Parkour/Introduction/History and Philosophy

History edit

It may be argued that Parkour has been around since the dawn of man and his passion to move, be it for fun or for survival. Thus we shall focus on Parkour in the modern day, and how it came to be known by this name. Parkour or l'art du déplacement (the art of movement)is a term coined by Hubert Koundé after meeting with David Belle. The term Parkour was inspired by Georges Hébert's Natural Method theory. Georges Hébert (27 April 1875 in Paris – 2 August 1957 in Tourgéville, Calvados) was an Officer in the French Navy which allowed for him to travel extensively and he was inspired by the way that Indigenous people in Africa and elsewhere were able to traverse the natural environment so fluidly, quickly and elegantly while having no idea of modern European Gymnastic techniques. Hébert respected physical fitness and was so impressed by the African Native's way of moving that when he returned to France to work as a physical instructor in the army, he had devised a new way to train, which he called the Natural Method. Contrary to popular belief the Indigenous people which he observed are not solely responsible for inspiring Hébert. Other notable people whom he studied and learned from include Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, Dr. Paul Carton and Georges Demenÿ to name but a few. What did not satisfy Hébert about the Gymnastics oriented training regimes of his time was that it did not prepare the students to real life situations and he thought the competition aspect to it was morally degrading. His proposed a method of training that was closer to real life so that in a genuine emergency those undergoing the Natural Method would be conditioned to respond quickly and effectively. The following will be a basic outline of the type of exercises which are to be performed in an average Natural Method training session.

"A (Natural Method) session is composed of exercises belonging to the ten fundamental groups: walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement(movement while on all fours), climbing, equilibrium (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming.

A training session consists, then, of exercises in an outdoor environment - a course of greater or lesser distance (a few hundred meters to several kilometers), during which, one walks, one runs, one jumps, one progresses quadrupedally, one climbs, one walks in unstable balance, one raises and one carries, one throws, one fights and one swims.

This course can be carried out in 2 ways:

1 - the natural or spontaneous way; i.e., on an unspecified route through the countryside.

2 - within an especially designed environment.

All of the exercises can be carried out while progressing through this environment.

Finally, the session can last from 20 to 60 minutes." (From

Georges Hébert was also credited as being the first to utilize an obstacle course design in his training method. Today obstacle courses are used in most physically demanding professions such as Policing, Firefighting and the Army. The connection between David Belle's Parkour and Georges Hébert's Natural Method can be seen if we use the french term for obstacles course, which is Parcour. Even by definition, Parkour is a way of moving through the environment in a quick, fluid and efficient manner, as if tackling an obstacle course. David Belle borrowed a lot of Hébert's ideas and principles when he along with his friends were experimenting with movement in the urban environment in Lisses during the 90's. Belle's thirst for movement was not easily quenched, seeing as how Raymond Belle(David Belles Father) was a decorated soldier and part of the French Army's elite firefighting squad entrusted to handle the most dangerous rescue missions. David Belle wished to join the firefighting brigade as his father has but due to personal drama and injuries it did not work out. Through this can trace both David and Reymond's altruistic attitudes to Hébert who advocated that physical excellence should be complimented by altruistic acts of heroism and courage in the face of danger. David was also inspired by his maternal grandfather Gilbert Kitten who evoked in him a passion for heroism. David experimented with many styles of movement, ranging from Kung Fu to Gymnastics. David also joined the Troupes de Marine, and even though he excelled there thanks to his high physical fitness level, he could not stay due to the impossible combination of his love of adventure and strict military life. After that he worked various jobs and began filming his abilities, which caught the attention of Stage 2 films who decided to showcase David's discipline in a series of collaborations, which ignited his acting and stunting career in the film industry.

Philosophy edit

Parkour is predominantly a non-competitive discipline which emphasizes the practitioner to be strong and flexible as to be able to move quickly and efficiently through any given environment so to be able to react during emergency situations. It is safe to say that the motto for parkour is the motto of Georges Hébert's "Méthode Naturelle"; "être fort pour être utile" ("be strong to be useful").(From: The reason parkour is a non-competitive discipline and not a sport is the same reason for Hébert's dissatisfaction with the dominant gymnastics style oriented training of his time. Being a very moral man and believing in altruism, Hébert thought that remedial Gymnastics exercises and its predominant concentration on performance and competition did not prepare his students for the physical and moral challenges of the real world. He believed one should not strive to be strong simply to win a medal or hold a trophy, but to be ready to use his/her skills to be useful in times of crisis and danger. His view was shaped by his heroism during his time in the town of St. Pierre which was afflicted by a volcanic eruption. Thanks to Hébert around 700 people where saved. From that moment on his view was cemented that an athlete should not only be physically strong, but also morally just and should strive use his or her skills in altruistic ways rather than to use them to simply glorify oneself. Parkour is a discipline and not a sport because it has no set boundaries, time limits or rules which are mandatory to follow. There are no teams or tournaments. The only thing that is given is a set list of movements which David Belle, Sebastien Foucan and the Yamakasi have judged to be the most efficient and safe. These moves are tools for the practitioner to use when traversing their environment and there will be times when the practitioner will have to turn to the Hébert's Natural Method in order to find the quickest route. Though there is competition against one's fears and against the environment when practicing parkour, competition against a fellow practitioner is discouraged which is another major aspect of parkour which sets it apart from most other sports.