Famous practitionersSebastien Foucan, Daniel Ilabaca, Ryan Doyle, Tim Shieff, Damien Walters, Luci Romberg
Ancestor artsParkour, Asian martial arts
Olympic sportNot currently; IOC discussions underway[1]

Freerunning is an athletic and acrobatic discipline incorporating an aesthetic element, and can be considered either a sport or a performance art, or both. Freerunning is similar to parkour, from which it is derived, but emphasizes artistry over efficiency and speed. Freerunning involves interacting with physical obstacles in creative ways, such as by climbing, jumping or running; the obstacles may be purpose-built or may be part of a pre-existing natural or man-made environment. The movements are usually adopted from other sports, such as gymnastics, tricking or breakdancing. Freerunners can create their own moves, flows and lines in different landscapes. Practitioners of freerunning usually do parkour as well. Freerunning was founded by Sebastien Foucan, who discussed the subject in 2003 documentary film Jump London.

Foucan developed freerunning as a more inclusive form of parkour.[2] Parkour's efficient military style obstacle course training lends itself to martial art as a means of weapons avoidance and efficiently closing a distance to an opponent. Freerunning is derived from parkour, but it emphasizes not efficiency but artistry, allowing room for fancy flips and stylistic acrobatics.


The word "freerunning" was first used in the documentary Jump London. The name was coined from a suggestion by Guillaume Pelletier, who was working with the group of practitioners at this time. In the documentary, freerunning was defined as an English translation of parkour.[3]


The central principle of freerunning is that one should express oneself by moving fluidly in one's environment; there are no limitations on the form of this movement.[4] Foucan expands on a number of basic principles of the sport in his book, Freerunning.[4] Other practitioners have suggested other principles. For example, Daniel Ilabaca encourages people to think positively, suggesting that practitioners of freerunning will sometimes fall—largely because they think they might.[5]


Origins in parkour

Main article: Parkour § History

In Western Europe, the idea of moving past obstacles for personal development or sport originated with Georges Hébert.[6] He observed untrained native tribes in Africa with fantastic athletic ability and created the 'natural method' system to train people using the same ideas. His ideas eventually led to the parcours du combattant ('obstacle course', literally 'assault course'), which is now a standard of military training.[7]

These ideas were picked up by a young Raymond Belle, who used them to practical effect while separated from his family during the First Indochina War. When he moved to France and started a family, he passed on these ideas to his son, David. 30 years later, other young people were attracted to these ideas and a small group formed, the Yamakasi, which included Foucan.[6][8] This group trained together for several years and in 1997, through David Belle's brother, Jean-Francois, they started to attract attention and be invited to perform at events. The Yamakasi eventually split apart, though, because some members sought to find more individual expressions of the discipline.[9][10]

Meanwhile, action star Jackie Chan had also been heavily featuring the same concepts in most of his films ever since the early 1980s from the other side of the globe.[11] Yamakasi cited him as an influence on parkour. They drew influence from Asian culture and Asian martial arts, notably the acrobatic antics of Jackie Chan in his Hong Kong action films,[12][13] as well as the philosophy of Bruce Lee.[14]

Further development

Foucan wanted to create a discipline that was more personal to the individual than parkour and more easily adapted to suit each person's individual goals.[4] His idea was similar to that of Bruce Lee's creation of Jeet Kune Do. Foucan wanted to take everything that he had found useful and that he liked from his parkour experiences and combine it into one sport.[15]

Foucan's early ideas were first spread through the Jump London documentary (2003) and its sequel, Jump Britain (2005). Foucan has appeared in other productions, such as Casino Royale and Madonna's Confessions Tour.[9] With each appearance both the discipline and Foucan himself increased in fame.[4]


In 2014, the BBC traveled to J&K Kashmir[16] to highlight the youth partaking in freerunning as a form of freedom of expression.

Injuries and deaths

See also


  1. ^ "PARKOUR – A YOUNG SPORT WITH OLYMPIC AMBITIONS". European Olympic Committees.
  2. ^ "What is Parkour?". World Freerunning Parkour Federation. 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  3. ^ Note: Foucan has since said that the confusion regarding the roots of the term came out of the fact that he was still formulating his ideas at the time of the filming.
  4. ^ a b c d Foucan, Sebastien (2008). Freerunning. U.K.: Michael O'Mara Books. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-56975-652-2. ASIN 1843173301.
  5. ^ Declan Saldana (27 January 2012). "Parkour Legends: Daniel Ilabaca, Tim Shieff and Oleg Vorslov". Archived from the original on 7 August 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b Edwardes, Dan (22 August 2014). "Parkour History". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  7. ^ "George Hébert and the Natural Method of Physical Culture". Archived from the original on 23 March 2005. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  8. ^ Belle, David (2009). Parkour. Intervista. pp. 31–70. ISBN 978-2-35756-025-3.
  9. ^ a b Angel, Julie (2011). Ciné Parkour. pp. 17–20. ISBN 978-0-9569717-1-5.
  10. ^ Belle, David (2009). Parkour. Intervista. pp. 71–79. ISBN 978-2-35756-025-3.
  11. ^ "Jackie Chan's Special Style Of Parkour". Parkour and Freerunning Online: Your source of Parkour and Freerunning videos. November 5, 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  12. ^ Stratford, Elaine (2014). Geographies, Mobilities, and Rhythms over the Life-Course: Adventures in the Interval. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 9781135117429.
  13. ^ Hunt, Leon; Wing-Fai, Leung (2010). East Asian Cinemas: Exploring Transnational Connections on Film. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9780857712271.
  14. ^ "Parkour History". Parkour Generations. Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  15. ^ Knol, Enzo (28 October 2012). "Enzo Knol – Find your way – London Real". London Real (Interview). London. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  16. ^ "Kashmir Freerunning Finding Freedom in the Art of Parkour". BBC. 7 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Tracer died in St. Petersburg performing a somersault on the roof". Fontanka. 6 July 2013. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  18. ^ Lutchenkova, Anna (7 July 2013). "Photo of a parkourist falling from a roof posted on social media". Metro news. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  19. ^ "13-year-old boy fell from the roof of a nine-story building". gorod48. 16 August 2019. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  20. ^ "13-year-old boy fell from the roof of a 9-storey building in Yelets and died". Relrus. 17 August 2019. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 9 July 2021.