Intelligence can be measured in many different ways. For most of the 20th Century, and often still today, this took the form of IQ tests which normally involved analytical exercises. But in the 1970s and 80s some psychologists began to challenge the concept of what constituted ‘intelligence’. Howard Gardner, a professor of developmental psychology, proposed that there were multiple different types of intelligence. He termed one of these ‘bodily-kinaesthetic’: essentially the ability to move fluidly, co-ordinate and control your body or, to borrow a parkour phrase, to master your movement. Robert Sternberg at Harvard University also proposed ‘practical’ and ‘creative’ intelligences to go alongside traditional ‘analytical’ intelligence. Parkour can utilise all of these forms of intelligence at times.

Creativity can also be conceptualised and measured in lots of different ways. Two of the most common ways are convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is the process of trying lots of different ways to solve a particular problem. A classic example of this are the ‘crossing the river’ problems, the ‘Tower of Hanoi’ puzzle (try solving it with four rings at, or reaching a destination point as a traceur. By contrast, divergent thinking is about generating a wide range of possible answers and associations to a question. A question to test divergent thinking might be: ‘how many uses can you think of for a house brick?’ (or ‘how many different ways can you vault a rail?’) You would score extra points for the originality of your answers!

One of Parkour Generations’ founding members, Dan Edwardes, once suggested that a wider benefit of parkour was using the experience of overcoming obstacles in training when we approach problems in everyday life. Parkour problems, like the problems we face outside of training, require a combination of convergent and divergent thinking. By practising parkour, we train not just our bodies – and our ‘bodily-kinaesthetic’ intelligence – but also our creative thinking capacity by continually approaching new problems to solve. The creativity aspect to this requires both focused, logical, dedicated problem solving (convergent thinking) and fresh, generative, unusual creativity (divergent thinking).

 So, while it may not seem like it during the howling wind and pouring rain of a cold January training session, the physical and mental benefits of parkour may be going far beyond the simple task of making a jump. Whether you realise it or not, the way you train your mind in parkour – to think creatively and solve problems – will help give you the tools to overcome difficulties encountered in day to day life.  

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