From The Martial Arts Encyclopedia
A traceur performs an arm leap, which in french is called a saut de bras.

(Le) Parkour (sometimes abbreviated to PK) or l'art du déplacement<ref>Template:Cite web. </ref> (English: the art of displacement) is a physical art of French origin, the aim of which is to move from point A to point B as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body.<ref>Template:Cite web </ref> It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environment — from branches and rocks to rails and concrete walls — so parkour can be practiced in both rural and urban areas. Male parkour practitioners are recognized as traceurs and female as traceuses.<ref>Template:Cite web </ref>


The cultural phenomenon parkour is a physical activity which is difficult to categorize. It is not an extreme sport,<ref>Template:Cite web </ref> but an art or discipline that resembles self-defense in the martial arts.<ref>Template:Cite web </ref> According to the founder David Belle, the spirit of parkour is guided in part by the notions of "escape" and "reach," that is, the idea of using quick thinking with dexterity to get out of difficult situations.<ref>Template:Cite web </ref> Thus, when faced with a hostile confrontation with a person, one will be able to speak, fight, or flee. As martial arts are a form of training for the fight, parkour is a form of training for the flight. Because of its difficulty to categorize, it is often said that parkour is in its own category: "parkour is parkour."

An important characteristic of parkour is efficiency. A traceur moves not merely as fast as he can, but also in the least energy-consuming and most direct way possible. Since parkour's unofficial motto is être et durer (to be and to last), efficiency also involves avoiding injuries, short and long-term.

Parkour is also known to have an influence on practitioner's thought process. Traceurs and traceuses experience a change in their critical thinking skills to help them overcome obstacles in everyday life, whether they be physical or mental boundaries.<ref name="parkour-journeys"/>



Inspiration for parkour came from many sources, the foremost being the 'Natural Method of Physical Culture' developed by Georges Hébert in the early twentieth century.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> French soldiers in Vietnam were inspired by Hébert's work and created what is now known parcours du combattant.<ref name="David Belle Bio"/> David Belle was introduced to the obstacle course training as well as Hébert's methode naturelle by his father, Raymond Belle, a French soldier who practiced the two disciplines. David Belle had participated in activities such as martial arts and gymnastics, and sought to apply his athletic prowess in a manner that would have practical use in life.<ref name="David Belle Bio">Template:Cite web</ref>

After moving to Lisses, David Belle continued his journey with others.<ref name="David Belle Bio"/> "From then on we developed," says Sébastien Foucan in Jump London, "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."

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 story 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 practiced 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. Sébastien Foucan, David Belle, 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.


Template:Quote box

This is a main part of the physical art that most of the non-practitioners have not seen or heard about, yet according to the founding fathers of the physical art it is an integral part of parkour, in the words of David Belle and originally by Brendan Eiznekcem:Template:Fact
“I want to live and share what I have learned, not just write it in a book that will make it a dead activity and we don’t want the sport to die”.Template:Fact

It is as much as a part of truly learning the physical art 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 parkour.

Andreas Kalteis, an Austrian traceur, has stated in documentary Parkour Journeys:

"To understand the philosophy of parkour takes quite a while, because you have to get used to it first. While you still have to try to actually do the movements, you will not feel much about the philosophy. But when you're able to move in your own way, then you start to see how parkour changes other things in your life; and you approach problems — for example in your job — differently, because you have been trained to overcome obstacles. This sudden realization comes at a different time to different people: some get it very early, some get it very late. You can't really say 'it takes two months to realize what parkour is'. So, now, I don't say 'I do parkour', but 'I live parkour', because its philosophy has become my life, my way to do everything." <ref name="parkour-journeys">Template:Cite video</ref>

Another philosophy's aspect is its freedom. It is often said that parkour can be practiced by anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world. This freedom has made it a powerful cultural force in Europe, with its influence spreading around the world.


On May 1, 2007 a campaign was started by Erwan (Hebertiste), TK17 and Parkour.NET portal<ref name="rivalry-free">Template:Cite web</ref> to preserve parkour's philosophy against sport competition and rivalry.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Defenders argue that competition pushes people to fight against others for the satisfaction of a crowd and/or the benefits of a few business people by changing its mindset.<ref name="rivalry-free"/> Parkour is unique and cannot be a competitive sport if it ignores its altruistic core to self development.<ref name="rivalry-free"/> If parkour becomes a sport, it will be hard to seriously teach and spread parkour as a non-competitive activity.<ref name="rivalry-free"/> And a new sport will be spread that may be called parkour, but that won't hold its philosophy's essence anymore.<ref name="rivalry-free"/>


There are fewer predefined movements in parkour than gymnastics, in that parkour is not made up of a list of appropriate "moves". Each obstacle a traceur faces presents a unique challenge on how they can overcome it effectively, which depends on their body type, speed and angle of approach, the physical make-up of the obstacle, etc. Parkour is about training the body and mind to be able to react to those obstacles appropriately with a technique that works; many times that technique cannot and need not be classified and given a name. In many cases effective parkour techniques depend upon rapid redistribution of body weight (as the name would suggest) and by utilizing momentum to perform seemingly impossible or difficult body maneuvers at 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 spinal column, 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 toward someone/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,<ref name="David Belle Meets PKCali"></ref> but not necessarily with the same movements or passements. Despite this, there are many basic techniques that are emphasized to beginners for their versatility and effectiveness.

