Ever saw people jumping from one terrace to the other or pass different types of obstacles skillfully? Well, you must have seen traceurs who are the practitioners of parkour training. For the uninitiated, parkour training is an art that is concerned with human movement. Parkour is believed to have existed since the origin of mankind. This discipline has French origin and in this sport participants pass through various obstacles using skills like jumping, climbing or some more specific ones like vaulting.
An uninterrupted, efficient and smooth motion forms the heart of parkour movements. Traceurs have to display amazing sense of physical and mental agility and strength and only then, one qualifies to be trained in this skill. For many people especially the non-practitioners of these movements, parkour appears to be a form of extreme sport that is a combination of various martial art styles. Dynamism, jumps, body control, speed and flexibility form the main components of parkour training.
Basic Parkour Moves and Techniques
Although parkour training is not confined to certain set of movements, there are some techniques that can be helpful for clearing certain obstacles. Hence learning the following basic moves becomes important.
As a traceur, this is the most important step one has to learn. Precision jump is usually performed from a stand still position. It involves jumping from one obstacle to another. While doing so, the traceur uses both the feet to jump and land and lands on the balls of the feet. It is called “precision” jump because of the accuracy that is needed while landing on an object. The traceur should “stick” the jump i.e., stay firm on the landed object without falling forward or backward off the object. To bring perfection in your jump you will have to keep certain things in mind. Choose your object from which you will take the jump; it can be stairs, fence rail or a roof. Then select your precision point and examine it carefully.
To start the move, drop into a slightly crouched position, which will help you move farther. Jump upwards and forward; ensure that the knees are bent while making the move. Don’t jump straight forward. To maintain balance, keep both your hands up. So the trick is, jump upwards by throwing your body forward with knees bent while jumping (to absorb the impact of jumping). As you are about to land, point your toes to the ground and extend the legs to touch the ground. Ensure that your knees are still bent. Once your feet have touched the ground, keep bending your knees however, not more than 90 degrees. This position will help you to further roll down and decrease the impact of the jump.
Balancing is also the most fundamental aspect of parkour training since it is one thing that makes your move a complete one. For many, balancing is more of a mental affair than a physical thing. They can balance on a rail that is 3-4 inches above the ground with ease but, when it is 9-10 feet high, it becomes difficult. It is simply telling yourself that you will “keep balance” and you will be able to balance yourself. Once you are mentally strong and confident half the battle is won. Now, just get the hang of a few basic techniques that are shown in the image, to get the perfect balance. Firstly, learn that the balance in your foot passes down the heel, through the arch towards the second toe. Secondly, your sight matters a lot when you are trying to balance yourself. Do not keep your eyes on the position where you are standing rather, focus on the point where you will land the next step i.e., a couple of feet away from your current position. Lastly, balancing is the combination of walking slowly and taking a pause during the walk. When you are walking, ensure to maintain an upright posture and while balancing, bend your knees and hips slightly. It will create a lower center of gravity, which is quite easy to handle. If you feel unsteady while walking, again lower your body by bending the knees and hips to get control.
A traceur should note that a drop should always be landed on the balls of the feet. If you touch the heels to the ground, it becomes difficult to absorb the impact of landing. Such a kind of drop and landing also causes repeated damage to the bones and muscles in the legs, back and joints. Furthermore, an incorrect or faulty landing may cause ankle fracture. Once you land on the ground, bend your knees and hips halfway while throwing the arms in air to attain balance. Don’t fall completely on the ground as this will destroy your landing and block further movement. When you touch the ground with your feet and then with the hands, you are almost pushing it and getting back the momentum to move further.
The main objective of a roll in parkour is to reduce the impact of the drop from a jump, vault or any other advanced parkour move. In other words, a good roll gives a safe end to your current move and at the same time provides the momentum required for the next move. Before understanding the basic technique for a good roll, it is important to note that the working of a roll will differ according to the moves preceding it. Also, it will take months to master a perfect roll hence, choose an area that has grass surface or a soft carpet for initial practice. Further, decide on which side (right or left) you will take the roll. Here, we have chosen right side for the purpose of explanation.
