What is Parkour?

Article about what parkour, freerunning and tricking is, and the history of parkour. Written by Kevin Meijer and Milan Jaspers

To start with, here are some videos of some of our members telling you what Parkour / Freerunning is to them:


Parkour / Traceurs / Tracers:

The fundamental idea of parkour is getting from one point to another as efficient as possible, overcoming all obstacles, adapting to the environment, using only your body.

Freerunning / Freerunners:

In essence, this is a freestyle version of Parkour. It’s not only about efficiency and speed, but emphasizes more on creativity in the movements. Basically, adding tricks such as flips and twists while running through a course.

Tricking / Trickers:

Martial arts tricking, known simply as tricking, is a training discipline that combines martial arts kicks with flips and twists from freerunning as well as many dance moves and styles from breakdancing. It aims to achieve an aesthetic display of different combinations of “tricks”. Tricking practitioners are commonly referred to as trickers or tricksters, and can come from various martial arts backgrounds.

Urban exploring / Urban explorers:

These are like the adventurers of the parkour and freerunning world. They use their pk/fr skills to explore places where others would usually not choose to go. Such as high buildings, rooftops, top of cranes, etc.

History of Parkour and Freerunning:

Methode naturelle (The natural Method)

Georges Hébert (1875 – 1957) was in the French military, a leader in development of the modern physical education. Inspired by his work and travels, Hebert took what he called the human natural and utility capacity and categorized them in these 10 sections:

  1. Walking 2. Running 3. Jumping 4. Climbing 5. Quadrupedal Movement 6. Balancing 7. Lifting 8. Throwing 9. Defense 10. Swimming

All these sections combined provided a training program called Method Naturelle, in which people are trained to adapt to their environment under different circumstances. Hebert believed that every human being has a responsibility to continuously develop themselves, physically and mentally so as to be fully prepared to help others especially in difficult situations in life. “Etre fort pour etre utile” / “One must be strong, to be usefull.” – G. Hebert

Parcours du combattant (Obstacle course)

The French military was the first to start using this method for military training, using it to train their soldiers in Vietnam.

Le Parkour (Parkour)

Raymond Belle (1939 – 1999) was a French soldier and firefighter from Lisses. He closely followed the teachings of Georges Hebert, learning how best to overcome obstacles fluidly in a natural environment. He referred to his training of Héberts methods as “Le Parcours”.

Raymonds son, David Belle, who grew up in Lisses, combined his skills in martial arts and gymnastics, with his fathers skills in parcours du combattant. He and a friend decided to name this method “Le Parkour”. This was the start of modern day Parkour.

David is known for his appearance in the movie “Banlieue 13” (District B13) (2004). Interview with David Belle, by Tim Shieff:


David Belle created a group called Yamakasi, which is the original French group of practitioners of parkour. The founding members of the Yamakasi are: Yann Hnautra Chau Belle David Belle Laurent Piemontesi Sébastien Foucan Guylain N’Guba Boyeke Charles Perriere Malik Diouf Williams Belle A movie was made of this team: “The Yamakasi” (2001).


Sebastien Foucan later began developing his own views on the techniques used in Parkour, emphasizing more on creativity in the movement. His “Freestyle Parkour” method, was the start of modern day Freerunning. Foucan stresses the need for training in the basics of both for individual safety and to maintain a positive public perception of the activities. Foucan made Freerunning more publicly known in the documentaries: Jump London (2003) and Jump Britain (2005). He’s now living in Britain where he is still active in training and the community. Interview with Sebastien Foucan, by Tim Shieff:

The other videos (full or partial) mentioned in this article: