This article is a little long, so you can download it in .pdf format if you want to read it later or on a mobile device.
But in return for slogging all the way through, you’ll get info on basically everything you need to know about starting parkour, plus some FAQs like the role of flexibility, gloves or no gloves, how should I deal with cops, etc. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Why are you starting parkour?
There are any number of reasons, including:
- It’s cool
- You want to be able to escape attackers
- You want to impress the opposite sex
- A friend does it
- 2012 is going to be the year of the zombie apocalypse
Hopefully, you’re not starting because you have some vague idea of watching a few tutorials, then doing flips off buildings. Parkour is not about jumping off buildings, escaping police, or doing huge flips.
Say it with me now:
PARKOUR IS NOT ABOUT JUMPING OFF BUILDINGS
Now that we know what parkour isn’t, what is it?
Parkour is the physical discipline of training to overcome any obstacle within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment.
- Parkour requires… consistent, disciplined training with an emphasis on functional strength, physical conditioning, balance, creativity, fluidity, control, precision, spatial awareness, and looking beyond the traditional use of objects.
- Parkour movements typically include… running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, balancing, and quadrupedal movement. Movements from other physical disciplines are often incorporated, but acrobatics or tricking alone do not constitute parkour.
- Parkour training focuses on… safety, longevity, personal responsibility, and self-improvement. It discourages reckless behavior, showing off, and dangerous stunts.
- Parkour practitioners value… community, humility, positive collaboration, sharing of knowledge, and the importance of play in human life, while demonstrating respect for all people, places, and spaces.
Parkour is non-competitive. If you have two practitioners who are at the same level of skill, it’s impossible to objectively judge which is better. Ryan Doyle put it better than I could in this Red Bull interview:
“The judges are judging the environment, not the athletes. It’s not 25 free runners competing against each other, it’s 25 free runners competing against the course every time – almost like 25 different tournaments. All we’re trying to do is find which style is best suited to this course. It’s not about being the best, it’s about each course giving you a different winner.”
Brilliant. If you’ve got a course with a lot of gaps, someone who’s really good at precisions will likely come out on top. But if you have a course with a lot of obstacles and walls, someone who’s better at vaulting and wall-hops will probably win. You can’t really judge someone’s overall skill at parkour.
Other terms you need to know:
A male practitioner of parkour
A female practitioner of parkour.
An event in which a group of traceurs and traceuses meet to train together.
General term for any sort of physical activity that has to do with parkour.
Martial arts inspired kicks, flips and spins done for the purpose of aesthetics, usually on grass or plyometric flooring. Not related to parkour.
“Freerunning is the art of expressing yourself in your environment, with no limitations.”
-Sébastien Foucan, founder of freerunning and co-founder of parkour.
In essence, freerunning is what you you want it to be. There are no rules for your movement. The only limitations are those set by your own body and mind. Freerunning generally has a solid base in parkour, with the practitioner adding moves from tricking, martial arts, gymnastics, or breakdancing. Examples of static strength such as handstands, planches, levers, and flags are also a major part of freerunning.
Many prominent traceurs have recently begun saying that here is no difference between parkour and freerunning, that it’s all movement, there shouldn’t be a distinction between the two. I agree, but for the teaching purposes of this guide I’ll keep the old definitions in place. It’s easier to learn a set of dedicated parkour techniques before moving on to harder, more advanced freerunning moves.
Speaking of “moves”…
Parkour is more about the flow than individual moves. Flowing smoothly from one obstacle to another using only the minimum of energy and movement will make you faster and more efficient. Having good flow makes for better parkour than knowing lots of flashy moves. Since you need to know at least some moves before you can work on your flow, I’ll be referring to “moves” a lot. Just be aware that flow is a huge part of parkour. Watch this video of Daniel Ilabaca if you want to see a fantastic example of flow.
How to start
The first step to look at is your general health. If you’re actually obese fat, you need to lose weight before beginning your training. If you’re just fat in the sense that you have a little flab, maybe some love handles, you can start now. Obviously, the fitter you are, the faster and easier you’ll progress. Just don’t think you need an 8-pack to begin learning parkour. You don’t. Check out this tricking fat kid.
