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Lions Roar : May 2014
P arKour is a coMplete discipline, not to be confused with what young people call tricking or, say, skateboarding or break dancing. That being said, the aesthetics are sometimes underestimated by beginners. Just look at the pioneers of the discipline in action to see how graceful their move- ments are. These artistic athletes know that elegance is often a reflection of the control of movement. The aesthetic is not the primary purpose of the practice, but comfort begets fluidity, which begets beauty. Some practitioners see their art as a means of personal fulfillment. They do it in order to face their fears; to get to know themselves more intimately; to improve in how they relate to other people; to get to the essence of things; to see that obstacles, of whatever kind, are an integral part of life and offer many opportunities for advancement. Parkour is not just a physical discipline; it also helps develop social skills and inner qualities. It leads to a sense of universal responsibility and a sense of ethics, a quiet confidence and joy, a practical wisdom. This is the spirit of chivalry in an urban setting. A spiritual path for the modern samurai, but in the service of the heart, not the dictatorship of ego. It’s easy to imagine what some of the young people who engage in parkour are thinking about when they say they like parkour for the feeling of “freedom” that it provides. you can jump this way or that way, climb up any wall you encounter, and nobody can stop you. you’re even in the best position to get away from the cops. But true freedom is above all a state of mind. A mind that is free from disturb- ing emotions, harmful habits, the comfort of false beliefs, and any and all illusions, especially those relating to one’s own identity. People who achieve this state will always be free, no matter the circumstances in which they find themselves. With some judicious training (and this has nothing to do with technical compe- tence), parkour can help develop a sense of inner freedom in relation to a sense of freedom in the world. It creates a link between being comfortable with the way our thoughts flow and being comfortable with the way we move our bodies. Parkour mainly involves learning how to move physically, but to move in an efficient, safe, smooth, and, if that is your goal, artistic way, you must be in harmony with your environment. At its optimal level, this harmony with the surrounding environ- ment is only possible if one is vigilant, patient, open, sensitive, and courageous— not qualities of the body but rather of the heart and mind. With greater control of our bodies, nothing to prove to others, and armed with a whole palette of techniques, we’ll be able to take everyday obstacles in stride, con- template entirely new horizons, and change our perspective when the need arises. All this provides a tremendous sense of freedom. Of course, true parkour artists are careful not to become too impressed with their own capabilities. Passing over a 3.6-meter wall should not be a source of any more pride than that felt by a fish that knows it can swim upstream.