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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Le Parkour (also known simply as Parkour, PK, or free running) is an extreme urban sport, consisting of running and jumping through cities over rooftops, walls, and using other unconventional routes. It has been described as "obstacle-coursing" or "the art of movement".

Participants (known as "traceurs" or "parkouristes") climb on buildings and other structures, leap between buildings, climb poles and pillars, and walk along narrow structural elements such as walls and banisters. The object of the sport is to move across an urban environment in as fluid, aestheticaly pleasing, and original a way as possible, by linking together various moves which include runnning, dropping from heights, vaulting, flips, climbing, and leaps. Parkour is non-competitive and there is no scoring system - traceurs receive only the personal enjoyment of increased technical and aesthetic prowess and the approval of their peers as reward. Proponents encourage beginners to develop their skill in the safest way possible; it takes a significant amount of training and dedication to emulate the feats of the stars of this "art of movement".

Le Parkour was invented in 1988 in the Parisian suburb of Lisses by a group of teenagers including David Belle and Sebastien Foucan. They formed a "clan" named Yamakasi (by which they meant "the new samurai") and honed their skills on the neighbourhood's rooftops and fire escapes. Belle and Foucan remain the leading figures of the sport. They have built up their skills so that they are capable of cat-like agility and awesome physical feats.

In 2001 French filmmaker Luc Besson made a feature film (Yamakasi - Les samouraï des temps modernes) featuring the original Yamakasi. The film tells the (fictional) tale of a group of young thieves who use their parkour skills to evade capture. After its completion, Belle and some of his associates were unhappy with its portrayal of them as criminals and refused to endorse the project. Following the Besson's film, and with fears of increasing commercialism in the sport (which Belle in particular decried), a split developed between Foucan and Belle.

David Belle came to public notice when he starred in Rush Hour, an advertisement for the BBC, where (among many other tricks) he leaped from one building across a gap of more than nine metres to land on a roof one storey below. Many viewers were shocked to later discover that no special effects were used to make the film and that the death-defying leaps, climbs and drops were all performed without wires or safety nets.

Foucan has also found prominence - he starred in the Channel 4 program Jump London in which he and two other French traceurs made their way across the rooftops of famous buildings in London.

Most fans of the sport enjoy its current "underground" nature and seek to avoid the commercialisation that has consumed sports like skateboarding and inline skating in recent years. Unlike these, parkour needs no specialist equipment, requiring only some well cushioned running shoes and an open mind and body. The sport

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Parkour" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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