Philosophy and theories-
According to Williams Belle, the philosophies and theories behind parkour are an integral aspect of the art, one that many non-practitioners have never been exposed to. Belle trains people because he wants “it to be alive” and for “people to use it”. Châu Belle explains it is a “type of freedom” or “kind of expression”; that parkour is “only a state of mind” rather than a set of actions, and that it is about overcoming and adapting to mental and emotional obstacles as well as physical barriers.
A newer convention of parkour philosophy has been the idea of “human reclamation”. Andy (Animus of Parkour North America) clarifies it as “a means of reclaiming what it means to be a human being. It teaches us to move using the natural methods that we should have learned from infancy. It teaches us to touch the world and interact with it, instead of being sheltered by it.”It is as much as a part of truly learning the physical art as well as being able to master the movements, it gives you the ability to overcome your fears and pains and reapply this to life as you must be able to control your mind in order to master the art of parkour.”
A point has been made about the similarities between the martial arts philosophy of Bruce Lee and parkour. In an interview with The New Yorker, David Belle acknowledges the influence of Lee’s thinking: “There’s a quote by Bruce Lee that’s my motto: ‘There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. A man must constantly exceed his level.’ If you’re not better than you were the day before, then what are you doing—what’s the point?”.
Traceur Dylan Baker says “parkour also influences one’s thought processes by enhancing self-confidence and critical thinking skills that allow one to overcome everyday physical and mental obstacles”.
A campaign was started on 1 May 2007 by Parkour.NET portal to preserve parkour’s philosophy against sport competition and rivalry. In the words of Erwan LeCorre: “Competition pushes people to fight against others for the satisfaction of a crowd and/or the benefits of a few business people by changing its mindset. Parkour is unique and cannot be a competitive sport unless it ignores its altruistic core of self development. If parkour becomes a sport, it will be hard to seriously teach and spread parkour as a non-competitive activity. And a new sport will be spread that may be called parkour, but that won’t hold its philosophical essence anymore. According to LeCorre, those who truly practice parkour have the same mind aspect of each other, therefore it brings people to work together rather than compete, it allows them to be united internationally and forget the social and economical problems which separated them globally, ultimately leading one giant community working and growing together.
A pair of parkour techniques: A wall climb to a top out
There is no list of “moves”; each obstacle is approached individually. In many cases effective parkour techniques depend on fast redistribution of body weight and the use of momentum to perform seemingly difficult or impossible body maneuvers at great speed. Absorption and redistribution of energy is also an important factor, such as body rolls when landing which reduce impact forces on the legs and spine, allowing a traceur to jump from greater heights than those often considered sensible in other forms of acrobatics and gymnastics.
According to David Belle, the practice is to move in such a way that will help you gain the most ground as if escaping or chasing something. Also, if you go from A to B, you need to be able to get back from B to A, but not necessarily with the same movements or “passements”. Despite this, there are many basic versatile and effective techniques that are emphasized for beginners. Most important are good jumping and landing techniques. The roll, used to limit impact after a drop and to carry one’s momentum onward, is often stressed as the most important technique to learn.
Risk of harm-
Parkour is not widely practiced in dedicated public facilities such as skate parks. Although efforts are being made to create places for it, some traceurs do not like the idea as it is contradictory to the philosophy of freedom. Traceurs practice parkour in urban areas such as gyms, parks, playgrounds, offices, and abandoned structures. Concerns have been raised regarding trespassing, damage of property, and the practice in inappropriate places. However, most traceurs will take care of their training spots and will remove themselves quickly and quietly from a public place if asked. One of parkour’s values is to respect people and places as well as helping others. One of the first campaigns to preserve this sort of philosophy is the ‘Leave No Trace’ project, stressing the importance of training safe, respecting the environment and the people around you.
The Magpie Youth Centre freerunning club in Glen Parva, Leicester, England has raised 40,000 dollars to build a freerunning park/training utility on the park opposite the youth center.
Concerns have been raised by law enforcement and fire and rescue teams of the risk in jumping off high buildings. They argue that practitioners are needlessly risking damage to both themselves and rooftops by practicing at height, with police forces calling for practitioners to stay off the rooftops. Some figures within the parkour community agree that this sort of behaviour is not to be encouraged.
American traceur Mark Toorock says that injuries are rare “because participants rely not on what they can’t control – wheels or the icy surfaces of snowboarding and skiing – but their own hands and feet,” but Lanier Johnson, executive director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, notes that many of the injuries are not reported. When injuries do occur, many members in the parkour community encourage pursuing the most scientifically sound method to recovery and future prevention.
A traceuse vaults an obstacle.
There is no equipment required, although practitioners normally train wearing light casual clothing:
Light upper body garment such as T-shirt, sleeveless shirt or crop top if anything is worn on the upper body
Light lower body garment such as sweatpants, some wear tracksuit bottoms or shorts
Comfortable running shoes, that are generally light, with good grip, and flexibility are encouraged. Various sport shoes manufacturers such as Nike, with their “Free run” shoes, have developed shoes specifically for parkour and freerunning; and many other companies around the world have started offering parkour-specific products. Some use thin athletic gloves to protect the hands; most do not, preferring the increased grip and tactile feedback. Since parkour is closely related to method naturel, practitioners sometimes train barefooted to be able to move efficiently without depending on their gear. Some traceurs also use the lightweight martial arts shoes. David Belle notes: “bare feet are the best shoes!”