History of Parkour & Freerunning

In 1902, a volcano blew its top on the Caribbean island of Martinique. A French naval officer, Lt. Georges Hébert valiantly coordinated the rescue and escape of over 700 people from the scene, both indigenous and European.
The experience had a profound effect on him as he watched people move, well or badly, around the obstacles in their path. The heroism and tragedy he witnessed on that day reinforced his belief that, to be of real value, athletic skill must be combined with courage and altruism, “Etre fort pour être utile” – “Be strong to be useful.”.
Having traveled extensively, Hébert was impressed by the physical development and movement skills of indigenous peoples in Africa and elsewhere,
and so created a physical training discipline that he called “the natural method” using climbing, running and man-made obstacle courses to recreate the natural environment.
His method soon became the basis for all French military training. Inspired by his work, French soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam developed what came to be known as, “parcours du combatant.”.
Years later, Raymond Belle, a former soldier in the French Special Forces, returned to his hometown of Lisses a suburban area of Paris,
where he introduced his son David to the discipline of le parcours du combatant and the teachings of Hebert.
It was David Belle who set out to combine what he had learned from his father with his knowledge of gymnastics and martial arts, and voilà…PARKOUR was born.

David Belle

Belle and then best friend, Sebastian Foucan established a group of traceurs (originally, people who practice Parkour) called the Yamakazi.
As the first organized group of tracers the Yamakasi began to develop a following in France that came to include filmmaker Luc Besson. Besson’s film “The Yamakasi” accelerated the growth of Parkour.
It was also around that time that Sebastian began to go his own way starting what he called “Freerunning” which differed from strict Parkour
in that it wasn’t just about the fastest way from point A to point B but also about how creative the movement could be.
From the late 90s onward, the underground movement continued to spread worldwide with Belle and Foucan at the helm of their respective followers, giving interviews, booking TV and film appearances, and guiding fans with their thoughts on competition and the philosophies of the sport.
In 2003, British filmmaker Mike Christie’s JUMP LONDON, followed by JUMP BRITAIN in 2005, depicted the growth of the sport on the streets of the UK’s largest city, where teams like URBAN FREEFLOW further developed their style of Freerunning, and began to dominate the London scene.

Sebastian Foucan

In 2004, David Belle re-appeared in French film Banlieu 13, which gained something of a cult following outside of France. But it wasn’t until Sebastian Foucan’s appearance in the awesome opening chase scene of the James Bond film CASINO ROYALE in 2006 that audiences around the world started to realize that something new and really exciting was afoot!
In that same year, the Madonna CONFESSIONS Tour and video further established Parkour in the public consciousness, with Sebastian, Levi Meuwenberg and Victor Lopez and Oleg Vorslav as featured performers.
Finally, it was with the sudden game-changing arrival of YouTube in 2005, allowing freerunners all over the world to post their videos and share their latest discoveries, that the movement truly went global.
What took the skateboarding Z-Boys 20 years to accomplish in bringing their sport to the mainstream, the young practitioners of Parkour did almost overnight.
In the years since, new leaders and pioneers have emerged who do not necessarily identify with Belle or Foucan and do not define themselves as following either Parkour or Freerunning. They simply call themselves Traceurs or more often Freerunners or just simply athletes who have studied the disciplines of Parkour and Freerunning to hone their apparently super-human skills.
Daniel Ilabaca and Ryan Doyle along with teams like 3Run in the UK and APK and Team Tempest in the US have further spread the sport and the message of Parkour, through their websites, classes, and appearances, on-screen and off.
In October of 2007, The RED BULL ART OF MOTION in Vienna was the first major competition around Parkour and Freerunning held anywhere in the world.
First place was taken by Airborn athlete Ryan Doyle, with Tempest athletes, Victor Lopez and Gabe Nunez tying for second, and Air Wipp athlete Marcus Gustavsson taking third.
Doyle experienced a bad leg break on his third and final round, reminding everyone that this was indeed a sport that entails considerable risk,
and giving some justification to those who did and do believe that competition could have a negative impact on the sport and movement.
In September 2008 in London, the still powerful Urban Freeflow team, in partnership with Barclaycard, staged the first World Freerun Championship http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YG-eC7mFtXE which was won by Tempest athlete Gabe Nunez. Second and third place were taken by Tim “Livewire” Shieff and Ben “Jenx” Jenkin, respectively.