When you watch cats, birds and flying squirrels jump, land and glide from place to place without a second thought, rarely injured, with great grace and efficiency, most people think this is simply encoded into their species. This ability comes from their animal form, nothing more.
Some people though see this movement as something to learn. David Belle, a French martial artist and gymnast, along with childhood friends, developed a series of tactics and movements known as Parkour, “the art of displacement.” In a similar way to martial arts, which defines movement to harm or defend against an attacker, Parkour practices techniques to flee, as quickly and efficiently as possible. The best way to get the idea is to watch a video:
Yamakasi and Free Running have their roots in Parkour, but in addition to fleeing with speed and efficiency, they add aesthetics and self improvement to their purpose. In practice, this means Yamakasi and Free Running may add flips, turns and other technically inefficient movements if they are beautiful to see or perform. Another difference is Parkour’s stance against martial arts-like competitions, feeling Parkour is not a competitive practice but one of cooperation and self improvement. Some other forms do not hold this stance. All three forms are amazing to watch, both visually and athletically, like dance and many types of martial arts.
Practitioners of Parkour are known as traceur (men) or traceuse (women). Movements can be dangerous, but the practice has the philosophy être et durer (to be and to last), intending to avoid short and long term injuries (which are inefficient, and efficiency is the goal of movement.)
The artform has spread worldwide and has been featured in films and documentaries.
Films featuring Parkour, Yamakasi or Free Running:
District B13, co-starring David Belle; Casino Royale; The Bourne Ultimatum; and the region 2-only (won’t work in US/Canada DVD players) documentary Jump London. (The films Yamakasi and Les Fils Du Vent are also out there but many are disappointed with the amount of Yamakasi featured, in addition to simply being bad films.)
posted by Trout Monfalco