What Is Parkour?

I always hear a lot of people ask, “What is parkour?”. Parkour, sometimes abbreviated PK, is a unique take on running that has quickly risen to popularity around the world. Everyone knows that running is a great physical activity that keeps you healthy by strengthening your heart and lungs. It increases your metabolism and has a whole list of benefits you receive that can go on and on. Unfortunately, however, just running can be boring. Parkour changes that by adding exciting acrobatic elements to the tried and true cardio workout making it much more dynamic and holistic. It requires the entire body and is highly demanding.

The ultimate goal of parkour is to move quickly past obstacles in your environment only using your body, not by simply going around them and never moving backwards. Climbing, jumping, rolling and other movements are incorporated into the run, which provides a great deal more freedom and creativity. It can be practiced in both rural and urban areas, restricted only by your imagination and of course property laws. To some, parkour is an art form and philosophy focused on self development and not just a sport. Watching professionals certainly makes it look like a moving work of art created with the human body.

Enthusiasts are known as traceurs (males) or traceuses (females). Many traceurs, including the founders, want to keep parkour a non-competitive sport. Although it focuses on speed, they believe that adding a competitive factor will take away from the individual focus that parkour training provides. This is very similar to the martial arts philosophy of Bruce Lee, in that it is about improving your own skills and abilities, not about outdoing others.

Parkour is similar in nature and appearance to freerunning. The two are often confused or the words used interchangeably, but parkour focuses more on speed and discipline. Freerunning, on the other hand, though developed from parkour is often described as being less strict. You do not necessarily have to get from one place to another as fast as you can and the focus is on the stunts performed in between.

The History of Parkour

Developed in France during the 1980s, parkour is still relatively young. The creator, David Belle, was only fifteen years old in 1988 at the time that he invented the activity with his friends. He was influenced by his love of martial arts films as well as his father’s military training. Military obstacle courses are also centered on efficiently overcoming a range of obstructions in your path. The word “parkour,” in fact, comes from the French “parcours du combattant,” which is a military obstacle course.

Belle’s athleticism thrust him into the spotlight and parkour continued to evolve into what it is today. Sebastien Foucan, Kazuma and Stephane Vigroux later helped Belle to further develop the sport as well as philosophy associated with it over the following decade. Belle continued to be thought of as a leader and his refined creation came to the public’s attention following “Rush Hour.” The promotional film showed him running across rooftops in London and people around the world became interested in the activity.

Getting Started with Parkour

Parkour is a great, full-body workout for those looking to try something new or spice up their normal routines. It will advance your physical fitness and help you reach heights you may not have been able to imagine, both figuratively and literally. It is challenging, both physically and mentally, unlike running laps around your neighborhood or at the gym. It applies critical thinking skills to the physical world in a fun, almost primal way.

As with typical running, light clothing is recommended along with comfortable running shoes that have good grip as well as flexibility. Some choose to also wear athletic gloves to protect their hands and provide grip. Others train barefoot and without gloves for more tactile feedback.

Before practicing parkour you need to submit your body to a fair amount of conditioning. Calisthenics are a extremely important, along with basic running to build up endurance. You need to practice landing and falling safely because of the high jumps and vertical movement involved. Various rolls and tumbles are often used in order to maintain momentum and get back on the move again. The actual overcoming of the obstacles is the most difficult part and you will need to do jumping, vaulting and climbing drills to master surpassing buildings, walls and other barriers you may encounter. The key is to practice regularly, prepare yourself and your body and then parkour can be extremely rewarding.

I hope you now have a basic understanding of what parkour is and can give a full detailed answer when you hear someone ask, what is parkour?

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