ParkourLe Parkour (also known simply as Parkour, PK, or free running) is an extreme urban sport, consisting of running and jumping through cities over rooftops, walls, and using other unconventional routes. It has been described as "obstacle-coursing" or "the art of movement".
Participants (known as "traceurs" or "parkouristes") climb on buildings and other structures, leap between buildings, climb poles and pillars, and walk along narrow structural elements such as walls and banisters. The object of the sport is to move across an urban environment as quickly as possible, and to chain together various moves (which include runnning, dropping from heights, vaulting, flips, climbing, and jeaps) in as fluid, aestheticaly pleasing, and original a way as possible. Parkour is non-competitive and there is no scoring system - traceurs receive only the approval of their peers as reward for their technical and aesthetic prowess. Proponents encourage beginners to develop their skill in the safest way possible; it takes a significant amount of training and dedication to emulate the feats of the stars of this "art of movement".
Le Parkour was invented in 1988 in the Parisian suburb of Lisses by a group of teenagers including David Belle and Sebastien Foucan. They formed at "clan" named Yamakasi (by which they meant "the new samurai") and honed their skills on the neighbourhood's rooftops and fire escapes. Belle and Foucan remain the leading figures of the sport. They have built up their skills so that they are capable of cat-like agility and awesome physical feats.
In 2001 French filmmaker Luc Besson made a short film (Yamakasi - Les samoura� des temps modernes ) featuring the original Yamakasi. The film tells the (fictional) tale of a a group of young thieves who use their parkour skills to evade capture. After its completion, Belle and some of his associates were unhappy with its portrayal of them as criminals and refused to endorse the project. Following the Besson's film, and with fears of increasing commercialism in the sport (which Belle in particular decried), a split developed between Foucan and Belle.
David Belle came to public notice when he starred in Rush Hour, an advertisement for the BBC, where (among many other tricks) he leaped from one building across a gap of more than nine metres to land on a roof one storey below. Many viewers were shocked to later discover that no special effects were used to make the film and that the death-defying leaps, climbs and drops were all performed without wires or safety nets.
Most fans of the sport enjoy its current "underground" nature and seek to avoid the commercialisation that has consumed sports like skateboarding and inline skating in recent years. Unlike these, parkour needs no specialist equipment, requiring only some well cushioned running shoes and an open mind and body. The sport continues to grow with traceurs and clans springing up all over the world.