Have you ever seen an exciting chase scene in an action movie? Perhaps a police officer is chasing a suspect through the streets of a large city. They weave in and out of traffic and alleys, leaping over obstacles with ease.

Are such chases real? Or are they just movie magic? Although movie chase scenes may be carefully staged, would you believe there are people who can do those things in real life? It’s true!

Parkour is a non-competitive sport that involves efficient movement around obstacles. Participants — called traceurs (males) and traceuses (females) — move through an environment, such as city streets, by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping on, over or around obstacles.

The basic moves of parkour got their start long ago in the Eastern martial arts, like ninjutsu. In the 1920s, Georges Hébert began to teach these moves as part of French military training. Frenchman David Belle expanded on this work in the late 1980s when he founded the Yamakasi group, which was the first group dedicated to parkour.

The name “parkour” came from “le parcours,” which was the term David Belle’s father, Raymond Belle, used to describe his French military training. The classic obstacle course training method used by the French was known as “parcours du combattant.”

Parkour developed from a training method into a sport focused on gracefully overcoming obstacles within one’s path by adapting one’s movements to the environment. Parkour is as much art as it is sport, as creativity and vision are as important as physical conditioning and strength.

Although parkour moves may look like dangerous tricks, the discipline actually discourages reckless behavior and dangerous stunts. Instead, it focuses on safety and personal responsibility. The parkour moves that look so easy when performed by professionals are actually difficult moves that only come about successfully after lengthy training and practice.

Although its development largely occurred in France, parkour is now an international discipline with traceurs and traceuses practicing all over the world. In the English-speaking world, parkour was given another name: free-running.

Today, though, parkour and free-running are often considered two different disciplines. Parkour is more rigid in its focus on never moving backward and being practical and efficient. Free-running, on the other hand, allows moves in any direction purely for artistic purposes.

One of the primary goals of parkour remains self-improvement and freedom from obstacles—either physical or mental. Traceurs and traceuses train to improve both their physical and mental health, while learning to function independently in their environment without the constraints of society’s usual thinking.

111 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (62 votes, avg. 4.69 out of 5)
    • Hey there, Nicole H! We’re so glad you liked today’s Wonder– it was action-packed! We’ll see you soon for more WONDERing! :)

  1. WOW. That looks so fun! It’s so crazy how they can just run up walls and do flips in midair between jumps. I thought it was interesting how parkour was first used as moves for french military. Thank you for today’s wonder! It was really cool! :)

  2. I could most likely become a parkour if i could do a backflip and land it! I love doing dangerous stunts and flips so that would be a great sport for me. For example not to long ago I was doing hand stands with my friends at an afterschool program and I decided to do a stunt, so since there was a bench I dared myself to do a handstand over the bench and land it sitting on the bench so when I did it I did it correctly and showed everyone my stunt and they were surprised I even tried to do it!
    Sincerely Danielle :)

    • WOW, that’s great Danielle! I’m glad you were being safe while you tried your stunt– and it sounds like a success! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

  3. I do something like that because I’m a competitive cheerleader. I really liked today’s wonder. It was very intersting. I hope poeple out there are learning sonething cool today!

    • Thanks for your SUPER comment, Grace! We bet you can flip and jump just like we saw in the video! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

  4. Oh wow!! Those people are just like gymnasts. I also do gymnastics and think that many people think it’s impossible. But if you believe, you can do anything from jumping to flipping. Bingo!!! I think you should have a gymnastic themed wonder!!!!! I would love that!!!

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend (and gymnast) Cherry! We agree– parkour involves a lot of gymnastic moves! We bet you enjoy flipping and jumping at gymnastics– and we are glad you’re WONDERing with us, too! :)

  5. I remember watching Twilight and I can tell that by the way Alice moves she can do “free-running” and all of the other WEREWOLVES like Jacob, Sam, Jared, Paul, Quil, and Embry and since Taylor Lautner was Jacob and he was in Abduction he can do “free-running” too.!!!! ;)

    • Hi there, Stephannie! We’re glad you made a connection to our Wonder today with your favorite vampire movie! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  6. I love to parkour! I do it all the time, so I can relate to this Wonderopolis. And it was an awesome passage and video! I loved it!

