The following was originally an article I wrote for an online magazine. It was supposed to be about the Pinnacle Parkour Academy but it mostly became a dive into the more ‘mystical’ aspects of parkour. Nothing especially new as far as framing or phrasing of the ideas but I kind of liked it overall so, here it is. Hope you like it.
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things disclose themselves. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” –Bruce Lee
If Bruce Lee was alive today, he very well may have said these exact same words. But instead of referring to fists and martial arts, he might have been referring to jumps and parkour.
Originally developed in the late 1980’s by David Belle and a group of young friends in France, parkour has since exploded out of Europe and taken the world by storm. With the help of the internet and the love of thousands of dedicated practitioners, parkour can now be found in nearly every country and major city on Earth. It has been featured in blockbuster movies like Casino Royale, television shows like The Office, and hundreds of live events, workshops, and demonstrations. Search “parkour” on Youtube and you get more results than rock climbing, snowboarding, or even surfing.
But ask the average Joe or Jane on the street about parkour and you’ll still get one of two reactions: a blank stare or mild amusement, usually followed by the phrase that makes every practitioner’s inner kitten cry a little every time. “That’s that thing where kids jump off roof tops, right?”
If you find yourself in one of these two categories, or you’re just interested in some non-media hyped information about parkour, here’s the rundown. Put in the simplest terms possible, parkour is the study and practice of human movement, or more directly described as a way of adapting to the environment around you. But there’s more to the movement than meets the eye, more than stunts and dreams of Spiderman. There are ideas beyond the mere physical at play. At its core, parkour is about strength and freedom; strength of body and freedom of mind.
In the same way that Bruce Lee taught to express the human body and mind through martial arts, so does parkour seek to help the practitioner reach a higher place, both literally and figuratively.
Picture it this way; there is a wall in front of you. Huge, imposing, and unyielding. You bravely attempt to climb up and over it but for all your efforts it remains impassable. But you don’t give up. You continue training, practice other skills, gain strength and endurance you couldn’t have ever imagined before.
You come back to the wall and suddenly it doesn’t seem so intimidating. You try climbing it again and, lo and behold, you’re now standing tall and proud on top. Before you know it you’re seeking out new walls and new challenges, gaining strength every day. Soon this mindset carries over into your everyday life. Obstacles, both physical and mental, no longer appear impossible.
Instead, the obstacles have become opportunities.
This is a hint, a peek behind the veil, into the spirit of parkour. As Belle himself so succinctly put it, “Obstacles are found everywhere, and in overcoming them we nourish ourselves.”
Parkour is a discipline, a state of mind, and a culture all rolled into one. This is why we opened the Pinnacle Parkour Academy and why it is named as such. We are training with a purpose. Our goal, as a gym and as a group, is to help people reach their pinnacles, to become complete, through the practice of parkour.
It is a lifelong study of the self, not a daredevil’s pastime. It is not limited by gender, age, ethnicity, or even skill level. Ultimately it is just a word used to express an idea – the desire to improve through movement.
Don’t be trapped by the world around you. Train, improve, exceed.