Kinesiology Term 4 Project.
“A City to Breathe In”
By: Tyler PrudHomme
Parkour first became present around World War 1. It hadn’t been called “L’art du Deplacement” until the 1980s. Georges
Hébert, a military veteran, first discovered the movement during a visit to Africa. In his journal, he described in detail what it was he
“Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skilful, enduring, resistant, and yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics, but their lives
A former French naval-officer at the time, Hébert soon became a physical educational tutor at Reims College, France. He then
moved on to create his own method, inspired by the indigenous tribes; “Method-Naturelle”;
“Methodical, progressive, a continuous action, from childhood to adulthood that has as its objective; assuring integrated physical
development; increasing organic resistance; emphasizing aptitudes across all genres of natural exercise and indispensable utilities.
( walking, running, jumping, quadru-pedal movement, climbing, equilibrium, throwing, lifting, defending and swimming. ) Developing
one’s energy and all others facets of action or viritility such that all assets, both physical and virile, are mastered; one dominant
moral idea; altruism.”
After many years, the French-military soon adopted Hébert’s method and used it as a means of training for soldiers. Obstacle
courses and climbing were common among exercises used to prepare those in training for various urban-movement situations. They’d
also train in mountainous regions, learning how to jump from rock to rock, conquering height and length. One of the many recruits
who were taught under this form of training was a man; Raymond Belle, born of French-Indochina [now known as Vietnam].
Raymond was originally taken by the military in Da Lat, but was soon trained, and was taught military education and training, shaping
his character. With the end of the War of Indochina, 19 year old Raymond was permitted to return to France, where he continued his
A generation later, David Belle, born of his father Raymond, discovered the regiments which his father undertook in his life of
war. He excelled in athletics, climbing, gymnastics and martial arts. But learning of the military’s exercises, David grew heavily
interested in learning what he believed to be the movements of a perfect hero. While he practiced, friends became interested. They
formed a group called The Yamakasi, which translates to the urban samurai. The Yamakasi were the first parkour group, which really
birthed the art of movement. When Belle left the group, both sides took many developments, and so the sport Parkour became popular.
More people began to practise Parkour and pushed themselves to limits far beyond Gorges Hébert's work. The jumps and tricks began
to grow in magnitude and difficulty. Roof to roof jumping was then quite common. However, ground-based movement is much more
common today than anything involving rooftops in the parkour history.
Athletes in the Sport.
Easily, the most recognized athlete of Parkour today, would be David Belle. If it weren’t for him, and his family, none of this
would’ve been created. Anyone who practices parkour would be able to tell you this. Aside from Belle, who’s set countless
accomplishments for the sport, a few others, [both individuals and groups] have become renowned among the sport. Sebastien
Foucan is another well known individual who’s become famous through parkour. Infact, Sebastien was a colleague of Belle’s. The
two went to the same school, and at one point in his life, Foucan was part of the Yamakasi. However, upon his parting, he structured
the movement into one of his own; a more flashy style where flips became dominant to vaults. He called this Free-Running. Within a
decade or so, Foucan became part of a pair television special; ‘Jump Britain’ and ‘Jump London’ which aired to increase popularity of
the two sports. Having a world-wide audience, Foucan and Belle both illustrated their peak performances across the streets and
rooftops of London. From then, many soon caught onto the sport, and formed professional groups. PK generations, more of a
community group that helps spread popularity of the sport travel the globe, constantly holding workshops to help those first getting
into the sport improve. They train, and point beginners into directions of how they can enhance their performance. Urban Freeflow, a
much more serious group, is by far one of the most developed groups of world today. Partaking in shows, tours, and the first Free-
Running competition ever, they’ve clearly left their mark in the parkour world. Many other individuals have also surfaced due to their
athleticism and skill. Daniel Ilabaca, Brian Orosco, Tim Shieff; just to name a few.
Parkour is one of the only sports you don’t need any equipment for. This is what makes parkour so great. You don’t need to
blow 200-or more dollars on getting started. All you really need is a pair of runners, and that’s it! Though, it’s recommended not to
dress in non-flexible clothing. Basically, wear what you would to a Gym; T-shirt, [maybe a long-sleeve if it’s colder out] sweat-pants
and shoes. Because of this, parkour is encouraged for everyone to try.
