Hey, I posted this a few months ago, but since we have many new members of the community, and the issues of competition and commercialization are being discussed more and more, I thought it would be important to give it a "bump". Thanks!
The Decency of Traceurs
Before we begin, we would like to make a few notes. Firstly, in the following post, when we say “parkour”, we are in fact referring to the art of displacement, freerunning, and parkour. They are technically three different disciplines, but they have the same basic philosophy, so we will refer to them as the same thing. Secondly, keep in mind while reading this that everything we say is only our opinion, and is based on our personal experiences training parkour. We do not intend to promote or harm any website, person, or group. Therefore, we will not refer to any website, person or group by name. Our sole reason for writing this is to address several types of behavior that we believe are leading parkour in the wrong direction. Thirdly, we know that we could easily put off this topic and leave it for others to discuss, but as traceurs who have a fairly accurate understanding about what parkour is and what it is about, we feel that it is our responsibility to share our knowledge with those who may not have the same understanding. Fourthly, this post addresses several philosophical issues in parkour. If you are not interested in the philosophy of parkour, do not waste your time reading it. However, if you care about parkour and its philosophy, we encourage you to read the entire post.
Over the course of our training, we have been taught that parkour is a discipline that one practices because he wants to improve himself in some way. We have real faith in this idea, and we have followed it for the duration of our training. We also believe that most traceurs are decent people who follow that key idea. However, what we have been seeing in the recent past has really made us think twice about the decency of traceurs.
At a few jams we recently attended, we saw demonstrations of recklessness, selfishness, and carelessness. We saw traceurs of only three months leaping off of dangerously high buildings. We saw four different people land on theirs backs while performing different kinds of flips while others were watching and videotaping. We saw beginners being put under pressure to try movements that even many advanced traceurs would hesitate to try. We believe that what we saw at these jams not only violated the fundamental ideas of parkour, but we think it was dangerous, especially to beginners, and could likely give the public a negative view of parkour if they continue.
At this point, we must establish a couple of things about parkour. Firstly, the founders of parkour are entitled to establish the guiding ideas and basic principles of parkour, as the founder of anything else would be entitled to make the ideas and principles of what they founded. Secondly, parkour is meant to be practiced in a relatively safe manner, and at a slow pace. Stephane Vigroux said that many traceurs’ training is “too fast, too easy, too much show… too much.” Chris “Blane” Rowat, one of the most thoughtful traceurs in the world, does a good job of explaining the way parkour should be practiced by saying: “do not feel pressured in to pushing yourself too hard or doing things just because they are. Try to warn [beginners] of the dangers of trying things beyond their bodies’ conditioned state - even if they can do something, doesn’t mean they should.” Yamakasi, the first parkour group, also demonstrates how parkour should be trained by not allowing their trainees to jump for their first year of practice. Lastly, parkour is meant to be practiced in order to improve oneself and be helpful to others, not in order to impress anyone or to compete with anyone. These facts have all been confirmed by the founders of parkour many times.
Using the facts we just established, we can easily see that a lot of what happened in the recent past, and is still happening now, contradicted, and continues to contradict, the fundamental ideas of parkour. The way people are being pushed to try movements that they are not comfortable with conflicts with the idea that parkour should be practiced safely. That is carelessness! The beginners being allowed to jump off of high buildings is also not safe, and shows that beginners are not being encouraged to progress slowly and carefully. Blane also showed his concern about this issue in his blog: “I did this because I thought this is what Parkour was, jumping off high things and living to tell the tale the next day. Oh how far we’ve all come since then… or have we?” Finally, it is simply unacceptable that traceurs are being reckless and possibly showing off in front of other people, and in front of cameras. So, we have established that much of what is happening at recent jams against the guiding ideas and basic principles of parkour. We all need to think about why we practice parkour, and how we can change our behavior at jams to reflect our dedication and humility.
Another thing that concerned us about this behavior was that it set a bad example for beginners and less experienced traceurs. This is dangerous. Imagine being a beginner and watching more experienced traceurs showing off their flips, jumping off of buildings, and showing off right in front of you. If you didn’t know much about parkour, you would be jealous and would want to try to do the same things! That would be unsafe! At a recent jam, we even received complaints from several beginners who felt that they weren’t being included in the jam because everyone was showing off and not paying attention to others! Every traceur needs to be disciplined and humble, no matter how skilled he is. If we want beginners to learn how to practice parkour the right way, we need to set a positive example for them! If we do not set a good example for future generations of traceurs, how will they know what parkour is, what it is about, and how to train it properly?! It is nothing short of selfish to abuse parkour and give beginners the wrong ideas about it. Imagine what would happen if beginners got the wrong idea about parkour, and kept handing those wrong ideas down to more and more generations of traceurs! Parkour would change for the worse! Here is a quote from Erwan Le Corre, an expert on the “Natural Method”, about this issue: “If parkour becomes a sport, it will be hard to seriously teach and spread parkour as a non-competitive activity. And a new sport will be spread that may be called parkour, but that won't hold its philosophical essence anymore.” Let’s not start the ruining of parkour!
Lastly, we wish to address the issue of the public opinion of parkour. In addition to recklessness having catastrophic consequences to one’s body, it also creates a negative image of parkour in the eyes of the public. If we continue to be reckless, we will surely be restricted in ways equal to how bad health can restrict us! With recklessness comes liability. If we want parkour to be recognized as a discipline, we must treat it as a discipline, not a game! We must show respect especially to our environment, and the people around us. We must portray ourselves as serious individuals, people who are dedicated, people who can be trusted. Our future really depends on how we behave right now! If we want to be able to train in the future, we need to be careful not to ruin the public opinion of parkour! It should be obvious that recklessness hurts the public opinion of parkour! For these reasons, we strongly suggest that all traceurs avoid recklessness and train with “will, perseverance, and humility”, as David Belle, the founder of parkour, said we should. It would only take one wrong move to ruin parkour’s reputation, so let’s be careful and aware of how we appear in the eyes of the public.
In conclusion, recklessness is one of the biggest problems in parkour today. It is against the fundamental idea of parkour, it is unsafe, and it gives the public a negative opinion of our discipline. David Belle even addressed it in his official blog, saying that parkour is a “victim of its own success.” So, instead of being reckless, let’s train hard and stay humble! As a final thought, we would like to quote Blane one last time: “If you care for the future of parkour then it is your duty to help [beginners] to progress sensibly and remind them that they should slow down when you think they are going too fast. If we do not do this, parkour will slowly die as its practitioners become weaker and weaker duplicates of past traceurs due to injury, overtraining and joint destruction. Are you going to help to dilute parkour and the new traceurs, or are you going help to concentrate it and strengthen them?”
Thank you for reading, we sincerely hope that you will consider what we said.
Good luck in your training!
~Written by Kirill and Alex