Parkour is awesome.
If you know what parkour is, no doubt you agree. If you don’t here is the one-minute synopsis:
Parkour was developed as the discipline of moving from point A to point B in the most efficient manner possible. For the last 20 years, people have built on the original practice to include all sorts of aesthetically pleasing movements which aren’t strictly efficient, like flips and somersaults. Today, parkour exists as the intersection of personal expression, economy of movement, and personal mastery. And it has gained worldwide popularity thanks to how awesome it is – take for instance, these guys scaling buildings in London.
As a parkour practitioner (or traceur) and business owner I’m often asked, “What is the best way to learn parkour?”
The truth is, there are many ways, and parkour can be a very free or very expensive hobby depending on how you go about learning. This run down will give you an idea of which style of learning is best for you.
Just last year parkour gyms were only available to people living in major metropolitan areas. As parkour’s popularity grows, even sleepy suburbs are hosting some great facilities and gyms are becoming a more and more viable option for more people.
Gyms can be expensive. I’ve seen prices of $140 per month for use of facilities which typically includes access to as many classes as you like after work. Not exactly cheap.
The instruction is superb. I’ve trained with both Primal Fitness (indoor) and NYPK (outdoor) and the passion and skill of the instructors is top notch. The instructors can correct mistakes you make in real time and dramatically reduce the time it takes to learn. You can also count on them to quash any bad habits that might lead to injury down the road (like not getting your knees up when konging!)
American Parkour has a fantastic list of gyms to help you find one in your area.
How-to guides are a great way to get professional level instruction on a budget. A how-to parkour DVD instructed by a one of most accomplished traceurs in the U.S. will cost you only $30.
The downside of a how-to-guide compared to a gym is that you can’t get personalized training. The instruction is fantastic and will pre-emptively troubleshoot a lot of common issues, but nothing compares to real time feedback. These types of guides are best suited for those who are comfortable owning their practice once they have been taught the basics. If you tend to need a personal trainer to get things done at the gym, this option may not be for you.
How-to-guides tend to place emphasis on indoor preparation for outdoor movements. So you’ll practice your parkour squat inside, but you won’t be leaping objects until you’re outside (we hope!)
Ask just about any traceur where they got their start in parkour and you can bet dimes to dollars they’ll respond with “YouTube.” It’s no wonder that there is a world of resources at parkour’s unofficial home.
While there is a ton of great, free content on YouTube finding a robust walkthrough for beginners can be difficult. Ryan Doyle produced an excellent roll tutorial, which is perfect for novices (though it does move to advanced rolls VERY quickly).
One danger I’ve seen from up-and-coming traceurs who watch too much YouTube is that they are immediately interested in dangerous movements. Parkour is NOT about putting yourself in unnecessarily risky situations; it’s about pushing your edge safely and wisely. Focus on the basics and stay safe.
Go to a parkour gym if you want expert, hands on training at a premium price.
Check out a parkour training guide if you want expert, at home training for a modest price.
Use YouTube if you’d rather teach yourself and are mainly looking for inspiration.
– Charlie Houpert is the founder of BC-X Parkour. He has been practicing parkour since 2010. His favorite vault is the kong.