What’s the deal with Parkour?

I’d like to figure out why I’m not doing it. I’ve just been watching a buncha new parkour vids on youtube and have had a thought.

The first point I want to make is I love parkour. It doesn’t suit me, but I can see and fully appreciate how good it is and what an excellent social/healthy/free activity it is.

The second point I need to state is its too easy (this is back to my opinion btw) … Now let me just state that I’m primarily a skateboarder of 20+yrs. Skateboarding is notoriously difficult and takes many many many years to get good at it and even then you’re still picking yourself up off the floor all day long wounded and beaten in pain.

… anyways… the point I want to pick up on is imo parkour is an unstructured sport… ‘yeah, so’s skateboarding’ I hear you think(?)… not true. Whilst there’s no rules to skating or formal discipline to follow, its identity and ‘steps to progression’ are well documented and established through its long history. Walk dumbly into a busy skatepark on a sat afternoon holding a brandnew setup and you’ll soon discover a few of its unwritten rules, and you’ll realise you ‘can’t’ advance to any of the hard tricks without learning the easy ones first.

So (imo) skateboarding is a structured sport its just not written formally yet. Parkour is completely unstructured atm. Sure those french guys laid down some underlying key factors for people to follow and adhere to… but the majority of traceurs aren’t even aware of its history and essential guidelines and even those that do know frequently twist and bend those rules to their own preference (nothing wrong with that btw)

Now I know people will read this and claim there is structure, as the basics need to be learned before attempting certain moves, but people that think that, haven’t thought through what they’re considering. For Example in skateboarding you can’t pad up drop in a vertramp and land a mctwist. That’s a simple fact. Even if you’re a pro snowboarder of 20yrs you can’t do that on a board. Compare that to parkour and I just watched a parkour vid where a girl who’s never done parkour before learnt massive kongs in 20mins… better than most guys. Is she an amazing parkour prodigy athlete? no… she’s fully trained/disciplined gymnast. Likewise… traceurs who have been jumping for 12mths religiously could easily be blown away by the skills of an experienced freestyle climber in minutes. And how a roller blader could ‘out flip’ a traceur without even trying. (yes I know parkour isn’t about flips, but try telling that to most of the uneducated kids out there that choose to believe otherwise)

I think this is the element of Parkour which doesn’t agree with me. Its easy. I could train for 5yrs at it and then be blown away by someone else thats never done it before in their lives. And all because Parkour and all its free running variations is made up of so many disciplines, that the sum of its parts effectively don’t amount to very much at all.

I believe it will eventually tho… but not until traceurs push the sport to levels that are unheard of currently.

Here’s a little story for you…

Years ago I wanted to learn to play the guitar, I wanted an electric my dad said no, learn on an acoustic first, I asked what the difference is, and he told me that if you can play an acoustic beautifully, you can then play any electric beautifully… however people that play an electric beautifully, can’t necessarily play an acoustic beautifully. In guitar discipline, acoustic was and still is, ‘higher up the ladder’ than electric. This is also true for playing keyboards instead of the formal route through a piano. This is also true for the casual tricker, when the disciplined martial artist will outshine them easily.

Back to parkour… and its not up the ‘ladder’ at all in any discipline… its not even on the ladder yet. And whilst that is a lot of its appeal, its also its downfall for the time being. I say ‘downfall’ because, just like skateboarding, parkour will peak, trough and plateau for a long time (decades) before it settles to a comfortable level. And… if it does follow the path of skateboarding, I’m guessing it may actually help legalise skateboarding. I’ll quickly explain….

