What is Parkour?
Wed, 2012-08-29 12:40
If you ever find yourself being interviewed by a reporter from a mainstream media outlet they will often start their interview with the following question: ‘What is Parkour?’ I have answered this question a couple of times and I always say something like ‘it is a way of using movement to overcome or play with obstacles’ but I have also realised that different people give different answers. Wikipedia is often used as the benchmark for these kind of things so this is the entry for Parkour:
Parkour (French pronunciation: [paʁˈkuʁ]) (abbreviated PK) is a physical discipline of movement focused on overcoming obstacles. Developed in France by David Belle, it is a method of training the human body to become stronger, more agile, and faster, while remaining efficient and able to move more freely. Participants learn to pass diverse obstacles by combining a variety of movements like running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, leaping, and rolling. It uses no equipment and is non-competitive.
First off, I’d like to mention that this very definition has changed a couple of times since I have been training. It used to say something about how there are two natural responses to a threat: fight or flight – the fight option is summarised by martial arts whilst Parkour teaches the art of flight. I actually quite liked this description but it doesn’t cover those ‘inefficient’ movements that we do for fun. It’s now similar to the classic definition of Parkour – ‘getting from A to B in the most efficient way possible’. Without getting mired in the Parkour Vs. Freerunning debate *cough* they’re the same *cough* how do you define Parkour without writing an essay?
The definition on this very website here is a fantastic and inspiring (read it now - I'm not being biased!) description of what we do but even that admits that it's hard to pin down with a couple of sentences.
I think that part of the problem in defining parkour is that it has become so diverse. Parkour is different in different parts of the world and is constantly evolving as people bring new ideas to the table. Can you summarise something like this with one or two sentences? Probably not, but you have to try in order to communicate what it is you do (remember - we're talking to the media here and they get bored pretty quickly). Is it ‘getting from A to B in the most efficient way possible’? I don’t think so. As TK17 mentioned in his awesome documentary ‘Parkour Pilgrimage’, the most efficient way is often just going round the obstacle. We are also doing this for fun too right? Hence, when I define Parkour I mention that we 'play' with obstacles.
I also add that it is non-competitive (as Wikipedia does) and that the competition is against yourself. I guess I define it in the same way I train and that appears to be another problem with defining Parkour - it's a personal thing. We all have our own way of training and that is what makes it hard to define for everyone. On the flipside it is this same reason that makes Parkour great. How do you define Parkour when someone asks?
Incidentally, if someone looks blankly at you when you mention what it is that you are doing you can use the layman's definition:
Parkour (French for Freerunning) is jumping off roofs. It's that scene from 'Casino Royale' when James Bond is chasing that guy around a building site. No, I won't do a backflip.