Rules / Regulations
So now that you’ve got a decent pair of runners on, you’re just ready to start parkour, when you realize you don’t know what it
is exactly you’re supposed to do. Well, it’s important to know that parkour doesn’t consist of any rules/regulations. Aside from
competitions, parkour doesn’t ask you to do anything specific. The point of parkour is for you to overcome an obstacle that’s in your
way in a manner comfortable to you. Though some movements can be suggested for different situations; If you’re approaching a
waist-high obstacle, it’d be suggested to perform a vault. But nothing’s to say you can’t climb, or even attempt jumping over the
obstacle. There may even be a second “obstacle” that can help you clear the prime objective. Really, it’s more of an improvised sport
that encourages traceurs to be creative, and use their imagination to overcome barriers in various ways. Having said this, some
manoeuvres can prove to be more efficient than others.. The movement may be more difficult, and could require more training to do
properly.. There is no right way to get over an obstacle. Your surroundings can also affect how you move. Urban-architect can be so
unique and different from one another. Parkour can even be looked at as problem-solving practice, as traceurs constantly ask
themselves “What can I do?” This question can be asked at ground level, looking up at a destination, or perhaps 30 feet high, upon a
structure with many ways to descend. The only regulations are the decisions you make while practicing the sport.
As mentioned before, just about anybody can compete in parkour. Therefore, you could assume there is no specific diet to
follow. Though, just like any other sport, your level of performance would be greatly influenced on how healthy you are. There’s no
official handbook stating what you should eat, but one would assume plenty of protein. You’re constantly working your muscles,
training both muscular strength and endurance. After a serious session of parkour, you’d need time to recuperate and rest your
muscles. Infact, professionals usually take a few days off after performing in competitions, doing almost everything they can to rest
up. Cold and hot showers/baths, massages, just about every measure is taken to get them into top form after pushing themselves the
hardest they can. Many parkour sources say that an hour of light-training is equal to about 4 hours in the gym. With that said, it’s not
recommended to spend an entire day doing parkour non-stop. A healthy diet is vital in any sport, and parkour is no different.
Types of Training [Safety]
So first of all, before even thinking about jumping from rooftop to rooftop, you must take the time to learn the most important
aspect of parkour; safety. Any skilled traceur can tell you they’ve gone through if not months, then years of practicing the basics and
getting down the safety of parkour. The most important manoeuvre you’ll ever learn in parkour is the roll. The roll is both an
extremely safe way to land, and a key element to preserve momentum. Learning the roll itself can take anywhere from a few days, to
months of practice to perfect. Upon landing from a height anywhere from above your body-height, it’s recommended to use the roll.
Now, in order to properly execute the roll, one must understand it’s much easier if you’re moving forward, rather than landing from a
“dead-drop”, which is a fall with no momentum at all. The reason; once you hit the ground, your body must immediately get into a
crouching-over position. With no momentum, it’ll take more of an effort to do this properly, and could result in a higher chance of
injury. Once in a crouching position, the traceur must tuck their head in, as you would for a regular summersault. After this, the
traceur’s body is propelled forward, executing the roll. Now, here’s where the science of the roll comes into play. The point of the roll
is to reduce pressure and weight applied to the ankles and legs. But also, it requires you to make the least amount of contact to the
ground with your spine. Traceurs have developed a way to prevent damage both to the spine, and lower body. While rolling, the
traceur’s body crosses from their stronger-side’s shoulder, to the opposite-side’s hip. Imagine an invisible line drawn from your right
shoulder, to the left hip. That line is the only thing that’s allowed to come into contact with the ground. If a traceur were to roll
symmetrically, the entire spine would act as the brace through-out the entire roll. If this were the way the roll was performed, serious
damage would be dealt to the vertebrae, resulting in all sorts of problems to the nervous system. Hands down, the roll is easily the
most important thing a traceur can ever learn while practicing the sport.
Types of Training [Warm-Up, Cool-Down and Stretching]
Like any sport, stretching is important before an intense work-out. It helps lubricate muscles and tendons, enhancing flexibility
and reducing chances of injury. Warming-up is extremely important for athletes before a game, or heavy competition, as it also
prepares the muscles and heart for what’s to come. If a traceur were to jump from say, 20 feet high, without proper warm-up, it’d
result differently as appose to if he’d stretched before. Cool-down is just as important. Infact, it’s been proven that skipping cool-
down after a warm up actually increases the chance of heart disease / damage. In parkour, it’s recommended to stretch for 20 minutes
or more. Along with stretching, traceurs can also do various exercises that’ve been made to make a warm-up fun. An experienced
traceur can do a few light-vaults or practice wall-hops, hanging from walls, ect, then make a transition into more intense movements.
After a strong warm-up, your body temperature should be increased, and a light sweat should be apparent. At this point, your training
can start. Never try to go too big, but an athlete never progresses if they don’t push themselves. Usually, it’s suggested to train with at
least one other person. Without a proper warm-up, everything you do can be very dangerous. Every jump is a lot of strain on the body,
every time you pull with your arms, especially catching yourself in Cat-Leaps can hurt your muscular-tissue.
Injuries AND Levels of competition
Because safety is strained so much through-out parkour, many who are patient enough don’t usually hurt themselves too badly.
