This article is aimed at those who have a knee jerk reaction to the word Parkour and who think it’s reckless, stupid, or insane. We hear your concerns and take them to heart.
We’ve all heard that Parkour is a dangerous sport or that to do it you need to be an adrenaline junky. Popular media has spun up this spectacular image of people sending their bodies over roof gaps several stories up. You may have seen The Office’s portrayal of “Hardcore Parkour” and thought it reflected the culture well. 😬 Let’s be honest, this image of traceurs ‘recklessly’ throwing their bodies at devastating heights has left a stain on the parkour community.
As a young sport in the 2010’s, there were very little resources online or outside for beginners to learn from. We had to learn the hard way; through trial and error, forums, chatrooms, and YouTube videos (not many tutorials at the peak of its popularity). This led to a rise in fail compilations that amassed millions of views.
Let’s talk about what Parkour is/is NOT.
– Parkour is NOT inherently dangerous. Seasoned practitioners will spend years at the ground level or in parkour gyms like Swift developing a keen sense of their physical and mental limits, before transitioning to higher obstacles. One of the fundamental things we train is learning to fall properly (Ukemi/the art of falling, a Judo principle) by minimizing impact and spreading out the forces of a fall. It is true that both beginners and seasoned athletes do get hurt from time to time, but it’s mostly cuts, bruises, and the occasional sprained ankle. This is a sport, not unlike others, which have their fair share of gut wrenching moments. Athletes tend to push their limits, which is required for new skill development.
– Parkour teaches you to safely assess and minimize risk in navigating your environment. A quote that has been going around our gym is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing halfway”, meaning if you want to try something, it’s in your best interest to complete the steps required to get there. Mastery is not a one-off chance of success, it is the culmination of many hours of preparation, practice, and diligence.
– Fundamentally, parkour is about traversing urban/natural environments using just your body with no extra equipment. Some core movements are running, jumping, vaulting, and climbing. Be strong to be useful is still at the core of our philosophy.
– Parkour is NOT a hard sport to begin to learn. In my opinion, if you can get into and out of bed easily, then you can do parkour and chances are very high that you’re capable of doing so much more. Though it’s important to be aware of what your limits are and to slowly build on what you can currently do safely. While learning, you must go slow and allow your body to adapt to the stress (just like any other sport).
– Parkour was originally founded with efficiency and speed in mind for evading life/death situations. Over time it has slowly evolved into a creative way to explore your environment, or express yourself; incorporating flips, spins, and style.
– Parkour is NOT an excuse to trespass on private property. We wish there were more great parkour parks to practice in similar to skate parks. Until then, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we train in public spaces or where it’s commonly accepted to go. If it’s not public or a sign is posted, you need permission from the owner to train. If you have a run in with the owner, be friendly, calm explain what you’re doing, and if they want you to leave, don’t fuss. There are always unexpectedly great training spots waiting to be discovered.
– Parkour has a very vibrant and welcoming culture and has no tolerance for blatant vandalism and violence. We respect the places we go to train, the people we train with, and the people we meet along the journey. Parkour people are great sports, just watch one match of World Chase Tag as an example.
Sadly, popular media tends to muddy the waters of perception at times and doesn’t always represent an insider’s perspective. After 13 years of practicing parkour, I have heard many people in public, whom I just met, give unsolicited life advice during a high risk manuever. Even some whom threatened me for simply wanting express myself and workout in the process.
Great news is, I have found that more people have expressed great respect, admiration, and excitement for this sport and have encouraged me to continue. I have met some of the most interesting people from all walks of life that chose to take this path with me. More and more people are learning about parkour and what it truly is and it lights me up inside. Parkour at it’s heart and soul seeks to inspire and motivate everyone to be the best version of themselves.
I look forward to the day that kids and adults can have playgrounds side by side. We can learn collectively from one another on how to get through this wild maze of life. Adults need more outlets for play for their holistic health and children need to be allowed to be kids again.
If you want to learn about the history and origins of parkour; I highly recommend Breaking the Jump by Dr. Julie Angel. Better yet, Height Drop- a popular Parkour podcast that hosts Parkour History with Max Henry, where they cover the topic thoroughly. Max also wrote The Parkour Roadmap, make sure to check that out as well.
Thanks for reading this far in! Hopefully this helps provide you some insight into the culture of parkour. We want to hear your thoughts and experiences with Parkour. Please be sure to share this with someone that you think this could help.