Le Parkour, ou l'Art Du Déplacement, consiste à utiliser les obstacles rencontrés sur son chemin, pour effectuer des sauts ou acrobaties. Le tout, en alliant vitesse, fluidité, esthétique et originalité.
from http://membres.lycos.fr/parkourll/

BBC1 and BBC2, being publicly funded, don't carry advertising. Occasionally ads for the channels themselves are run, to cover gaps in scheduling. One such ad currently being screened on BBC2 stars David Belle, a 28-yr-old athlete from Paris and creator of a new extreme sport which involves crossing the city 'using encountered obstacles as your highway', via daring and highly dangerous acrobatic feats such as swinging down fire escapes, climbing backwards up high walls and leaping across rooftops. The ad, shot in Paris, starts with a shirtless (and deliciously torsoed) Belle performing a controlled, graceful handstand on a railing high above the city, and is edited to give an elegant, almost balletic feel to his amazing leaps and spins across the tops of buildings as he makes his way home to watch TV.

In his fourteen years of developing the sport Belle has trained many teams of parkours, ('parkour' being French for 'obstacle course') one of which is featured in Ariel Zeitoun's film Yamakasi (written by Luc Besson). Many of the members of these teams are young, poor, first or second-generation immigrant street kids from the Paris projects where le parkour has become a growing craze. They train progressively, attempting harder and harder acrobatic feats each time. Belle, the son of a fireman nicknamed Kamikaze for his fearlessness, is still the acknowledged king of les parkours. He can get down the outside of a 4-storey building in less than 15 seconds.

Read the BBC article here:

 The French urban sport of Parkour, or freerunning, as it is known in the UK and the US, is often described as 'the art of movement'. The participants, who are known as Traceurs (or freerunners) use the urban environment around them to create ways of moving that are often very different from the normal ways we move. The whole concept of Parkour is 'flow'. This is basically being able to move around, using special techniques such as vaults, spins, climbing and, of course, running.

If you have ever seen The Matrix, or many kung fu movies, Parkour can be described as the gymnastic moves in these films, but without the aid of a safety net, or wires. It is essentially the Traceurs against their urban environment.

When and where it started:

The sport was originally created in Lisse, France, by a group of French kids, in the 1980s.  At the time, he and his friends were just messing around, having fun, jumping over stuff.  As they grew up, however, they decided to try to develop this sport and it became more serious.  The two main members of this group were Sebastein Foucan and David Belle.  Sebastein has managed to get sponsored and is thus the first to do so in this sport.

Some of you will have watched a program called 'Jump Britain' that was on Channel 4 in the UK in 2004.  This was a documentary which showed the development of Parkour in the UK, which now has quite a large, but cult following now.  There was a program  before 'Jump Britain' called 'Jump London', but this did not produce nearly as much interest in this sport as the more recent of the two programs has.  More recently, though, Parkour has taken off all over the world and has a huge following in America and Japan, all be it in the underground.

Parkour is not a solitary sport, and there are groups of people who take part, called 'Crews' or 'Klans'.  These groups are often small, containing a few members, maybe 15, and they practice together.  Parkour, therefore, also has a large social element, with thousands of dedicated websites, where freerunners can talk about new techniques and experiences, such as how to deal with the police!

L'art du deplacement (The art of displacement), better known as le parcours, and parkour in English, is the practice of maneuvering with optimal efficiency to reach a determined destination, or to escape pursuit. The term "le parcours" comes from the name of Georges Hebert's strenuous parcours du combattant, an obstacle course now used in Western infantry training on which one must vault, crawl and climb to finish.

While the history of parkour is the stuff of legend, it is certain that it has two founders who started to do it together as a recreational activity. David Belle, one of these founders, is reported to have been taught the parcours du combattant by his father, a French war veteran who practiced it for training in Vietnam. The other founder, Sebastien Foucan, was a friend of Belle's from a young age, and began running with him on his own accord. While these two would part ways philosophically later on in life, it was they to determine the course of parkour's evolution.

In his "Natural Method of Physical Culture", Georges Hebert emphasized the importance of purpose in movement; he believed that the parcours du combattant was purely a practical exercise, and that it prepared its practitioners for mobilization in coincidental conditions. David Belle's running is exemplary of this philosophy; he sets a destination, and moves however he must to quickly and swiftly arrive there. His running is often composed of vaulting over obstacles such as cars, diving under guard rails, and rolling out of leaps from building tops and other difficult heights. This is the essence of parkour. Sebastien Foucan, however, has another approach to parkour, which most traceurs and traceuses (men and women who practice parkour, respectively) refer to simply as "free running." Foucan's style is more dramatic, and often his running has no particular destination. He climbs and jumps for the sake of sport, and regularly tricks, which is something that David Belle has never felt to be genuine parkour in spirit. Foucan is now recognized as the founder of free running, and is often considered uninvolved in Belle's practice altogether.

Parkour has transformed into a lot more than "displacement." It is a lifestyle; a culture; a philosophy. Sebastien Foucan, originally a traceur, recommends a specific diet, training schedule and sleep schedule to his students. To those who are serious about it, parkour is more than a sport, more than running -- it's identity. Many traceurs and traceuses claim to approach life and think about the world differently after they start to parkour; they become more goal-oriented, and think more critically about problems that they encounter in their everyday lives. Those problems are, after all, much like the obstacles that they have to face while running: Only surmountable with a connatural cooridation, but easily surmounted with that coordination.

Moreover, parkour has become a cultural phenomenon. It has, in a way, been adopted by American and European subcultures alike as an "extreme sport," much like skateboarding or bungee jumping. While this is probably not appreciated by David Belle or Sebastien Foucan, that is primarily how the observing public tend to see parkour.


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