Parkour has been jokingly called the martial art of running away, but anybody who has seen a skilled parkour or free running athlete in motion knows that it is nothing to be mocked. The level of skill that a free runner or a parkour-trained athlete possesses is incredible, and as the art develops the world of sport is being irrevocably changed.
The primary difference between the two, which may be indistinguishable to those not “in the know”, is that free running developed from parkour and is tailored more to each individual and their environment. While parkour as a rule tends to need a strict urban environment free running has spread to other places, and often emphasizes other strengths the athletes may possess.
Social media and the internet has had the biggest influence on the development of parkour and free running, as it is not a “martial art” meant to be exhibited in feats of strength against other challengers but to be exhibited as an art through online videos. Part of the appeal is the fact that it is non-competitive, creating a sport that both requires a high amount of skill as well as a community that is surprisingly warm and welcoming.
In fact, proponents of parkour and free running have called for the sport to remain entirely non-competitive in the wake of calls to regulate it and define it. Part of the philosophy, early athletes say, is that it is a sport of self-discipline and creative thinking. To regulate it in any way would be to undermine why it was founded.
There is no doubt that parkour and free running will continue to develop and grow, with more people taking place and training in the sports year after year. It is set to become one of the biggest new martial arts in the world.