The New Yorker magazine recently did a story about parkour and David Belle. The article opens:
Parkour, a made-up word, cousin to the French parcours, which means “route,” is a quasi commando system of leaps, vaults, rolls, and landings designed to help a person avoid or surmount whatever lies in his path—a vocabulary, that is, to be employed in finding one’s way among obstacles. Parkour goes over walls, not around them; it takes the stair rail, not the stairs. Spread mainly by videos on the Internet, it has been embraced in Europe and the United States by thrill seekers and martial-arts adepts, who regard it as part extreme sport—its founder would like to see it included in the Olympics—and part gruelling meditative pursuit. Movies like its daredevil qualities. A bracing parkour chase begins “Casino Royale,” the recent James Bond movie. It includes jumps from the boom of one tower crane to that of another, but parkour’s customary obstacles are walls, stairwells, fences, railings, and gaps between roofs—it is an urban rather than a pastoral pursuit. The movements are performed at a dead run. The more efficient and fluid the path they define, and the more difficult and harrowing the terrain they cross, the more elegant the performance is considered by the discipline’s practitioners.Watching parkour reminds me of watching skateboarders. Both disciplines attract young, athletic boys, and they use the available urban environment as the venue for their amazing feats of athleticism--feats that often are not appreciated, and often are repudiated, by the average citizen. Skateboarding is gaining acceptance due to Tony Hawk, which led to the X-Games, which led to video games, which led to mainstream acceptance, but parkour is still in its infancy. I am interested to see where it goes.
There are many grainy amateur videos of parkour on YouTube, but the BBC used David Belle for the following ad, and it is a nice glimpse of what parkour is.