    • We’re so glad to hear how much you enjoyed exploring this Wonder, Jared! We also think it’s awesome that you like to parkour! :-)

    • You bet, Max! We’re happy to hear from you today! Thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend and for letting us know you learned some cool new things about parkour! :-)

  7. It’s amazing how people can parkour. I have a game and the character, Connor, can parkour up trees, buildings and ships. Too bad Ubisoft calls it freerunning instead of parkour. Parkour sounds a whole lot better.

    • Hey there, Baconator! We’re so glad you’re familiar with parkour, or freerunning! We hope you learned something new, too! Have a SUPER day! :)

  8. I love this stuff! A kid in my class does this and he could do a back flip at recess. I really want to try this out! But me and my friend was joking that we might get hurt! :o But this was the best wonder EVER!

    • WOW, we’re so impressed with your Wonder classmate, Brighid! We hope you’ll be safe when it comes to trying new things… we know that those who participate in parkour have LOTS of practice in safe surroundings! Thanks for joining the fun today! :)

  9. I think that parkour would be so cool to be able to do flips and just jump around, and stuff. This was the best wonder ever out of the 7 that I watched remember my name is RILEY oh YEAH

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Riley! We are glad you enjoyed WONDERing with us about parkour– it’s so very interesting! Now, every time we watch a movie or a TV show with stunts, we will Wonder if the stunt double knows parkour?! :)

  10. It is so cool how they can do flips off walls and do a jump on to the side of the wall and climb up it to get to the other side. That was so cool how they did not get hurt. If I ever tried to do that I would fail. I would give that 5 stars. It is obvious that it is awesome.

    • We’re so impressed with the parkour skills, too, Kylie! We bet with some practice in a safe place (and with the help of an parkour instructor), you could learn something new! Thanks for giving this Wonder 5 stars– we’re sending you a virtual high 5! :)

    • We bet there have been some injuries during parkour, but we certainly hope everyone is okay in the end! We’re glad you enjoyed this Wonder, Danvid, and we hope you have a WONDERful day! :)

  11. It is so cool how they do flips off so many things and not get hurt. Also it was cool how they would run and climb up walls. Clearly parkour is the coolest wonder so far. I would give it 5 stars.

    • We’re so glad this is one of your favorite Wonder, Tarek! We think parkour is pretty impressive, too! Have a WONDERful weekend! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Graham! It’s fun when we learn something new, or think of something in a different way! It’s the coolest part of WONDERing! :)

    • Thanks for your WONDERful compliment, Brennan! We are so glad that you and your Wonder classmates visit us every Wednesday! WOHOO! :)

  12. Do any of you know any good videos that teach parkour for beginners? I feel I’d be good at it because in school I always jump into my desk and I’m always energetic.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Brennan! We are so happy that our parkour Wonder was right up your alley! We bet it would be cool to find a video or two that demonstrated parkour, but the best, and safest way, to learn parkour is to have an instructor guide you. We wouldn’t want you to get hurt! :) Talk to a parent or adult about your interest, and perhaps you can think of some ways to start training, or find a similar practice (like karate)! :)

    • There are lots of Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis– both boys and girls– Rene V! Thanks for asking! Have a SUPER day! :)

  13. I thought that the parkour video was very interesting. I learned a lot about parkour. I did not know that parkour was developed in the 1920’s. Also it made me want to take parkour lessons and become more physically active.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Elliott! We’re so glad you learned something new today about the cool skills of parkour! :)

    • We LOVE your enthusiasm, Evan! We think it’s amazing to Wonder about all the different parkour tricks– but we want all of our Wonder Friends to be safe when they practice! :)

    • Hey there, Huston! Thanks for sharing your comment about our parkour Wonder! We are very impressed with all the people in this Wonder video, too! We hope you have a great day, and you’re EXTRA careful when it comes to parkour! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Benman47! We are glad this Wonder made you smile, and we hope you’re being SUPER safe! We want our Wonder Friends to have a great time, safely! :-)

    • We Wonder if you have been practicing parkour for a while, Ashton? It sounds like you are really enthusiastic about it! :) Thanks for sharing your cool Wonder comment with us– we look forward to WONDERing with you more! :)

  14. Hello once again wonderopolis I love parkour and I am thinking to look forward to my friend Willy to make a parkour video.

