Is Parkour a Sport?
Yes, we call it a sport, but it’s also a discipline (much like how martial arts can be practiced competitively or noncompetitively) and philosophy. Some practitioners and athletes choose to compete, while others train for their own reasons, and challenge themselves outside of a competitive structure.
In competition, parkour is often broken into three categories: Speed, Skill, and Style. Each category has different parameters for judging and earning points. Learn more about competition
When practiced non-competitively, parkour’s ethos of challenge and creativity remain, but shine at all levels of athletic performance. The social and community aspect of training parkour is also a large part of its ethos, as although individual responsibility is often highlighted, breaking down challenges in a group is rewarding collective experience.
Where can I practice parkour?
The short answer is anywhere; Parkour began outdoors, using the built and natural environments as a playground. However, due to private property and the unique nature of the USA’s litigation laws, many indoor training facilities are available. Indoor training allows for setting up different challenges, as well as training flips and tricks on padded surfaces. Practitioners are encouraged to undertake both indoor and outdoor training where possible as this increases adaptability and adherence to the original ethos of parkour.
Training outdoors and repurposing architecture and infrastructure are a huge part of parkour, and there are many parks, buildings, plazas, and other places that have endless possibilities. However, when training outdoors, there are some important considerations:
Private vs public property: Training on private property is trespassing, and you need to respect any requests to leave. Even on public property, such as parks, it’s important to respect how the space was intended to be used to avoid having to relocate. How practitioners handle confrontation and requests to leave very much affects the overall reputation of parkour and the community’s collective ability to train in various locations.
Leave no trace: One way to keep parkour in a positive light is to be respectful of the space. Clean up trash, leave it better than you found it. Be careful, check surfaces, and aim to do no harm (breaking public property like park benches, hand rails, etc)
Check surfaces: When training outdoors, weather, age, plants, dirt, and any number of other factors can affect your training. It’s important to check your surfaces to make sure they are safe and can handle training.
Do I have to be very strong and fit to try parkour?
Parkour is for everyone and anyone who wants to try it. Jumping across rooftops is often what comes to mind, but jumping on a simple street curb is also parkour. Developing skills and learning techniques is possible regardless of your background or fitness level. Parkour has a huge range of possibilities that allow you to start wherever you’re at and progress from there. We recommend connecting with a community or a coach to begin your parkour journey!
How did parkour start?
Parkour was developed in France in the 1980s by a group known as the Yamakasi; David Belle, Yann Hnautra, Chau Belle, Williams Belle, Laurent Piemontesi, Sebastien Foucan, etc. Through films like Jump London, Jump Britain, District B13, and later James Bond: Casino Royale, it spread across the world in early 2000s, and exploded in popularity as the internet and particularly Youtube made high-level parkour training videos go viral. Since then, parkour has continued to grow in popularity and is an essential skill set for competitions like American Ninja Warrior and World Chase Tag, and is regularly featured in popular action movies such as the Marvel franchise.
Is parkour dangerous?
Despite its reputation as a dangerous sport, we believe when training at an appropriate level while building strength and skill progressively, parkour can be less dangerous than more traditional contact sports. There is inherent risk to parkour, just like any sport, because it is a physical discipline and practitioners often interact with changing environments. While challenging oneself and pushing personal limits is at the core of parkour, part of the process that proper instruction teaches is discernment of one’s own abilities and readiness; both mentally and physically. While it is common to see high level athletes completing huge jumps or flips, it’s important to understand the years of training both physically and mentally that allow athletes to perform at that level.
As with any movement discipline or sport, injuries happen. However, understanding the risks, assessing if you are physically and mentally ready to try new challenges, and listening to your body will all serve to mitigate potential danger. Some ways practitioners often assess or prepare for challenges include:
- A ‘body scan’ or mental assessment of one’s physical condition
- Check your surfaces – examine the area which you are practicing for loose gravel, sand, wetness, or other environmental factors that could cause slippage
- Practicing safe bails or ukemi (the art of falling)
- Progressive skill practice – chaining movements together gradually
- Recreating a challenge in a ‘safer’ way (ie jumping on the ground to make sure you can reach a certain distance before trying it on walls or rails)
- Watch or learn progressions for the skill you’re trying to attempt
TikTok, Youtube, Instagram and other viral mediums typically show only the most extreme stunts, jumps, flips, etc as well as bails and fails. This is not entirely representative of parkour, and typically those athletes have years of training and practice avoiding injuries to get to that level. Risk is part of parkour, but an appropriate level of risk for your own skills is important. Trying things done by pro-athletes on youtube, tiktok, or instagram is not the best way to learn, simply because of their experience level. A certified coach will help to build a solid foundation of skills, give progressions, and find appropriate challenges.
Is parkour the same as gymnastics?
No. Parkour aims for creative freedom and challenging oneself, while gymnastics has very specific movements, equipment, and structures. It uses mainly indoor, padded surfaces, whereas parkour is most often outdoors on concrete and metal.