Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Very Important Discussion

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES." That's what was echoing through my mind while reading this quick little blog recently published by Stephane Vigroux (one of the first practitioners of parkour):

Unfortunately, I doubt that very many will truly understand the meaning of what he is telling us here. Even fewer will actually do something about it or speak up.

I've had a HUGE problem with the way "parkour" has been growing here in the USA. It has been TERRIBLY misrepresented, abused, and the spirit of the discipline is non-existent in so many "parkour communities" and events like Red Bull's "Art of Motion". This problem I have had with the way the discipline is being misrepresented is exactly the reason that I am thinking about changing the name of Parkour Ways to something that doesn't use the word "parkour" in it. These newer groups, younger kids and the media are all ruining what parkour once was.

Competitions have no place in this discipline.

Parkour is not a way to show off (and neither is freerunning).

Parkour is not a means to defy laws or to be anti-social in any way.

Parkour is not about taking risks just for the sake of taking risks or to impress others.

Parkour is definitely not a way of getting more "likes" with a damn YouTube channel, no matter how good you are at making videos or doing "tricks" or "stunts".

Parkour is not about starting a fancy gym to make money (and a fancier gym doesn't make your "team" better, either).

Parkour is not about "teams" or pointless sponsorship for monetary or materialistic gain.

The reasons that I do not "do a flip" for you when you ask are:

1. I'm not a dog trained to do tricks for you on command.
2. Because I don't care about flips much at all.

I do not train flips, teach flips, or plan to teach flips any time in the near future because the word "parkour" has lost so much of its meaning that it is appalling to me.

Parkour has become a JOKE in this country. "Hardcore parkour!" is insulting and as much as I loved The Office, I hate what they did to the name with that episode. People refer to parkour as an "extreme sport". It is NOT extreme and it is NOT a sport.

I leave you with a quote from the aforementioned blog:

I've had a lot of time to observe it growing and evolving, and I came to the conclusion, and I can honestly say today, that the Redbullion crowd (a term coined by Sebastien Foucan to describe the virus that is diluting our movement) and those looking to show off are NOT doing parkour! They are NOT training the same discipline that we created in France all those years ago.

UPDATE: My response to a response to this blog -


  1. Hear hear! Well said, my friend. The only time anyone ever stops me during a training session is to ask me to do a flip or to ask if I saw "that one episode of the Office. HARDCORE PARKOUR!" It's sad.

    1. "Do a backflip!", "Hardcore parkour!", "Parkour parkour!" (those who misheard it on the Office), "Can you do a flip?!"

      I hope all of these now-common phrases will some day be forgotten.

  2. It seems that perhaps you are not doing flips as an extreme form of protesting what you perceive as a perversion of parkour's original philosophy, and/or maybe they're just not something you enjoy doing. However, Stephane made it clear in his article that it's not about WHAT you are doing but HOW you are doing it. Wouldn't that mean that flips, spins, fancy flow etc, would all fit within the original philosophy of the discipline(minus the efficiency part) as long as you are doing it for intrinsically motivated reasons that aren't based off of prestige or material/monetary gains? I would argue that flips and other innovations on movement aren't diluting parkour, they are in fact expanding it into many different areas. As Stephane argues, I believe, it's the motivation behind the movement that is important, not what the movement is necessarily.
    Example: I used to be sponsored but now I am not because there was no real reason for it other than prestige. When I was sponsored I was pressured into competitions and people expected me to show off for them more in large group sessions. Now I do not compete and I'd rather train outside in a small group or by myself and explore my environment instead of doing huge group/gym sessions. However, my style of movement utilizes flips, grabs, and tweaking any and all movements in my combos for the sake of aesthetic beauty. I also plan, in the near future, to start filming videos of these combos to narratives about life with the intent of showing new artistic ways of moving. And yes, when I film combos, I plan them out and try to make them look as good as I can. In your mind, does the way I move dilute the pureness of parkour even though my mindset is tuned in to the original spirit? I personally don't think so.
    But if you do think it is a dilution then I'm afraid your vision of parkour is going to fade into obscurity and fail in it's original mission by being too inelastic to accept that movement is evolving. I may not be into sponsorships and competitions, but I realize that the pros who are into that have pushed the limits of parkour in incredible ways. To not accept what they have contributed movement-wise to parkour is a denial of the free spirit that is evoked from moving dynamically around your environment.

