So it's nearly inevitable: you're training someplace with some other people - or maybe by yourself - when you are confronted. Perhaps it is a security guard letting you know that you cannot train on that property (to which you politely consent naturally as it is his job) casually inquiring as to what you are doing; maybe a concerned parent wondering if you should be doing these things in front of a child; perhaps it's just a pedestrian wondering what you are doing. What are you going to say?

"Yes, I'm doing parkour. Basically we jump off stuff.
Have you seen Casino Royale? Yeah it's like that."

No, you don't say that, because that would be entirely wrong and give a false impression. In other articles I try to stress the maturity required in practicing parkour - you need to recognize that your actions affect all traceurs; traceurs that make fools of themselves give a bad image to the face of parkour, and the same can go for a person who accidentally mis-describes the art.

So what do you say then? You say what you feel. It is almost steriotypically corney to suggest such a thing but I mean it in all seriousness. If you are practicing parkour to the extent that you are here on my pages reading my advice, then you care about parkour. If you show your point of view to those asking, they might come to understand it properly as it is. Here's how Mike aka Skittles defends himself:
"Personally I've been using this: PARKOUR: A form of Movement with a strong Mental Discipline attached, that teaches that no obstacle is insurmountable, either mentally or physically."
Does it work? Certainly. It reduces parkour to a few lines without taking away some of its depth. Certainly it is not a flawless explanation, but it works and it is short: easier to swallow than a five minute long explanation. I suggest a few things when trying to describe parkour.
  1. Take your time: don't rush into an explanation without thinking it over. You shouldn't be standing there drooling but neither should you bark out a definition unless you have it thought out and/or have used it before.
  2. Keep it short: keep their attention. Don't turn it into a lecture. When I ask someone what they are making for dinner, I don't want the recipe. Keep it short enough that they can pay attention to it but still learn from it.
  3. Emphasize safety: try to squeeze it in there somewhere. One of the larger misconceptions about parkour is that it is deathly dangerous. Certainly it is dangerous, but many things are. It's important that they know that we are approaching parkour safely. We don't want to be labelled as reckless.
  4. Be polite: even if they are about to kick you out of one of your favourite training places. If you aren't polite to them then they have no reason to want to let you stay or train. In a world as legally oriented as our own we can't afford to lose training places (well we can, but it isn't fun). Don't spit an answer in their face or ignore them.
Once again prior to closing off, I want to emphasize manners. When getting kicked out of a location, be nice; in the very least it might unsettle them that you are being so pleasant while they are trying to be mean and gross and kick you out. We have to respect that almost all the training areas used in the world are privately owned and that we have no permission to be there. If they let us be, so be it but recognize that when you are told to get out you should oblige. Apologize to them and maybe even let them know what you were doing, try to get them on your side. That way, even if you lose training grounds you can earn street cred.

The best thing for a traceur is positive media. With all the "skateboarder" stereotyped traceurs hitting up YouTube and similar places, it is essential that a true traceur distinguish themselves in a positive manner in order to gain respect for all trainers.

We are crazy but we aren't stupid.

2 comments and questions

  1. nathan // 25/5/09 20:01  

    Good insight. I'll definitely keep these tips in mind for the future!

  2. Jack // 24/7/10 20:03  

    Well we all usually have to carry a bag around with us, right? I just print out a definition that I typed up and show it to whoever wants to know. Here's my definition:
    Parkour is a discipline not unlike martial arts, but rather than practicing fighting or self-defense, it is about moving efficiently. Parkour is a way of moving from Point A to Point B as quickly and as efficiently as possible by means of jumping, vaulting, climbing, running, or using quadrupedal movement to get over, under, onto, through or around whatever obstacles come your way. Parkour is not to be confused with Freerunning, which is more focused on aesthetics (i.e. flips, aerials etc.) rather than efficiency. Freerunning is considered an extreme sport, where as Parkour is a practice for personal benefit rather than showing off.