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Parkour As a Competitive Sport

Updated on August 1, 2015


Parkhour is partly akin to skateboarding - without a board.
Parkhour is partly akin to skateboarding - without a board. | Source

Parkour is exciting, fun and challenging!

What Is Parkour?

To the glancing observer, parkour looks like a Jackie Chan action sequence. When we take a closer look, we see that the activity that also is called freerunning involves gymnastics, running, and even some dance moves. It is a unique and creative way of getting from one point to another without using the usual methods. You might think of it as skateboarding without the board!

For instance, one might walk down a sidewalk from the bus stop homeward every day. In parkour, one would not simply walk. One might do cartwheels all the way home, or back flips, or forward somersaults. The traveler might climb every tree on the way home as well as walk between the trees. If there were fences, the walker might leap back and forth over them or walk across the top edges light a tightrope walker. In the 1930s, this was simply called "playing on the way home from school."

Another excellent example of what is parkour today is taken from the South Korea of the 1940s. There, the boy who would grow up to become Supreme Grandmaster Joon Choi in Columbus, Ohio ran and performed martial arts movements on the four miles to and from school, six days a week!

Professional Definition

Parkour is the sport of training to overcome obstacles to become mentally, physically and emotionally stronger. It involves running, jumping and climbing and can be practiced by anyone willing to work hard to improve her or himself. -- Parkour Horizons

From the French

Traditionally, a practitioner is called a treceur or traceuse, one who traces a route.

Parcours du combattant (obstacle course) became parkour (popularized by Frenchman David Belle) which became PK. This is similar to our physical fitness course or fitness trail that is called a parcourse, invented around 1968 in Switzerland. However, parkour is not limited to prescribed calesthenics along a trail. The parcourse and parkour are both influenced by the work of French fitness advocate George Hebert.

Parkour Among the Trees


Parkour In the Forests of South Korea

In the pine forests near Seoul in the 1940s, another young man who would become a grandmaster practiced running and martial arts through forests and around the trees. This required often running up the trees several steps and kicking off into the sky, doing flips from the trees, leaping from their high branches, performing flying kicks over streams, and doing other feats. Martial artists practiced these methods in the forests for centuries, often before sunrise in the mists against the sounds of trickling streams.

The tradition of the forest practice become deeply ingrained in my own martial arts training, but was never called parkour.

As a popular sport, parkour became a creative way of traveling from one place to another, using the environment for exercise. It was non-competitive and one of the best examples is presented below in a segment filmed by four creative men as a silent movie with musical background. Their parkour skills in Columbus, Georgia may amaze you.

Columbus OH Parkour

1920s Parkour

So far, Columbus GA seems to have more parkour skills than Columbus OH.

Columbus GA:
Columbus, GA, USA

get directions

Columbus OH:
Columbus, OH, USA

get directions

In the desert, we would jump over cacti.
In the desert, we would jump over cacti.

Parkour: Like the Half Pipe Without a Board

Parkhour is a little like snowboarding without a board.
Parkhour is a little like snowboarding without a board. | Source

Trying New Exercise

How about parkour?

See results

In Columbus, Ohio

Here are some people in Columbus, Ohio that seem to be just starting their practice of parkour. It's rather funny, but they are surely having a good time!

The activity is similar to skateboarding and snowboarding in that the gymnastics techniques have their own names. We may be looking at another extreme sport to bid for the Olympic Games in a few years.

Keep practicing, Columbus, Ohio!

Columbus OH Parkour In a Building

Capoeira - these movements can fit parkour.
Capoeira - these movements can fit parkour. | Source
 LCPL Chad Codwell, from Baltimore, Maryland, with Charlie Company 1st Battalion 5th Marines. Like parkour-type obstacle courses, skateboarding is used in military training.
LCPL Chad Codwell, from Baltimore, Maryland, with Charlie Company 1st Battalion 5th Marines. Like parkour-type obstacle courses, skateboarding is used in military training. | Source

Philadelphia now hosts competitive parkour competitions since 2011, but many people prefer the non-competitive version. Still, some practitioners are hoping that it will one day be included in the Summer Olympic Games.

