Many people spend their time arguing, or rather debating over the definition of parkour and how to distinguish it from the similar practices of freerunning and tricking. When all their content has been used up and the fire has died down they move on to debate another aspect of parkour, and for this many are turning to the question of what parkour is. It is quite difficult to classify the nature of parkour as it is such a diverse and unique thing, though many try in a quest for fun and exploration or for the sake of knowing and knowledge. What it usually comes down to is a collective claiming that it is a sport and a collective claiming that it is a lifestyle. Both will be expanded on here with the addition of a couple more categorizations too in an effort to better decide.

Many people will argue that parkour is a sport. Some traceurs (and non-practitioners alike) have decided that parkour can be described as the offspring of martial arts and dance, as urban gymnastics or as an extreme sport (falling in the same category as BMX and skateboarding). To further support their claims, the same supporters will also point to the great deal of physical and mental exertion required in the activity; the kind of physically challenging activity that has only come to be known the title of ‘sport’. “In what category would you expect to find people running around, jumping and vaulting over obstacles and climbing up walls?” they challenge. I myself find that I cannot answer that question on the grounds that I do not know, but I do know that the answer is not ‘sports’.

A sport is defined as

An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.
Traceurs maintain high levels of physical exertion while practicing parkour, but parkour is so entirely diverse itself that no possible set of rules and guidelines could define or govern it; because of this lack of establishment and guidelines we realize that there cannot be parkour competitions (win versus lose competition that is) which leads us further and further from associating parkour by definition to the title of 'sport'. While it may be physically demanding and share attributes of the physical activities classified as sports, parkour itself cannot be defined as a sport because it has no guidelines or rules, formal hierarchy, or teams and it can not be governed to the extent that it can become competitive as the definition demands.

Other people may move to convince you that parkour is a lifestyle. Those people often will not say “We do parkour” but instead “We live parkour”, because its philosophy has become their way of life. These traceurs claim to possess a change in their thinking processes that allow them to overcome almost any obstacle in life, physical or mental because of parkour. They agree that there is a lot of physical effort required, but wish to remind everyone that there is also a lot of philosophy and self exploration involved. The people who support this claim furthermore believe that parkour has found a way to incorporate itself in their daily lives: they may have different sleeping habits, different and healthier diets, a training schedule, more energy to do things, and a clearer mind among many other things.

Lifestyle is defined as
The consistent, integrated way of life of an individual as typified by his or her manner, attitudes, possessions, eating habits, etc.
While many claim that parkour can influence and take part in their entire style of living I find it difficult to believe. While it can produce better thought process and mentality, parkour won’t take a place in my life as I sleep, have a shower or clean the house, and it definitely won’t influence my choices when shopping for some new headphones. I understand how some believe that they are living a life defined by parkour, but I don’t believe that it has the capacity to become a way of life or a style of living. The lifestyle title does cover the philosophical side of parkour and delves into the spirit of it, but it doesn’t have the capacity to define the movements, actions or all around being of parkour. While some may consider parkour to be a lifestyle, it is not something that can be completely integrated into your life with the intent to make it a way of living. The romantic idea of living parkour is unfortunately no more than a fleeting romantic thought.

A skill is an ability that is gained through experience and training. Parkour is picked up, maintained and progressed upon through training and experience and its credited abilities are transferable to many experiences in life. The ability to cleanly kong vault over a picnic table is acquired through extensive training and effort; the ability can not be used in a parkour competition and will not hold any part in your daily life (aside from regular training).

The fault with this categorization is similar to that of the ‘sports’ category: it doesn’t portray the substantial role of parkour philosophy and spirit. Being able to escape quickly is good, but that as a skill carries no philosophical or spiritual value. Parkour is not simply the execution of moves, but a means to better understand yourself and better your mentality among other things; these revelations are not accurately or even in part voiced when parkour is classified as a ‘skill’. It ends up that this categorization is also incompetent when used as an attempted classification for parkour; the title of ‘skill’ carries none of the spiritual or philosophical values of parkour, despite better defining the physical aspect of the activity.

This has been proposed by some to be an adequate defining category as parkour seems to contain many artistic elements. The umbrella term of ‘arts’ has the capability to include both the spiritual and philosophical side of parkour and the physical and technical side as well. The movements in parkour in their perfect form are fluid, free and functional and are expressive of the individual practicing them. The way a traceur utilizes the environment as a canvas with the body as a brush is artistic in the highest modern form. It is as such that many traceurs choose to define their practice as an art.

The term ‘art’ however doesn’t match parkour either, though it is closer. It better encompasses the main aspects but doesn’t quite seem to grasp the entire essence of parkour. Everything about parkour seem simple light and easy when you define it as an art, and the activity seems to be labeled as eyecandy. While it is much closer to the term requested and searched for, the title of 'art' doesn’t seem to encompass all that is there to be grasped and seems a little to vague and simple for something as complex as parkour.

Having seemingly discredited the major forms of classification used for parkour I may have left some disappointed; in compensation, here is my ideal categorization for parkour:


In the end I have come to the conclusion that parkour is its own category. Parkour is an activity so unique and one that encompasses so many things that it would be nearly impossible to conjure up a category that includes it all. The only title that could adequately describe a thing composed of so many intricate yet weighty details, while maintaining such freedom and individualization is the title of the thing itself: parkour.

When it all comes down to it, the only truth to be found is that parkour is parkour; no more, no less.

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