A New Sport: Parkour (Free Running)


free running
Sebastien Foucan
free running


Autor: Sébastien Foucan, www.parkour.com

Procede de la página: www.jammedonline.com/writers

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Yamakasi es una palabra del lingala (un dialecto zaireño) que significa "Espíritu fuerte". Cinerama. Luc Besson, productor de la película, descubrió a los Yamakasi y les ofreció una pequeña aparición como ninjas en Taxi . Cinerama. Los Yamakasi son un colectivo multinacional - un senegalés, dos vietnamitas, un francoitaliano, un caledonio, un ziareño y un centroafricano - residente en parís que, a finales de los 90, crearon un nuevo deporte de riesgo consistente en saltar, escalar y trepar por edificios, fachadas, puentes... Tras pasar años perfecionando su estilo y desarrollando un estricto código de conducta, en 1997 deciden darse a conocer: aparecen en prensa, hacen videoclips, cortometrajes y se embarcan en una exitosa gira por Francia y Canada



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A New Sport: Parkour ( Free Running )

By: Sébastien Foucan. De www.jammedonline.com/parkour


What is Parkour?

Parkour is very basically the art of movement where participants (otherwise known as 'Free-runners') use objects within their urban surroundings, to create new and interesting ways of moving.  It encompasses running, jumping, vaulting and climbing to overcome these obstacles, where the ultimate aim is to do so in the most fluid and flowing way possible.  For people unfamiliar to Parkour, the easiest picture to paint is to say that what we do is the closest you can get to the Matrix, Spiderman and Hong Kong martial arts movies in the sense of movement, but without the need for special FX or wires.  Get past that mental picture and what you have in front of you is a deep discipline where, as a beginner you'll find yourself practising plenty of singular moves (similar to how skaters practise) but as you become more proficient, you'll find yourself automatically linking things together with the eventual goal coming in the form of one fluid run without any hesitation.  Parkour has always been there from the very beginning....You just need to open your eyes and then go out to explore.

Where and when did it start?

Many people argue that the movements have existed since the beginning of man, but the actual art was born and developed back in the 1980's in Lisse , France .  It started off as a group of kids messing about but then took on a serious edge that was geared towards military style obstacle coursing.  As the kids in question grew up, they continued to practise and develop their art.  Two of the most prominent of that group were Sebastien Foucan and David Belle but many media articles, other websites and general practitioners are totally unaware that the art was formed and nurtured by a bigger group of people.  Among those who added their influence are - Yahn Hnautra, David Malgogne, Frederic Hnautra and Kazuma.  Another influence was David Belle's father who had a military background and encouraged the 'methode naturelle' way.

How can I get into Parkour?

The beauty of Parkour is that anybody can just pick it up and play.  There are no set rules to follow although its always strongly recommended that you pay extra attention to the basics.  At the end of the day,  having strong foundations will always stand you in good stead and make it easier for you to develop your game, as you'll have something solid to build upon. The best thing to do is to browse the site in its entirety and soak up as much info as possible.  Take the time to acclimatise yourself with the pictures, videos, terminology and the general feel.  When you are ready, step up into the message board arena and have a good browse.  You'll find the UF global community to be a very chilled out and friendly place, where you can get all manner of tips and general help.  You'll also find lots of like minded people looking to hook up and train.  If you are lucky you might find someone close by to you who is a bit more experienced than yourself.  Make the most of it as training with people better than yourself is by far the best way to learn.  If at all possible, try and get yourself to one of the big jams that are arranged.  You'll get to network with many other free-runners and the amount of info you'll pick up is amazing.

Ok, I'm ready but what equipment do I need?

Another very cool thing about Parkour is that you can start straight away without burning a hole in your pocket.  Unlike Skateboarding as an example, there is no expensive board, padding, helmets or various accessories to buy.  All you need is a half decent pair of trainers and an open mind.  The rest is up to you.  At some point though, you might want to invest in a good pair of trainers and maybe some insoles for extra cushioning, but its not imperative.  In fact, you can pick up trainers that are perfect for PK at really cheap rates.  Ideally you need ones that are light, comfortable, offer good shock protection, have good grip and are hard wearing.  If you get stuck for choice, refer to our product test section where we always put different makes and models through rigorous testing.  If you are feeling extra fragile you might want to invest in some gloves but in general its best to get through the blister and callus period, as with bare hand you have better sensitivity to your surroundings.....grabbing onto walls, rails etc.

