Parkour (often abbreviated PK) is a physical discipline of French origin in which participants attempt to pass obstacles in the fastest and most direct manner possible, using skills such as jumping, vaulting and climbing, or the more specific parkour moves. The obstacles can be anything in one's environment, so parkour is often practiced in urban areas because of many suitable public structures, such as buildings, rails, and walls.

A traceur is a participant of parkour.

Parkour is a physical discipline inspired by human movement, focusing on uninterrupted, efficient forward motion over, under, around and through obstacles (both man-made and natural) in one's environment. Such movement may come in the form of running, jumping, climbing and other more complex techniques. The goal of parkour is to adapt one's movement to any given obstacle.

According to founder David Belle, the spirit of parkour is guided in part by the notions of "escape" and "reach", that is, the idea of using physical agility and quick thinking to get out of difficult situations, and to be able to go anywhere that one desires. However, in freerunning, a closely related art emphasizing aesthetics, fluidity and beauty are important considerations. For example, Sébastien Foucan, a freerunner who trained with David Belle during the infancy of the art speaks of being "fluid like water," a frequently used metaphor for the smooth passage of barriers through the use of parkour. Similarly, experienced traceur Jerome Ben Aoues explains in the documentary Jump London that:

The most important element is the harmony between you and the obstacle; the movement has to be elegant... If you manage to pass over the fence elegantly—that's beautiful, rather than saying 'I jumped the lot.' What's the point in that?

To some people (particularly non-practitioners), parkour is an extreme sport, to others a discipline more comparable to martial arts. Some consider it a combination of the two, recognising similarities between parkour and the stunts and techniques of Hong Kong martial arts star Jackie Chan, whose fight and chase scenes take place in industrial or urban environments. Still others see it as an art form akin to dance: a way to encapsulate human movement in its most beautiful form. Parkour is often connected with the idea of freedom, in the form of the ability to overcome aspects of one's surroundings that tend to confine; for example, railings, staircases, or walls. The practice of parkour requires considerable physical and mental dedication, and many adherents describe it as a "way of life."

The name parkour derives from the (identically pronounced) French word, "parcours", meaning "course".

The term traceur is the substantive derived from the verb "tracer". Tracer normally means "to trace", "to draw", but it recently (a dozen years) acquired a second, basilectal meaning of "going fast".[citation needed]

Freestyle Parkour (FSPK) is a misnomer sometimes used to describe free running. Use of the term is deprecated among parkour communities, as it implies that the practice is a type of parkour, which is not the case due to the fundamental differences in intention between the two activities.

In the Jump London documentary Sebastien Foucan says, "Free running has always existed, free running has always been there, the thing is that no one gave it a name, we didn't put it in a box." He makes a comparison with prehistoric man, "to hunt, or to chase, or to move around, they had to practice the free run."

Inspiration for parkour came from many sources, one of which is the 'Natural Method of Physical Culture' developed by George Hébert in the early twentieth century. French soldiers in Vietnam were inspired by Hébert's work and created what is now known as parkour. David Belle was introduced to the art as well as Hébert's methode naturelle by his father, Raymond Belle, a French soldier who practiced the two disciplines. The word parkour derives from "parcours du combattant", the obstacle courses of Hébert's method and a classic of military training. The younger Belle had participated in activities such as martial arts and gymnastics, and sought to apply his athletic prowess in a manner that would have practical use in life.

After moving to Lisses Belle continued his journey with others. "From then on we developed," says Foucan in Jump London, "And really the whole town was there for us; there for free running. You just have to look, you just have to think, like children." This, as he describes, is "the vision of Parkour."

According to Foucan, the start of the "big jumps" was around the age of fifteen. Over the years as dedicated practitioners improved their skills, their moves continued to grow in magnitude, so that building-to-building jumps and drops of over a storey became common in media portrayals, often leaving people with a slanted view on the nature of parkour. In fact, ground-based movement is much more common than anything involving rooftops.

