man performing parkour move in air jumping

What’s the Difference between Parkour and Freerunning?

People who are interested in running sports often wonder what the difference between parkour and freerunning means. These two activities are related to each other yet aren’t the same as some people might think. The main difference between parkour and freerunning lies in the philosophy and the type of movements you perform.

Therefore, if you are interested in trying out one of these sports, it is essential to understand the core difference between parkour and freerunning. There is a good chance that one of these might appeal to you while the other may not. However, you can succeed at both if you understand the underlying philosophies behind them.

man performing parkour move in air jumping

The Difference between Parkour and Freerunning

A Look at Parkour

Parkour is a French word that originated in the late 1980s. This was when Raymond and David Belle wanted to develop new ways of interacting with their environment. Many of their breakthroughs were expanded on by a player known only as Yamasaki. The three of them were able to create a coherent philosophy that drives the sport to interesting places.

The Main Philosophy of Parkour

Parkour is designed to be a new way of interacting with an urban environment. The creators of parkour believed that people in urban environments were confined and constrained by city sprawl. They saw how city dwellers stopped enjoying their space the same way that people in a rural area do. As a result, they felt stuck in their environment and didn’t have the same kind of connection with their everyday surroundings as a farmer may have with his fields.

As a result, the driving philosophy behind parkour can be defined as expanding your interaction with your urban environment. Instead of thinking of a building or a sidewalk as a human-made tool, you can interact with these items in novel ways. For example, you can run up the side of a building to explore its texture. You can also slide across a sidewalk to experience it in a new way.

teenage boy in black and white performing parkour jumping high next to a glass building

Competition Is Fierce

The rather open nature of parkour means that competition is often quite fierce. People often spend hours practicing their routines to be the best at what they do. That’s part of why there are many different ideas on what makes a person great at parkour. Some say that a routine must be difficult to be worthwhile. Others claim that imagination and novelty are more important than pure difficulty level.

For example, a typical parkour routine could include jumping on a handrail, sliding down it part way, leaping in the air to grab a lamp post, swinging from the post to the ground, rolling across the green surface of a park, and balancing on the edge of a ledge. Elegance and grace of motion are emphasized here. Moving effortlessly from one pose to a next is crucial for parkour success.

It is also important to remember that many of parkour’s actions were developed from military movements and concepts. Both the Belles and Yamasaki took weapon-avoidance techniques and adapted them to their environment. As a result, parkour training requires often a more structured and demanding technique than freerunning. At this point, it is worth talking about the difference between parkour and freerunning more in-depth.

How Freerunning Differs from Parkour

teenage boy jumping from one heap to another to exercise freerunning in nature

When discussing the difference between parkour and freerunning, it is important to understand the philosophy behind the second activity. Freerunning was started by Sebastian Foucan in 2003 as a way of making parkour more inclusive to a larger number of people. Rather than focusing on strict movements inspired by military discipline, Foucan sought to expand the sport to include tricks and aesthetic movements.

By bringing in a looser set of movements and a more open philosophy, Foucan hoped to attract more people to these adrenaline-pumping activities. Like the Belles, he wanted people to break free from the shackles of their urban environment. However, he emphasized a more fun-loving style that may clash with the stricter concepts of parkour.

The Origins of Freerunning

Many of Foucan’s initial ideas were influenced by martial artists like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. The idea was to take a few aspects of the sport that he liked and expand them into a more coherent package. The main difference between parkour and freerunning is that the latter is less structured and makes room for flashier moves. It’s okay to show off a little with freerunning.

For example, people who participate in freerunning are encouraged to make bold moves that could easily fail if not handled correctly. The idea here is to get a participant to feel confident and to interact with their environment in new ways. A full 360-degree spin is something a freerunner may try to perform off of a park bench. A parkour participant may find such a display too flashy.

Choosing between the Two

When deciding on whether parkour or freerunning is right for you, it is important to focus on their differences. As mentioned above, parkour is a more rigid and structured type of environment exploration. While you are still free to explore your environment and innovate new movements, you must typically use gestures and concepts in a specific manner.

Freerunning allows you a little more room to experiment. It gives you the leeway to be flashier. That said, it may lack the kind of stricter structure that parkour brings to the sport. As a result, it can be harder to gauge or evaluate a performance of freerunning than it is to judge parkour. That said, the primary movements and concepts behind both sports are so similar that it would be easy to transition between them.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the difference between parkour and freerunning is centered on a variety of aspects. While it is pretty simple to get started with freerunning, parkour requires a little more work. However, the latter activity is usually considered more of a challenge for the runner.

Therefore, if you are interested in these activities, you can use the information about the difference between parkour and freerunning to make an informed decision. And if you know someone who is curious about the difference between parkour and freerunning, please share this article with them.

Image source: 1, 2, 3

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply: