Parkour is when you say “you can overcome any obstacle as long as you believe in yourself” and take it literally. Learn more about it here.
In this article:
What Is Parkour? Your Biggest Questions Answered and More!
Parkour Definition: Known also as an art of movement, parkour originates from the French term “Parcours du Combattant.”
Parkour was based on the French military’s obstacle course-based training methods. The history of parkour has roots in military training in escape and evasive maneuvers used by 19th-century soldiers developed to hone their fitness and military tactical skills. It is now a recreational urban sport enjoyed by people all over the world.
Parkour and Freerunning
Both parkour and freerunning involve getting around obstacle courses efficiently. They may have plenty of things in common, but there’s a key difference.
In parkour, one simply finds a way to go around their urban environment by jumping, swinging, and vaulting. It looks impressive, but it does not aim for showmanship, only efficiency.
In freerunning, there is more flipping, spinning, and complicated acrobatics involved. It focuses more on showmanship than efficiency.
So if you see young men spinning and flipping over walls, that’s most likely freerunning. If they’re just jumping and vaulting over walls as quickly as possible and are gone before you know it, they’re probably doing parkour.
1. For fun
The world is your playground again. You learn new ways of moving your body through your environment. Once you have developed your techniques, you can pretend you’re an athlete running away from zombies or assassins while you’re doing it.
2. It’s a great physical activity
When you’re moving, jumping, leaping, and climbing over obstacles, different muscles in your body activate. Parkour requires your entire mind and body to participate, improving coordination and awareness.
In the beginning, you won’t be able to do certain moves, but as you train over time you’ll develop the abilities, athleticism, and strength you need. You’re going to be challenging your body to move in ways it never has before, so parkour is as much of a mental workout as well.
Parkour is a great means for physical training, developing functional strength, as well as developing confidence, and surmounting mental obstacles. You can have all the physical and athletic capabilities to jump a gap, but if you’re not mentally prepared, you won’t be able to do it.
No one parkours alone; it is a very social sport done in groups. The parkour community is very supportive, open, and not competitive at all. It’s everyone’s goal to have a good time and help each other out.
4. It boosts creativity
When you do parkour, you start looking at your environment in new and creative ways. Every barrier, fence, railing, or gap is a new and alternative way for you to get from point A to point B.
This creativity at finding new ways around your urban environment can spill over to other aspects of your life as well. It will be easier for you to look at problems and situations in creative ways and come up with solutions for them.
1. Find a group
One of the best ways of getting started in parkour is to learn in a group. Find a local parkour group and join a parkour jam.
Beginning parkour in a parkour group is important as the communities are friendly and supportive. Not only will you learn from people who have been doing it for a long time, but you’ll also have people spotting you when you practice difficult moves.
Practicing parkour in a group is also crucial because, in the event of a fall or injury, there will be people present to administer aid or take you to the hospital.
2. Join a parkour gym
As the sport grows in popularity, parkour classes, gyms, and schools have been popping up all over the world. You can even take children, as these gyms have equipment specially developed for parkour and trained instructors who introduce parkour movements in a safe and gradual manner.
Also check if some gymnastics and acrobatics gyms sport parkour as one of their classes.
3. Stay safe and take your time
When you’re just starting out, make sure you don’t take reckless risks. Sure you’re trying to get outside your comfort zone, but you have to know your limits so you don’t hurt yourself.
Just because you’re seeing other people do insane leaps and flips, doesn’t mean you have to, especially if you’re not at that level yet. It’s going to take a lot of time for your body to adapt to the strenuous physical demands of parkour, so exercise caution.
Don’t get too cocky; a fall from a move you’re not prepared for can cause serious injuries or pose a risk to your life. It also helps to be dressed properly, in loosely-fitting pants and proper running shoes for mobility.
Also be aware of life-threatening hazards in your surroundings such as broken glass, protruding cables, and rods.
4. Respect Private Spaces
When doing parkour, make sure you stay visible in public spaces. People can be unfamiliar with it, and their uncertainty can reasonably turn into fear, especially since parkour groups can involve congregations of young people.
