Parkour ? A Brief History of the Urban Sport

Parkour ? A Brief History of the Urban Sport

What started out in France as an freedom of movement and expression, is now a widely spread form of sports. Parkour is a method of movement focused on moving around obstacles with speed and efficiency. At the heart of parkour is an effortless way of moving that utilizes the entire body as a whole rather than consciously employing isolated muscle groups

The aim of the parkour practitioners (also called as traceurs) is to be able to move through their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping in various ways. The trendy sport is accessible to anyone and it’s easy for beginners, as you only need a pair of basic running shoes, loose pants and a t-shirt to get started. Parkour can be practiced anywhere, but areas dense with obstacles offer many different training opportunities.

Parkour’s origins are in the French military training. The term “parkour” was coined by Hubert Koundé. It derives from “parcours du combattant”, the classic obstacle course method of military training proposed by Georges Hébert.

Hébert was a French naval officers who, while traveling the world before World War I was impressed by physical development the African tribesmen and their natural gymnastic prowess. Once he returned to France, inspired by his experiences of natural movement and athletic skills, he set out to create his own system of physical education, called ”méthode naturelle”.

During World War I and II Hébert’s method gained popularity and expanded so that it become the standard for the French military education and training and obstacle courses, parcours become widely used in fitness training for firefighters and soldiers.

Later in 1990’s, a Frenchman called David Belle was seeking a way to express himself through athletic exercise, martial arts and gymnastics. His father, Raymond Belle was trained in Vietnam’s military and later served in Paris as a firefighter and was encouraging his son to train hard as well as develop his strength and dexterity in order to be useful in life. David left school at age 17 and in 1997 he an influential group Yamakasi, which is recognized as the first parkour group in the world.

The movement spread slowly in the underground from Paris to London other cities. Parkour was used in popular films, such as Taxi 2, District 13 and in a feature named Yamakasi. Finally the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale and its chase sequence in the beginning catapulted parkour in to the mainstream and began a new wave of parkour-inspired stunts in Western film and television.


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