Parkour vs. Freerunning: What’s the Difference?

Parkour vs. Freerunning: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to urban athletic disciplines, the terms "parkour" and "freerunning" are often used interchangeably, but they are not synonymous. Understanding the distinction between the two can greatly enrich your knowledge and appreciation of these high-energy activities. In this article, we will explore the differences between parkour and freerunning, including their origins, techniques, and philosophies. Whether you are a curious beginner or a seasoned enthusiast, this comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights into the unique aspects of parkour and freerunning.


Definition of Parkour

Parkour is a physical discipline that involves navigating through obstacles quickly and efficiently using only the human body. It is a non-competitive activity that focuses on developing one’s physical and mental abilities to overcome various challenges in urban environments or natural settings. The primary goal of parkour is to move from one point to another in the most efficient way possible, utilizing techniques such as running, jumping, climbing, and vaulting.

Key Skills and Techniques in Parkour

Parkour requires a combination of strength, agility, balance, and spatial awareness. Some of the key skills and techniques involved in parkour include:

  1. Precision Jumping: This technique involves accurately jumping from one point to another, often landing on narrow surfaces or small ledges.

  2. Wall Running: Wall running is the act of running up a wall, using the momentum to propel oneself higher or to reach another obstacle.

  3. Cat Leap: A cat leap is a technique used to bridge the gap between two surfaces that are too far apart to jump. It involves jumping forward, extending the arms, and grabbing onto the target surface to pull oneself up.

  4. Rolling: Rolling is a fundamental technique in parkour that helps absorb impact and maintain momentum after landing from a jump or drop. It minimizes the risk of injury and allows for a smooth transition into the next movement.

  5. Climbing: Parkour practitioners often need to climb over walls, fences, or other obstacles. Efficient climbing techniques involve using the arms and legs to propel oneself upwards while maintaining balance.

History of Parkour

Parkour originated in the late 1980s in France and was developed by a group of friends known as the Yamakasi. They were inspired by various physical disciplines, including military obstacle course training and gymnastics. The term "parkour" itself derives from the French word "parcours," meaning "route" or "course."

One of the founding figures of parkour is David Belle, who popularized the discipline through his impressive movements and philosophy. Parkour gained international recognition in the early 2000s through videos and films showcasing its unique and dynamic nature.

Parkour continues to evolve and adapt as more practitioners contribute their own styles and techniques to the discipline. It has now become a global phenomenon, with communities and training facilities dedicated to promoting the practice and its principles of self-improvement, discipline, and overcoming obstacles.

In conclusion, parkour is a physical discipline that emphasizes efficient and creative movement through urban or natural environments. It requires a combination of physical skills and mental focus, and its history can be traced back to the late 1980s in France. With its emphasis on self-improvement and adaptability, parkour has become a popular and respected discipline worldwide.


Definition of Freerunning

Freerunning is a form of athletic expression that combines elements of acrobatics, gymnastics, and parkour. It is often described as a more creative and artistic version of parkour, where practitioners focus on self-expression and fluidity of movement. Unlike parkour, which emphasizes efficiency and speed in getting from point A to point B, freerunning encourages individuals to explore their environment and incorporate stylish tricks and flips into their movements.

Key Skills and Techniques in Freerunning

Freerunning involves a wide range of skills and techniques that require strength, agility, and flexibility. Some of the key skills and techniques in freerunning include:

  1. Vaults: Various types of vaults, such as the speed vault, kong vault, and lazy vault, are essential in freerunning. These techniques allow practitioners to overcome obstacles quickly and smoothly by using their hands to propel themselves over the obstacle.

  2. Flips and Tricks: Freerunning places a strong emphasis on acrobatic movements, including flips, twists, and spins. Practitioners learn techniques such as backflips, front flips, side flips, and aerials to add a dynamic and impressive element to their runs.

  3. Precision Jumps: Precision jumps involve accurately landing on a small target, such as a railing or ledge. Freerunners develop precise footwork and body control to execute these jumps with precision and ease.

  4. Wall Tricks: Freerunners often utilize walls as platforms for various tricks and movements. Techniques such as wall runs, wall flips, and wall spins are commonly seen in freerunning routines.