Avoid practicing in high-pedestrian areas or times, and when you’re asked to leave, courteously comply. When approached and confronted by authority like the police, politely explain what you’re doing and leave when asked to.
You have to hone your balance if you want to navigate obstacles like narrow rails and walls. Develop the agility, coordination, and muscle strength for balance by standing and walking on rails, or slacklining.
Sure you thought you wouldn’t need to run ever again if you could just vault over walls, but running is actually a very important skill in parkour. Running can give you a head start in vaulting, give you momentum, as well as help with endurance.
Parkour involves a lot of jumps in order to get over various heights and obstacles. Here are a couple of the jumps to learn when doing parkour:
- Precision jumps – These jumps let you land on small surfaces such as stepping stones, or a narrow wall edge. This requires a lot of concentration and balance.
- Tic tac jumps – This kind of jump is a two-step jump because it involves using another surface as a kind of leaping board to get to higher surfaces you normally can’t get to with a single jump. You run at an angled surface, jump on it, and push off it to reach another level.
- Drops – This is a jump from a high to low level. When starting out, make sure not to drop from anything higher than your head because your body needs to get conditioned to landing first.
Knowing how to land correctly is an essential skill when learning parkour. Correct landing lets you easily get up and onto the next obstacle, and most importantly, helps you avoid going to the emergency room for broken bones.
Landing is dependent on four things: the height of your drop, your jumping distance, your landing area, and what move comes before your landing. Here are some landings you should expect to learn in parkour:
- Two-foot landing – This is far more effective than landing on one foot as it reduces landing stress for your body. Upon landing, aim to make contact with the ground with the balls of your feet first, shoulder width apart, with your knees going over your toes.
Landing softly is the goal here, and this is achievable when you bend your knees no more than 90 degrees. When coming from a higher area or great momentum, allow your torso to go low towards your legs, and put your hands on the floor so that your hands absorb some impact as well.
- Rolling – Doing this after landing helps spread out the impact over your body after landing, which reduces the chance of injury. You do this by tucking your head in under your armpit and making sure your body is as rounded as possible, which lets you roll easily.
Vaulting helps you clear obstacles that can be too high to simply jump over. You do this by placing your hands on an object and pushing yourself up and over it.
Here are the different kinds of vaults usually used in parkour:
- Step – This is also known as the safety vault and is the easiest among all vaults. It also sets a foundation for the rest of the vaults and is usually done upon slowly approaching an obstacle.
- Speed – This kind of vault is used ideally when approaching an obstacle at full speed.
- Lazy – This is the vault used whenever you approach an obstacle at an angle. A good example of this is whenever you’re using only one hand to vault over an obstacle without touching it with your feet.
- Kong – This vault has been dubbed so because of its resemblance to King Kong jumping over entire cars. This is advanced and must only be attempted with caution and proper form.
- Dash – This is similar to the kong vault, only that it goes feet first instead.
This is useful for getting a direct route to a higher level. But this has to be practiced with extreme caution as you won’t have safety harnesses, and a fall from any height can leave you hospitalized…or dead.
Here are some climbing techniques used for parkour:
- Wall run – This involves sprinting at full speed towards a vertical wall to be able to get the momentum to scale it upwards.
- Cat leap – This is a combined jump and climb. Here you would be hanging off the edge of the wall or building, and using your feet to push yourself off and up the wall, and your arms to pull yourself up with that momentum.
Swinging allows you to use nearby poles, bars, and even trees while moving around in your environment. Different grips even let you spin as you swing, which looks pretty darn cool.
Eager to learn more about this urban sport? Here are a couple of handy resources you can read up on:
- American Parkour – Parkour news and updates about parkour in the United States.
- Learn More Parkour – They have great step-by-step instructions about parkour moves and have very informative YouTube tutorials on how to carry out specific techniques.
Learn these basic parkour moves in this video from TappBrothers:
Parkour looks cool in video games and action movies, and a little unrealistic, but it’s even more fun in person. Just be sure to read up and do your research before deciding to jump from one building to another.
Ever tried parkour? What was your first time like? We’re all ears about your exploits in the comments section below!