[Note: This is a guest post, from my little brother, Ryan Stauffer. He’s 17, and lives outside Pueblo, Colorado. As you will see, he clearly has a passion for Freerunning and Parkour. Slightly edited for brevity, I’m sharing an essay he wrote to help him spread the word here. -Ron]
My name is Ryan Stauffer. I am 17 years old, and I am what you call a “freerunner”, or “traceur.” This means that I practice the art of Parkour. I have been training in parkour for over three years.
It is my mission to show the true purpose of parkour; to differentiate between extreme movement and recklessness, and show you why I believe parkour should be an important part of every community. To begin, let’s look at what this art is: Parkour is the discipline of getting from point A to point B in the fastest and most efficient way possible, using only the human body and the environment. The goal of parkour is to get you over, around, or past any obstacles in your path. The modern name “parkour” is actually a variation of the french “le parcours,” though in its early days it was called “L’art du deplacement,” meaning “The Art of Displacement” or “The Art of Movement”.
Movement, generally speaking, has been around since creation. However, in the later part of the 20th century; a group of people in France, led mainly by David Belle, specialized a specific branch of movement. Drawing inspiration from his father’s personal athletic training, Belle devoted virtually all his time as a young man to training in this art. If you’re like most people,you’ve probably seen some parkour and freerunning on TV or YouTube. It has become a popular internet sensation over the last ten years. I personally found out about parkour when some friends and I were watching action clips on YouTube.
Parkour training has now begun to play a large role in Hollywood action stunts. If you’ve never seen someone training parkour, or are still in the dark as to what it is, I highly suggest you check out 3Run, Tranquil Movement, and Tempest Freerunning on YouTube. Parkour has a bad rap among the general public, unfairly so. People often see freerunners as vandals, and destructive on public property. This is mostly due to poor communication, as well as reckless teenagers who don’t know what they’re doing.
Instead of getting a trainer and starting off slow, these people will attempt stunts that are far beyond their capabilities. We’ve all seen those hard fails on YouTube: a guy is at a party, he wants to impress his bros and some hot girls nearby, so he tries to jump across from his roof to his neighbor’s while yelling “PARKOUR!”. He falls, hurts himself, damages some property, and leaves a horrible name for parkour practitioners.
Let me assure you right now, parkour is not the dangerous and foolish stunts these people try to pull off to impress their friends. It is a serious pursuit of self-improvement, and is completely opposed to this kind of reckless behavior. Serious freerunners/traceurs are focused on the improvement of oneself, while remaining safe, as well as respecting the people and places they train with or at. Please don’t judge the art by a few foolish people. We freerunners in no way want to be rude or disrespectful of anyone we encounter. We seek to build good relationships with property owners, the communities, and the authorities.
We are not vandals. We are simply artists trying to practice an art form that is dear to our hearts. With the exception of the occasional troublemaker, if you ask us to leave, or not to train in an area, we will respect your wishes. If we find that an area is particularly suited to our art, we will try to negotiate with you; but if you want us to go, we will leave. We are not out to destroy anything. After all, we want to be able to train on a spot as much as we can, why would we want to be destructive or disrespectful?
Since I’ve covered what parkour isn’t, let’s take a look at what it is. Parkour, as I stated earlier, is the art of finding the most energy efficient path from point A to point B. Embellishments such as flips and tucks, are usually not considered parkour, as they are quite energy-taxing. Parkour consists mainly of: jumps, vaults, drops, rolls, and sometimes, twists. Parkour focuses on efficiency.
Similar to parkour is freerunning: freerunning is a little more fancy than parkour. Freerunning is based on parkour skills and maneuvers. Whereas parkour is a way to get from point A to point B, freerunning is full of tricks, flips and whatever else the freerunner can dream up. Instead of focusing on efficiency, freerunning usually focuses more on using your environment in a creative fashion.
Of course, the main goal in both of these forms is to have fun! There are many reasons why I believe it is beneficial to take up parkour/freerunning.
Here are ten of them:
- It improves physical coordination, strength and balance.
- It increases spatial judgement, and awareness.
- You can train in parkour anytime, anywhere, in any environment.
- Parkour doesn’t require a team, gym, a coach, or any equipment… just some shoes, and your imagination.
- It’s a terrific way to meet and connect with new people.
- It pushes you to accomplish new things.
- It gets young people off the couch, away from video games and TV and into the great outdoors, making themselves better people!
- It teaches you to find the best solution to a problem.
- It changes the way you think and encourages creative thought.
- It speeds muscle response time, and hones your reflexes.
Parkour training has truly changed my life for the better. I look at the world in a different way than most people. When a non-traceur walks by a ten foot brick wall, he sees a tall brick wall. When I walk by the same wall, I see a chance to improve myself through movement. I see a solid hour and a half of training. I see a boundary I can push. I see the opportunity to do something I love and live for.
Sit on a street corner sometime and just watch: you’ll probably see a bunch of people with their heads down, focused on their own little worlds. I walk down the street with my head up, eyes wide open! I absorb my surroundings. I am aware of what’s going on around me. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity. I want to live life to the fullest. I’ve been given the wonderful gift of the human body, capable of absolutely incredible things. It’s my obligation to not let it go to waste!
Parkour can be valuable to everyone. It will impact every single facet of your life, especially your physical activities. It will improves your balance, coordination, functional strength and awareness; not to mention depth perception, dexterity, spatial judgement and conditioning. Parkour is also a universal art form. It’s a way to connect with people. If a freerunner visits a country where he doesn’t speak the language, that is no barrier between him and the locals. Parkour brings complete strangers together, where everyone can have a positive training experience.
I hope this has been revealing for you. And I hope you now have an appreciation for the wonderful art of parkour, and see freerunners in a positive light as we work to make our communities better places! If you’d like to connect with me, or have any questions about parkour/freerunning, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out my Facebook Page here: Imprint Parkour.