    1. Connor, I agree with what you have said. Flips and the more aesthetic movements ARE parkour. I never said that they weren't. My complaints were about the people using them to make money, sell products, or get more views on YouTube. We are on the same page about movement. My two reasons for not doing flips that I gave were that I am not a dog that takes commands to do tricks, and that I am generally not interested in them.

      To be honest though, another reason I don't really get into those types of movements is out of fear that people will ONLY see that. That is the problem that is happening around the world with parkour. People are only seeing the movements, they are not getting a clear picture of what it is with the way a lot of people are training these days. There are too many people out there just throwing themselves around and doing it for popularity/attention.

      I do expressive movements also. Just because I don't get into flips (much... I have worked on some, but it has been scarce) doesn't mean that I only work on vaults and jumping. I do train (and teach) plenty of movements that are more along the lines of performance art, for the same reasons that you described. To be playful, creative, explore more ways of movement.

      The "pros" who are into the competitions and things may be pushing the limits of movement, but they are not pushing the limits of parkour. When they step into a competition like that and do all of that for the sponsorships, money, and attention, they cease to do parkour. I think that that is what Stephane was saying also... they are not doing parkour if they are doing the movements for those reasons.

      Thank you for your comment, I think it opened up a new channel for this discussion and offered more perspective!

    2. Sorry for such a late reply. We're definitely on the same page, and this response has given me more insight into the traditional(true?) spirit of parkour. I think this is a mindset that, in it's rawest form, isn't at all exclusive to parkour. Like with all arts and disciplines there are people who do them for the purity of the act itself, to transcend and find their inner truth through their passion. But with basically all arts and disciplines parkour is susceptible to exploitation in the capitalist consumer based world we live in right now. This exploitation has become such a common practice nowadays in every facet of our lives that most people don't even see it as an issue. It's literally afflicted people with counter-intuitive mindsets to self-fulfillment. With competitions and prestigious "pro" sponsorships floating around now, traceurs get caught up in a rat-race to one-up everyone else and focus too much on grabbing at titles. They're worried about fitting into social structures that ultimately mean nothing at all.
      Because of this, parkour loses its fine edge as a tool to challenge the status quo(as I've always seen it) and instead assimilates neatly into it. Sorry that got a little ranty, and I'm sure you already know all of that stuff. But I was putting it out there because I can't help but feel that you and others see that parkour's potential is being wasted if it isn't used by its practitioners to become awakened, compassionate, and critically aware individuals. Maybe I'm wrong, it just seems to me that this issue encompasses more than just our art. At the risk of sounding over grand, I'd say it's about challenging dominant ideologies held by our society as we know it.
      With that being said I think it may be unwise to say that the pros who are doing competitions, sponsorships, commercials and the like aren't doing parkour. I'm not saying that you or Stephane are wrong on this, I can tell that you truly feel this way and it makes sense. I just think it's unwise to say it because it creates a strong division between the purist practitioners(sorry I don't know what to call it, if you have a better term let me know haha) and the ones who do it for money and fame. If new practitioners are forced to choose one of these two paths, chances are they'll pick the fame and money route because, like you said, it's filled with all the glitz and glam that too few people are critically aware enough to see through.
      I think it's important that our perspective on parkour remains devoted to its philosophy yet accessible, and we must take caution not to overly antagonize the other perspectives because, like I said that will create a division and make us enemies. Too often I see people say "Stop thinking and philosophizing, just move!" It frightful how common you'll see this posted on the internet. I don't think it's healthy to do anything without giving some thought as to why you're doing it. This is a mindset that we don't want to encourage nor perpetuate and potentially validate by antagonizing other points of view. Wish I could develop this more, but I've already written a lot and have to go haha *rant end.