I've seen those commercials with all the big roof jumps...How do I start training to become a roof jumper?

No no no!!!!  Lose these thoughts now!  Parkour does have elements of gap jumping but it forms a minute portion of the overall discipline.  Its through the fault of the media that the more extreme elements have been sensationalised and focused heavily upon.  This in turn makes everyone think that the art is all about jumping off rooftops.  If you pay extra attention to the basic movements - how to land from low level jumps, how to roll properly, how to combine the two and then how to do basic movements like vaults and precisions, you will find yourself getting immersed in a totally new and exciting way of moving.  Sure, roof jumps are there to do if desired, but we always advise people to wait until they are of a proficient level before going anywhere near a roof.  Think sensibly about your approach, stay focused and always be aware of self preservation, and you'll find yourself loving every minute of your PK journey.  Ignore the basics and concentrate on the 'wow factor' techniques and you will only end up with a game that has holes all over it and will be prone to getting injured or in extreme cases, worse.  The most important thing is to have fun doing what you are doing.

Ok, I'm now ready to go out and practice what I've seen in those badass videos!

Woah!  Slow down a little bit.  This game ain't a walk in the park and in the wrong hands can be extremely dangerous.  Before 'jumping' in head first, take your time to study the vids/pics on the site and pay particular attention to the basics when learning.  Everything that the top level guys do is done with preparation in mind.  You'll never see any of the pro's taking unnecessary risks and yeah, although some of it is dangerous, its all calculated and has been drilled at a lower level many many times beforehand. ;) Go out and have fun by all means, but please keep it safe.  Parkour is for life, not just for xmas.


Parkour : french masculine noun, from « parcours du combattant », invented by david belle whom sebastien foucan joined, and spelled in accordance with the needs of the issue: the useless “s” is erased so that the noun is made more lively and biting, sharp, like the art which it refers to.


draw a straight line on a map of your home town. start from point a, and go to the point b. don't consider the elements which are in your way (barriers, walls, wire fences, trees, houses, buildings) as obstacles.hug them: climb, get over, jump: let your imagination flow: you're now doing parkour


to parkour, it's also to know how to deny evidences, to keep a critical acumen. example; the streets. a marked out route, where we no longer need to wonder if we must take it or not. it's here, we take it, that's all. no thought needs to go into it at all. whereas the parkour's attitude is to wonder; "perhaps there is another way to move forward, a way which hasn't been explored yet?" the parkour is the adventurous spirit dared in conquered fields and which is applied at both literal and figurative senses “it teaches me not be scared in life, when new situations come to me, i deal with them calmly, like I would do before a new jump” stéphane vigroux


“the day when all will be flat, we'll be dead” the people who practice parkour apply this principle on a physical level, and offers to transpose this attitude on a moral level. all depends actually on the way which the obstacle is taken.  an obstacle in normal circumstances prevents us from going further, it paralyses. in parkour however, everything is viewed as an obstacle that can be used to create movement “ tell me how you move and i'll tell you who you are”


what could be defined as bungee jumping without elastic rope was created in lisses, in essonne 14 years ago by david belle. this one began as a child to play the “parcours du combatant”, under his father's influence (troop soldier's son in Vietnam between 9 and 18) and jackie chan's movies. it's a matter of moving with as much agility as possible, with silence. this parcours du combatant, david converted it with what he had. he didn't have access to the jungle, but he had the city. so he started to climb all the things that he found in lisses. sébastien foucan, intrigued by david's reputation, joined him when they still were in primary school, and the team was born.proposing a new way to deal with a static environment, the parkour seems like capoera on buildings, without safety wires. those cat looking men are urban acrobats.it's way too dangerous to be legal, but it isn't officially illegal either, although because of the danger, those who practice stay more or less underground.“we just claim the fact that we move differently, not that we take risks to get a pride and say to ourselves i do that and you don't” david belle