The second step is to start. How should you start? Well, first you need to know that…
Conditioning is king
The better conditioned you are, the faster you will progress. This holds true from the lowest to the highest levels of parkour. There’s a reason the majority of famous traceurs have backgrounds in other physically grueling disciplines such as martial arts or breakdancing: when they started parkour, their bodies were already well-conditioned. They could focus on learning the moves, not training their bodies to be able to do them.
This is why conditioning exercises such as sprinting, pull-ups, and squats are so important; not only will they prepare your body to receive the stresses of performing parkour you already know, they’ll prepare your body to better learn new moves. Speaking of that, you might be wondering…
How fast will I progress?
The speed of your progression will depend on several variables, including: your previous athletic background, how hard you train, how you train, your opportunities for training, how you eat, genetics, gender, etc.
Previous athletic background:
For your first few months, this will be the biggest determining factor in the speed of your progression. Where do you come from? How have you been previously involved with athletics or sports? Are you a runner? A dancer? Martial artist? Gymnast? Ninja? If you’re none of the above, don’t worry. You may not progress as fast as someone who with years of martial arts training under his/her belt, but it’s still eminently possible to become a good traceur. I come from a background of tree-climbing. And MMORPGs. Not exactly ideal, but I’m still a pretty good traceur, and getting better. Your background matters, but not so much that being a couch potato is a permanent handicap. It’s just another obstacle to overcome.
How hard and well you train:
Training hard and training well are linked. If you train hard but poorly, you won’t progress easily. If you train well but only lackadaisically, you won’t get anywhere. “Training hard,” is easily grasped, but what exactly do I mean by, “training well?” Here’s an example of training well:
You train hard. You eat protein within a few hours to build muscle, you rest for at least a day to let the muscle rebuild. You train again in a few days. You twist your ankle, so you keep from training on it at all until it feels perfect again. You continue progressing.
Here’s an example of training poorly:
You train hard. You reward yourself with a big soda and a bowl of ice cream. The next day you train through your soreness. You pull a muscle. You curse at yourself. The next day, you train through the pain again. And the same the next day. Within a week you go to the doctor because the muscle hurts so much. He prescribes a month of no training. You curse at yourself again. Within two weeks you’re back to using that muscle because you just can’t help yourself. At the end of the month, your muscle is still extremely painful and the doctor is distinctly unsympathetic. He prescribes expensive painkillers and two months of no training. You have not progressed at all since the first training session. You’re out at least three months of training time, not to mention several hundred dollars because of doctor’s visits and medication. You, good sir, are a poster child for How Not To Train.
I’ve gotten messages from people saying, “But there’s nowhere to train around my house…” To which I reply, “you just aren’t being creative enough.” If there are no obstacles easily accessible, make some. Have two boards? Bam, you’ve got an easily customizable precision jumping set-up. Get two 4x4s, a shovel, a drill, a bar, a few hours of time and you can make a pull-up/chin-up/muscle-up bar. Rearrange furniture so you can vault the sofa. Go to parks. Sturdy picnic tables are extremely versatile obstacles. Trees can substitute for walls or pull-up bars. The three-sided brick structures often found behind restaurants can be used for training a lot of different techniques.
All you need is imagination. See your environment in different ways and see different opportunities. Just look.
How you eat:
As an extremely broad generalization, eating is only really really important when you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle. Most high-level traceurs aren’t extremely strict about their diets. Now clearly, eating tubs of ice cream for dinner isn’t a good idea. That’s about the only consensus you’ll find in the diet world, however. This isn’t something I can really advise on, since I have no direct experience with diets. But there are a few general guidelines to follow:
- As the first step, cut out sodas and drink water. This is a huge, huge step to take, especially if you’re a big soda-drinker. There is literally nothing good about soda except the taste. It doesn’t quell hunger, it’s processed into fat extremely quickly, it has no nutritional value, it’ll rot your teeth, etc. Seriously. No soda. Ever.
