What Is Parkour? A Complete Guide to the Art of Efficient Movement

What Is Parkour? A Complete Guide to the Art of Efficient Movement

Imagine moving through your city like a playground—leaping over barriers, sprinting up walls, and vaulting down staircases—not just for fun but to get from A to B as directly and efficiently as possible. This isn't a scene from a movie; it's parkour.

Originating in France, parkour is a physical discipline that involves navigating obstacles using only the human body's capabilities. It's about transforming landscapes into opportunities for movement and self-expression.

Let's explore the world of parkour, its history, philosophy, and how you can start practicing it yourself.

What Is Parkour?

Parkour, also called freerunning, is the art of moving from one point to another in a complex environment without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. It involves a range of movements like running, jumping, climbing, vaulting, and rolling.

The discipline was developed in France in the late 1980s, drawing inspiration from French military training, and has since captured the imagination of people worldwide, thanks to its thrilling representation in movies, television, and online videos. Parkour is not just about physical fitness; it's also a self-discipline focused on overcoming physical and mental obstacles.

The History and Evolution of Parkour

The roots of parkour can be traced back to "la méthode naturelle" (the natural method), a physical education and military training system created by Georges Hébert in the early 20th century. Hébert's philosophy emphasized the harmonious development of the human body to create a well-rounded, capable individual.

This training method significantly influenced Raymond Belle, a French soldier and firefighter who passed his skills and philosophy to his son, David Belle. David Belle, along with his friends, is credited with developing and popularizing parkour, turning it into the global phenomenon it is today, and he often describe parkour as l'Art du Déplacement (the Art of Movement).

This term originates from parcours du combattant, a military obstacle course training method.

The Philosophy Behind Parkour

Parkour is more than just a physical activity. It embodies the idea of overcoming obstacles, not just in the physical world but also in personal and emotional challenges. The philosophy of parkour is built on adaptability, resilience, and the concept of being "antifragile"—thriving on chaos and becoming more vital in the face of adversity.

Practitioners of parkour, known as traceurs (male) and traceuses (female), use the discipline to push their limits, explore their environment, and discover their true potential, aligning closely with martial arts and self-discipline principles. This approach has led to various parkour federations worldwide, including the World Freerunning Parkour Federation, promoting parkour as a legitimate form of physical fitness and training.

How to Do Parkour?

How to Do Parkour

Starting parkour involves a combination of physical preparation, skill development, and safety awareness. Here's a step-by-step process to help you begin your parkour journey effectively:

Prepare Your Body

The first step in your parkour journey involves getting your body into the right physical shape. This doesn't just mean being "fit" in a conventional sense but developing a balanced combination of strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Incorporating various physical activities such as yoga for flexibility, running for endurance, and a regimented schedule of bodyweight exercises can build a solid foundation. Exercises like squats, push-ups, and leg lifts are great for building muscle strength while swimming or cycling can improve cardiovascular health.

Beginner Bodyweight Training

The ability to control and maneuver one's body through various obstacles is essential to parkour. To build the necessary strength, start with fundamental bodyweight exercises.

If pull-ups are initially too difficult, focus on squats, leg lifts, and pull-ups or bodyweight rows. Gradually increasing the intensity and volume of these exercises will help build the muscular endurance and strength required for more advanced parkour movements.

Improve Your Balance

A key component of parkour is the ability to balance across various surfaces. Start practicing your balance on rails, walls, or any narrow surface you can safely walk on.

This practice will not only improve your coordination but also strengthen the stabilizing muscles that are crucial for executing parkour techniques.

Practice Safety Shoulder Roll

Learning to fall or roll safely is critical in parkour to minimize injury risk. The safety roll, often referred to as the shoulder roll, is a technique that helps distribute the impact of a fall across your body, reducing the force on any single point.

Practice rolling on soft surfaces, focusing on tucking your shoulder and rolling diagonally across your back to the opposite hip.

Learn to Land Properly

Mastering the proper landing technique is vital for absorbing impact safely. Practice jumps where you land softly on the balls of your feet, bending your knees to use your legs as shock absorbers.

This technique is fundamental for reducing the stress on your joints and avoiding injury.

Precision Jumping

Precision jumps involve leaping from one point to another with accuracy and control. Begin with short distances, focusing on landing precisely and maintaining balance upon impact.

This skill is invaluable for moving confidently and efficiently through parkour environments.

Quadrupedal Movement

Developing the ability to move efficiently on all fours, similar to a monkey, can enhance your agility and movement options. Practice driving with your hands and feet on the ground, alternating your limbs to propel yourself forward, backward, and sideways.

Learn Basic Vaults

Vaults are techniques used to traverse obstacles efficiently. Start with the safety vault, placing one hand on the obstacle and swinging your legs to the side.

As you become more comfortable, you can explore more complex vaults, each designed to navigate different barriers.

Wall Runs and Tic Tacs

The wall runs and tic tacs teach you to use vertical surfaces to your advantage, whether to gain height or change direction. Begin with simple wall runs, focusing on foot placement and pushing off the wall to gain elevation.

Tic tacs involve kicking off a wall to redirect your momentum, which helps overcome taller obstacles.

Combine and Practice Moves

With a repertoire of basic skills, start linking different movements into fluid sequences. Regular practice is critical to improving your fluidity, speed, and confidence in navigating complex parkour courses.

Safety and Etiquette

Safety should always be your top priority. Ensure the area is free from hazards, practice in designated or safe places, and respect both private property and public spaces.