The seventh art and the parkour: little betrayals between friends

in the bright lighted side, we could see the yamakasis, these stuntmen of cities in the luc Besson movie.  in the shadowed side, there is parkour, that is also called the art of movement, and that most of the public doesn't know about, and it is understandable: these spider-men's reputation grew, and other young people wanted to practice. david and sébastien share their passion with anybody who wants to know.  the news is spreading: from neighbour cities of noisy and sarcelles , young people move to evry to learn the parkour. the rumour works well, and the show “notre dame de paris” offers them to go on a tour, but david and sébastien refuse: a two years tour across france would cut them from their base, and above all they don't want to abandon the other young people who need their help. then luc besson comes up with a script for yamakasi. they refuse that too. the scenario presents them as revolted boys from housing estates who trick the police and use their skills to steal. seb explains: “us, that we don't want, it's to prostitute our art” chilling incorruptible ones. For how long?  seven of the newcomers - including david's cousin give in the temptation and play in the movie. they separate from the group of evry, and rename themselves the yamakasis (strong man, strong spirit). once famous, they claim to have invented the Parkour, betraying the true parkourists. david, seb and the others (stéphane vigroux, yoann vigroux, jérome ben aoues, rudy duong, kazuma and michael ramdami) rename themselves the 'traceurs'.  irritated by this story, they tell me that: “to anyone who want to learn the art of parkour, it's welcome, but for the media events, we reserve us the right to choose: now we know who come to train when there's a tv near, and who's really got the passion”. we understand them “the cinema, this new little employee of our dreams, we can buy it, buy him, make him ours for one hour or two like a prostitute”


while interviewing other parkourists on internet, -it's there that they can communicate, in sites like parkour.fr or pisteurs.fr, because the movie has spread throughout the world - we can see that they think too that the yamakasis carry with them a kamikaze image, even suicidal guys, nevertheless parkour has nothing to do with risk taking. To sebastien, we can go on a bench and do a more interesting trick than a jump from the 6th floor of a building, “in parkour, big muscled guys are clumsy guys” adds stéphane vigroux. what's important for the traceurs, -and all the true parkourists from france and from elsewhere, is the grace and the lightness.  besides, they have never had a grave accident with them, perhaps because david and seb don't randomly do anything. each jump is calculated precisely. it has nothing to do with the image proposed by the movie. finally, the parkourists aren't basically anti-police, or anti-society, they aren't children of housing estates (evry is a green suburb), and they respect their environment.on this subject, sebastien is losing his temper: “i can't bear when someone tell me: “don't touch this tree”, I say to myself “but this tree, I respect it more than you do, so get busy, go for a jog and stop boring me silly” for sure they don't respect all the signposts, or else they couldn't practice, but isn't it better than doing nothing at all and smoking drugs? furthermore, it is not in their interest to destroy their environment because it's more than their work field   “obstacles are integral parts of the art of movement” david belle.


the traceurs continue to teach to anyone who wants to learn. they even think about making a school, and are at the moment dealing with the departmental direction of youth and sports. they receive propositions from foreign producers and above all, they are making a parkour tour.sebastien foucan is also painting, and thinks about exhibiting soon.  stéphane and the others continue too, but they don't stop their studying. some of them enter in sport faculty, other in audiovisual. one of them has got his informatics firm. so beware of stereotypes. by his side, david has just played, among others, with brian de palma , in femme fatale. sebastien and david don't talk to the yamakasis anymore.  these ones seem to decline….....go see the traceurs at tv-up.com, click on 'earthgate', 8th video. And sit back and enjoy. it's a bomb!


“more and more, even if you were fast or slow, as soon as you understood the others, nothing can threaten you anymore. they say that the luck given by the others is the most secure one” (jocho yamamoto, hagakure)

Parkour, the art of the traceurs

from the birth of parkour to his actual development, sébastien foucan, one of the founders of parkour, comes back on the singularity of unclassifiable discipline. an art of bare handed slide which is also an art of living.

The origin

at the very beginning, there's david belle and his friends who were playing mere childrens games. david belle and i wanted to develop these games and make them an art, a philosophy. then, thanks to the friendship links, a group was constituted. we must clarify that david's father, raymond belle, who was child troop in vietnam and then fireman, inspired us a lot, he had the ability to awaken us to all that surrounded us, to interest us in every little detail. during his life, he was the incarnation of “being strong to help”. the parkour was born from the meeting of various elements which are sports in general, and particularly urban sliding sports (for example, skateboarding), asian martial arts, as well as breakdancing, and of course David's father's teaching. these are all the influences that made parkour born here in lisses, in half urban, half-natural space where we could do what we wanted.

the parkour, is then a children games that become an art, an art of living, of moving. what is shameful is to believe that, once grown up, we shall stop playing. like bruce lee said: “play, but play seriously”. we could talk about art of jumping, art of overcoming obstacles, art of moving. but the definition is not important, I don't prefer to give another name than parkour. perhaps it's the other's role to claim that it's an art and not us to claim it. anyway, from my point of view, we aren't there yet, we still have to work. today, i transmit parkour to some persons that are the “taking over ones”. to transmit it, it's to make it grow. i learn as much from them than they learn from me. we need each other's personality and abilities to develop it. each one joined with his own motivations and wishes. it's that simple. the only reason to enter into parkour is the love of the art, the demand and the respect.