- Most energy drinks aren’t a whole lot better for your health. Yeah, they’ll give you a burst of energy because of the caffeine. But their sugar content is often just as high as a soda. Gatorade has something like 200 calories per bottle. Drink. Water.
- Don’t overindulge in anything, especially sweets.
- Fruits are good for you.
- Vegetables are good for you.
- High fructose corn syrup is bad for you.
- Protein after a training session is ALWAYS good. No protein = no muscle gain.
- Chicken is an excellent source of protein that doesn’t have a lot of fat or cholesterol.
- Eggs are another good source of protein, but they’re high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Consume in moderation, but don’t worry too much about eating too many on occasion. Unless you already have high cholesterol, you’ll be fine. But it’s still a good idea, in general, to mix up your diet and not eat too much of one thing.
- Listen to your body, but only when it’s being sensible. If you’re hungry, eat (but not too much!) If you’re not hungry, stop eating! Start exercising some willpower. Learn to differentiate between hunger and cravings. A good tip from Jujimufu is to give your teeth a really thorough brushing whenever you have cravings. When your teeth are all nice and clean, you won’t want to pollute them with food. Diet crisis averted.
Those are the most reliable tips I’ve found.
Note: Interesting things are being said about the Paleo diet. Start by looking at that. A condensed explanation of the Paleo diet:
Modern man eats a lot of grains, processed foods, and dairy. Unfortunately, only his mind is “modern.” His stomach still thinks it’s in the Paleolithic Era, when primitive man ate nothing but meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. As a result, his stomach can’t process the modern food efficiently. The Paleo diet is a dietary return to those days. Adherents eat only meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
As to its effectiveness – I really can’t say personally, but I do know several people who have gone Paleo and swear by it. Definitely something into which you should take a closer look.
Sorry, you can’t do anything about this. If you’re genetically predisposed to be fat, you’re going to have to worker harder at keeping your body fat percentage low than someone who is genetically predisposed to be lean. There’s no way around it – if your genetics are crappy, then you have to work harder.
But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. You may have to work a little harder, but in return you get that much more personal satisfaction out of your training.
NO IT ISN’T. This is one of parkour’s biggest misconceptions. Parkour is not just for boys. Girls can do parkour too! Some aspects will be different because of the different body structure, but there is absolutely no reason girls can’t practice parkour.
Learning new moves:
YouTube is by far the best resource for learning new moves. You should definitely tap the knowledge of a traceur friend if available, but if not, spend lots of time watching videos. Even if you do have a traceur friend, you should still watch a lot of videos. Especially tutorials. If you watch enough (good) tutorials, you’ll start to intuitively understand new moves, even if you’ve only seen them once.
Okay, now that you have a general idea of how fast you’ll progress, how should you go about actually learning new parkour moves?
Youtube is by far the best resource for tutorials. Text just doesn’t do parkour justice. You must see it.
If you want to learn a specific move, look it up on YouTube. Search for “X tutorial.” Or if you don’t know the name, just search for “parkour tutorials.” You’ll find a bunch of videos that list the basic techniques and tell you the names. I’ll start you off with some links to basic tutorials:
Most important move in parkour, hands-down. Start learning it ASAP. The importance of the roll cannot be over-emphasized. If you want to do anything from a height, you need to know how to roll properly.
Probably the most famous parkour vault. Surprisingly, it’s not really all that useful. Railings and other narrow obstacles at waist height are about the only places where it’s more efficient than that other iconic parkour move, the…
IMO, the most important vault in parkour. Fairly easy, and extremely versatile. It can be done into a normal two-foot landing, a one foot landing, a roll, a crane, a cat, even another kong. You can do it over anything from a thin railing to a 6-7 foot wide table. You can combine it with another kong to do a distance-covering double kong, a dash vault to do the extremely classy and smooth-looking kash vault, or a backflip to do the insanely difficult (and awesome) kong gainer. The kong vault should be number two on your list of moves to learn, right after the roll.
It’s called the lazy vault for a reason. It’s EASY.
Some people call it the wall-run, some people call it the wall-hop, some people call it the wall-up. Whatever. I call it the wall-hop to differentiate it from the horizontal wall-run. It’s more of a hop than a run, anyway. It’s generally only one or two steps, which does not count as a run in my book.
