Difference Between Freerunning and Parkour

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: October 10, 2023


Difference Between Freerunning and Parkour

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People are often met with blank stares when they ask the difference between freerunning and parkour. The reason is that most people think parkour and freerunning mean the same. In reality, freerunning is a subset of parkour. The main difference between them is what the practitioners focus on. Parkour and freerunning aid in achieving physical fitness. The former was inspired by military obstacle courses, and the latter emerged as the focus shifted from efficiency to artistry.

Jackie Chan was the main reason these disciplines became popular. Face it, every movie of his features some parkour or freerunning. Who does not love his mix of martial arts and acrobatic stunts? The Yamakasi group (original parkour practicing group) admitted Jackie Chan’s stunts influenced their parkour; this is why many people argue that Jackie Chan is the founder of parkour and not David Belle (not an argument people should join lightly).

Freerunning Vs. Parkour

Parkour is an athletic training discipline focusing on speed and efficiency in overcoming obstacles, whereas freerunning focuses on the practitioner’s abilities. Parkour merely requires a person to move from the starting point to the destination point as fast as possible with efficiency. It does not matter whether they adopt no-nonsense techniques or flashier ones. Freerunning involves showing off with flips, acrobatic movements, or movements from tricking, breakdancing, etc. People express themselves using their fluid movements.

Difference Between Freerunning And Parkour In Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonFreerunningParkour
Term for PractitionersPeople practicing this discipline are called freerunners.Males practicing this discipline are called traceurs, while the females are termed traceuse. Some people refer to them as parkourists.
MovementsFreerunning involves flips, kicks, and any other creative movement the freerunners come up with in addition to the usual running, climbing, jumping, etc.Traceurs may swing, vault, run, climb, jump, quadrupedal, and so on to reach point B from point A. They may incorporate elements of freerunning (the aesthetically pleasing movements) if they wish.
UseFreerunning helps improve creative vision and self-expression in addition to agility, strength, and flexibility.Traceurs gain physical fitness, balance, speed, agility, coordination, precision, and control.
Role of environmentFreerunners consider the environment their playground. They use just about anything (benches, walls, rails, etc.) to display their skills.People performing parkour see the environment as an obstacle course they need to get through as fast as practically possible. It is similar to closing the distance to the enemy with stealth and speed.
PathPeople practicing freerunning often take detours from the path to provide an artistic flourish to their movements.Traceurs never detour from the set path. They move directly to the destination point, as time is of the essence.

What Is Freerunning?

Freerunning is an art and not a mere sport. The restrictive nature of parkour (meaning the focus on minimal yet efficient movements) led to the emergence of freerunning. Sebastian Foucan, originally a member of the Yamakasi, wanted to flaunt his style and express himself through parkour, which clashed with the core element of the discipline – speed and efficiency. Therefore, he created freerunning involving acrobatic elements and theatrics.

Rebellions and out-of-the-box thinking are important, as they result in something unique – something proved by the foundation of freerunning. It allows people to use any moves or techniques they want without worrying about whether it is prudent. People have all the time in the world, so why not make their moves entertaining? That way, freerunners and the spectators have fun. One more advantage freerunning has over parkour is it allows the freerunners to compete against each other. Parkour competitions are held; however, it was not originally developed with the intention of making people compete.

Freerunning helps people develop their athletic skills, as it requires freerunners to perform incredible athletic feats. Moreover, it is highly suitable for practicing in a natural environment (such as mountains, forests, etc.) because of its unrestrictive nature. People find it easy to adapt to their environment and express themselves freely. It is a beautiful way to connect with nature, which is powerful and free-spirited just like freerunners.

People can run, climb, jump, combine twists and kicks (tricking), or use any move they can imagine when freerunning. Most people fall in love with freerunning due to the lack of rules. After all, people do not like being told what to do and how to do it; however, the environment may restrict them to some extent. Flipping off a wall is not the same as running along a cliff face before jumping off it and landing perfectly.

One of the most common mistakes beginners make when practicing freerunning is thinking they will fall. Unsurprisingly, they fall most of the time because of this mentality. Therefore, well-versed practitioners emphasize the power of positive thinking during the early training period. Freerunning has no set rules, meaning it can be modified to suit each individual’s style and goals. Jason Paul, Dominic Di Tommaso, Paval Petkuns, Noa Diorgina, and so on are some freerunners worth following if people are only beginning to learn about the freerunning world.

As freerunning is about showing off one’s skillsets, it is understandable that people want to let the world know what they are capable of. With the emergence of affordable video cameras, smartphones, and increasing support on social media, letting people know what they can accomplish with freerunning has never been easier. Some freerunners are so popular that their videos on Instagram get a hundred thousand views within a short time from the moment of posting. No wonder the craze for freerunning is increasing.

However, freerunning is no less dangerous than parkour. In 2013, a person in Russia attempted a backflip on a roof’s ledge but failed to land on the ledge. The person fell from the 16-story building and died. A similar incident took place in 2019 when a person attempted parkour on a roof. Therefore, people should ensure their safety when attempting a technique or stunt. It does not matter whether they are beginners, seasoned veterans, or champions. No matter how many times people execute a technique or move perfectly, it is always better to have some safety mechanism to protect them if they fail.

