DAVID Belle was one of the restless teenagers who used to run around parks in the suburban neighbourhood in Lisses, France, in the early 1990s. His father Raymond, however, was a rigid soldier, who was well-trained in navigating obstacle courses.

If there was anything that David learned from his father back then, it was running and jumping around obstacle courses without tripping. Soon, David and his friends were incorporating the tricks into running, turning it into an art form. And that’s how parkour began, they said in the 2003 documentary Jump London.

Sebastien Foucan, one of David’s childhood friends and also a founder of parkour, said that the sport had always been around except that no one had thought to give it a name.

Parkour means “route” in French although some simply call it free-running.

In a much-debated controversy, Foucan split ways with David a few years later, after making parkour popular in 1998, when the former defined freerunning as a personal expressive art of running where more “elements” are added in motion.

“Freerunning, for me, is my parkour evolution. I can’t say that I do parkour when I’m learning breakdancing; and I would like to incorporate it into my parkour expression. Freerunning is the way I choose to name my own expression,” said Foucan in Jump London.

David, on the other hand, emphasises simplicity.

“In real parkour, there are no flips. The goal is to keep it simple, efficient and to train in movements which you trust,” said David in an interview back in 2009.

The distinction between David’s parkour (defined by speed and efficiency) and Foucan’s freerunning (which accentuates creativity, innovation and self-expression) is still vague.

Many freerunners and parkour practitioners such as Abudi see l’art du deplacement (just a fancier term for parkour/freerunning) in parity.

“It is all the same. Parkour is about getting from one point to another in the most creative manner and that includes both Belle’s and Foucan’s definitions,” said Abudi.


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