The wall-hop is a relatively easy move, but it takes a lot of accidentally slamming into the wall to learn. Remember to swing your arms up at the same time you hit the wall so that your horizontal momentum gets redirected upwards instead of continuing to travel forwards. The quieter your foot hits, the better your wall-hop will be. If there’s a loud THUMP, then you’re not doing it right.
The wall-hop should be item number three on your list of moves to learn.
I have a gym membership already. How should I modify my workouts to better train for parkour?
- Drop all exercises that require a machine. Exercise machines are crutches. They isolate one muscle or muscle group, they don’t let your stabilizer muscles get a workout, the kind of strength they build is useless in real world scenarios – there’s nothing good about exercise machines. Stop using them.
- Start getting with the bodyweight program. Pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, dips, L-sits – all great exercises that build strength that’s useful in parkour. Bodyweight exercise are favored over lifting weights because of their real-world application. For example, pull-ups work the muscles you’ll need for handstands and muscle-ups.
- While bodyweight is the best, don’t neglect the squats (weighted and bodyweight) and deadlifts. There aren’t any bodyweight exercises that give a workout equivalent to those. Pistols will be part of your exercise regimen in the future, but they’re only for fairly advanced squatters and will cause knee problems in the unprepared. So squat. A lot.
- Quit doing crunches and sit-ups Especially sit-ups, because they’re are a surefire recipe for lower-back pain. If you absolutely must target your abs, do planks or hanging leg raises.
Hold up – you mentioned conditioning plays a huge role in parkour? Explain, you wordy devil.
The kind of conditioning you need to do is somewhat dependent on your body; if you’re a girl, you may need to work on upper body strength; if you’re a guy, you may need to work on flexibility. But everyone can benefit from these exercises:
For the upper body:
- Side Planks
For the lower body:
- Squats, weighted and bodyweight
- Pistols (for advanced squatters)
Flexibility? Why do I need to be flexible? What role does flexibility play in parkour?
Flexibility is useful but not mandatory in parkour. It’s recommended in freerunning and required in tricking.
Oh, and what the heck is QM?
Quadrupedal motion! Walking like a cat, on all four limbs. Good for the lower body and for developing balance. It’s a really great, under-utilized exercise, plus the looks bystanders give you are priceless.
How can I get over my fear?
Getting over your fear is the single biggest obstacle in parkour. It’s also the most personal and the hardest to teach.
- Why are you afraid? Is fear of the body or fear of the mind? If you don’t think you have any chance at actually landing the move, don’t try it. If your body is scared of a move but you know in your mind that you can land it, go for it.
- Fear serves a purpose. Always remember that. If you’re really afraid of something, there’s a reason. Find that reason and eliminate it, and your fear will be gone.
- If you can’t commit fully to a move, go back to the basics. If you can’t nerve yourself up for a 9 foot precision, go back to doing 8 foot precisions. If you can’t do a back handspring, keep doing macacos.
- You should know this already, but I’ll throw it out there anyway: liquid courage, i.e., alcohol, is a Bad Idea. If you need a drink for courage to ask someone out, then it’s your funeral. If you need a drink for courage to try a new jump, it could literally be your funeral. But you’re not that dumb, are you? I didn’t think so.
One of the best methods for overcoming fear is what I call the “1-2-3 method.” It’s pretty simple. You get ready for whatever you want to do – say, a front flip – and you give yourself 3 seconds to mentally prepare. Then you stop thinking about it and go for it. No more than 3 seconds. If it takes longer, stop thinking about it; reset yourself mentally. Then count to three again. And do it.
I’ve found this to be a highly effective way to overcome fear. The first day I tried it, I was able to successfully land some scary precisions and go for no less than three moves that had previously evaded me: the sideflip, the butterfly twist, and the Webster. I broke three fear barriers the very first day. You should try it. But remember – if you still can’t commit using the 1-2-3 method, go back to the basics.
I look stupid when I train in public. How can I get over being embarrassed?