History of Freerunning

Freerunning originated in France in the late 1990s, with Sébastien Foucan being one of the pioneers of the sport. Foucan, along with other practitioners, sought to explore the creative potential of parkour and incorporate more artistic and expressive movements into their practice. They believed that parkour should not be limited to efficiency alone but should also embrace individual style and freedom of movement.

The term "freerunning" was coined by Foucan himself in 2003, emphasizing the freedom and creativity inherent in the discipline. Since then, freerunning has gained popularity worldwide, with dedicated communities and competitions emerging to showcase the skills and talents of freerunners.

In conclusion, freerunning is a dynamic and artistic discipline that builds upon the foundations of parkour. It allows practitioners to express themselves through fluid and creative movements, incorporating acrobatics, flips, and tricks into their runs. With a rich history and a wide range of skills and techniques, freerunning continues to captivate audiences and inspire individuals to push the boundaries of their physical abilities.

Differences between Parkour and Freerunning

Philosophy and Purpose

Parkour and freerunning may appear similar at first glance, but they have distinct philosophies and purposes. Parkour, originally developed by David Belle, focuses on efficiency, speed, and overcoming obstacles in the most direct way possible. It emphasizes the practical application of movement in real-life scenarios, such as efficiently navigating urban environments or escaping dangerous situations. Parkour practitioners aim to develop physical and mental strength, discipline, and adaptability.

On the other hand, freerunning, a discipline influenced by parkour, places more emphasis on creativity and self-expression. Sebastien Foucan, one of the founders of freerunning, introduced a more artistic approach to movement. Freerunners incorporate acrobatics, flips, and other flashy techniques into their routines, often using obstacles as opportunities for artistic expression. The purpose of freerunning is to push the boundaries of movement and explore one’s personal style and creativity.

Stylistic Differences

In terms of style, parkour and freerunning have noticeable differences. Parkour movements are generally more efficient and focused on reaching the destination as quickly as possible. Practitioners prioritize fluidity, precision, and economy of motion. Their movements are characterized by efficient jumps, rolls, vaults, and climbs, with an emphasis on maintaining momentum and minimizing wasted energy.

Freerunning, on the other hand, is characterized by a more acrobatic and flashy style. Freerunners incorporate flips, spins, and other complex tricks into their movements, often adding a flair of showmanship. While efficiency is still important in freerunning, it takes a backseat to creativity and personal expression. Freerunners aim to impress and entertain with their movements, creating visually stunning sequences that captivate audiences.

Influence and Evolution

Both parkour and freerunning have had a significant influence on each other’s evolution. Parkour, originating from military obstacle course training, laid the foundation for freerunning. As freerunning emerged, it incorporated elements of parkour but expanded its scope to include more artistic and acrobatic movements. Freerunning brought a new dimension to the discipline, inspiring parkour practitioners to explore their creative potential and incorporate more expressive movements into their practice.

Over time, the line between parkour and freerunning has become blurred, with many practitioners incorporating elements from both disciplines into their routines. This blending has led to the development of a hybrid discipline known as "freerunning parkour" or "freestyle parkour," which combines the efficiency and practicality of parkour with the creativity and acrobatics of freerunning.

In conclusion, while parkour and freerunning share similarities, they have distinct philosophies, purposes, styles, and influences. Parkour focuses on efficiency and practicality, aiming to overcome obstacles in the most direct way possible, while freerunning embraces creativity and self-expression, incorporating acrobatics and artistic movements. The evolution of both disciplines has influenced each other, resulting in a blend of styles known as freerunning parkour.

In conclusion, while parkour and freerunning share similar origins and philosophies, there are distinct differences between the two disciplines. Parkour focuses on efficiency, practicality, and overcoming obstacles in the most direct and efficient way possible. On the other hand, freerunning incorporates more artistic and acrobatic movements, allowing for self-expression and creativity. While both disciplines require physical strength, agility, and mental focus, individuals may choose one over the other based on their personal preferences and goals. Ultimately, whether you prefer the precision and practicality of parkour or the creativity and expression of freerunning, both offer unique and thrilling experiences for those who dare to defy gravity.