My personal view of parkour is this;
Parkour is when you train with the mentality that you can one day use your skills to move faster and more efficiently. Whether it means catching up with someone you are chasing, or getting to the shop faster by overcoming a fence or two. Basically getting from one place to another fast and efficiently.
Free-running is another aspect of parkour training, though isn’t parkour in itself. Free-running is a way of moving around with acrobatics to express yourself and mess around for fun. Free-running mostly uses gymnastic based techniques for its acrobatics. Not to be confused with Tricking, which is sometimes used alongside free-running, though is based off flashy martial arts kicks for the most part.
There are many interpretations of the definitions, however, what I have written below has been taken almost directly from an interview with David Belle by Tim Shieff in 2014, with a bit of paraphrasing, and I feel it is a good description of what Parkour is. The video of this interview can be found HERE.
Parkour is a way of physical training that allows us to overcome obstacles, both in a natural, or an urban environment. This can later be developed into a mental outlook of how to overcome other obstacles in life that are not physical.
There are multiple aspects to parkour, which make it hard for many to understand, especially with the definitions constantly being debated and evolving with various opinions. David Belle never said we should ban flips or competitions from parkour. David Belle actually states “On the contrary, the goal of parkour is to create expression, so things can flourish, in openness.”. As such, each person practises their own vision of what parkour is to them.
There is an aspect of parkour based on efficiency and moving forwards, overcoming the obstacles and advancing. This is the core of parkour, and could be referred to as pure parkour. It is based on using simple basic techniques to develop your spatial awareness and instincts so that you can trust your body and know what you are capable of, these can be used as your tools or methods of overcoming obstacles.
Then there are extensions away from parkour. These extensions such as Free-Running, are good and fun ways to train for parkour, but are not parkour in itself. It is simply another aspect of parkour. Using acrobatics is a great way to clown around and express yourself.
Mentally, parkour can help guide you in figuring out what you want to do in life, and where you want to go in life. It’s a tool to be used for you to find your own way, not to listen to other people who tell you to do things the way they believe is right for them, but for a person to find out what is right for themselves. Once you learn to trust your instincts in physical training, you can start to learn to trust it in other areas of life as well.
People who train parkour should aim to be strong and independent, to be responsible and respectful. They shouldn’t develop an ego and try to be the best. Rather they should try to be a better version of themselves. Parkour should develop a sense of well-being, and a want for others to develop it as well.