What Is Parkour?

Parkour involves moving from the start point to the endpoint efficiently with speed. The traceurs weave under, move around, swing, jump, or vault over any obstacle they come across when running, climbing, or using quadrupedal movements. Sounds exhausting, right? It is! Parkour requires a lot of training and diligent practice. It is not something to be trifled with.

John Hennigan, a professional wrestler, incorporates elements of parkour in his wrestling style; he was nicknamed ‘The Prince of Parkour’. Casino Royale and The Bourne Ultimatum inspired other films to incorporate parkour-inspired stunts. David Belle choreographed parkour stunts in the film Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (who else was left thunderstruck seeing Jake Gyllenhaal’s Rooftop escape scene?). That is how popular parkour has become.

The French naval officer Georges Hebert’s methode naturelle (meaning natural method) was the forerunner of parkour. The training consisted of ten sessions (walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, etc.) designed to improve three main forces – energy, moral, and physical. The natural method inspired a Swiss architect to build the military obstacle course, eventually leading to the creation of parkour. A fascinating history, right?

The philosophies behind parkour are interesting, too. The older philosophy considers parkour a state of mind that helps overcome mental, emotional, and physical obstacles. The newer philosophical theories propagate the idea of human reclamation. Why do people insist on using terms whose meaning is never apparent at first glance? Anyway, human reclamation is the idea that learning parkour can help people move naturally, implying the parkour way is the natural way to move.

No traditional equipment is used in parkour to train or practice. Instead, the bars, walls, boxes, railings, and so on found in the environment serve as equipment. Hardcore traceurs indulge in barehand and barefoot training, as it offers them a better grip and helps them move competently. Others use light gloves or shoes to protect their hands and feet. Several manufacturers produce sneakers designed for parkour and freerunning. Beginners will benefit a lot if they purchase them.

Jackie Chan is not the only one who performs death-defying stunts; traceurs, too, are adept at performing miraculous stunts. Just look at how they balance themselves as they run on rooftops and jump from one roof to another. Parkour helps develop spatial awareness (awareness of one’s body and understanding how to use it in relation to one’s surroundings). It makes people look at things from a new perspective and find new and efficient ways to move around things.

To some, parkour is a way to interact with their world rather than merely taking cues from it to live their lives. Learning parkour is one of the best ways to gain physical and mental control, as it emphasizes the merging of mind and body. Sounds sort of similar to how people learn to regulate their heartbeat in time with their horses when they ride, doesn’t it? Except here, people get their bodies to do precisely what their minds direct them to.

Law enforcement officers and fire and rescue teams have raised concerns about people practicing parkour on rooftops. Jumping from high buildings is much more dangerous than people think. Some traceurs agree that rooftop practice should be discouraged, while others feel that the stunt or technique failed because the person did not know their limitations.

People should carefully assess their skill levels and the obstacle types they practice with before they attempt a stunt. Jackie Chan may joke all he wants about the different body parts he broke when performing stunts, but not everyone is as lucky as he is to live and tell the tale. Safety should be a traceur’s top priority. Imagine the horror of never being able to practice parkour again because of a split-second lapse in judgment.

People must keep in mind that there are only a few professional training centers for parkour. Most parkour enthusiasts train on their own and meet up with fellow enthusiasts if they wish to learn something new. Universities, colleges, fitness centers, and gyms can be used as training centers; however, it is rare to find one that provides dedicated training.

Moreover, people should not try learning parkour merely because they saw a YouTube video featuring an interesting parkour technique. David Belle explained that real training will make people cry, bleed, and sweat like never before. People should focus on developing their own style instead of trying to learn an existing style. Parkour is meant to aid people in discovering their true selves and not help them become someone else. Therefore, those looking for some easy training should drop the idea and go about their day.

Main Difference Between Freerunning And Parkour (In Points)

  • David Belle founded parkour (movie buffs argue Jackie Chan is the founder). Sebastian Foucan created freerunning.
  • Freerunning competitions are friendly, as the focus is on body movements and not on reaching a specific point. Parkour is not meant to be competitive, as the focus is on improving self and strengthening the mind-body connection. However, there are some parkour competitions.
  • Parkour is practical, whereas freerunning is creative.
  • Freerunning is all about looking good when moving through obstacles, whereas parkour is about logically completing the obstacle course in the quickest way possible.
  • A traceur will conserve energy and merely vault over a wall, whereas a freerunner will attempt a one-handed flip over the wall. In short, parkour requires speed, and freerunning requires theatrics.


The distinction between parkour and freerunning has become blurry, and most people look forward to the day the two merge to form a single discipline. No matter which sport people prefer, they should not forget to have fun when training or practicing. Spending thousands of hours to perfect various techniques is exhausting but fulfilling. Even 15-year-olds are pulling off some incredible moves nowadays. The parkour and freerunning communities’ growth throughout the years is nothing short of impressive. People unsure about practicing either sport may take a leap of faith and start training; their communities will have their back.


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"Difference Between Freerunning and Parkour." Diffzy.com, 2024. Mon. 17 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-freerunning-and-parkour>.

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