What is Parkour?


Parkour is a method of physical training[1, 2] that develops one’s ability to overcome obstacles (both physical and mental).[1, 3, 4] It involves movement that will help if one is in a reach or escape emergency situation.[5, 6, 7, 8] Underpinning this is a philosophy[2] of altruism and useful strength,[9, 10, 11] longevity,[12, 13, 14] self-improvement[15, 16] and self-understanding.[3, 17]

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[1]     “Parkour is: a method of physical training, which allows us to overcome obstacles in urban and natural environments.” – David Belle (“The Way”http://parkourpedia.com/about/interviews-and-articles-of-interest/david-belle-the-way)[2]     “What I’m doing is also a way of life, where the training is of course physical, but we also have a moral philosophy.” – David Belle (Kungfu Magazinehttp://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=666)

[3]     “Parkour is a way for our bodies to face and move in and around obstacles in our environment … It’s about tackling fears because obstacles don’t always appear as we imagine, and it’s also about attaining self-knowledge.” – David Belle (Kungfu Magazinehttp://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=666)

[4]     “You always have to get through the first obstacle that says, ‘I can’t do it,’ whether in your mind or for real, and be able to adapt to anything that’s put in your path.” – David Belle (No Obstacleshttp://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/04/16/070416fa_fact_wilkinson?currentPage=all)

[5]     At the physical end, Parkour is getting over all the obstacles in your path as you would in an emergency situation.  You want to move in such a way, with any movement, that will help you gain the most ground on someone/something as if escaping from someone/something or chasing toward someone/something.”
David Belle (Parkour California meets David Bellehttp://www.pkcali.com/parkour_plugins/content/content.php?content.8)

[6]     “I think the fear will always be there. But there will be a moment when you will have the confidence that right when you are about to do a jump, you say “I’ve practised this 500 times beside, and in that 500 times I never bailed. Why am I now worried that I’m going to fall?” Because fear makes us lose our memory sometimes.

Like someone- I keep coming back to combat- the guy is there in his club. He’s done his drills all year. Hop. He made his display. One day he gets into trouble. There’s a lot of pressure. The other guy isn’t talking to him like his teacher because it doesn’t matter the he does martial arts and he only wants him to know that if he doesn’t give him his wallet right now he’s going to get messed up. And the guy, he panics. You want to say, “Hey! Wake up! What have you been doing all year? Didn’t you train for this moment?” “Yeah, but now I don’t know, because I’m paralysed by…” “Well you didn’t learn anything then. It’s useless.” So I see it like that. So the training must be such that when you are in a real situation, you react right away. And the more you’ve trained in a situation that approaches reality, then the day you are confronted by reality, then there is no change.” – David Belle
(Je Saute De Toit En Toit http://parkourpedia.com/about/interviews-and-articles-of-interest/david-belle-je-saute-de-toit-en-toit)

[7]     “Parkour is to help you overcome physical and mental obstacles (eg. fear). If you don’t train parkour in practice emergency situations then when you have a real emergency situation you are paralysed by fear. The best way to overcome the fear of a real emergency situation is to train in practice emergency situations. This is why parkour only involves training efficient (reach and escape) movements and not flips, because you only use efficient movements in a real emergency situation.”
– Hainesy (Summarising David Belle – http://forum.parkour.asn.au/index.php?topic=78.msg76535#msg76535)

[8]     “In real Parkour, there’s no flip. The goal is to keep it simple, efficient and to train movements in which you trust.” – David Belle (The World is a Playgroundhttp://forum.parkour.asn.au/index.php?topic=78.msg60534#msg60534)

[9]     “Parkour is about helping people. With the training and knowledge we get from Parkour, we become useful and can help others. The range of situations in which we become useful and helpful is wide. We can help save someone stuck inside a burning building. Or help another traceur to progress over a wall so that traceur can then become useful. We need to share with each other what we learn, ways to train, and useful concepts.” – CAK010 (Parkour California meets David Bellehttp://www.pkcali.com/parkour_plugins/content/content.php?content.8)

[10]   “… {I}t was because of my father that I discovered parkour. … I realized that the movement has a useful side to it. That you can move around to help people, to aid people, and not just to be an artist or to perform acrobatic tricks. There’s a more profound side to parkour.” – David Belle (David Belle: District 13: Ultimatumhttp://suicidegirls.com/interviews/David%20Belle:%20District%2013:%20Ultimatum/)

[11]   “Parkour is a real training method to face obstacles. It’s to be strong to be useful. The goal really is to train thinking “what can I do with it”?” – David Belle (The World is a Playgroundhttp://forum.parkour.asn.au/index.php?topic=78.msg60534#msg60534)