You probably know the feeling: you go for a vault or jump, you bail spectacularly, you look like an absolute idiot. People snigger at you under their breath and you go home to drown your embarrassment in ice cream and cat videos. Sucks, doesn’t it? Fortunately, there is a simple solution: stop caring about what people think of you. It’s easier than you ever thought possible. Look at it this way: are you ever going to see these people again? If no, then why do you care what they think? If yes, are they important to you? If yes, then they’ll accept your looking stupid. If not, then why care about their opinion? In any outcome, you should1n’t care.
Reaching this Zen-like state of carelessness is incredibly freeing. Not only in parkour, but in your everyday life as well. Everyone has their insecurities, whether it’s about their looks, weight, bad habits, intelligence or lack of it, wrong political views, wrong social views, and so on. If you simply don’t care about what people think of you, all of your insecurities fall away. You become a much, much happier person. This is one of the most important lessons parkour has taught me. If you don’t care about how you are perceived, then the only thing holding you back is yourself.
Agh! I’m injured! What do I do now?
Injuries suck. I’ve spent probably six months sidelined by injuries, and let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than being inside injured when you should be outside training and progressing. Avoid injuries. And the best way to do that is… CONDITIONING! Get your body ready for whatever abuse you can throw at it. But that doesn’t help much when you’re already sitting inside seething at your knee for being so damn sore. So how should you deal with injuries?
- Do not ignore them. If you are feeling pain, there is a reason.
- If you feel even a little pain, don’t stress that part of your body at all. It’s not worth it.
- “Just ten minutes” can set you back ten days. Or more. Last February, I tricked on an ankle I knew was sore. Why? To show off. I thought it would hurt for an extra couple days, that the pain would be worth being able to bask in the adulation. Guess what? Because of the extra stress put on my ankle that day, I couldn’t train for four months. FOUR FREAKING MONTHS. So, so, so not worth it.
- Ankles and knees are injury hotspots for traceurs. Watch them extremely carefully for undue pain and try to strengthen them as much as possible.
- The lower back is a terrible, terrible place to be injured. Always warm-up before doing handsprings or anything else that requires an arch in the back. I once accidentally fell into a backbend from a handstand without stretching out my back first. Result: three weeks of lower-back pain. Except for the ankle, it was the worst injury I’ve ever had. Not only was there no training, but I couldn’t bend over„ sleep on my stomach, or sit comfortably. Be careful of your back.
- Learn to differentiate between muscle soreness and muscle pain. Soreness feels kinda nice. It means you’ve gotten a good workout. You’ll feel a burn – not really a burning, but a burn. If you feel a stinging or biting pain, then you may have torn something – and that’s no good. If your soreness lasts longer than a week, you definitely have a problem. Wait until that muscle feels absolutely fine before training on it again.
- Joint injuries = bad. They generally take a lot longer than muscle tissue to recover. If you get injured in a joint, plan on 2-3 weeks off training.
Check out this video by Jujimufu on recovery. His tip about using PVC pipe for soft-tissue massage has saved me a lot of hip and ankle pain.
My hands are getting scraped up. Should I wear gloves?
No. Gloves inhibit the motion of your fingers too much and they don’t let you feel the environment properly. An example:
I recently scraped my knuckles almost to the bone while climbing up a wall. Needless to say, it hurt. But you know what? If I had been wearing gloves, I wouldn’t have been able to climb that wall.
I took a big leap to grab onto a bar. That bar turned out to have a lot of slippery dust and pollen on top of it that I couldn’t see from my take-off point. But because I felt the lack of grip as soon as my fingers touched, I was able to slow down my swing. If I had been wearing gloves, I would have swung waaaay out to try make a big lache – and I would have fallen off, probably on my head.
Sure, gloves protect your fingers from scrapes and abrasions. But they also lessen the sensory input of your fingers. Where your naked fingers would instantly feel something slippery, your gloved fingers feel just another flat surface. As a result, you don’t modify your actions based on a patch of slimy mold at the top of the wall. Then you fall off. That sucks.
Besides, one of the core tenets of parkour is preparedness. How can you be prepared for the zombie apocalypse if you need gloves to perform properly?