Parkour is a human beings right to move how they want in their environment. It would break a civil liberty to try and stop it with any laws (assuming the art is performed legally I mean). If laws are attempted to prevent parkour in any public space, then I’m certain those attempts will fail because of how joggers use the same public spaces to follow their passion perfectly legally. Basically, joggers will go nuts if a law is introduced that prevents or restricts their access to exercise healthily when and where they want. Aaaaand… if laws are attempted to ‘shut down’ parkour (which I predict will fail)… then that lines up a perfect case to legalise skateboarding in public, if no damage or trespassing is occuring. Because as many bylaws currently stand, councils have the right to place a ‘no skateboarding’ sign anywhere they want, whether skaters do damage or not. Which I’m fairly certain is a breach of human rights and a persons decision to be healthy and active in a public space. (The same bylaws will probably come under the microscope in the event of the sport getting into the olympics at any stage in the future). I’m side tracking… back to parkour…

Does this mean I’m elitist? no not at all. And I swear if was 13 again, (or a parent of a 13yr old) .. I’d be pushing to get (them) into it! As I’ve already stated here in a previous article: http://designdebris.co.uk/player/pages/words/parkour.php

Another reason why I can’t personally get into parkour, is because of the shear number of young people doing it. ‘Aha, so you’re ageist too!’ … damn right I am! Why? well probably because I’m 33yrs old and have spent most of my life hanging about in skateparks filled with people younger than me, who can’t form a decent conversation together, or have the social confidence to even start one, to save their lives! And after a large number of years, I crave to be around people my own age now… people who have lived a little and share some of the experiences that I have (I could go on, but I won’t). Plus a 33yr old man hanging about with kids on a saturday afternoon, sadly is now considered a social no-no thanks to a ridiculous amount of headline grabbing news stories.

Sure I could do it and gravitate towards the older community of traceurs and yes I could learn it solo if I wished, but for all the above reasons, I still haven’t talked myself into it.

I do also appreciate that most traceurs are experimenting themselves and discovering a lot everyday, and finding new friends and directions to take their activity in… they may well move on to gymnastics or martial arts or climbing or even skateboarding. So y’see I’m not against Parkour at all, infact let me stress once more for those with short attention spans, I love Parkour, its just not my thing… and I can’t seem to change my mind.

I’m in a similar position atm. Tricking is an combination of martial arts, breakdancing, and gymnastics, neither of which I’m disciplined to do, I’m fully aware. But I too am experimenting atm, I’m looking learning and trying things out and generally enjoying myself being active whist I select what is right for me. I’m currently making it up as I go along and train ‘unstructured’ to please myself. But I’m very aware of this, hence the reason why I’m only Tricking in a safe environment with experienced gymnastic coaches to assist when I need it, and I’ve never even attempted a ‘kick’ in the 6mths I’m being doing it.

I guess if I was to conclude this passage, then I’d do it by summing up I appreciate, understand and approve of parkour in every sense… its just not something I can ever see myself doing, but then I have a right to change my mind too… and I also have massive respect for disciplined arts, like Martial Arts and Gymnastics… and I now know that for me to attempt something seriously, I need to start it on the hardest highest rung of the ladder and follow it for as long as it takes. As I know that is the only way to master an activity purely and fully.

I’m now wondering how many traceurs also do other disciplined activities? I’d love to know.



Filed under Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Pain, parkour, skateboarding, Tricking

13 responses to “What’s the deal with Parkour?

  1. bibliosk8

    Very interesting post. I agree.

  2. you really read all that rubbish? :P
    Damn you musta been bored!

  3. ‘S Good stuff! Great thoughts…
    I had never seen it in that light before.

  4. mark

    Don’t agree in the slightest. Parkour is a very technical discipline, just like skateboarding, martial arts, or sport etc…

    Sure, there are some techniques that are easy-ish, but ask most people in my office and they wouldn’t even attempt them because of fear of getting hurt!

    Also, you can take things as far as you want, look at some of the stunts in ‘District 13’ or the new James Bond film and you WON’T be able to do them without years of dedication. Plus you need to be very strong, agile and fit to do it.

    It’s like saying that boxing is too easy! Sure, anyone can learn to punch, and most people think they can, but there’s a hell of a lot more to it than that…proper technique takes a long time to develop, and there’s fitness, strength, power, footwork etc to consider.

    As for skateboarding, i agree it’s a difficult thing to do…but so what? that doesn’t make it better. If that was true then Syncronised swimming would be better than both of them put together, now is that true??!

