Ever come out of a recent movie (Casino Royale, Live Free Die Hard) hoping that you could move like that one guy. Traverse obstacles, jump-land-roll and look crazily cool while doing so. You might be surprised (or not) to know that there are a lot of people who actually do that. Day in and day out. That, my beloved ignorant friend is known as Parkour. Pronounced par-core, it is the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one's path by adapting one's movements to the environment.
Well, what you see in Movies and ads is actually called free running. But more on that later.
David Belle (left) is largely credited with the development of Parkour. Along with others, Belle started developing the Discipline of parkour in 1997.
Basically, Parkour is a non-competitive french discipline that focuses on getting from point A to B in the quickest possible manner. Which means, you run along a route and navigate any obstacles you may encounter in the most efficient manner possible. You can only use your own body and the environment around you for that purpose.
Skills such as jumping and climbing along with more specific moves are employed to achieve the objective.
Yes, it's not easy. Yes, you have to be fit.
So, it's a new kind of Sport, eh?
Not exactly. You see, a sport is something that has rules, regulations and competition. Like soccer or Counter-Strike. And well, none of that exists in Parkour.
"We have deep philosophies governing our art, so in that regard you may liken it to the martial arts" - NOS (Indian traceur)
Despite being a physical discipline, it is more of an art form rather than a sport, because it is as much a mental discipline as it is a physical one.
Yeah. It's French. That's what you call someone who practices Parkour. Tracuese is what you would call a girl who practices Parkour (yes, theres quite a lot of them in India).
And since we are on the topic of all things French you should know that Parkour is also known as l'art du déplacement (English for : the art of movement).
Be Strong and Be Useful
Seems like a line straight out of a super-hero movie, na? This is actually the underlining principle of Parkour.
You could be stupid and start performing some awesome tricks you saw on YouTube.
Or you could be sane. Train yourself for some time. Prepare your body for what's coming. Cause it's no ballet. Capice?
Remember, athletic skill must be combined with courage and altruism. And a little bit of common sense never hurt anyone.
Jumping rooftops and all! Awesome!
Hmmm.. No. Sorry to disappoint you kid. But that's not the way it works. As the number of practitioners grew, building to building jumps and drops from over 12-15 ft became a common site in popular media. But popular media has a habit of screwing things over - and thats what they did to Parkour.
Actually, ground based movements are more common in Parkour than anything involving rooftops. Also, most times it's illegal.
Trick or Treat
There are no particular tricks or moves in Parkour. But some common stuff that can be seen are :
|Landing||Bending the knees when toes make contact with ground (never land flat footed; always land on toes and ball of your foot).|
|Cat Balance||Quadrapedal movement along the crest of an obstacle|
|Underbar||Jumping or swinging through a gap between obstacles|
|Pop Vault||Overcoming a tall structure, usually by use of a step off the wall to transform forward momentum into upward momentum, then using the arms to climb onto and over the object.|
|Vault||To move over an object with the help of one's hand(s).|
|Muscle-Up||To get from a hanging position to a position where your upper body is above the obstacles|
|Presicion||Static or moving jump that involves juping from one object to a precise spot on another.|
Where to Train?
Well, generally the best place to train for parkour are parks, grounds, beaches and gyms. So that's where you do it. Sometimes, if a traceur is training in a public place someone might ask him to, you know, go away. Best thing to do - go away and do it somewhere in peace.
NOS says, "If you do not enjoy training alone, then you are training for all the wrong reasons".
Also, not much gear is required to train for Parkour. Just some light clothes and a good pair of shoes will do.
India mein kisiko maalum bhi nahin hoga....
You'll be surprised to know that there is a growing community of people in India who are into Parkour. In the accompanying picture we see an Indian traceur performing a precision.
Surprisingly, even the Indian government is doing it's bit. The Sports Authority of India (which is managed by the Sports Ministry) has opened it's doors in Mumbai for traceurs to train. At the SAI centre in Kandivali, Mumbai there exists some outdoor Parkour training equipment. Even the gym has parkour-specific equipment already present there, and this new outdoor training structure is India's first and only Parkour Gym (although this gym is not a dedicated Parkour training facility, it is still primarily a SAI center).
I think that's pretty cool. You never really hear such stories about the Indian government.
Parkour me up, baby!
So now that got you all fired up and interested in training, eh? Well, lucky for you Parkour Mumbai has started workshops for newbies. Get in touch with them here : parkourmumbai at gmail dot com
If physical exertion is not your thing, then play Mirror's Edge (EA) - a video game largely based on parkour.
You could also watch this fench movie called Distric B13. It has David Belle playing the protagonist. Story isn't awesome. But the action definitely is.
What was that thing about Free Running?
Well, most people claim that free running is more about expressing yourself. Theres more creativity involved.
But the founders don't think so. In their view it's a case of to-ma-to, to-may-to. The Yamakasi group says : "parkour, l'art du deplacement, freerunning, the art of movement... they are all the same thing. They are all movement and they all came from the same place, the same nine guys originally. The only thing that differs is each individual's way of moving".
So class, what did we learn today?
Parkour is a non-competitive discipline with a focus on getting from one place to another by travelling in a straight line and navigating all obstacles in an effecient manner. Parkour was developed by David Belle along with a group of people in 1997. It wasn't developed in a year. It took time.
"Parkour" has been depicted in popular media in a big way. In movies, in ads, television, websites. Lots of places. But it is generally combined with street stunts and tricking.
Wanna Learn More?
Head over to the next article here to learn more about Parkour in India.
This the famous David Belle chase scene from District B13. It's insane!