Training with a partner or group makes practicing safer and can enhance the learning experience through shared tips and encouragement.

This guide can be enhanced by watching YouTube videos for visual learning and inspiration. Many professional parkour athletes share tutorials and tips that can be immensely helpful for beginners.

What Equipment is Needed for Parkour?

Parkour is renowned for its simplicity and minimalistic approach, requiring very little equipment. This discipline emphasizes efficiency, agility, and freedom of movement through urban or natural landscapes.

Here's a breakdown of the essential and optional equipment for parkour to enhance your training experience and safety:

Essential Equipment for Parkour

  • Parkour Pants: Comfort and freedom of movement are paramount, so choose lightweight, breathable, and ideally abrasion-resistant clothing that does not restrict your range of motion.
  • Parkour Shoes: A good pair of parkour shoes is crucial. Look for shoes with the following characteristics: appropriate cushioning, breathable mesh, lightweight design, good traction, flexibility, and affordability. Avoid too much cushioning or skinny soles to ensure responsiveness and protection during jumps.

Optional Equipment

  • Gloves: Contrary to what some may assume, gloves are generally not recommended for parkour. They can hinder your ability to feel and grip surfaces properly and may delay the natural strengthening of your hands.
  • Training and Recovery Gear: Items like foam rollers for self-myofascial release and rubber training bands can aid in stretching and scaling exercises. A pull-up bar can significantly improve strength applicable to parkour.
  • Parkour Bag or Backpack: For those training alone and carrying belongings, a lightweight and easy-to-carry bag can be helpful. It can hold essentials like a water bottle, bandages, or band-aids.

When is the Best Time for Parkour?

Parkour can be practiced at any time, although many prefer the early morning or late evening when public spaces are less crowded. The cooler temperatures during these times can also make for a more comfortable training session.

Ultimately, the best time for parkour is when you feel most energized and motivated.

Where to Do Parkour in the US?

Where to Do Parkour in the US

In the United States, the parkour community has created a wide range of environments where enthusiasts of all levels can train, learn, and connect with fellow practitioners. From specialized parkour gyms that offer tailored training programs and workshops to urban landscapes rich with natural obstacles, the options are vast and varied.

Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Denver are known for their active parkour communities, providing many classes, meet-ups, and events designed to engage and inspire enthusiasts.

Notable Parkour Gyms and Training Facilities Across the US

  • Pinnacle Parkour: This gym in Princeton and Washington Township offers classes for different skill levels.
  • Freedom in Motion (Murrieta) and Tempest Academy (North County and Valley): They are known for their comprehensive training programs and community-building activities.
  • Parkour Generations (Boston): It is a hub for practitioners in Massachusetts, offering classes that emphasize skill development and physical conditioning.

Urban Environments and Parks

Beyond gyms, parkour practitioners often use urban environments and public parks as training grounds. These spaces provide a range of architectural structures and natural obstacles ideal for parkour activities. Cities such as:

  • New York City: Known for its urban architecture and numerous parks, NYC offers a diverse landscape for parkour.
  • Los Angeles: With its sprawling urban environment and public spaces, LA is a hotspot for parkour enthusiasts seeking to train in various settings.
  • Denver: They offer both urban and natural landscapes, providing a unique mix of challenges for parkour practitioners.

Community and Classes

The parkour community in the US is vibrant and welcoming, with numerous groups and clubs organizing regular meet-ups, jams, and training sessions. These gatherings are great opportunities for practitioners to share knowledge, learn new parkour skills, and build friendships within the parkour community.

Many gyms and organizations also offer beginners and advanced practitioners classes, focusing on safe practice, skill development, and creative expression through movement. The US provides abundant resources, communities, and spaces dedicated to this dynamic and exhilarating discipline for anyone interested in starting or advancing their parkour journey.

Whether through joining a gym, attending a class, or simply exploring the urban space, there are endless opportunities to engage with parkour and its supportive community, fostering self-improvement and exploration in the world of parkour

Explore Parkour with Park N Play's Innovative Training Equipment

Parkour is a captivating discipline that teaches more than just physical skills; it's a way of viewing the world as a playground filled with endless possibilities for movement and self-expression. It emphasizes efficiency, strength, and fluidity, challenging practitioners to look beyond conventional paths and find their way.

If you're interested in exploring parkour, approach it with an open mind, patience, and respect for its philosophy and physical demands. For those looking to incorporate parkour into community spaces, Park N Play design offers innovative parkour training equipment for parks and playgrounds.

Embrace the journey of parkour and discover a new way to connect with your environment and yourself.


What is the meaning of parkour?

A Word Parkour, also called free running, is the sport of moving through environmental obstacles by running, climbing, or leaping rapidly and efficiently. It emphasizes traversing from one point to another in the most effective way possible without equipment.

What is considered parkour?

Parkour, blending sport and discipline, is all about moving through urban or natural landscapes by running, jumping, vaulting, and climbing over obstacles. Whether alone or with friends, it's about creatively interacting with your surroundings to move swiftly and effectively​​.

What is parkour competition?

While parkour primarily focuses on efficient and creative movement through environments, competitive parkour (freerunning) emphasizes artistry, acrobatics, and efficiency. Competitions may involve timed races through obstacle courses or judged events focusing on the creativity and difficulty of movements. Parkour competitions aim to showcase practitioners' skills in swiftly and aesthetically overcoming obstacles.

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