The journey of parkour from the Parisian suburbs to its current status as a widely practised activity outside of France created splits among the originators. The founders of parkour started out in a group named the Yamakasi, but later separated due to disagreements over what David Belle referred to as "prostitution of the art," the production of a feature film starring the Yamakasi in 2001. Sebastian Foucan, David Belle, and Stephane Vigroux were amongst those who split at this point. The name 'Yamakasi' is taken from Lingala, a language spoken in the Congo, and means strong spirit, strong body, strong man.

There are fewer predefined movements in parkour than gymnastics and other extreme sports, in that parkour is about unlimited movement over obstacles; the ability to improvise is as important as being able to replicate previously practiced moves.

Despite this, there are many standard "basic" movements that many traceurs practice. Most important are good jumping and landing techniques. The roll, used to limit impact after a drop and to flow easily into the next movement, is often stressed as the most important move to learn. This is because if a good roll is not used Traceurs may get joint problems later in life.

Vaults are used to clear solid obstacles and come in many forms. Some recognised types of vaults add only technical skill (and hence sometimes aesthetic value) to a move and often not functionality, even sacrificing functionality for a more impressive look. These tend to be looked down on, as they are inefficient movement and thus not truly Parkour. Many vaults are maximally functional to certain situations, but learning specific vaults is not as worthwhile as learning to improvise and adapt to differing situations.

For clearing gaps a number of methods are generally used; each is dependent on the particular obstacle in question, and as with the vaults a good improvisation technique aids traceurs far more than a pre-learned collection of techniques.

Tricks, such as flips, are a topic of much debate amongst traceurs. Most experienced traceurs agree that since flips merely add to the aesthetic value and are rarely (see below) the most efficient way of passing an object and never useful, they are not parkour. However, some traceurs believe that tricks add style and total freedom of motion, and that parkour is not so rigidly defined. Free Running, a movement that stems from Parkour, embraces tricks as a way of artistic and physical expression.

David Belle has since released a statement declaring in no uncertain terms that Parkour is about efficient movement, and therefore flips and tricks are (in almost all cases) not Parkour. In this statement Belle also clarified that Free Running and Parkour are two different arts, Free Running being one in which visual flair is also a goal, parkour being solely focused on efficient movement.

A movement by itself is not parkour unless it is used the right way. Vaulting a single rail could be considered parkour so long as it gets you somewhere faster than going around. Additionally, in parkour it should always be possible to return from any place you move to, although not necessarily via the same route.

Movements in Le Parkour include:

* Demi Tour [dəmi tuʁ]: Any kind of turn vault, literally "half turn". This move is used to place yourself on the other side of an object, facing the direction you came.

* Equilibre : Walking or crawling along the crest of an obstacle.

* Franchissement: Jumping or swinging through a gap between obstacles; literally "to cross."

* Laché: Hanging drop, double grab, lacher literally means to let go. When you hang (on a bar, on a wall, on a branch) and let go (be it into a saut de fond, or from swinging) and jump to the next obstacle or branch.

* Passement, Vault: Overcoming an obstacle by vaulting. General term.

* Passe Muraille: Overcoming of a wall.

* Planche, Muscle up/Climb-Up: To get from a hanging position (wall, rail, branch, arm jump, etc) into a position where your upper body is above the obstacle, supported by the arms. This then allows for you to climb up onto the obstacle and continue.

* Reverse: The reverse vault are those vaults where the traceur leads with his back. Most of the time this is followed by a spin to get facing forward again. Good to create torque in combinations and to use when you are very close to the obstacle or at an angle to it.

* Roulade: To roll on the diagonal of your back. Used primarily to transfer the momentum/energy from jumps.

* Saut de Bras, Arm Jump: 'Jump of the arm / arm jump'. To land at an obstacle in a hanging/crouched position, the hands grip the edge, and thus hold the body, ready to perform a plance/muscle up. Often incorrectly called "cat leap".

* Saut de Chat, Cat Jump: To dive onto an obstacle, place your hands, and follow through with your legs, and in the end push off with the hands to bring the body back in a vertical angle, ready to land. Often incorrectly called "kong vault" or "monkey vault".

* Saut de Détente, Gap Jump: To jump from one place/object to another, over a gap/distance. This technique is most often followed with a roll.

* Saut de Fond, Drop: Literally 'jump to the ground / jump to the floor'. To jump down, or drop down from something.

