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So… what is parkour?

Parkour in the simplest term it is trying to travel from A to B in the most efficient way possible using various methods to get past obstacles – such as running, jumping, climbing, swinging, vaulting, rolling, and many more.

Free running is the term that the English community came up with which is similar to parkour but includes tricking and flipping too. Most people tend to use both styles which is why we use the two terms interchangeably.

It can be done by anyone in any environment and as each differs, it gets you thinking of new ways and imagining the potential ways you can navigate through it. There is no official list of moves in this sport. Individual’s style sets them apart from others. There is no wrong way. The only right way to do parkour is the safe way! 

Parkour was popularised through the late 1990s, through films, Tv, games and advertisements. Each year it attracts more people. With countless parkour stunts performed in films/TV shows. It is fast becoming a sport everyone wants to try! 

How did Parkour begin?

Parkour has been around for many years, it is said to have been established in France. David Belle is considered to be the creator and founder of Parkour way back in 1988.

Even though David is the founder of parkour, the idea seems to have stemmed from his father, Raymond Belle. At 7 years old he was sent to a military orphanage. He would train at night using the military obstacle courses to increase his strength, flexibility and endurance – he had the mindset of wanting to be better than everyone else

He called his training ‘parcours.’

Raymonds training method was influenced by a man called Georges Hebert. George developed a training system known as “La methode naturelle” where various physical capacities and the training of courage and ethics is combined. 

David experimented with gymnastics and also athletics but just couldn’t get into it. After conversations with his father he realised this is the sport he has been thriving for. He soon trained the same way and came to the realisation training was more important than school and later gave up all his other commitments to focus solely on his training. He then started a group called ‘Yamakasi’ which means strong in one’s person. They believe parkour builds a person who is physically, mentally and ethnically strong. 

Is Parkour Gymnastics?

Even though there are similar elements of gymnastics within parkour, it does differ a lot. They are acrobatic sports in their own ways.

Gymnastics is a sport in which people aim for perfection. Pointed toes, straight arms, straight legs, perfect landings, the perfect 10. Whereas in parkour you do need perfection but in a very different way. Perfection in Parkour stems from safety and efficiency. For example, free runners don’t need to worry about pointing their toes in a ‘run’ but they do need to make sure they land on the balls of their feet on the edge when performing a precision jump. This limits the pressure on joints and helps you gain control… which you will definitely need if you’re jumping from a height! Free runners practice ‘bail’ techniques and ways to fall safely which gymnasts don’t always do.

One thing is the same… both come with a community of people who find joy through movement and find it is the best way to express themselves. 

Parkour enables you to use your imagination more and be more creative in the sport. As a result it doesn’t have many specific rules about doing it right but in gymnastics there is always an aim for perfection.

An additional difference there is between the two disciplines is the environment in which you can do it; Parkour can literally be performed any where, not just inside a gym! Gymnastics has its specialised equipment, parkour you can do your training on anything! Some free runners may also train inside a gym when learning new skills because it has safer surroundings i.e. safety mats before training it outside. 

Gymnastics VS Parkour?

Which sport to choose? At Virtue you can choose either one or even both. Both have their own positive aspects. If you don’t fancy a gymnastics class you may find a freestyle class is better for you. You may find parkour is more suited for you if you enjoy being outside, travelling and have a wide imagination. If you go for a walk and you find yourself looking at your surroundings thinking about how you could jump over it or get around it then parkour is for you!

The best thing is anyone can do Parkour!

Yes ANYONE! Any age, any level, if you have gymnastics background and if you don’t. It is a sport that has many training purposes. Parkour athletes take on challenges that test their power, technique, speed, coordination, balance, creativity and endurance. 

Can you compete in Parkour?

You can keep your training at a fun recreational level or you can train hard and take it to competitions! There are three types of categories in competitions.

  • Speed | You are judged on how fast you can manoeuvre from A to B
  • Style | There are obstacles within two points and you have to create a run that includes skills and creativity. The judges score you based on your execution, difficulty, flow, creativity and the use of the environment
  • Skill | Tests your ability to generate power with optimal technique. You will be given skills to demonstrate, the quality of your technique is judged.

Where can I watch a Parkour competition?

There are many different organisations that support parkour. One being the World Freerunning Parkour Federation which was established back in 2007. An organisation called NAPC (now known as Sport Parkour League) is another, it hosts of the most highly praised competitions parkour has. Red Bull Art of Motion is popular annual competition which has been held since 2007 and Airwipp is one of the first big competitions to have both adult and youth competitors.

The past year, being in the circumstance we are in, we think parkour has been a real asset for us. Sporting facilities, including gyms, have been closed, so it has led people to venture outside and give free running a go! Other than your normal exercising, it has been a great way to keep active, stay fit and keep a bit of social interaction whilst keeping at a safe distance.

Hang in there for blog #6… 

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