By Paul van Kaldenkerken
Parkour was born out of a curious inquiry: How can a body move through the environment? These environments were usually public lands: the forests of Sarcelles or the public spaces of Lisses and Evry. The group later known as the Yamakasi researched this simple question for years, pushing their own boundaries, merciless in their pursuit. What they and the growing worldwide community of practitioners developed soon became more and more standardized into ‘moves’ and ‘techniques’, it became a form.
I want to highlight the importance of the underlying process.
Parkour is an inquiry into the question how my body can move through the environment.
Putting this question at the heart of Parkour captures a focus on speed, efficiency as well as a more curious version based around challenges and even expressive forms known under the label of freerunning. They all emerge from the same question. When practiced with this question in mind, external motivations to impress, to compare or to conquer fade away. It’s a research based on individual starting points. Who is best at Parkour? Maybe the one asking the most interesting questions. Certainly not the one who makes it through a set course the fastest or earns the most points in a competition.
The form, moves, sensations, techniques and relationships with the environment can all be taken as a definition of the discipline rather than the physical questioning from which they spring. Especially after some years of practice we habituate certain patterns, we follow conventions from the paths that we and others have explored.
If Parkour is the image of what Parkour looks like, or an agreement on a set of prescribed movements, however numerous and however graceful they may be, that proposition is finite. If Parkour is the physical act of posing a question about ones own present circumstance, then the work is ever expansive, infinite and has applications well beyond itself.
Are you engaged in a curious dialogue with yourself and the environment or do you try to impose your view of Parkour onto it?
What image of Parkour do you have?
Is it a process or a form?
Inspired by Malcolm Manning and Daniel Lepkoff’s 2008 essay ‚Contact improvisation: a question‘ (http://daniellepkoff.com/writings/CI%20A%20question.php)