I love it when I discover something new about myself or in life that I really connect with or develop a quick passion for.  New things that really interest me often take a strong presence in my mind and Parkour has done exactly that to me in the last couple months.  While Parkour is definitely growing it isn’t known by everyone and so it needs an explanation.  In fact, it can be a bit hard to explain though quickly, so bear with me.  I’ve taken the description from the AmericanParkour website as I think it describes it best:

What is Parkour?

Parkour is the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment.

  • Parkour requires… consistent, disciplined training with an emphasis on functional strength, physical conditioning, balance, creativity, fluidity, control, precision, spatial awareness, and looking beyond the traditional use of objects.
  • Parkour movements typically include… running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, balancing, and quadrupedal movement. Movements from other physical disciplines are often incorporated, but acrobatics or tricking alone do not constitute parkour.
  • Parkour training focuses on… safety, longevity, personal responsibility, and self-improvement. It discourages reckless behavior, showing off, and dangerous stunts.
  • Parkour practitioners value… community, humility, positive collaboration, sharing of knowledge, and the importance of play in human life, while demonstrating respect for all people, places, and spaces.

It’s not simply a sport, or activity.  Nor is it something that you describe only by its activities or moves.  Parkour can only be described in part by the movements since it is a physical language defined by many techniques, movements, body strength and adaptation of being about to navigate obstacles around you.  It’s about the environment, the interaction and awareness that comes with learning to connect with your surroundings.  It’s about learning to progress not only from point A to point B but also in your ability to move in your environment smoothly and efficiently.  The discipline and training for Parkour has all the same elements to it as personal development and overcoming obstacles in life requires the same persistence, training and ability to make mistakes, learn from them, get back up and go at it again. Most sports have some element of this but the training usually becomes very repetitive and limited.  Not with Parkour, it has no limits as the movements vary greatly and its all about your own creative style to make it fun.

Fluid Movement

So I first became attracted to Parkour and freerunning because of it’s natural movement and I had only seen a couple videos online to inspire me not even knowing what it was called at first as the video was simply called Russian Climbing.  The sports I already love are all about smooth motion and they depend highly on the physical body to manipulate your movement.  Mountain unicycling, windsurfing, wakeboarding. They all need smooth, fluid motion and I have now learned that Parkour requires it more than anything of those or anything else I’ve ever tried.  It is the ultimate in human movement and takes immense time to master the skills, strength and fluidity needed.  I’ve always loved movement and as an extreme mountain unicyclist, smooth motion and core strength have always been a part of my sports interests.  Discovering Parkour expanded on that raw aspect of movement and revealed a huge variety of moves.  It’s very demanding on the body and will certainly keep a person fit, especially if they do much training and conditioning as part of their practice, which I certainly am. One of the best things about Parkour  is the mindset of it and anyone who practice it (known as a traceure or traceuse).  It is about the freedom to move, explore and simply have fun with your body in any environment.  All the skills listed above in what Parkour requires you must develop to advance and I value all of them:  discipline, strength, balance, creativity, control, awareness, and expanding past what is known. Anyone can learn Parkour as you can do it at any pace, at whatever risk level you are comfortable with and in pretty much any location. It is meant to be learned at whatever pace you can handle, not by jumping into moves and things that are dangerous (this is the majority of what is popular on YouTube mind you).   I do it for the joy of movement, to test myself and my abilities, to overcome obstacles in movement the same way I overcome obstacles in life, with speed, skill and strengths used to their fullest to let you progress smoothly and safely.

Overcoming Barriers

It certainly has its risks as any physically demanding sport does but it’s up to you practicing to determine how hard you push yourself and how far you are willing to risk your safety.  Freerunning and Parkour do require a lot of practice and training to learn safely and within your limits.  You must condition your body and build your strength at the same time as new skills to create your own style and expand your movements.  This only occurs by expanding your training regime, pushing yourself to be creative and by thinking beyond life’s typical barriers of limited movement.  It’s a great sport that connects friends by training and sharing skills together, to experience the pleasure of a new kind of fluidity, the fluidity of movement.  It’s not competitive, its collaborative and founded with an essence of self-preservation and in the ability to rescue or help others.  Everyone finds their own style and way to move so there is no comparison, each person is unique with their own way, just like in life.  The similarities are in the approach, the thinking, the steps to overcome barriers, and the joy of sharing that success and progression with others.

The Positivity of Parkour

The final topic I have on my mind with learning Parkour is found in the mindset of those who practice it.  Traceures and Traceuses are incredibly supportive, positive and interested in helping others and having fun.  Natural movement is something we all have done naturally as kids and most of us have long forgotten it.  After all, you don’t see a lot of adults dive rolling over a railing or jumping swinging around the local monkey bars but why not?  It’s fun to do no matter what your age and that is an important aspect of Parkour!  There are always a few exceptions you might encounter, but I’ve seen that people who practice Parkour are great people and very respectful of their environment (since it is the playground remember) and people they encounter.  Most want to spread the joy of Parkour and encourage that child like play in life beyond just their movements and so there is a contagious, almost infectious energy from Parkour that I can at least say, has taken up presence in me recently. I’ve been training and taking courses at a local Calgary gym now (No Limits AFC) for two and a half months and while I’m certainly not the youngest aged person there, it’s activated a youthfulness I always have lurking under my skin and I know I’ll be hooked on this sport for some time to come.  It’s exciting to see how many parallels of what I’ve learned from personal development can be applied to learning Parkour and vise versa.

And there are millions of Parkour and Freerunning videos on Youtube. Many of them show ridiculous stunts, with no context to the training required to achieve them or the risk in jumping in without the proper training and conditioning required. There are if you look for tutorials, training and progression videos though a lot of help for learning these skills as it really has taken speed because of the internet and the ability to share content and inspire one another around the world. One of my favorite videos is below that I think does a great job of sharing a bit more about the thoughts and inspirational aspects of Parkour. I hope you enjoy it.

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