  5. but you respect my opinion right? no matter how misinformed and uneducated I am? Thanks for your opinion :)

    when I was a kid. We used to run up and down walls and jump off and over stuff and climb all over railings etc. And we gave it the name of ‘mucking about’. Nowadays people call it parkour, take it very seriously, respect its founders birth origins, ethics and dedicate large chunks of their lives towards perfecting the fluidity of movement and an ever growing series of complex and difficult moves. But we all know (as adults) that its technically exactly the same as what kids have been doing for years, ‘mucking about’ and having a laugh on stuff.

    I’d regard the top 5% of traceurs in the country as professional athletes, the rest are largely amateurs that are doing their damnedest to get into that top 5%, but its a young sport and naturally people aren’t going to be able to dedicate the efforts needed (or indeed have the natural coordination required) to reach that elusive top spot no matter how hard and frequently they try. I regard people that perform stunts in those listed films as being in athletically and professionally in that same top 5%.

    I’m sure you can accept this?

    This doesn’t however take away anything from the passion and dedication from any single person that performs parkour on a daily basis. And I’ll again state that I love parkour, what it is, what it does and what it stands for. Just so people don’t start getting my opinion on the subject confused.

    btw – The comparison with boxing wasn’t a good one, because it is easy, infact its bloody easy. The rules state, knock out your opponent, and you win. That, in essence makes someone a boxer (according to the rule book). You don’t have to be a trained athlete to do that. You just need to be fast, skilled and lucky. However I do understand your point, and largely agree with it :)

  6. liv rowlands


    I like your post, firstly im a lady traceur (a traceuse) and ive just hit my four year training mark..and im sitting around thinking shit thats a fairly large chunk out of my youth (im 20 now) and is my progression really good enough for how long ive been training?

    To be fair, i only really understood how to train properly and what parkour is 2 years ago now..so obviously I cant expect you to understand parkour without training in it anymore than I can claim to understand skateboarding, even though to be honest, i think its pretty cool.

    Parkour isnt about the one element, if it was about the jumping you could say hey look at top long jumpers, or high jumpers? Or as you compared, top climbers, even individual movements, like the squat through you said the gymnast girl learnt in 20 minutes.

    Its about being able to move in all areas, and it takes a LOT of time to get good at it. Its not in the fact that you can jump further, higher, climbup faster, its how you feel when moving. Looking back from when I began, Im not able to jump a LOT further or climb a lot faster or overcome obstacles that are substantially bigger, but i feel really relaxed when I train, i move with ease, i feel more at one with my body. I have control over my touch (in parkour this really just means your landings, takeoffs, how silently and softly you move) i dont have to take five minutes to work upto passing over an obstacle, it comes almost naturally. I DO get scared sometimes, its inevitable, your always fighting this internal battle with yourself, and a lot of it is about body awareness and body confidence, thinking yeah okay this could F*ck up, but im pretty sure i could save myself if it did. Most of the time you do save yourself, the few times you dont..well im sure you know its a learning curve. I wouldnt ever train at height if i wasnt confident in my abilities in that area or my surfaces.

    YES you do get people who can jump far for beginners, or do huge movements…but by the very nature of the way they move you can tell they are new to the discipline, they are often gangly and loud, and my heart sinks when I see them because I went through that and suffered injury because I didnt know the importance of training my touch, or conditioning my body to be strong. Those people who train for the immediate outcome of big jumps and drops…they wont last so they dont bother me.

    I dont do other disciplined activities, parkour just doesnt give me time. There are so many components to parkour and sometimes your ahead in one and behind in another, the progression is less like a upward line, more of a two steps forward one step back phenomena.

    But you must know the feeling of learning something, even if its the wrong way with likeminded people. I remember 3 years ago sitting on a wall with 8 or 9 other people, just chillin and laughing and enjoying the company of other people who felt the same, who didnt want to follow the lines that society sets out for them. Of those people, some dont train anymore, but from parkour ive found a group of friends I would trust with my life.

    Parkour does have structure, but by the nature of being non competitive it doesnt have a goal, except for becoming the best you can possibly be. It takes all sorts, some people will always learn slowly and find the mental aspect difficult, but its a personal empowerment to feel your body becoming stronger and fitter, even your injuries bring you a better sense of self. I am happy with who I am, scars and all. I dont care about training with people watching me because im comfortable with what i do.

