On May the 31st, 1997, eight friends banded together to form a group called the Yamakazi. It was more acrobatic than parkour and had no definitive rules. With the aid of media appearances, the Yamakazi were invited to play acrobats in the show "Notre Dame de Paris." David Belle refuses to join saying that he never intended to let his creation become commercialized and in 1998, the group was disbanded. But what does this have anything to do with YouTube?

As parkour becomes more widely recognized, we begin see it more and more in the media. The commercial world is based around income and profit, and it is around that that companies and ideas are made. When parkour started showing up more and more it began to focus more on getting attention, more of an audience. To continue to increase in popularity, people doing parkour in the videos began to resort to showing the flashiest and showiest moves possible in the hopes of becoming famous and possibly profiting in the future. This has grown to the extent that the mass majority of YouTube videos relating to parkour show only the biggest jumps and most elaborate flips, with the only crashes or bails being fantastic and painful. This causes a few problems.

Parkour, free running and tricking are very different: parkour is about efficiency, getting from one place to another in the quickest and most fluid way possible; free running takes the fundamental parkour moves and adds a few more flashier moves for more of an acrobatic flare; tricking is almost exclusively gymnastics outside, featuring elaborate flips and kicks and spins, but you can't tell that from the videos. When people make videos, they aim to tailor it to an audience. They know that if they show clips of them missing a cat grab it won't be too popular (unless it is a spectacular fall), whereas the more elaborate vaults and the bigger jumps will. People gradually built on this until they were doing flips off buildings and jumping over people, still calling it parkour however; mashing it together with free running and tricking, effectively removing its identity.

This poses a problem to newer traceurs. In the founding days of parkour, traceurs learned everything through experience and challenging themselves; however with more and more people gaining access to the vast amount of resources, new and aspiring traceurs turn to the internet as a means to educate themselves on parkour. When harassed by a stream of parkourfreerunningtricking goop, the aspiring traceur immediately picks up some bad mentalities.

First impressions are often the biggest, and in this day and age the impression is usually quite far off track. The aspiring traceur sees parkour as flipping off of buildings, or trespassing in order to do a huge gap in a mall, and take them to be parkour. Not only do these traceurs pick up on the mentalities that are frowned upon by traceurs, but they decide that such feats are parkour, and that is what they have dedicated themselves to trying. Regardless whether or not they succeed at this, they begin to spread the misconception of parkour themselves having never experienced the real thing. It is in this way that the false identity of parkour is spread. If these traceurs later on decide to post videos or other media forms of what they call parkour, the assimilated false identity is spread more. Bit by bit parkour loses all meaning and is lost in a sea of misunderstandings, and there is more.

If a traceur deems such actions to be parkour, then they will in turn come to attempt such feats. This is extremely dangerous! You have no doubt heard me rant about starting slowly, telling you that it may take some months before you should try a five foot drop for the sake of your safety; what happens when a new traceur with no experience tries to flip off of a two story parking garage? The majority of parkour injuries are usually accumulative, building up over years of impact or malpractice causing joint pain and other maladies in the future; the "new wave" of parkour on the other hand, brings serious immediate injuries let alone serious long term ones.

While there are credible and useful videos on YouTube about parkour, they are often overshadowed by the flashier showier ones, and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between someone teaching you good or bad technique.

This is by no means intended to discredit YouTube, as previously stated it can have useful and credible videos from time to time, all depending on the contributers. I am merely using it because it is more widely recognizable and more likely to be used as a source for parkour technique and training. There are sources everywhere that portray parkour inaccurately, while there are also credible sources. With the access to such resources though people can post whatever they please, and distinguishing fact from fiction becomes a tremendous task.

These are some of the reasons I suggest that aspiring traceurs and the experienced alike try to stay away from such things. If you are new and looking to learn, there are many other sources out there to help you (this blog being one of them). I would suggest looking for traceurs in your area as hands on teaching is the best form, though it is also mandatory that you learn independently a bit too. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future articles feel free to post them here. Good luck in your training.

While such popular media sharing sites and outlets as YouTube do well to promote parkour and bring it to the attention of the masses, it doesn't always represent the true nature of parkour and many poor things can result from that. People begin to assimilate parkour into freerunning and tricking and the grandeur portrayed by professionals in the videos are mistaken for common stunts; thus newer and younger traceurs may injure themselves trying things that they are far from ready for having mistaken them for regular parkour stunts and maneuvers. The blame here is not directed at YouTube as an organization, but the community of people who contribute to this and who post such videos under false titles and descriptions.

9 comments and questions

  1. cookie // 25/8/08 15:40  

    Great article.

    I agree with the things you say, but still fail to see evidence of it 'destroying' parkour. (Maybe this will take time to happen, I do not know).

    Those who are doing the things you describe (reckless things, too soon, without the required strength) usually change their ways in the end. I know many from my area who went through this process. (I am in no way suggesting that this is the best way, or that it is a good way, to progress)

    I completely agree about the way that newcomers should go about starting, taking it slow etcetera and it is important for others to make videos which are helpful and promote good practice.


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