Do you remember the opening sequence of Casino Royale, where Bond is chasing a man through Africa, and the bad guy jumps through cars, over buildings, under dump trucks in one fluid motion. Almost doesn’t seem real, does it? Well sucka, it is real. It’s called Parkour, and it will blow your mind.
Parkour, according to Wikipedia, is defined as “a discipline with the aim of moving from one point to another as smoothly, efficiently, and quickly as possible using principally the abilities of the human body.” The idea is to look at obstacles and devise a plan to run full speed through/over/under these obstacles in the most efficient (and artistically kick-ass) way possible. The activity that eventually become “Parkour” was created by a French naval officer named Georges Hébert back in the early 20th century, but it didn’t evolve into what it is today until David Belle took the concept and “ran” with it in the late 1990’s (get it, “ran”?! ZING!). The background story and history is actually really cool; I could spend 2000 words explaining it, or I can just direct you to Wikipedia which will do a much better job.
This whole Parkour thing is said to be a state of mind rather than a series of actions, concentrating on efficiency and speed to conquer an obstacle. Now, there is a similar activity called Free Running, which was derived from Parkour but features more acrobatic (and less efficient) maneuvers. Alright, enough word, let’s see it action. Here’s a video from a French movie with three minutes of awesome Parkour, followed by a real life video of two brothers doing some free running:
What does this have to do with fitness? Look at these guys! They’re in great shape and can run full speed through dangerous environments. Sure, you only see the videos of these guys succeeding, and not the ones where they go face first into a brick wall, but it’s a pretty sweet example of what human beings are truly capable of when it comes to physical excellence.
So you’re probably watching these videos and saying “wow these guys are awesome, but there’s no way I can do this stuff.” or “wow these guys are idiots they’ll be dead in six months.” Luckily, Parkour and Free Running have become so popular that they’ve even made a videogame where you play as a Parkour expert. EA’s Mirror’s Edge is a first person adventure that will have you flipping across rooftops, disarming agents (yup, just like in the Matrix), and running like a bat out of hell over and under everything. I just beat this game last week and had an absolute blast with it. The combat was kind of weak but when the game works, it feels amazing. It’s only 30 bucks right now at Best Buy, making it a great bargain:
I realize for most of you this post will go into the “wishful thinking” category, which is fine. I’m definitely more an admirer of the sport/art than a wanna-be-participant as well. If you ARE interested in learning more about Parkour, check out LearnParkour.com and their tutorial movies on how to get started. You’ll be able to pull off some of these moves without hurting yourself too badly (except for maybe the wall flip, yikes), and it will also give you a great workout…if you can stay out of the hospital.
Moral of the story: here’s another example of a group of people in great physical shape who probably never step inside a gym; they’re too busy flipping off of walls, hurdling large obstacles, and sprinting through urban landscapes.
Sounds pretty sweet to me.