Zaggora’s hot new “LOVE” commercial, which we launched last week, is packed with dynamic visuals and moves. Some of them may be actions which you recognise but don’t know exactly how to describe: they are probably the ones that incorporate the physical discipline of parkour, or freerunning, one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.
Zaggora teamed up with London-based Parker Generations to showcase these moves – one of their team members, Shirley Darlington, is the woman in green in the video. Today we’re featuring an article by Parkour Generations founder Dan Edwardes that gives you the inside scoop on the philosophy behind parkour and how it is transforming the fitness arena via everything from films and pop culture to your local youth centre. So keep reading to learn all about it, and don’t forget to watch our video and tell us “What You Love” on Facebook for your chance to win a pair of Levi jeans!
Parkour: Training for the Next Generation
Dan Edwardes, founding member and Director, Parkour Generations
“The joy of surpassing the limits of the body is open to all.”
Parkour (also known as Freerunning) is the fastest growing free-sport in the world. Videos featuring parkour now constitute the most uploaded type of video on YouTube every month. It can be seen in just about every new Hollywood action movie, in numerous television commercials, on poster campaigns for all sorts of brands, being taught in schools and for local councils all over the UK and being practised on the street corners of every major city in the world.
And yet despite this rapid rise to prominence over the past five years or so, there are still large swathes of the population who have never heard of it. So what is parkour?
Put as concisely as possible, parkour is the refinement of one’s body movement during the interaction with one’s environment as one progresses though it. One ostensible ‘goal’ of the discipline is to be able to traverse any terrain as swiftly and fluidly as possible with efficiency, grace and precision.
Parkour focuses on developing the fundamental attributes required for movement, which include balance, strength, dynamism, endurance, precision, spatial awareness and creative vision. It is a way of training one’s body and mind in order to be as completely functional, effective and liberated as possible in the physical realm, and a way of thinking based on rigorous self-discipline, autonomous action and self-will.
Beyond this simple explanation, however, parkour is a discipline of self-improvement on all levels, an art that reveals to the practitioner his or her own physical and mental limits and simultaneously offers a method to surpass them.
Since 2005 we have established the world’s first and largest teaching paradigm for parkour / freerunning, running weekly Academy classes across the UK, delivering parkour in schools and for social inclusion programmes, and providing workshops and seminars around the world. The discipline has produced incredible results in terms of participation numbers amongst young and old, men and women, often engaging those demographics who traditionally do not engage in any sports or physical activities.
One explanation for this lies within the ethos of parkour itself: it is non-competitive and looks to develop only the natural abilities and talents of each individual rather than attempting to force them to conform to one singular way of performing or ‘playing the game’. It does not prescribe a certain way of moving or of completing the exercises, only that each practitioner learns to move in the manner which best suits his or her own anatomical and psychological type.
A practitioner of parkour aims to be self-reliant and physically capable; fit, strong and healthy; honest and sincere; disciplined; focussed; creative and always useful and helpful to others. And it is this ethical foundation to the very physical training of parkour that adds an element for people that most traditional sports cannot.
And it is highly accessible to all.
Here we have a genuine transformative practise open to all, not limited to specific locations – in fact it revels in the exploration of new and varied terrain – requiring no special equipment beyond a good pair of shoes and no particular training environment. It is an art geared toward the individual, wherein one develops at one’s own pace and in one’s own unique manner.
In fact, parkour can be picked up at any time, in any place, by anybody. And it is precisely this level of access to a progressive and holistic method of practise that provides a whole new arena for human development on a mass scale. It is an art that encapsulates all the requisite aspects of the ancient transformative practices, providing both a physical and philosophical paradigm for practitioners to utilise. Indeed, parkour offers a path by which all can aspire to that ancient but perennially relevant Greek ideal of mens sana in corpore sano – a sound mind in a sound body.
Many take a knee-jerk reactionary stance to parkour, mainly due to how it is portrayed in the media as ‘roof-jumping’ or an adrenaline-rush seeking activity, and damn it as dangerous, overly risky and contrary to good health and safety. Yet this view is simply outdated and actively detrimental to the development of young people today.
Firstly, excessive risk-taking runs in opposition to the philosophy of parkour. According to one participant, “one of the most striking differences between parkour and other so-called ‘extreme’ sports is that it is not concerned solely with the acquisition of physical skills, but also with the improvement of one’s mental and spiritual well-being. Ensuring that physical progress is not at the expense of mental progress is one of the main aims of a good traceur” (Dan Jones).
Secondly, an element of managed risk is essential in the healthy physical and mental growth of all people. It is precisely the development of those risk-management tools and paradigms when young, during play, exploration and physical activity, that leads to a healthy body and mind as one matures. Improved spatial awareness, confidence, cardiovascular fitness, muscular tension and strength, balance and coordination all contribute to an improved standard of living and less chance of injury and/or lifestyle illnesses such as obesity, heart disease and so on. An element of managed risk is vital for the healthy development of any individual.
Those of us who teach and have taught parkour are extremely aware of the enormous benefits this new discipline can have, and not only on a physical level. We have seen school ‘dropouts’ go on to become the recognised athletes of the school. We have seen classrooms of Muslim girls, a demographic that traditionally engages in no sport at school whatsoever, attend regular weekly sessions in some London schools. We have seen crime-rates in 8-13 year olds drop by 69% in one London borough while we were running a summer parkour course there. We know the benefits, and the aim now should be for us to enable more people to be able to access activities like this that appeal to them and get them active with their support rather than without it.
© Parkour Generations. For more information see www.parkourgenerations.com