascinating! If you were to use the google machine to search, you could find numerous incredible videos of people navigating unimaginable obstacles freely, creatively, and usually quickly. These people have always seemed inhuman to me, possessing skills I could only dream of having.
It’s growing in popularity and recognition, too. You may have even noticed it popping up more frequently in action movies, such as in this scene of the Daniel Craig version of the James Bond movie, ‘Casino Royale’.
It’s something that I had always thought was beyond my ability, and that I’d never be able to do it.
Very recently, though, I’ve been noticing that people were telling others that I “do parkour” (lately I’ve had many introductions to people as a result of my move to New Zealand). But I thought, and sometimes replied, “I just jump around and balance and climb things sometimes.”
Confused by this, I was forced to think more about what the practice actually means, what I do, and how what I do might relate to parkour in any way.
After figuring out the actual definition of what the movement style encompassed, instead of just associating it with extreme YouTube videos, I’ve come to the conclusion that I practice parkour. I had always just thought of it as a fun way for me to play around outside, basically. Going forward, I will refer to what I do as parkour.
What is parkour?
It’s a method of moving that incorporates some elements of running, jumping, balancing, climbing, creativity, fun, play, and skill.
It’s a natural movement. There is another method of moving called MovNat that you may or may not be familiar with. Its basic premise is an attempt to move in a way that is natural to our species, opposed to isolating muscles and performing monotonous, repetitive tasks. This is a lot of what parkour is about as well — moving freely in ways that incorporate your entire body working in sync, in a “functional” manner — and both can be practiced in nature, which in my opinion is much more fun to do.
MovNat and Parkour are incredibly similar in my mind, and the only difference I can conjure up would be that Parkour seems to more-so be directed at moving through space, whereas MovNat seems primarily to be about moving one’s body.
Parkour is a movement style that you may notice has lots of similarities to gymnastics. Many gymnastics skills are definitely helpful for competency in parkour, but most notably I think body control and kinesthetic awareness are key similarities. It’s important to understand how to control your body, to move it in a certain way, and to feel what is happening when you do so.
I used to think, whenever I heard the word “parkour,” that it referred to incredibly talented martial artists that would jump from building to building, doing flips over death-defying heights. But now, upon reflection, I realize that it’s not necessarily an “extreme” sport; in fact, everybody has done parkour before. It’s not simply about performing adrenaline-inducing stunts; it’s all about exploring and improving upon your own current capabilities. It’s something that we’ve all done as kids, from climbing a jungle-gym, to traversing monkey bars, to playing “the ground is lava,” which by the way is one of my favourite games to this day!
It doesn’t require a dedicated time slot. It can, however, be a part of a specific training routine — and I think it should if you aspire to be good at it! But when somebody asked me, “How often do you practice/what do you do?” I didn’t have a specific thought-out answer for them. It’s often a random part of my day that sometimes only lasts for seconds at a time on a walk home from work. Lately I’ve been incorporating various bodyweight strength/control movements into my training routine in order to strengthen some of my weaknesses, but I don’t have specific “parkour” time.
My training for this is similar to what I would be doing otherwise as a part of “winter-training”: strength training, sprints/jumping, random play, and long hikes. This actually mostly makes up the “random play” part of my training..
Why do I like parkour?
Freedom is the main reason that I enjoy parkour. There are no rules or guidelines, and you are free to carry out any movement that is a result of applying your skillset to your imagination. This result, whatever you are capable of performing, is the only limit you have to what you are “allowed” to do, and that constantly changes as you improve.
Another one of my favourite reasons for practicing parkour is that it’s incredibly challenging. I think that using physical mediums for challenging ourselves is an important way by which we improve our ability to problem solve, as well as increase our confidence, and in a way that translates to other areas of life as well. Most recently, I can think of an example of my doing this that involved thinking about how to climb a tree that’s slightly out of reach, trying many times, failing, repeating, and finally getting.
How does it relate to “running”?
Another word for “parkour” (which technically means something slightly different now, but we’ll not get into that) is called Freerunning. It is a very straightforward way of explaining what this is: running around and freely navigating obstacles.
I also think that it is a branch of the sport ‘Running’ and I generally treat it as such. I also incorporate some aspects of this into my trail-running, which I sort of touched on here.
Now that I have officially accepted the fact that I participate in what is known as Parkour, I will likely tailor some of my training to improve upon my current ability to practice it. I think it is within the scope of this blog (simply limited by its name) to write about the subject as I progress my skills.
Edit: If you are/were of the same opinion as I was regarding Parkour, that it is an extreme daredevil sport, please see this video: TEDxFlourCity – CharlesMoreland – Parkour Training (shared with me in the comments below by Victoria Prince — thanks!)