Parkour; the Art of Movement

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Running, leaping, and climbing through the city is not restricted to Spiderman or Ninja Turtles, it is now an official sport called Parkour. The word “Parkour” was derived from the French word parcours, literally meaning “the way through” or “the path”. The discipline, developed in France in the late 1980s, was promoted through Internet videos, television commercials, documentary and feature films, including the famous James Bond movie Casino Royale (2006).

Parkour is a non-competitive physical discipline of training to move freely over and through any terrain using only the abilities of the body; mainly through running, jumping, climbing, crawling, and other movements as deemed most suitable for the situation. Parkour is usually carried out in an urban space; its aim is to see the same environment in a new way. It does not require any equipment; however, in order to train on new moves, a mat or spring flooring can be a safe option.

Initiated in France as a military activity, parkour later spread into many other countries, where national and local organizations were formed to provide training and education. While some theorists opposed the idea of competition in parkour, international organizations such as the World Free Running Parkour Federation (2008), Fédération Internationale des Arts du Déplacement (FIADD; 2012), and Mouvement International du Parkour, Free Running et l’Art du Déplacement (MIPFA; 2014) were established, aiming to create a structure for worldwide parkour competitions.

In 2016, Britain became the first country to officially recognize parkour as a sport. The sport could also soon be practiced in schools after it gained support from both the Youth Sport Trust and the Association for Physical Education, which described it as an exciting and motivating activity.

Parkour’s main aim is to move from one point to another as smoothly, efficiently, and quickly as possible; its experts are known as “Traceurs”, a noun derived from the French verb tracer, which normally means "to trace". Accordingly, it requires functional strength and fitness, balance, spatial awareness, agility, coordination, precision, control, and creative vision. Some people regard the sport as dangerous, anti-social, and even criminal. However, evidence suggests that these fears are wrong, as parkour endorses the connection people can have with the city; it encourages people to work together, learn from each other, and fleetingly reclaim city as a common civic space.

Some people claim that parkour is less dangerous than other extreme sports, such as snowboarding and skateboarding, because practitioners do not rely on any external equipment, only their own bodies. Others think that it is much riskier than any other sport; however, statistics support the first opinion. According to the National Ski Areas Association, an average of 41.5 people have died in skiing/snowboarding accidents each year over the past decade. On the contrary, a study carried out in New Zealand in 2013 stated that 44% of parkour enthusiasts have never been injured and there are no official figures available for parkour deaths.

The most common injuries that can result from parkour are strains, sprains, fractures, and tendonitis, in addition to some serious injuries, leading to taking time off work to recover or even surgery. Parkour injuries are generally less common than winter sports fatalities and injuries. You may be more at risk of long-term damage to your joints resulting from partaking in parkour, because of frequent falls from height and jumps; learning how to fall and land safely helps reduce your risk of injury.

Avoiding injuries whilst practicing parkour is not complicated; as with any sport there are things you can do to protect yourself. In 2012, the National Health Service (NHS) reported a 14% rise in sports injury cases compared to the previous year, with an estimated 388,500 people being treated for sports-related injuries, so if you have been injured while parkouring, then you are not alone. It is important not to push yourself beyond your abilities, as it can be tempting to try and compete with others whilst taking part in free running. Hereunder are some tips that could help you stay safe whilst practicing parkour:

  • Stay hydrated and ensure you always warm up properly;
  • Train with an experienced parkour practitioner;
  • Learn how to land and fall safely to reduce your risk of being injured;
  • Do not practice when you are tired as your reactions will be slower.

Parkour improves physical and mental health. It offers a way for citizens to resist the increasing privatization taking place in cities around the world. It promotes creativity, connectivity, and civic activity, all while showcasing what incredible things the human body is capable of. In many ways, parkour offers us a glimpse of the future of sport, which seems to be bright and interesting.

 

References

topendsports.com

theconversation.com

adventure.howstuffworks.com

mpora.com

wfpf.com

parkour.uk

en.wikipedia.org

britannica.com

*Published in SCIplanetSummer 2018 Issue "Science and Sports".

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