?php echo do_shortcode('[widget id="text-xy"]') ?

The emergence of Parkour

By  |  0 Comments

“An art to help you pass any obstacle” is how the founder and practitioner David Belle describes the discipline he has coined as Parkour. Some call it a sport, others agree that it is a philosophy and the truly dedicated practitioners believe that it is an art. This individualised form of movement has become one of the most popular methods of physical training worldwide.

Parkour is a military practice that has been transferred to urban surroundings. It is about getting from one place to another using only the body and is not restricted to urban terrains. This form of discipline can be applied in any environment. In this age of technology and machines, most people have adapted to using the gym and exercise machines however Parkour allows the individual to feel the dirt beneath their toes; to interact with nature rather than being sheltered from the world.

Using techniques like wall spins, vaults, flips, and jumps, “traceurs” as practitioners are called, overcome physical obstacles that exist in their surroundings such as walls, fences, buildings and bridges. The thought of cart wheeling or jumping off high buildings seems foolish and dangerous but believers of the sport are quick to defend the training.

Image by Josa Júnior

Image by Josa Júnior

“Everything we do in life has an element of danger, but you need to understand your limitations, it’s called managed risk” says 28 year old Parkour coach Shirley. “It is an art that can be mastered through proper training.”

24 year old Ian Shore, who has only recently joined the discipline claims that, “no one is encouraging people to jump off bridges, the techniques are taught by highly professional coaches but the individual must understand their capabilities and stop when it’s appropriate.”

The earliest form of the movement known as “méthode naturelle” emerged before the First World War and was defined by French naval officer, Georges Hébert. He developed this method in the military after visiting African tribes. Hébert used their methods to develop a training to help officers use their natural body movement to get past obstacles in their path – this laid the foundation for the later development of Parkour.

Years later, after being isolated from his parents during the Indochina war, a similar method was adopted by a man called Raymond Belle who was a child soldier. To survive in the military he trained hard during the night whilst everyone was asleep as he did not want to be a victim of the other officer’s abuse. Belle ended up in France, which lead to the further development of Parkour where his son David Belle became the owner of the brand in the 1980s.

Belle found 8 other guys who had the same passion for the method and thus began a great movement in France, which was later taken to England by Belle’s friend Sebastian Foucan. It garnered popularity through films and advertisements that used the professionals to showcase their set of tricks.  It can be seen as an inspiring journey for Belle for he started as someone that trained in the streets and after years of gruelling training and sleeping on the cold floor he transformed into a much sought after stunt man, choreographer and now filmmaker in Hollywood. Parkour has now made its way to TV shows like Ninja Warriors and documentaries like ‘Breaking the line.’

After being popularised by YouTube and Hollywood, many adherents around the world have been enticed to practice the discipline because they think it looks ‘cool.’  But the originators of this movement disagree with this perspective as it goes against the principles of Parkour.

The act of Parkour is an inspiration for self development and the philosophies and theories are central to its principles. The movement is more profound than doing a couple of flips to act like Spiderman. It enables a person to increase their focus and control. Belle describes the process as an act of “self refinement.”  Ashleigh Knight is a diligent 18-year-old student from Kings College London who has been involved in Parkour since she was 16, she adds, “this form of activity encourages one to overcome hurdles not only physically but also emotionally. I used to lack confidence but once I master a certain move, it makes me feel like I can conquer anything. Parkour is a way of life not just a sport.”

The originators of the movement are against classifying Parkour as a sport because it promotes rivalry between traceurs, which goes against the principle of humility that is an integral part of the practice.  According to the website, parkour.net, competition “pushes people to fight against others for the satisfaction of a crowd and/or the benefits of a few business people”. As a result, the website led a campaign to prevent the practice from becoming a sport in 2007.

The movement has rapidly expanded to several countries however it seems that it needs better investment if it is going to be socially accepted by everyone within society.  Max Sterling from the Chainstore in East London says, “It’s really good to see that there are a lot of young people that are showing interest in the sport but parents are still wary of the risks, we need to invest more time, money and organisation towards training in order for it to become part of our culture.”

There is a rather poetic notion to this abstract physical phenomenon because of the way traceurs look at their surroundings. Non practitioners will see a lamp post as a simple man-made object that exudes light, yet a practitioner of Parkour will look at it in different way. Either it will be used as a stepping stone to overcome an obstacle or it will be seen as an obstacle that must be tackled. Parkour has come a long way since its inception, from 9 French teenagers running wild in the streets to thousands of people being professionally trained worldwide. One thing is certain, once you start doing Parkour; your whole outlook on life is completely changed.

Featured Image by Marco Crupi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>