* Saut de Précision, Precision Jump: To jump from one object to a precise spot on another object.

* Tic Tac: To kick off a wall in order to overcome an obstacle in the path or gain height to grab something.

Parkour has appeared in various television advertisements, news reports, and entertainment pieces, sometimes combined with other forms of stunts and acrobatics.

* After including parkour moves in a chase sequence in the film Taxi 2 (2000), in 2001 French filmmaker Luc Besson made a feature film, Yamakasi—Les samouraï des temps modernes (Yamakasi—the modern-day Samurai), featuring members of the original Yamakasi. The film tells the (fictional) tale of a group of young thieves who use their parkour skills to evade capture, while stealing money to fund the healthcare of a child that was injured copying their parkour training. In 2004, Besson wrote Banlieue 13, another feature film involving parkour, starring David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli. An English subtitled version of Banlieue 13 was released in America, as District B13 in June 2006, and in the UK under the title, District 13, in July 2006. (Banlieue, in French, means "suburbs," which are the more "urban" areas where Northern Africans frequently call home.)

* The biggest interest surge to date was created by the documentary Jump London, which explained some of the background to parkour and culminated with Sébastien Foucan and two other French traceurs (Johann Vigroux and Jérôme Ben Aoues) demonstrating their parkour skills at many famous London locations: HMS Belfast, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Somerset House and the Tate Gallery and Saatchi galleries amongst them. It is perhaps worth noting that David Belle received no mention in Jump London, despite often being accredited as the most important founder of parkour. Jump London was followed up by the sequel Jump Britain, once again featuring Foucan and Ben Aoues, as well as several traceurs from Urban Freeflow, the leading group and central focus for the nascent British scene.

* An action sequence in the upcoming James Bond film, Casino Royale, has been confirmed as a roof-top chase that implements many aspects of Parkour. Sebastien Foucan has been hired to perform the stunts for the character that James Bond will be chasing. The scene will be filmed in Nassau, Bahamas, but the Bahamas have been confirmed as doubling for Madagascar.

* One of the first instances of the British public being exposed to parkour on a large scale was during 2002, via the BBC station trailer Rush Hour. This depicted David Belle leaping across London's (Partically Filmed in Newcastle upon Tyne) rooftops from his office to home, in an attempt to catch his favourite BBC program. The piece generated a great deal of discussion, particularly after it was revealed that no special effects or wires were used. This film was later re-used for the BBC Children in Need appeal, with the face of Terry Wogan superimposed onto the body of David Belle.

* The CSI: NY episode "Tri-Borough" involves a murdered traceur.

* A series of Nike commercials depicted traceurs clearing rooftop gaps and stairwells as part of an ad campaign for their Presto line of slip-on running shoes.

* A Toyota Scion commercial had free runners Sebastien Foucan and Jerome Ben Aoues playing "tag" with two cars in a parking structure.

* A Rogers Wireless mp3 phone commercial features a group of young adults running to meet another group via parkour on a rooftop, with a slogan "Tippin' on the brink".

* A Canon 350D commercial on MTV shows a traceur.

* An episode of the BBC's motoring program Top Gear featured a race between James May in a new Peugeot 207 against two traceurs (Daniel Ilabaca and Kerbie) in the city of Liverpool on 23rd July 2006. The traceurs won the race to the Liver Building, if only because May, true to character, got lost on his way to the building.

Issue 6 of the limited series Global Frequency, written by noted comic book author Warren Ellis, tells the story of a young traceur named Sita Patel who is tasked with the seemingly impossible task of crossing London in under twenty minutes to defuse a biological weapon. The issue, titled The Run, is a varied and detailed (and mostly believable) treatment of the topic. The series was published by Wildstorm Comics.

* Eidos Interactive has announced their intention to publish a parkour video game on the PSP platform under the title "Free Running", with a release date still to be announced.

* Assassin's Creed, another game in development by Ubisoft, is inspired by parkour.

* In Activision's Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, the character has the ability to leave the skateboard and perform some limited free running techniques.

* Lara Croft, the protagonist of the Tomb Raider series, is often considered a traceur, especially in the most recent game, Tomb Raider Legend.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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