If you don’t go bigger than you can, the worst you’ll get are sprains. When a traceur ends up with an injuries that broke a bone,
chances are the person went beyond their own limits. In parkour, you’re never competing at a groups level, unlike hockey, basketball,
ect.. That’s why level-divisions are made. In parkour, you have the liberation of working at your own pace. You’re never being
pushed beyond your performing level. This is normally how injuries occur in sports, and why there’s a connection between levels of
competition and grievance. Now, for times when you are expected to give it your all, and then some, parkour competitions have been
held across the globe. Small stage-shows held to display athletic skill by those who compete. Though, there’s only been one World
Free-Running Championship, which was held September 2008, at London’s Roundhouse. The Barclaycard World Free Running
Championships was the first ever tournament to be held featuring teams all over the globe, sponsors from energy drinks to sport-
companies. It was a revolutionary event that innovated the parkour world forever.
World Freerun Championships - Urban Freeflow.wmv
Main Bones/Muscles Used
While practicing parkour, really, you use just about every component of your body. You need incredible upper body strength
to be capable of pulling yourself up ledges or supporting your body in a vault, or hand-plant. You need strong, sturdy ankles to support
your landing from high drops / jumps. Strong legs for a good take-off before a jump /leap / lunge / vault. You require abdomen-
strength to stabilize your body during a cat-walk, and to recover from a roll. It even goes as far as finger and wrist strength to climb
building sides, where only your fingers reach solid platforms that your palms can’t reach. All of the above and more is necessary in
parkour. “Traceurs are like the ultimate warrior of an urban environment.” Traceur Frazer of U.F once said.
“You’ve got to be able to use just about every part of your body, and train vigorously to overcome what’s thrown at you. And you
never know either. One day, you can be using your legs non-stop; jumping, landing, running. The other, you could be pulling yourself
up obstacles like building walls. It’s really great because you get to exercise so much of your body all at once.”
It’s true. Just about every part of the body is used, with exception to the cranial and thoracic cavities.
Skeletal Parts Used:
-Radius and Ulna, Humerus, Carpals, Metacarpals and Phalanges, Shoulder and wrist joints are constantly used to lift and support.
-Tibia and Fibula, Femur, Tarsals, Metatarsals and Phalange, Patella, Hip ad Knee joints for running, jumping, landing, ect..
-the Pelvis is important for rolling on the side. [side-rolls and cement-dodges]
-and of course, the Spine; used to support the roll when landing from high drops.
-Deltoids, Pectorals, Triceps and Biceps are used for pulling up, pushing against, catching yourself at the end of a cat-leap, ect..
-Sartorius, Bicep Femora, Gastronomies, and Achilles Tendons are used for running, landing, kicking off a wall, Tic-Tac, ect..
-Latissimus-Dorsi and Abdominal strength are used for rolling and to keep balance during a cat-walk.
-Adductors and Opponens [Muscles in fingers?] are used to grip railings, and hold yourself while climbing up ledges.
Main Types of movement created
There are countless ways to move in parkour. Tic-Tacs require you to kick off walls and move in different directions, where as
in Wall-Runs, you’re trying to stay with the wall as long as you can. Tic-Tacs are usually used to redirect off a wall opposing a ledge,
or a second wall that you can jump onto. Wall-Runs are less common, as not a lot of architect can support them. In other words, you
can’t really use Wall-Runs, unless a wall’s been conveniently placed aside two buildings that are just too hard to jump from.
Vaulting objects/obstacles is extremely useful, and is used almost everywhere. Vaults however can vary immensely from one
another. What makes a vault a vault, is you use your body to clear a barrier, usually using your hands and/or feet. An example of a
vault can be the Monkey vault, where you place both hands on the object, then jump and lift your body with your arms. While in air,
you move the rest of your body through your arms, which are still grasping the railing / ledge you’re aiming to clear. Once your legs
fit through, your arms let go / move away from the surface of the obstacle, and you continue on your merry way. A Kong Kong Vault
is the exact same as a Monkey vault, only you’re leaping forward in a ‘Superman’ position before reaching the obstacle.
There are many other vaults that exist, all having their own unique traits, and be used in many situations. Getting over a table-
bench, lunging yourself over a railing, clearing a ledge separating a parking-lot section.. the possibilities are endless. Parkour’s such a
creative sport, and if you have determination, and an imagination, you can not only go almost anywhere, but also in a style preferred
by you. Parkour’s been called more than just a sport over the few years it’s been known. People see it as an art, where you can express
yourself through your body, fluidly moving around an environment we see everyday. Others call it breathtaking when they see an
average teen perform a backflip off a 15 foot structure, descending in an almost slow-motion like state. It can be laid-back, or
physically demanding and vigorous. Parkour is a sport that you choose how you want it to be. The fact is that the philosophy of
parkour can be defined as finding your way around obstacles that we see as everyday barriers. Freeing yourself of urban obstacles, it
changes your perspective about things you see in the city. Not just a sport, parkour’s an activity of beauty that everyone can try. A
healthy life-style, and a form of creative-expression, parkour, as new as it is, can allow average people in an urban region to breathe.