Now, when you hit the ground after a jump or a sprint, look for the correct spot to place your hands as correct placement of hands will only give you a perfect roll. As we have assumed the roll on right, the hands are supposed to be placed slightly on the left side. This will offer space for the right shoulder to be placed correctly enhancing the rolling movement. Then, to exit the roll, it is important to tuck in your left leg and make space for the right leg to position itself. Once you get right leg in the correct position, you will exit the roll efficiently and continue to take the next move with forward momentum from the roll.
Jumping is an integral part of most parkour moves. Hence working on your jumping skills is of utmost importance while learning the basics of parkour. The apparatus that is useful to practice basic up and down jumping can be a bench or even the stairs. To begin with, jump from ground level with both your feet and try to land on the object with proper control of the body. Then jump back to the ground with both the feet, again with a controlled landing. Once you get a hang of this skill, try out a jump with one foot leading another. Keep changing the leading foot to balance the skill for both feet.
When you become a pro in this skill, try taking a small run up and take the jump while running. Practice it for several times and once you get it perfect, choose objects that are at a higher level and challenging to jump on. Repeat the jumping skill with both feet and then with one leading foot. Lastly, choose a series of several objects and jump on and off these objects in a flow maintaining control of the body.
After learning the basic jumping skills, it’s time now to learn to dodge the obstacles by jumping or leaping over them. The most important rule in this move is to jump over an object without touching it or stopping or slowing down anywhere during the move. The objects that you chose to jump on can be a good option for jumping over as well. There are two important aspects of jumping over obstacles- taking a horizontal jump to clear long objects and taking vertical jump to pass tall objects.
While jumping over any object, lead with one foot ahead of the other, lift both feet to clear the obstacle and keep running after landing. After getting a good practice of this basic skill you can combine several advanced moves with it and beautify your parkour maneuver.
For beginners, training always starts from ground level. It is important to move efficiently on the ground with the hands and feet. A quadrupedal movement is one move that helps you become fast and swift while moving on the floor. It is the movement of crawling forward on all fours with fluency and efficiency, which forms a physical conditioning exercise as well as a practical parkour technique. While attempting a basic quadrupedal move, there are certain things to be focused on.
To begin with, it should be practiced on floor. The hands should be placed shoulder width apart, the back parallel to the floor and knees off the ground. The toes should touch the floor forming a cat like position. Once, into the appropriate position, start moving forward with alternating hand and leg. When left hand comes forward, the right leg should move at the same time and vice versa. Since it is the basic move do not stretch yourself too far or crowd by bringing the knees too close to the body. Also, avoid touching the knees to the ground and keep them at same distance from the floor every time. This movement is incorporated in parkour training not only for increasing physiological balance but also because of its ability to coordinate mind and body, which increases mental awareness and overall body control.
It is a very useful parkour technique in circumstances where there are small gaps between the railings or similar objects. These obstacles can be cleared by just “swinging through” them instead of clearing them over the top. For practicing this move choose a metal railing that has a gap, which will allow you a decent swing through it. Do not choose a very tall railing as it will increase the comfort level and decrease the challenge.
Once you have finalized your training object, approach it with a medium paced run up with your eyes on the bar, where you will place your hands. When you are 3 to 4 feet away from the object, jump with one foot leading another while the hands reach out to hold the bar. Then, the following leg will also join the leading one and the position will look like you are sitting straight legged in the air with hands stretched forward. Once you grip the bar, try to pull yourself immediately through the gap. As you pull yourself, direct the legs upwards to allow your backside to clear the gap without hitting the bottom side of the railing. Similarly, lay back so that the torso will clear the obstacle with ease. To make it a more detailed practice session, break the move in steps- initially, place your legs on the bottom of the rail and then pull yourself. This will make your body familiar with the positions you will fall into, during the move, which will give clarity and smoothness to the entire movement.
This move forms a base for a wall run, which is incorporated in advanced parkour skills. The traceur becomes not only physically strong but also develops tremendous mind and body coordination and excellent overall control on the body. As with other moves, here also choice of apparatus or object is important since you are a beginner. Ensure that the wall is neither too high nor too low, to give you a decent climb. Even the texture of the wall should not be too slimy or too rough as it will either make you slip during the climb or hurt you with its roughness.