The existence of techniques

we have a deep respect toward the urban furniture and the environment, those are all the same and our working tools. some people still don't understand, and call the police as soon as they see us moving. those have a closed mind, they don't make anything go forward, they keep hidden when action is needed, and they go out to complain only. anyway, most of the time, they don't have the time to tell much things, we are yet far away. our association has got propositions about urban furniture adapted to parkour. let's invent the perfect town for it! but what we like, in fact, is free practice. they won't be able to shut us in destined parkour area like they wanted to do with skateboarding, besides we will all see that it doesn't work. the warming up is purely functional, it must not be violent to the body. for example, the flexion in our practice is very important. in our culture, in contrary to others in which we eat while crouched, we do very few flexions in the day, it's at this moment that we become conscious that our body are stiff. so we do flexion exercises in order to be more flexible. we've got many exercises and each has got a particular function. for example, exercises linked to balance must be learned whatever the weather. mastering must be worked in every detail in order not to be hindered in our movement by external factors, to be as free as possible in order to invent, to imagine, to create one's own way of moving.

in our training, we create the conditions of demand. we try not to do again exercises if we didn't succeed, in order to be more careful the next time to succeed. tadrina, the only girl of the group for now, has got different abilities because she thinks the movement differently. that means that she can find tricks that we didn't even think about. cat jumps were born this way, some didn't succeed in overcoming obstacles directly and so they used their arms to do so. today i think that the cat jump is more fluid. it's important that each one thinks differently. to grow a step higher, it's for example to pass from the in depth jump to accuracy jumps, which need a certain subtlety, a balance.

The root

there's “the root” which could correspond to the hard part of kung fu (which is opposed to the soft part), or brick breaking in martial arts. the root, it's the base, the brute essence of parkour, we need a bit of root, but above all one mustn't do only that. it's indispensable, but not essential. anyone can do an in depth jump, the difference is in the landing, some will ruin themselves forcing, landing badly, while others won't feel any shock because they would have worked the softness. it's there that intervene the other dimensions of parkour: the technical part (work on the quality of the moving, develop imagination) and the feeling (feel the sensation of fluidity). it's important not to dispatch these dimensions, to have in mind that they constitute a coherent whole. today, it's new, some have protections like the skaters. usually, we don't like using protection, or placing mats for the landing of jumps, because we lose the notion of risk, while we must keep it to go forward in order to win against apprehensions. but today, protection doesn't hinder movements. one must accept to fall, to get injured, the fall, the one without real damage, is important to learn, it strengthens us. the one which does grave lesions is of course to avoid at any cost. any solution is in practice.

The quest

our research is linked to two fundamental aspects, the first is a quest of body fluidity, of a moving as much feline as possible, the second is linked to an inner fighting, a work of spirit in order to win against one's apprehensions and fears. then there's a strong dimension of inner work, and in all that we do, we're in a constant search. in contrary to other sports, like athletics which i practiced, the purpose isn't the physical exploit through the muscular strength increase - although in parkour the muscular development is important- but the pleasure, the sensation, the feeling. the body must progress softly, the idea is to always work in quality and not in strength, with the aim of a human naturalness. to reach it a very meticulous work is needed. and there, we get conscious than the human being is able of extraordinary things. our search target to find uses from one's body and to overcome one's fears.

all the jumps that we show are graded down, there's always an important gap between what we show and what we can do. in athletics i felt my ruined body, which isn't the case with parkour. i can get injured, but I'm not ruining myself. competition means “always higher”, “always stronger”, so of course there's aggro. from then, for me, we are out of the subject, out of the real. in parkour, i'm never off limit, i don't push my body to its last limit. the discipline in athletics that would be the closest of we do would be the decathlon as far as the decathlonian can do anything, he's more resistant.

