Explaining Parcours – The Method, The Magic, and Misunderstanding Parkour Completely (Pt. 3 of 3)

This is part 3 of a three part series. Click here to open a new window to part 1, and click here to open a new window to part 2..

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Misunderstanding Parkour Completely: Parcours Are the Key

I’m at part 3 of this series – the culmination. For it, I put forward my bold but simple claim: for a generation the Parkour world has misunderstood Parkour completely. And it’s not because of anything David did or didn’t do as so, so, so, so many people try to blame. The reason people have misunderstood Parkour is because we somehow didn’t see the simple answer that was always right there in front of our faces. The answer is parcours.

Looking back now, I still marvel at how the simplest and most prominent phrases from the founder, and even some of the most famous images of David Belle doing Parkour, stand in stark contrast to what the Parkour community at large now believes Parkour is.

Go back and watch the famous TF1 feature. As David describes Parkour both in his words and actions, what is he doing? Another good question is, what is he not doing? I’ll give you a big hint: he’s not doing anything specific. He’s just tracing.

Another example – what’s arguably the most prominent phrases and philosophy of Parkour? It’s, on avance toujours. In English that translates as, we always advance. Tell me this: how does the current “method” of precision jumps, technical practice, and physical training embody this idea? Answer: it doesn’t.

Here is another video to watch. It’s the Remington commercial – the last prominent interview David has done to date. Listen to David’s words when he describes how he trains, and look at how he represents “repetition.” It’s while doing a parcour.

When you take a step back and simply open your eyes to what is, you’ll see very clearly that David’s most prominent actions and words when speaking about and explaining Parkour point to parcours being the base of the Parkour method. And yet somehow in our zealously to understand Parkour, in our eagerness to follow in David’s steps and reach his level, and in our nature to bring in our own experience and ideas into the equation, we’ve created this new idea for Parkour effectively making it into something it never was.

No, Parkour is not precision jumps. No, Parkour is not vaulting. No, Parkour is not jumping, or physical training, or climbing, or urban movement, or pull-ups, or sit-ups, or rolls or even “Point A to Point B.” It’s not even “efficient movement.” Those are only small, subtle pieces that are embodied in the larger whole of a training method whose centerpiece is an always advancing, overcoming of successive obstacles called parcours. And that center is so vital, that without it, Parkour ceases to exist and the movement and training becomes something else entirely.

The reason Parcours is so important is because it focuses all the training and technical ideas that we use in “Parkour” and gives them a context and a purpose that enables those ideas to become something new. When you start doing parcours you will understand this, and for the first time your eyes will be open to the true Parkour method you’ve been missing all along. And in doing this, not only will you understand Parkour better, you’ll also start to understand why David was so good, and why at 40 years old he is still one of the world’s best Traceurs.

Of my countless conversations with David, there is one that I feel is worth referencing in bringing this series to a close. One day David was telling me about his training when he was young. He mentioned tracing Lisses and Evry – always advancing, overcoming obstacles, jumping, climbing, never stopping. He told me that often while he was doing this, he’d look around and ask himself, “Why is no one else training this way?” To this day, I pose the same question because I can wander the world visiting Parkour communities and never see another person doing the Parkour method as David described it to me. I hope this series will have changed that.

Parcours are the foundation of Parkour, the true method by David Belle. Try them out and see what you find.

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October 1, 2013 in Parkour by Adam Dunlap