Parkour, to the newly acquainted, looks like a cross between a Jackie Chan movie and gymnastics. It seems as if the choreographed movements were made to be performed alongside music. A blend of fantastic flips and artistic undulations results in an eye appealing performance with an incredible workout.
Its origins start with the military, but take an interesting turn as its creator and developer, David Belle, grew into a unique and artistic mind. Even the word itself, Parkour, is borrowed from the French term “parcours” meaning “the way through” or “the path”.
Raymond Belle was an outstanding specimen in the French military that had a reputation for being incredibly physically gifted. He was described as a “force of nature” by his fellow soldiers and friends. During military training it was common to run an obstacle course that would determine the physical fitness levels of the soldiers. It was called “parcours du combattant”.
Raymond loved the idea, since a child, of using every day object around him to train. At the age of seven, he was placed in a military orphanage in Vietnam. He would sneak out at night to climb trees and run to make sure he was the best in training. He was a warrior deep in his heart.
His status as a military hero became known to his son, David, in his early teens. He wanted to much to be like his father, but the defined mould of the military and even school was too rigid for David. He wanted to break barriers and walls instead of just living inside of them. He decided to leap over any walls he would ever encounter.
At the young age of only 15, David broke away from school and devoted himself to his craft full time. He moved to Paris, started guiding a group of youngsters not unlike him, called the Yamakasi. He earned a living as a member of the Fire Brigade before deciding life was too rigid. He moved to India to study the Chinese Martial Art of Gong Fu.
Combining his love for his father’s military experience, his devotion to crafting his physical capabilities, and his passion for the feeling of absolute freedom; Parkour was born.
It has since taken on two different personalities and schools of thought; Parkour and Free Walking. Although to the unexperienced they will look quite similar, they are distinct in nature.
Whether it’s Parkour or Free Walking, the original framework for freedom is ever present. It isn’t just about getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible; it’s doing it artistically and beautifully, with a challenging physical element.
Parkour is about overcoming everyday obstacles both mentally and physically. It’s no wonder why Parkour instructor and Free Running Athlete T.J. Stuart a.k.a. “Forge” found solace in the freedom and wonder of the sport.
“There’s certain ways that you can get around obstacles. There are certain things you can do to make things easier.” T.J. Stuart
Forge went through a very difficult time in his life and it rides with him like the breeze, coming back up to remind him that it’s still there from time to time. But the freedom of movement, the solving of problems, and the challenges that Parkour present him help him get through even the most difficult moments.
Parkour is more than just an athletic display and presentation of emotional prowess, it’s a way of life, for some it’s cathartic. It is the way through life, the path for your ultimate destination.