Parkour is a movement art

or An open letter to first and second generation practitioners of parkour, freerunning and l’art du déplacement, as well as to those who lead and change the world not because they want to, but because they were chosen to by others.

The title says it, so if you don’t have time, you can leave it as it stands. But to get the nuances, you are welcome to read on.

Parkour is not gymnastics. Parkour is not a sport. But, parkour is not just parkour, a purely unique discipline existing on its own. And for it not to just survive, but to thrive, we all need to realize that it is a part of human experience, part of human knowledge. We have to realize that it belongs, that we belong, for it to belong.

All of us draw from parkour many different lessons, many skills applicable in real life. We all know it is more than just a mean of transport, more than just a way we move, no matter whether the founders meant for it to be that way or not.

A long time ago I wrote that parkour is like a tree. The roots are the history. The trunk is a core discipline. Branches, leaves and blossoms are expressions of individual traceurs.

But no tree came to be on its own. Any tree is a part of something bigger, of nature, and in this case, it is a part of a forest of human disciplines and activities and philosophies. Parkour didn’t materialize from thin air, it didn’t fall from heavens. It grew amongst and from and thanks to the rest of the forest.

Parkour is not gymnastics. It is not a sport. So what is it? We, humans, naturally inquisitive, have been asking that, comunally, each other and each on our own, ever since it started spreading. What is parkour, with the palette of techniques of body movement and yet the freedom to move as needed? With the goal of efficient movement as long as one can last, as long as one lives? With the imperative of utilitarism, of altruism – of being strong to be useful?

It is certainly not a new conclusion if I say it very closely resembles both dance through its artistic and individualistic approach to movement and martial arts through embedded knowledge and the usefulness in critical conditions. But it can’t be both, and it also is not either.

Neither then will be new the term art of movement, or movement art. In a sense, it was coined with the birth of the discipline, albeit slightly different – l’art du déplacement, the art of displacement. It is this exact term that is the coveted all-covering name of a category that contains parkour and freerunning as well as the original l’art du déplacement.

It is said that those who know little act confidently while those who actually possess knowledge are self-restrained – because they realize they still don’t know much and have to learn.

With that, I hope to address you and appeal to you, first and second generation practitioners of parkour and other movement arts. I also hope to speak to all of you, leaders of local communities brought forth by confidence of your peers. And also you who worked hard an thus became voices of these arts through votes of others. All of you who change the world not because you think you should, but because others think you should. And you, who lead not because you ask to be followed, but because you are asked to lead and to be followed.

I am none of those. I think and I learn and I move and I write. I am a philosopher, a traceur and a poet. I can’t tell you what to do. I lack the skill and the powers to change the world. But I can give ideas and I hope to give good ideas to those, to you, who can do what I cannot.

I have no doubt many of us are students of movement. Not only of parkour, but of athletics and of gymnastics. And especially of martial arts, because their concepts are so close to those of parkour.

So I implore all of you mentioned above to look how martial arts were and are born. Learn from it. Even copy it. And apply it to parkour. Make parkour not a sport, not a subcategory of gymnastics. Put it on a level of martial arts and dance. Make it a movement art.

The competitions will come, sooner or later. In a way, they are already here. For alas, competitivness is in human nature. But if we protect parkour from being categorized as a sport, if we make it a movement art – like a dance yet not a dance, like a martial art and yet not one – we can, for the time being and maybe for the times to come, safeguard its spirit and its core values that shape our lives and urge us to be creative, to be productive, to be better.

Learn from the past so you don’t have to make the same mistakes. Don’t let parkour become just another idea that fell victim to the flaws of humankind. When we train, we don’t settle for less, so why should we settle for less when doing anything else? Why should parkour settle for less?

Help it, make it and let it grow like a strong tree in its own right. Let it, help it and make it thrive amongst the forests of humanity’s creations. Make it, let it and help it become what it deserves to be, what we know it to be, what others should learn to know it to be.

What is it, you ask? Allow me to borrow something from Méthode Naturelle and to paraphrase: Parkour is a tool and a method of physical, mental and moral education. This it deserves to be and all of us should give all our strength to be useful and make it so.

Because even after so many words it all boils down to that. After so many words, there is only one conclusion, one thing that has to be said, and if nobody remembers anything else, they should remember this. It is all about one simple principle. To follow and to teach an ideal of self-improvement for the betterment of others.

P.S. For the founders and their followers, we all remember you fondly already. If you wish to be remembered thus in the future, do not sell yourselves or your arts short. Let your arts be what they are – so much more than anyone can imagine to so many people around the world.

Zanechat vzkaz