Are Gymnasts Wimps Compared to Parkour FreeRunners?

A study by Neuropsychiatrie de l’Enfance et de l’Adolescence (Neuropsychiatry of Childhood and Adolescence) in France reflects that traceurs (Parkour practitioners are known as traceurs) seek more excitement and leadership situations than do gymnastic practitioners. (Cazenave, N. (5 April 2007). “La pratique du parkour chez les adolescents des banlieues : entre recherche de sensation et renforcement narcissique”. Neuropsychiatrie de l’Enfance et de l’Adolescence. doi:10.1016/j.neurenf.2007.02.001.

Parkour (abbreviation = PK) is a Physical discipline where participants move through a natural or urban environment by running, jumping, somersaulting, climbing, vaulting and rolling as if it was one giant obstacle course. Parkour can and is practiced anywhere and everywhere, but urban and natural spaces filled with obstacles offer the most interesting and exciting opportunities.

You Have to Watch Before You Can Learn

Before I explain any of the lessons I think gymnastics can and must learn from Parkour, you must watch what is being done. I also must refer you to look back to a previous article – Double Somersaults Anytime, Any Where.

The Very Best of Movement Worldwide (2011)

Yes, I know many Parkour freerunners have obviously had formal gymnastics training.

The Very Best Of Parkour Worldwide (2012)

ROV (Risk, Originality and Virtuosity)

ROV used to be a major part of the gymnastics scoring system. Risk has two meanings. you just watched real risk in the above videos, but even the “risk” of gymnastics, which now refers more to risk of not hitting or perfectly sticking a skill, has been downgraded in gymnastics, because of the doubling of the deduction for a fall.

Originality in Gymnastics?

Does it even exist any more in gymnastics. Every leap and jump pass at the International level looks the same. Front tumbling combinations are overrated in relation to big skill back tumbling. Too many requirements, deductions and the eliminating of any repetition (even useful, but not overused repetition) have taken the originality, creativity and the discretion of coaches and gymnasts out of the sport.

Virtuosity in Gymnastics?

Virtuosity in gymnastics refers to the ability to perform skills stylishly and in a highly and technically perfect, accomplished manner, so pronounced as to dazzle the public. Many former gymnasts, who I respect, say the only way to bring this back is to return to Olympic compulsories and gymnastics federations have mandated lower level compulsories as the only way to progress through the sport. Reinstalling compulsories, at the International level, would give gymnasts twice as many routines to have to master and make competitions even more boring for the general public than they already are. Nothing more boring than a four hour Level 4 meet.


Bringing back the kind of virtuosity that Missy Marlowe (and many others) demonstrated in the sport is more a matter of training method and focus, and coaches and gymnasts should be training virtuosity anyway, for their optional routines.

When I Was Younger, Gymnasts Were The Daredevils

When I was growing up, gymnasts were the ones who were doing the wildest and craziest things physically, like quad somersault swinging rings dismounts off into a pile of sand at the beach at the Santa Monica Gymfest. It was when saying, “Flip you for a drink.” did not involve using a quarter. It was when we went out and jumped and somersaulted off fifty foot bridges for fun on a Saturday afternoon. Extreme sports and Parkour have taken that title right away from gymnasts and gymnastics.

Let’s Put Back the Risk, Originality and Virtuosity into Gymnastics

I believe our goal in the sport should be to make each gymnast as creative and original a performer as they can be, highlighting their strengths (not bowing to the code) and allowing them to perform the best that is inside of them. Train them to have the grace and elegance of Missy Marlowe and the risky excitement of a Parkour freerunner. Being acknowledged as the ultimate in grace, style, flair, elegance, explosive power and risk, originality and virtuosity should be the hallmark of our sport.

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