Parkour expands your horizons.

Have you ever felt trapped within a city? Ever felt constrained, hemmed in, as if your freedom has been curtailed somehow and you are only allowed to move where and when you’re told to? Signs, barriers, walls, railings … all designed to funnel the huge amounts of human traffic through crowded towns and cities. All guiding you along a certain route, a predefined path.

Or maybe you’ve never felt that way? Maybe you’re so adapted to city living that you just don’t notice how limited our use of space has become and how easily we fall into traps of convention that prevent us from seeing the urban world around us for all the potential it can present.

And that potential is vast — especially for movement and physical training.

If you limit your training to any one space or keep it inside gyms and similar venues and never venture into the outside world, you’re missing out. Not just from the standpoint of exploration, you’re also missing out on your own potential ability to adapt your movement to unpredictable terrain and unforeseen challenges.

Movement changes your point of view

That’s what parkour brings us. Not only is it a phenomenal physical and mental training discipline of natural, self-organizing athletic movement, but it also embodies the original function of the human body — to adapt to and navigate over, under, around and through terrain of all types.

Parkour was born from exploration of our environment and looking for ways to overcome the obstacles that a city (or even a rural space) presents us. How can we climb this, drop down there, jump across that gap and fit through this space, and how do we do all this efficiently, effectively and safely? That’s parkour. And in solving those movement problems and accomplishing those endlessly variable tasks, we develop truly capable, strong, mobile and fit bodies and minds.

We also develop a vision for the use of space. Anyone who practices parkour for even a short amount of time soon finds that his or her perception of the environment undergoes a fairly radical overhaul. Walls, railings, buildings, barriers … structures of every shape and size cease to be seen as they were intended to be seen, and they become instead components of a vast, almost limitless playground that once was “the city.”

  • Boundaries fall away, and structures built to contain become steppingstones to greater physical and mental liberty.
  • Strange things begin to happen: Walls become nothing more than “vertical floors,” for example, to be run up or along, metal handrails seem to morph into intricate pathways to be walked, and gaps in architecture become spaces to be filled with dynamic jumps.
  • Very swiftly you find yourself seeing city streets, squares, stairways and even simple pavements in a whole new light. Everywhere becomes an opportunity for movement, everything a training apparatus.

It’s likely a view we have simply forgotten over time; I suspect we all viewed our surroundings this way, before age, social conventions and other cultural norms took hold and limited our vision. Children see urban spaces in a very different way from most adults, as any parent trying to keep hold of their toddler will attest!

The training for parkour, the unfettered approach to your surroundings, the very visceral interaction with your environment, all develops a wider “parkour vision” for the practitioner. This ability to see your surroundings in a different light is extremely liberating once you begin to experience it for yourself. And what’s more, it enables you to reclaim the spaces around you and make use of them in your own training protocols and path of self-development. So even when the gym’s closed or you can’t reach one, or simply don’t want to make the drive, you can step outside your door and get to work there and then. You can workout wherever.

Photo credit: Parkour Generations.