What is Parkour?

    Parkour is probably one of the purest forms of extreme sport. All you need is your body and the skills of controlling it. It’s simple- run around and challenge all kind of obstacles using only your body.

    Parkour is usually performed in the cities were there are plenty of obstacles like walls, stair cases, trees, buildings roofs etc…

    It’s all started in the beginning of the last century with a French naval officer named Georges Hébert. He started training in the new types of workouts, a type that had a direct purpose. He first got the inspiration from the the native tribes in African. He saw how flexible, strong and enduring their bodies were as the result of just living their lives in nature.

    He realized that these abilities would be useful for the soldiers on the battlefield and began teaching those techniques back in France. With time, his teaching became a standard system of the French military training.

    At the end of the 30′s Raymond Belle was born in Vietnam, half French half Vietnamese, he was cut off from his parents in an early age and spent his childhood in a military orphanage. There he understood that he needed to be stronger than others to survive and to be left alone. He began to do extra training secretly, at nights, using the military obstacle courses. Soon he developed his own method. He gained strength, flexibility and agility which not only got him to be left alone but impressed everybody around him.

    David Belle, Raymond’s son, was born in 1973. Inspired by his father’s exploits he began to train, first by himself but very quickly was joined by others.

    Couple years before the end of the century, they sent some videos to a French TV station. In the following years videos were broadcasted, introducing Parkour to the world. As the Internet grew, Parkour got another boost and became more and more popular.

    The name Parkour is the modification of the term “Le parcours” used by Raymond Belle when he began practicing at the military obstacle courses- “parcours du combatant” in French. His son David changed “parcours” to “Parkour” because he liked the stronger and more flowing sound of it.

    This is a  young and growing extreme sport which is spreading rapidly. Parkour has some “teenage symptoms” with some similarities to the skateboarding scene back in the 80′s. There is no realy competitive side and most of the techniques don’t have real order or even sometimes the same name.

    There are different ways to practice Parkour- you can perform your acrobatic tricks staying mostly at the same spot interacting with your surroundings, or you can do free running which is the same concept, except that you are always on the move as if you’re chasing someone. When you utilize you parkour skills in free running you are able to climb, overpass and get to places that the average Joe can’t. In fact, there is no clear definition of where parkour becomes free running and both terms are used for the same thing.

    But hey, this is the beauty of this pure extreme sport, freedom is the name of the game- freedom from a specific equipment, freedom from rules and definitions, freedom to do with your body things that other people can’t, do defy the laws of physics binding us to our dull everyday surroundings.

    What’s extreme about it?

    Because there are almost no rules to this extreme sport parkour really depends only on you and what you want to make out of it, from just some athletic tricks on the grass to true adrenaline buffed extreme sport.

    To take it to the extreme you will have to jump from high roofs or climb to high places along strange paths like the outside of a staircase and so on.

    In this extreme sport you can’t get the immediate rush. If you want adrenaline you will have to work for it. Because of its pure nature, Parkour is an activity in which you really need to be at a good level to do extreme things. Gaining this level takes time, sweat and a lot of dedication.

    Nevertheless, the “process” of learning your skills and adapting your body will be full of small gifts of adrenaline and satisfaction. The day you complete your first back flip will be a day you will never forget. As you overcome the physical boundaries forced upon you by laws of nature, as well as the boundaries imosed on you from the day you were born by society, by education, by the unwritten rules of what is accepted and what isn’t, you’ll taste the true feeling of freedom hidden in parkour.

    How dangerous is it?

    As said before, it depends on how far you take it. In average, it is one of the safest extreme sports out there. Most of the “severe” injuries are fractured ankle or wrist. Some lighter injuries like twists etc are more common.

    Because in Parkour you don’t use any equipment or machinery it is easier to be in control.

    Now, if you go to extreme Parkour, jumping from high places, running fast on very narrow and high steps, the danger factor raises.

    If you are capable of doing such things, it probably means that your skills and physical strength are very good, but now you’ll pay much higher price if you make a mistake and fall. In the extreme regimes death is possible although still rare and the injuries can get a lot uglier.

    How to start?

    There is nothing easier than to start Parkour, it is harder to persist until you become good in it. All you need to start is a shirt and some willpower. There are more and more Parkour teachers available around the globe as this sport is becoming more popular.

    If you don’t have anybody like this around, you can start with exercising gymnastics. There you’ll learn most of the things necessary for Parkour, like flips, rolls, correct landings etc.

    For example, Damien Walters who spent most of his life as a professional gymnast, in the last years is making use of his gymnastic skills to perform extreme Parkour and free running. So, starting in a gymnastic school won’t be such a bad idea. Climbing and bouldering can also be useful as your body will get stronger and more balanced.

    Of course you can just start experimenting with your friends in the grassy park, trying to do head stands, flips and leap between branches. This will usually take more time to advance, but eventually it’s up to you and your will power to get yourself closer to this pure and clean extreme sport which will reward you with the lucid feeling of freedom associated with Parkour.