Think back to all the best parkour videos. Were the traceurs ever wearing gloves? No. That should tell you something. No gloves. Develop a nice set of calluses. They’ll do you much more good.
What kind of stuff do I need for parkour?
One of the best parts of parkour is that you don’t need a whole lot of expensive crap to get started. But certain things will make your training easier. Mostly, shoes and pants. Go read my full article on PK gear.
What’s all this hear about barefoot training?
It’s good to train barefoot every so often. Remember what I said about preparedness? The zombies aren’t going to wait for you to put on your KO’s or Feiyues and double-knot the laces. They’re going to come right after you and you need to be ready to go, stat.
In all seriousness though, barefoot training is great. It increases awareness of your feet. If you land wrong, you know it. If you train all of your moves so that they’re as pain-free as possible with no padding – imagine how those moves will feel when you do them in shoes. Beautiful. And again, if you get your feet all calloused, it’s easier to go…
By and large, parkour isn’t a discipline that rewards extensive running. You mostly sprint from one jump to a vault, to wall, to a drop, etc. There isn’t any long-distance running involved. As a matter of fact, endurance running may hurt your parkour skill. See, sprinting uses fast-twitch muscle. Endurance running uses slow-twitch muscle. If you do too much endurance training, you run the risk of your fast-twitch muscle losing its fast part. That’s not good. Fast-twitch muscle is what your body uses for a fast burst of power, which you absolutely need for 99% of parkour moves. Okay, back on track: barefoot running.
The basic premise of barefoot running is this:
The modern shoe gives its wearers too much cushioning support, which leads to runners striking the heel when landing. The human foot is not designed to take hard, repetitive heel strikes like that, especially not on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt. Runners who use shoes with lots of cushioning and support eventually develop all sorts of problems, from ankles to knees to lower back.
Barefoot runners land on the balls of the toe or midpoint of the foot, never letting the heel touch the ground. The arch of the foot acts as a spring, softening the landing and bouncing the runner back up. There’s a lot more that I could cover, but since this is a parkour article, I’ll leave that up to you. Here’s a few links to get you started.
I’ve heard I should only train outside, but there’s a gymnastics gym near me. Is training there a good idea?
Some traceurs are strong advocates of only training outside. They argue that training in a gymnastics gym with mats and foam pits will teach you to rely on those safety precautions to such an extent that you won’t be able to properly train in the street.
I disagree. If there’s a way to make your training safe and easier, why not take full advantage of it? Newbies aren’t told to try their first flips on concrete. No, even those aforesaid gym-haters train new moves on grass. Mats and foam pits and plyo flooring are just enhanced versions of grass.
Everyone’s going to fall. If your falls hurt, you’ll be more frightened of falling, and then you’ll fall more often because you can’t commit fully to the move. It’s a vicious cycle. If your falls don’t hurt, then you won’t be afraid to experiment and play with new ways to move.
Should I run if the cops try to talk to me?
No, you shouldn’t.
Firstly, because you’re not doing anything wrong. If you’re on private property, the owner can tell you to bug off. You shouldn’t train on private property without asking, anyway, because it’s rude. But if you’re on public property, it’s public property. You have just as much right to use it as anyone else. As long as your training isn’t disruptive or harmful to other people, then there is no justification for a cop to accost you.
Secondly, running from cops promotes a bad image of parkour. If I run from a cop, then he thinks I’m doing something wrong. So next time he sees me or another traceur, he’s not going to be in a mood to listen to explanations.
Thirdly, it’s stupid. Yeah, odds are he won’t catch you. But now you can never go back to that training spot again without having to be really careful, and the whole reason you were there in the first place was because it’s a good training spot.
On the one occasion I was stopped, the cop was a nice guy. He said someone had called in a report of kids jumping off walls; he didn’t know if it was true or not, he didn’t even ask if it was true. He asked me and my friends to be safe and he implied we should probably leave. He took our names and addresses for “routine reporting.” I didn’t like that part and I’m pretty sure he didn’t have the authority to do so, but I complied anyway. What’s the point of pissing the cop off? He’s just doing his job.
