Before starting parkour I was just a small, skinny kid with no athletic ability. I was never great at sports or impressing girls with my twig arms, but I decided to give parkour a shot anyways because I wanted to look cool. Little did I know that parkour and its philosophy would impact me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
The Theory of Application
The fist aspect of parkour’s beautiful philosophy we’ll cover is the Theory of Application. Sounds all fancy-pants, but it’s really quite simple. Let’s separate this theory into three elements: utility, environmental reclamation, and human reclamation.
The aspect of utility is the one that is most obvious and quickly understood. Learning parkour is applicable in many situations.
If your house is on fire and you need to escape, if you must reach a certain place very quickly, or even you’re being chased by a malicious person, learning the movements associated with parkour can be very beneficial in all of those circumstances.
I personally find the next two elements of the Theory of Application more significant.
When you think of environmental reclemation, you probably have picking up trash and restoring landscapes in mind. Nope, that’s not it. Environmental reclemation is the act of taking back what is around us from those who would say that some things only serve one purpose.
Why should hand rails only be used for balance while walking? Who says that benches are for sitting only? Walls generally keep things in and out, but why shouldn’t I be able to climb them?
We walk around rich architecture and planned gardens not giving a single thought as to how we could move around them. Instead we follow rules and regulations placed on us by society to follow the status quo and not make things awkward.
Environmental reclemation is about about making the environment serve the traceur, not the traceur serve the environment.
The final element, human recelamation, is my favorite part of the Theory of Application. We reclaim ourselves. Once again, society and history tell us that our bodies can only move in certain ways, that we must fit in to the common method of doing things. The idea of human reclemation rejects those boxes that limit and label us.
Why should we be forced to walk when everyone else is walking? Who says our bodies don’t have the freedom to climb walls instead of use the stairs? Feet usually take us places, but what if I want to walk on my hands?
Our bodies are incredible and can be used in so many beautiful ways, but instead we submit to so many limitations that are simply meaningless creations of culture.
Human reclimation is about making the body serve the traceur, not the social norms.
The Theory of Practice
The second aspect of parkour’s rich philosophy is the Theory of Practice. This theory simply asks several questions:
- Is parkour an art?
- Is parkour a discipline?
- Is parkour a sport?
- Is parkour competitive?
The answers to the first two have been considered since the creation of parkour and have been given solid answers by the global community. Yes, parkour is an art. Yes, parkour is a discipline. But the next two questions are currently very controversial.
It’s 2013 and parkour and freerunning are in another stage of transition. The world is beginning to see that these two arts and disciplines are able to be fashioned as competitions.
There have been three main competitions that have paved the way for parkour to become a full-fledged sport: The Ninja Warrior Challenge, MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge, and G4’s Jump City: Seattle. These three television shows created a format where the movements, efficiency, and style could be graded, thus creating a competition.
Parkour “purists” didn’t encourage these shows. They argued that a discipline and art focused on personal progression and growth should not be reduced to simply another game show. They feared that the original intent of parkour would be destroyed.
The shows’ participants that responded to this claims, all prefessional athletes, by defending parkour as a competition using the Theory of Application. They argued that the “purists” were placing limits on environmental and human reclemation.
Once again, parkour is still an infant, and the fate of its place in competitions is yet to be decided. What do you think? Should parkour remain a personal challenge, or be allowed to become a public sport?
The final aspect of the philosophy behind parkour has already been touched on quite a bit: personal growth. This is what impacted my life the most.
The lessons I learned while doing parkour have penetrated into every aspect of my life. All those jumps that seemed too far, all those walls that seemed too tall, conquering them created in me a confidence that I couldn’t have found elsewhere. Fighting those fears, pushing my limits, and discovering my potential opened up a world of opportunities in other areas of my life.
Check out this excellent video from Daniel Ilabaca about how parkour has impacted his life.