The Competitive Parkour Games - Philly 2011

Historic International Demo and Training 2008

Over Memorial Day Weekend in 2008, over 120 men, 10 boys, and 10 women put on a demonstration and training session of parkour in an international event held in Downtown Columbus OH. I remember that someone called them urban acrobats. They were certainly that and some were obviously gaining control and skills in their practice of the sport. Someone else said that it was not work. -- They were dead wrong.

I had only seen parkour done against trees, boulders, and some walls, but the activy was actually unnamed. However, the the demo participants used their full surroundings. Somersaulting over a stone staircase did not look safe without a helmet, but many participants wore headgear.

Parkour Horizons, begun by a small group at The Ohio State University, sponsored the demonstration and training. They are active and growing today. Along with parkour, the university has encouraged skateboarding as well, with a large new skateboarding installation on its West Campus in Columbus.

Extreme sports can be fun and healthy exercise when supervised properly, so look for a good parkour team in your area. I'm glad to know I've been doing a style of parkour for years. you might like it!

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      That's a good thought about watching out for arthritis - I wonder if using joint supports like knee braces will help? Rooftop jumping seems dangerous as well as exciting!

    • LongTimeMother profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      Some British friends of one of my kids jump across the top of buildings and leap down onto cement stairs, roads etc and have made videos about their parkour adventures.

      Fortunately jumping across tall buildings holds no interest for my daughter. I do wonder how arthritic their joints will become because they rarely parkour on grass.

      Voted up +.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @DigbyAdams - That was fun to watch, wasn't it? I/m amazed by those sport wheelchairs and their users. I hope there's another Parkour demo in our cities soon so that we can watch some more and maybe get some ideas for ourselves!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I once saw three guys in sporty wheelchairs enter a Barnes and Noble, take the escalator up and then wiz down the escalator. Then the flew out of the store looking for more adventure. It was quite amazing. I have to admit that I've never through about people in wheelchairs the same way after that. Maybe that was their point!

    • hugsnstitches profile image

      Candy H. 

      5 years ago from Yakima, WA

      I recently saw videos online of young men in New York performing this sport. These amazing acrobatics boggle my mind! I can see no reason why it could not become competitive, and perhaps even a professional sport!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I appreciate all of your comments! Parkour is beginning to gain some publicity, but some of it still looks like playing on the way home from school (for the more adventurous!). The philosophy behind the sport may be that any movement is good for exercise. It reminds me of the man I saw in a racing-type wheelchair that wheeled quickly down the center aisle of a large church and up the steps to the platform to speak.

      I bet that as the sport develops, there will be different divisons for younger and older people. Some of us don't do so many back flips anymore :)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Wow! I've just learned something brand new for me! I would enjoy watching someone performing Parkour.

      I enjoyed reading this. Voted UP and will share.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      I know I'm too old to do parkour the way it should now, but I darn near did it in my youth...amazing exercise for sure. It would be something good to start in our elementary schools to get kids fit, however, as with all things today liability would play a part. Very interesting Patty.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi Patty Inglish, MS! This is really a very informative and comprehensive hub detailing and touching almost all the aspects and nuisances involved with Parkour. This is slowly becoming a rage all over the world.

    • CarlySullens profile image

      Carly Sullens 

      5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      This is an interesting comprehensive hub. I never heard of parkour before. It is amazing what people can do. Voted up and shared!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Fascinating. I had to come read this because I have never heard of Parkour. Now I know, although I probably won't be running around the streets of Pittsburgh anytime soon. Thanks.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      That is an interesting history, DigbyAdams. It's probably existed in many forms in a lot of places. Perhaps we'll hear more about it!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I first heard about this when I read the John Twelve Hawks book "The Traveler." He called it Free Running and people did it to avoid the surveillance cameras in London. They jumped from building top to building top and up and down fire escapes. I've always been fascinated by it. Your Hub was very interesting. I enjoyed reading about it's evolution into a sport.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      It's true that most participants in 2008 were under 25, but there seems to be a new move to get older people involved, but not without having fun. Young children and the physically challenged are beginning to participate and some of the latter use walkers and crutches. Anyway, it's fun for the rest to watch!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I'd never heard of the sport until this hub, Patty. Too old to take part in it now, but an interesting slant on getting one's exercise in everyday surroundings.


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