Parkour: A Snapshot

Picture a man running across the rooftops, jumping between ladders of fire escapes and pulling himself up ledges. No, this isn’t a police drama or one of those superhero movies. This is the very real sport of Parkour, and to its practitioners jumping between rooftops is as common as your morning jog.

The extreme sport of Parkour focuses on using the environment that you are surrounded with as your own personal gymnasium. Your fire escape becomes a jungle gym and your rooftop an obstacle course. It is the ultimate test of man verses the urban landscape, with the peak of physical fitness as the ultimate prize. Practicing Parkour doesn’t require any kind of fancy equipment other than any available structure that can easily be found in your own neighborhood and some athletic clothing. Check out UltimateParkourGear for some parkour shoe recommendations.

Some would write off Parkour as one of those fad workouts that seem to pop up once a generation, but the reality is that Parkour has been around for a very long time. Variations of it are practiced by everyone from primitive tribes to modern military units. It developed over the course of a century, but only became popular in the last two decades.

Modern Parkour is based on concepts introduced by Sébastien Foucan, the father of free running. He was not only a fitness guru, but also a philosopher who stressed following a journey that was more important than the goal. Foucan believed that one should find a positive environment and respect that environment. This balance was instrumental to success as a free runner, whose lack of balance could be dangerous or even fatal. Foucon’s success is manifold, and his free running skills have earned him roles in Hollywood movies such as his spectacular turn as James Bond Villain Molakka in 2006’s Casino Royale.

Parkour developed as a separate discipline under David Belle in the 1990’s, when his famous series of videos popularized the sport. He credits his father Raymond Belle, a daredevil Parisian fireman, as being the true founder of the sport. Since then, Parkour has grown to be a global phenomenon practiced by thousands worldwide. Belle does not seek out the spotlight as much as Foucan, but he is a respected authority on the discipline that he made a fully functioning sport.

Although it is a physically challenging discipline, it is surprising how much of Parkour is mental. It relies on all the major muscle groups as a form of locomotion, but most important is that its practitioner begin every session by visualizing a specific goal. Reaching this all-but-inaccessible location requires as much brains as it does brawn. The goal must be reached while maintaining as much momentum as is safely possible. The notion of safety is very important, as good judgment and honest appraisal of your own physical abilities is essential to success in Parkour.

The sport does have its critics, as well as those who are simply concerned with the dangers involved. Practitioner often refuse to wear any kind of safety equipment in order to give consequence to their actions. Fear as motivation is an important part of how the sport developed.  The element of danger, however, is inseparable from the sport. What is beyond debate is that it pushes both muscular and cardiovascular fitness to the limit in the quest to attain total body fitness.