Parkour is a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Parkour includes running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, quadrupedal movement (crawling) and other movements as deemed most suitable for the situation. Parkour’s development from military training gives it some aspects of a non-combative martial art.
Parkour is an activity that can be practiced alone or with others and is usually carried out in urban spaces, though it can be done anywhere. Parkour involves seeing one’s environment in a new way, and imagining the potential for navigating it by movement around, across, through, over and under its features.
Parkour was developed in France, primarily by Raymond Belle, and further by his son David and the latter’s group of friends, the self-styled Yamakasi, during the late 1980s. The discipline was popularised in the late 1990s and 2000s through films, documentaries, and advertisements featuring the Yamakasi.
Parkour is practiced without equipment of any kind. Practitioners normally train wearing light, non-restrictive casual clothing. Traceurs who wear gloves are rare—bare hands are considered better for grip and tactile feedback. Light running shoes with good grip and flexibility are encouraged. Practitioners often use minimalist shoes, sometimes as a progression to bare feet, for better sensitivity and balance, while others prefer more cushioning for better absorption of impacts from large jumps. Barefoot training is done by some for movement competency without gear—as David Belle noted, “bare feet are the best shoes. Various sneaker manufacturers have developed shoes specifically for parkour and freerunning. Many other companies around the world have started offering clothing targeted at parkour.