“if you refuse any inner stiffness, things will undo from themselves in the exterior. move, be like water. smooth, like a mirror. answer like an echo” (bruce lee)

like break dancing and surfing, of their search of perfect fluidity and of the pure gesture, the tarkour wants himself to be an imagination, a constant invention of the most limpid gesture. we train our body to avoid telegraphic moves. if our movement is a writing, so our objective is to create tricks that, once put next to the others, create the most flexible and the most fluid sentence as possible. one must constantly be able to turn back, bounce again. the landing of a jump is important for the following, a jump never is never an end in itself. what we call a “following” is needed after a jump, aka to be able to link with another move, to be always active. we need landing that allows to make another action. it's in the movement without stops that we feel the sensation of fluidity.

Each person progresses at his rhythm and at his speed, and the progress are lighting, in particular because we doesn't force. i try to make working the sliding sensation which is decisive, it's not a matter of strength. anyone can find something, we must invent, discover all the time new jumps, to tricks. my best pleasure is to go in unknown places so to make me to create. all our tricks were born from discussions. it's the watching, the relations with the others that make us discover new elements. no way about being in competition, or if not only considering its healthy definition, aka to push the other toward his best, and not to destroy him.

The importance given to the sensation is crucial; it's one of the first motivations. To place the body in unusual dispositions make you grow. the sensation is linked to the spirit of freedom, the consciousness takes, to autonomy, to flowering. when I see the traceurs, i see bright face. they have found a practice making them alive. i would even say that parkour act as a personality blossomer.

in all sports, we could imagine judges noting less the demonstration of strength than the ease. in skateboarding, they begin to do so noting the attitude. a good traceur is defined by his attitude, that's when the work of the spirit intervenes, which is essential.

all what is about the work of spirit interests us, the challenges, the sports, the arts in which this aspect is decisive. in this, we feel close to philosophy of the asian martial arts, of the samurais' philosophy. our art could have been born in asia . nn France , we suffer taboos, in particular about death. in samurais' teaching, we must be able to accept death in order to succeed an ordeal. we must be able to enter in the attack, not to be scared, not to hesitate while there's an opening. the philosophy, the spirit of parkour is to always continue even when diminished. furthermore, we don't want to create an academia with diplomas, but to develop our art without hindering, to never stop practicing. “have the desire to overtake yourself”, “go at the very end of your thinking”, “do what you like, like what you do”, “to be and last” are sentences that inspire us. we are forerunners and that's why we are inspired by many other arts. personally, i got inspired as well by movies, bruce lee's ones for example, then books, l'hagakure (samurais' book), or books about oriental medicine. we search the do like the japanese martial arts, this way of being that determines all. the parkour is very interior.

i'm sure that we could have shared with bruce lee who was as well a practitioner, than a philosopher and an inventor. with him who asked himself about the notion of self-defence, we could have talked of parkour like an art of escaping. if you go across somebody who has got a weapon, even being stronger, you can't do anything. with what we develop, you may escape from him. fleeing isn't dishonouring because you were active.

at least, about risk and its mastering, the most important is to do it for you, not for the others, it's from there that the danger comes: when you do it to impress others. the maximum risk is to want to do a jump to amaze a lot, then here, yes it's dangerous.in real, in front of a jump, you're always alone.

The becoming

our future is linked to words like “soft”, “feline”, “fluid”. the most understandable metaphor for it is the water one. we need to dream in parkour. because we are forerunners, so it's necessary to continue practicing, searching, travelling to discover, meet and share. our wish would be that people consider parkour as a whole art that it's impossible to dispatch for one or other aspect of shows. it must be understood as a whole. it's not a speciality. comparing to other groups, we deeply want to keep in our quest, to be in the right. that's why we don't accept to be shown by the media if they don't give to parkour all its sense, if they don't explain its entire story. when somebody tell us “if you aren't shown in the media, you won't be known, if you're not known, your art won't be transmitted” we answer “it's not a problem because the art we got it inside, and we'll transmit it anyway”. it's so huge that i can't just keep it for myself. you must always wonder “what are you searching for? the right or the wrong?” you must be able to stay real and genuine in what you do.

anywhere, there are ways, jumps. it's the trajectory that interests me. if in each town there are traceurs, persons that feel this freedom sentiment, so it will be won.

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