    • Promise us you’ll be careful, Wonder Friend Benman47! We bet it will be great! We are happy this Wonder makes you smile! :)

  15. Hi I don’t mean to be interrupted 3 times already and since I am 15 do you know how to put a video on here? Please leave a coment soon thank you for your time wonderopolis.

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend Benman47! We are so glad you’re excited to share videos with us! At the time, only those of us at Wonderopolis can upload videos! However, you can share your video with us by emailing hello@Wonderopolis.org! Thanks for asking, Benman47! :)

  16. Hi. Ms. Fleenor’s class and I enjoyed this short film. I love parkour. It has so much agility and integrity in it. It takes a lot of skill to do this. Thanks Wonderopolis for making this reply back when you get this.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Kristin! Thanks for telling us how much you enjoyed WONDERing about parkour! We LOVE the words you used to describe the skill of parkour– agility and integrity! Thanks for sharing your SUPER comment with us, we look forward to WONDERing with you again soon! :)

  17. Hello wonderopolis I have decided to make a video on here I have practicing a lot! And thanks for telling me how to upload a video.

    • We’re so thrilled to know that you’ve been WONDERing even more about parkour, Benman47! We want you to be safe! Keep up the great work! :)

  18. That is so cool how they do that? How can they do all that with out breaking their legs or I should say getting hurt?

    • It takes lots of practice, safe practice, to become a skilled traceur, or parkour participant. Similar to gymnasts who practice for years and years, it takes lots of patience, practice and self-discipline to train! Thanks for WONDERing with us, Adriana! :)

  19. Wow. That is AWESOME!!!!!! They must have lots of practice! At one point when one guy jumped off the really high place, I didn’t even know that is was that long of a jump until he was on the ground!

    • We certainly agree– practice is key, Minecraft.Ct7149! We think it’s cool that you picked out your favorite scene from the Wonder video– we know that safety and skills are very important when it comes to parkour! :)

  20. Wow they can do some cool stuff! By the way I do parkour it’s very fun but I can’t do what those guys can do. :) Aidan

    • Hey Aidan, you must practice quite often! We’re glad this Wonder made you smile– stay safe while you practice the art of parkour! :)

    • How right you are, Avery! We WONDERed and learned that parkour is a very difficult skill to master! We’re going to keep our eyes open for parkour the next time we watch an action-packed movie! :)

    • Hey there, Hauken and Chris! It sounds like you two are practicing your parkour skills (be safe!)– we’re oh-so-glad you shared your awesome comments with us! How long have you been practicing parkour? We bet it’s tough but lots of fun! :)

    • That’s awesome news, Drake! We are excited to Wonder with you about parkour, especially since you enjoy those videos so much! :)

    • We bet he is, Andrew! What a cool connection to our parkour Wonder! Thanks for telling us about your cousin and his talents! :)

  21. Burning Question: Where do people learn to do things like that?
    Ah-Ha Moment: About a year ago my brother kept on trying to run up a tree and do a flip (he never made it).
    Text to World Connection: I can’t believe it all started from French Military Training!

    • That is pretty amazing isn’t it, William? Did your brother ever almost make it? Have you ever tried to Parkour? Thanks for WONDERing with us today Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Wow, bob! We can imagine it is pretty difficult to do! We hope you are being safe — we don’t want you to get injured!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is parkour?
  • When did parkour get started?
  • What is a traceur?

Wonder Gallery

ParkourVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to give parkour a try? Before you hit the streets, though, ask your parents for permission and invite your friends to join you. Parkour can be dangerous for amateurs, so you won’t want to overestimate your abilities when you learn your first moves.

The most important thing to remember is safety. Start slow and always stay in control. Never try to do something you can’t do comfortably and safely.

To learn some basic parkour maneuvers, jump online to check out American Parkour’s series of Parkour Tutorials. These tutorials will teach you the basics of many simple and advanced moves. Have fun and always be safe!

Still Wondering

In Illuminations’ Barbie Bungee lesson, children model a bungee jump using a Barbie® doll and rubber bands.

Wonder What’s Next?

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