    Its not a discipline for everyone, its damn hard work. Luckily we are here now (the early generation of parkour in england) to coach those interested in parkour the safest ways to train, its knowledge we never had.

    Heres a video of a 14 year old boy in my area whos training almost every day with my partner, the right and hard way. I hope this helps you understand, even if only a little more.

  7. What a fantastic response. Thanks for taking the time to express yourself. I love it when people ‘think’ to this degree about their passions and interests. It really formulates and defines the thought behind what we do. You’ve taken what I wrote above (a long time ago btw) in good spirit.

    If I reread my original post, I don’t agree with a few points I make. Sometimes I think I should edit it, or rewrite or remove it altogether, but that would either not make sense of some of the comments here, or I would lose the comments completely. Not good. So the post is staying.

    However I do want to point out 2 things, I no longer consider parkour as ‘easy’ or ‘unstructured’… I know what I was trying to say when I wrote the sentence, but I didn’t word myself correctly. The evolution of education is a wonderful thing.

    Your post above has made me realise something today. I have appreciation for parkour, but not passion… and its that difference that separates ‘doers’ from ‘watchers’. Just like how I appreciate moto-x but don’t have a passion for it, or I appreciate singers, but don’t have a passion to become one.

    Now I’m wondering if ‘passion’ for something can be taught, or if its something that just ‘exists’ from day one? hmm, this thought might just become another blog post. Oh and that was a great video clip btw, I loved watching how he progressed over time. I’ll subscribe.

  8. Zekian

    I think passion is something which develops, I have only recently started parkour but it is something i enjoy very much, I think the best way i can describe the feeling of doing it is to be freed from confinements and i never really thought of it as this before but that is how it feels to me and what it is doing to me. The thing which i have noticed most is that the more you do it, the more you appreciate it due to having a greater understanding of what is involved. I think this understanding is what helps to develop your passion and enjoyment of it.

  9. yeah I agree. this is where the phrase love is blind comes from. People become so passionate about something that they lose sense of reality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing tho, absorbing yourself in a brand new world for a few years is fantastic. I did it with music (instruments) skateboarding & photography – each forced me to look at the world in a different way and appreciate things much more. Keep training. :)

  10. Heero

    I am a traceur. I guess my first real experience with parkour (which I did not know of at that time) was in fourth grade, with the “split jump” or spider climb, from the Splinter Cell series. I copied it after over an hour of practice at home. I learned it and used it throughout middle school. Then, I got into other parts. For example, wall runs in middle school.

    I have come to realize that I am a parkour purist. Most of my friends actually don’t like parkour. They think, that’s cool but stupid. Those who do, I ask them, “what do you think parkour is?” Most of them say it’s cool stunts… I hate that.

    It’s because I’m a parkour purist. I believe as strongly in the need of philosophy in parkour as the actual skills. For me, parkour is freedom, parkour is courage. I know its history, and it ain’t from James Bond movies.

    As a side note, I’d like to state that skateparks are still good places to train. I wouldn’t be able to wall run had I not gotten stuck in a bowl at a skate park…….

  11. Eric

    Comparing parkour to any other sport is going about it completely wrong. Essentially, with parkour there are no rules. There is point A, then there is point B. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it isn’t a competition. The goal isn’t to do that really cool trick everyone else it, it is more about challenging yourself and expressing yourself.

    Parkour isn’t really like anything else because you don’t need to spend years to be good at it as there is essentially nothing to judge things by, much like a piece of art. I dare say parkour isn’t a sport or activity, but rather an art form, an expression of the person doing it.

  12. Rolo

    I am a “high” level polevaulter, have done lots of gymnastics, and a bit of trampolining. I have really taken a shine to Parkour/freerunning, more the freerunning aspect, and you’re right, I have very quickly learnt standing backflips, front flips etc, the learning curve is fast – but only because I have put the effort in in other sports.

  13. Thanks for the response there rolo. I’m sure with your formal training background you will continue to progress quickly through the moves, and in a short space of time, also be able to start adding other creative influences into your movements you’ve discovered over the years. Good luck with the training. Mark :)

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