[12]   “… [Y]ou learn through good technique not to take stupid risks. … I wanted to show that there’s a method that allows you to overcome obstacles, to navigate obstacles without taking major risks.” – David Belle (David Belle: District 13: Ultimatumhttp://suicidegirls.com/interviews/David%20Belle:%20District%2013:%20Ultimatum/)

[13]   “My goal is to last vis-à-vis my age. I want to make sure that whatever my age is I feel good inside my body, and that I don’t have the impression of destroying myself.” – David Belle (David Belle: District 13: Ultimatumhttp://suicidegirls.com/interviews/David%20Belle:%20District%2013:%20Ultimatum/)

[14]   “The wrong way of doing Parkour is to impress, it’s not a sport where you jump off things and show people you get hurt and you don’t care. No. The goal is to end up in good health, to respect your body, respect others, and not to move with a group showing yourself just because it’s new the crazy thing around.” – David Belle (The World is a Playgroundhttp://forum.parkour.asn.au/index.php?topic=78.msg60534#msg60534)

[15]   “Also, Parkour is about progression, continually looking to improve yourself so you can do that much more. David cites an example, “If someone puts you in front of a 30m high wall, tells you to get over it, and then comes back two years later and you’re still there, you’ve made no progress. You should find another wall.” You need to always look to progress. David’s father was always on top of him to fix his movements and get better.” – CAK010 (Parkour California meets David Bellehttp://www.pkcali.com/parkour_plugins/content/content.php?content.8)

[16]   “He [David Belle] also tried to explain the spiritual philosophy behind Parkour. “It’s a fight against yourself. Working on obstacles and overcoming them is a metaphor for life.”” – Edward Douglas (District B13: A Leap Forward in Actionhttp://parkourpedia.com/about/interviews-and-articles-of-interest/b13-interview)

[17]   And when you’ve done parkour you know exactly what you’re capable of and what you’re not.” – David Belle (David Belle Add – Precise Parkourhttp:// parkourpedia.com/about/interviews-and-articles-of-interest/david-belle-precise)
The skills of Parkour do not only apply to an urban environment, they can be utilised anywhere, in a forest, desert, mountains etc. [1][3] It is not just the way you move that makes you a practitioner of Parkour, but the movement combined with the philosophy that defines it as Parkour.


David Belle credits the primary development of Parkour from time spent  with his father, Raymond Belle. David’s father was a child soldier in Vietnam. As part of his training he had to complete obstacle courses called ‘Parcours’. David’s father was determined to excel, to protect himself from abuse and to survive. Later on Raymond was removed from this training and found himself in France. He fathered David and two other sons. But due to his traumatic childhood struggled to maintain his marriage and take on responsibilities as a father. David ended up being raised by his grandfather. But as David grew older he wanted to know, and to understand, his father. So he would seek him out and ask him about his experiences, and his father would spend time with him, training David and talking to him about life and about what David was doing and why he did things. It was through this relationship that Parkour was, over time, developed.[9]

David Belles grandfather taught him about the principles of  Hebertism, as David was learning from his father about what his father did in Vietnam he found many parallels with Hebertism . As David grew and learnt he adapted what he needed from what his grandfather and his father taught him to create something unique to him, something that allowed him to pursue his own needs and goals.[2][3][6][7][9]

In turn this has been passed on to other practitioners to act as an inspiration for self development through the practice of Parkour. [3]


Due to the way that Parkour arrived on the international scene there are quite a few misconceptions and erroneous information that has spread.

Parkour and Freerunning – These are not the same thing. They are not interchangeable terms. They are quite different from each other in their purpose and goals. Practitioners of Parkour are called Traceurs, Freerunning practitioners are called Freerunners, the terms Freerunner and Traceur are not interchangeable.[5][8]

Parkour shows – There is no such thing as performing a Parkour show. If you see any presentations of Parkour purely for the sake of entertainment it cannot be defined as Parkour, simply because you are not following the principles of what Parkour is. You can take the movement from Parkour and use it to entertain, but the end result cannot ethically be called Parkour as it doesn’t follow the principles of the discipline.

Flips – Many people get confused when they see someone who calls themselves a Traceur doing flips and spins. Just because someone does these things does not mean the actions constitute Parkour, it just means that the traceur trains in other aspects of movement as well as Parkour. If you are unsure simply ask yourself, if you were running for your life what would you do? [5][8]

Parkour is an Urban sport – Parkour was developed and practiced in the trees and forests of France just as much as in the cities. It is practised to great effect in the natural environments that have been shaped by time and the elements, and can be rough and jagged as opposed to the smoothed and usually symmetrical man made urban environment. [2][3][5]


  1. PKcali Interview
  2. Kungfu magazine interview with David Belle
  3. Write up of conversations with David Belle by Dan
  4. Hebertism article
  5. David Belle blog
  6. New Yorker Article
  7. B13 interview
  8. DB French video
  9. David Belle Biography

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