Once you are done with the selection of the wall, start approaching the wall with small strides and when you are a little closer, jump while placing the ball of your foot on the wall. Immediately, support yourself by touching one hand to the wall. Decide which leg you are going to use to lead the jump. If you are using left leg then the hand that will support you will be the right hand. Then put your left hand on top (horizontal surface) of the wall followed by the right hand. Place both feet with the balls against the wall, which will give you a cat leap position. Now try to push yourself up with the arms and once you get into an upright position, climb the wall surface and start running.
Wall spin is a unique parkour move because it does not help you overcome an obstacle but adds beauty and flair to your parkour repertoire. Many beginners find this wall trick difficult to learn since they are afraid of turning themselves upside down. Hence, there are diverse opinions about considering it a basic parkour move. To get a correct wall spin it is important to have mastered the palm spin technique. If palm spin is not acquired properly, it is hard to perform a wall spin with confidence. After that the wall chosen for the spin should have a proper grip. A very smooth wall may cause your hands to slip during the spin.
After choosing an ideal wall, approach it with a slow run up and jump off the ground with the hands reaching out to touch the wall. Like palm spin, your left hand should be turned away in the downward direction. Then tuck in your legs, spin around the left hand and taking the right hand off the wall jump on the balls of your feet, gently. Please note that instructions will get reversed if you are taking a spin from other side.
It is a move used to land on the vertical side of a wall, fence or a ledge. It is called a cat leap because the traceur uses both the hands as well as the feet to land on the object, like a cat. The hands while landing need to be placed on the top of the object while the feet go against the wall in front of the traceur. Hence it is extremely important to choose an object that has a solid top surface to place the hands.
From a little distance, jump with the hands in a slightly leading position. When you come in contact with the wall, plant your hands on top, arms bent and bottom of your feet against the wall. Keep repeating this move until you get a hang of it and once you become confident, try pushing yourself up to stand on the wall. To make it more challenging, increase the distance from where you jump to the wall.
It is an important move to be learned during parkour training because it not only helps clear an object but also cover more distance. It is similar to monkey vault, but is more difficult because the focus is on gaining distance rather than just clearing the object. It is useful to clear larger and longer objects like large barriers. A ledge with a landing of grass or a picnic table placed on grass are great options for practicing this vault.
If you look at the images, you will understand that firstly, you will have to jump off with both feet, hips coming up to the head level as if you are diving. Then your hands should reach out to hold the ledge and while doing so, legs should be tucked in completely. Try to place the hands as far on the object as possible, to obtain more distance. Push off the ledge surface with arms as hard as you can and at the same time carry the legs up and over the ledge. Release the hands and extend the legs out for landing. Do not tuck out the legs while on the ledge as it may obstruct the move and you may end up hurting yourself.
As the name says, it is the laziest vault in parkour because it requires least amount of energy and can be performed very easily and efficiently. One can easily fly over rails, ledges and similar objects using this parkour move. However, it is important to learn the technique to be used to perform this vault to avoid falling and hurting. For explanatory purposes we have chosen the right side for vaulting; change the instructions if you are trying a vault on the left.
There are four crucial steps to be followed to get a perfect lazy vault. First, approach the object with medium pace and when close, jump with right leg, placing right hand on the object. At the same time kick off the left leg up and across the object and tuck in the right leg to prevent it from hitting the object. Now, when you overcome the obstacle, bring your backside parallel to the ground with the left hand naturally touching the object for support. When you clear the object completely, land on the left leg, release hands and run forward.
Speed vault is another move that is often practiced by the traceurs. It teaches you coordination, balance, strength, creativity and body control. In this method the traceurs launch themselves over a wall without reducing or decreasing speed. Traceurs approach a wall with speed, keep their one hand on the wall to gain support and jump sideways to cross the wall. While jumping, hand on the wall is not placed with great impact, rather casually to gain support and then throw the body sideways.
Parkour moves must be practiced under safety guidance and traceurs must ensure that their health and fitness is not challenged in this sport. While excellent physique and endurance power are gifts of parkour training, overdoing them may result in injuries.