December 17, 2010

Freerunning - Urban Acrobatics

Free running or freerunning is a form of urban acrobatics in which participants, known as free runners, use the city and rural landscape to perform movements through its structures. It incorporates efficient movements from parkour, adds aesthetic vaults and other acrobatics, such as tricking and street stunts, creating an athletic and aesthetically pleasing way of moving. It is commonly practiced at gymnasiums and in urban areas (such as cities or towns) that are cluttered with obstacles.

The term free running was coined during the filming of Jump London, as a way to present parkour to the English-speaking world. However, the term free running has come to represent a separate, distinct concept to parkour — a distinction which is often missed due to the aesthetic similarities. Parkour as a discipline emphasizes efficiency, whilst free running embodies complete freedom of movement — and includes many acrobatic maneuvers. Although the two are often physically similar, the mindsets of each are vastly different.

The founder and creator of Free running Sébastien Foucan defines free running as a discipline to self development, following your own way, which he developed because he felt that parkour lacked enough creativity and self-expression as a definition of each free-runner to follow your own way.


Free running was inspired by Parkour and embraces elements of tricking and street stunts, which are considered by the parkour community to be inefficient and not parkour. They may jump building to building, scale walls, and a lot of other maneuvers that they perform. Initially, the term "free running" was used by Channel 4 in their documentaries called 'Jump London' and 'Jump Britain' in an attempt to "translate" the word parkour to the English speaking people. Although Free running is a slightly different sport as it is not all about efficiency and is more about an art and finding your own way (be it the use of acrobatics, parkour, etc.). Also, one of the world-wide recognized founders of parkour, Sebastien Foucan said that free running is more about finding your own way, and free running is what he called his own way. However, as free runners became interested in aesthetics as well as useful movement, the two became different disciplines. The term Freerunning was created by Guillaume Pelletier and embraced by Sebastien Foucan to describe his "way" of doing parkour. Foucan summarizes the goals of Freerunning as using the environment to develop yourself and to always keep moving and not go backwards.

While Freerunning and parkour share many common techniques, they have a fundamental difference in philosophy and intention. The main aim of parkour is the ability to quickly access areas that would otherwise be inaccessible and the ability to escape pursuers, which means the main intention is to clear their objects as efficiently as they can, while Freerunning emphasizes self development by "following your way". Foucan frequently mentions "following your way" in interviews, and the Jump documentaries. He explains that everyone has their way of doing parkour and they shouldn't follow someone elses way of doing it, instead they should do it their way. Freerunning is commonly misinterpreted as being solely focused on aesthetics and the beauty of a certain vault, jump, etc. Although a lot of free runners choose to focus on aesthetics, that is just "their way", the goal however is still self development. In Freerunning you may employ movements of your choosing. You might also do certain movements solely for their aesthetic value and the challenge of execution. Freerunning is essentially complete freedom of movement.

It must be noted that not one of the founders and developers of the discipline, apart from Foucan, see two separate disciplines in parkour and freerunning. L'Art du deplacement, the original name, was practiced by the founders in the same way as it is practiced today by those same individuals. The discipline was not originally about 'moving from A to B' but rather was a way of testing oneself physically and mentally, to see if one was 'strong' (hence the Lingala term Yamakasi meaning 'strong man, strong spirit'). Parkour Generations, the largest global collective of first and second generation traceurs, explains in several articles and video interviews that while acrobatics is indeed a separate practice, Parkour, Freerunning and L'Art du Deplacement are all different names of this discipline.


Another contentious issue that may either continue to make a rift between the parkour and the free running communities or possibly strengthen their bond is the idea of professional and amateur competition. From the start the parkour community has been always against the idea of serious competition as it violates the foundations of the philosophy of parkour. Sebastien Foucan mentions in an interview that although they do hold competitions, he doesn't like competition, and it's not "his way", but it may be someone else's "way".

The perceived conflict between free running and parkour occurred when the term parkour was translated as free running for the English-speaking public, and the misconception arose that they were separate disciplines. Some state that free running is a variation on parkour, and that the definitions are interchangeable. This argument has validity due to the fact that the creators never specifically defined the disciplines as "separate". However, free running does employ superfluous movements which would seem to be in conflict with the original ideology of parkour.


Injury from my first ever free-running style of run



25 comments:

  1. ahhahaha, i love the last paragraph.

    freerunning is pretty cool, not as much fun when you are trying to go out to do it, theres a lot more downtime haha.

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  2. tons of respect. how'd you get that scrape on your knee?

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  3. @stm

    I tried to do a WallSpin and the funny part is that I did exactly what he said not to do in the tutorial :

    http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Perform-a-Wall-Spin-172534265

    Check out at 0:44, this is how I hurt myself!

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  4. I kinda get annoyed by videos that have too much editing to make it look cooler or more dramatic.

    I always assumed free running and parkour were the same thing.

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  5. The first time I saw this was in a car ad a few years ago, anyone who does this is in very good shape!

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  6. Wow that is hectic...wish I was that athletic

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  7. I *love* parkour. I'm just an amateur myself. Gotten too lazy lately, though. :/

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  8. I've always loved to watch people do both. Use to be able to do that when I was younger...haha. How does one go about learning it...any specific places I could go?

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  9. Freerunning is pretty cool. I definitely respect those athletes!

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  10. I wonder how many years of practice it takes to be able to do this like in those movies

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  11. this might seem like just running but it requires great strength and agility man. love this sport

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  12. @kwile

    You should start off in a gymnasium and once you masterized some flips, just go outside and find some spots with grass or sand neaby. A park or a beach is where you should start practicing.

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  13. Man you have massive balls to do this. I would take a @$%^ myself doing this >_<

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  14. i love this shit. takes some real acrobatic skills. just wondering if your gonna cover urban exploration, would that be covered under this category? also, great vids, and thanks for the supportive comment

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  15. That's intense... It'd be so easy to hurt yourself pretty badly though.

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  16. I think I'll stick to playing Mirror's Edge in my basement.

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  17. @Bart

    Many, but not all, of the activities associated with urban exploration could be considered trespassing or other violations of local or regional laws.

    I might still check it out and post something about it later on since it seems interesting but since I'll run out of extreme sports one day and that the only other idea I got was to post stuff about some badass athletes, I'll keep some links in my bookmark!

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  18. @Joel C Anatoli

    I've answered to you question already. You should start in a gymnasium to avoid the injuries, check some online video tutorials which can easily be found and start practicing! Working out at a gym could also help you get in a better shape, which sure does help!

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  19. like watching it, but actually trying it? not so much.

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  20. Thats some crazy shit right there :)

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  21. The people who do this stuff are amazing athletes.

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