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. Many traceurs develop joint problems from too many large drops and rolling incorrectly.

Basic movements

The basic movements defined on parkour are:<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Synonym Description
French English
Atterrissage or réception Landing Bending the knees when toes make contact with ground (never land flat footed; always land on toes and ball of your foot).
Équilibre Balance Walking along the crest of an obstacle; literally "balance."
Équilibre de chat Cat balance Quadrupedal movement along the crest of an obstacle.
Franchissement Underbar, jump through Jumping or swinging through a gap between obstacles; literally "to cross" or "to break through."
Lâché Dismount, swinging jump Hanging drop; lacher 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.
Passe muraille Pop vault, wall hop Overcoming a wall, usually by use of a kick off the wall to transform forward momentum into upward momentum. A passe muraille with two hand touches, for instance one touch on the top of a wall and another grabbing the top of the railing of the wall, is called a "Dyno".
Passement Vault General term of overcoming an obstacle by vaulting.
Demitour Turn vault A vault involving a 180° turn; literally "half turn." This move is used to place yourself hanging from the other side of an object in order to shorten a drop or prepare for a jump.
Reverse vault A vault involving a 360° 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.
Planche 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.
Roulade Roll A forward roll where the hands, arms and diagonal of the back contact the ground. Used primarily to transfer the momentum/energy from jumps.
Saut de bras Arm jump, cat leap 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 chat Cat jump/pass, (king) kong vault To dive forward over an obstacle so that the body becomes horizontal, push off with the hands and tuck the legs, such that the body is brought back to a vertical position, ready to land.
Saut de fond Drop Literally 'jump to the ground' / 'jump to the floor'. To jump down, or drop down from something.
Saut de détente Gap 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 Precision jump Static jump from one object to a precise spot on another object.
Tic tac Tic tac To kick off a wall in order to overcome another obstacle or gain height to grab something.


Practitioners spend little money to practice parkour and normally train wearing:<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

However, since parkour is closely related to Méthode Naturelle, sometimes practitioners train barefooted to be able to move efficiently without depending on their gear. There is quote of David Belle saying: "Bare feet are the best shoes!"Template:Cn

Free running


Free running is a term the meaning of which was once identical to parkour, but is currently often confused and erroneously used as a replacement for the term parkour. After David Belle and Sébastien Foucan went separate ways, free running evolved into an art that emphasized true and complete freedom of movement, and regards the grace and beauty of the movement as more important than efficiency.<ref name="Foucon Interview">Template:Cite web </ref> Foucan defines free running as, "following your own way" and emphasises that the primary goal is self development.[1] While traceurs and traceuses practice parkour in order to improve their ability to overcome obstacles faster and in the most efficient manner, free runners practice and employ a broader array of movements that are not always necessary in order to overcome obstacles. The meaning of the different philosophical approaches to movement can be summed up by the following two quotes: Experienced free runner Jerome Ben Aoues explains in the documentary Jump London that

"the most important element is the harmony between you and the obstacle; the movement has to be elegant... If you manage to pass over the fence elegantly — that's beautiful, rather than saying 'I jumped the lot.' What's the point in that?"<ref>Template:Cite video</ref>

David Belle and/or PAWA team emphasized the division between parkour and free running by stating: Template:Cquote

In popular culture

File:David Belle.jpg
David Belle in a chase sequence from District 13.


Parkour has appeared in various television advertisements, news reports and entertainment pieces, often combined with other forms of acrobatics also called free running, street stunts and tricking.

The most notable appearances have been the narrative films:

Parkour documentaries include

See also


  • 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".
  • Georges Hébert — early proponent of the obstacle course, inspiration to Belle's family.
  • Fitness trail — a fitness training attributed to Georges Hébert.
  • Free climbing — a style of climbing using no artificial aids to make progress.
  • Tricking — a sport with roots in different forms of martial arts and gymnastics, often mistaken for parkour by the media and public.
  • Street stunts — "Urban gymnastics" an activity usually practiced both by free runners and tricksters.
  • Yamakasi — a group founded by David Belle 3 years before parkour with emphasis on style, fluidity and freedom. It is also a 2001 movie.
  • Urban exploration — Parkour can be considered a sub-section of urban exploration.


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External links