Fourthly, as a citizen of a country, you have an obligation to obey its laws and the officers of the law. That’s what mature adults do.
Cops are not your enemies. They’re there to protect you, though annoyingly they sometimes feel the need to protect you from yourself. If you get a cop like that, nod politely, assure him you’ll be safe, part amicably if possible, then get the hell out of there. I like to be a ninja traceur: train for 10-15 minutes in one place, then move on. If the cops are called, I’m long gone by the time they get there. Crisis averted. Be sneaky, avoid the cops and you won’t have any trouble.
Help! My parents don’t want me to start doing parkour! How can I convince them to let me try it?
A sad tale, and one I hear all too often. And the most common reason for a parkour ban is that they think it’s dangerous. And… it kinda is. You have to convince them that, when practiced properly, parkour is just as safe as any other sport or discipline. Because… it kinda is. Think how many professional atheletes get injured playing football every year. Now think back to the last time you heard of a professional traceur (Danny Ilabaca, Tim Shieff, Ryan Doyle, Chase Armitage, etc.) get injured. Okay, Ryan had that horrible shin-snapping incident – but that just proves my point. The vast majority of traceurs, whether professional or not, haven’t had any permanent injuries. To them, the danger is worth the benefits. So how do you prove that to your parents? That depends mostly on your parents. Since you know them better than I, you have to choose which tack to take. Here are some resources to aid you in the good fight:
A Parent’s Guide to Parkour (American Parkour)
Daniel Ilabaca’s Choose Not to Fall video
Tim “Livewire” Shieff’s Imagination is Everything video
There’s a martial arts studio/gymnastics class/breakdancing class near me. Will I benefit from attending?
Oh yes, absolutely. Anything that increases your conditioning is a good thing. Martial arts will teach speed, flexibility, spatial awareness, and a whole host of other good things that I don’t know because I’m not a martial artist. But think how many famous traceurs have backgrounds in martial arts: Ryan Doyle, Daniel Ilabaca, etc. Gymnastics is a great way to learn flips and bar tricks. Breakdancing will give you great coordination and mad upper-body strength.
ARG! This is too much! Any other huge lifestyle changes I should implement?
Oh, I can think of a few.
- Switch to a standing desk. Sitting down will literally kill you. Besides, standing is good for your legs.
- Your days of wearing flip-flops are numbered.
- Your days of carrying unsecured objects in your pockets are numbered. Rolls are cell phone catapults.
- Your days of wearing jeans are numbered.
- Your days of being ignored by the opposite sex are numbered.
- Your days of being ignored by the police are hopefully not numbered, but they probably are.
- Your days of wearing backpacks are about to get a lot more annoying.
- But you can’t carry anything in your hands, either – you might want to vault something.
- Walls will never again be “just walls.” They will be friends.
- Playgrounds are about to get a lot more fun.
- Parkour you is going to be much, much different from pre-parkour you. In good ways.
All of this may sound a little complicated and daunting, but it’s really not. Let’s recap the really important points:
- Start watching YouTube videos of parkour.
- Start try to learn the easier moves.
- Start doing conditioning exercises, especially bodyweight workouts.
- Start eating right.
- Take martial arts or gymnastics if possible.
Do those things, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a traceur or traceuse.
Random other things:
I want to thank Sandbox Empires, AKA “Mantis” for being an awesome beta reader and catching random errors I made in the throes of frenzied 2AM writing spells. His blog is about video games, but he’s also a traceur. Go check out his Mirror’s Edge piece. And follow him. He’s cool. And he wears Vibrams.
I’m sorry this took so long to write, but hopefully it’s answered most of your questions. If it hasn’t, leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to answer it and update this article accordingly.
If you don’t have any questions… what are you waiting for? Go train!
At some point in the future, I plan on reformatting this and making it easier to read, and possibly adding some new info. Let me know if you think I should do so. Also, is this enough practical advice for learning? I could extract all the, “This is how you do move X, this is the best tutorial, this is how to fix common problems,” advice from this article, add some new content, and make a new Learn Parkour article. Thoughts?