Describing the Conversation

The purpose of this paper is to analyze and discuss the mindset or mentality  that is characteristic to the art  of movement that is parkour.  This mindset entails concepts outside of  many social norms commonly accepted by most conventional cultures.  Most notably there is the concept that the urban setting is an oppressive and controlling  environment. Parkour is a rejection of this environment. Furthermore the efforts of popular society to classify parkour as a sport in order to understand the art represents an effort of the urban to pigeonhole parkour and put it in a place which makes sense to the urban paradigm.
Parkour challenges it’s practitioners to overcome obstacles both physical and mental in nature.  Author Jimena Ortuzar writes in his article  Parkour or “l’art du deplacement”:A kinetic Urban Utopia that “Parkour is perhaps best characterized as an act of fleeing, of escape, it is  an act of flight. However, it is a chase with no pursuer, at least not one that is immediately evident or easily identified”. Jimena goes on to describe how parkour is a sort of flight or  rejection of the oppressive restrictions of the modern world. Given these ideas as expressed in Jimena’s article it becomes evident that what was developed in france and continues to develop on the streets of the world’s cities is not a sport but an art which compliments those of the martial sort.
The spectacle the art provides captivates the viewer of  any of the numerous Youtube videos available. Wow, how cool! Look at those flips! How do they do that? That looks dangerous! It is certainly a given that the art is, in many people’s eyes, not for everyone. Serious proponents reject this mentality but that is not yet part of this conversation. The question now is why someone engages in this kind of risk taking. The article Personality, self -efficacy  and risk-taking in parkour(free-running) by Christopher J. Merrit and Ian J. Tharp published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise  investigates the personality types and traits which may contribute to risk taking in parkour. As presented in the article this is the first study of its sort to examine personality types and parkour. Self-efficacy is a trait better known as self confidence. The study concludes that this self confidence  leads to greater risk taking in the practice of parkour. The ideas expressed or studied within this article help to explain, by scientific method, why certain people would be prone to embrace the concept of jumping from roof top to roof top.
The article Discourses of Subversion: the Ethics and Aesthetics of Capoeira and Parkour by Sophie Fuggle  published in the Journal of the Society for Dance , volume 26, number 2 discusses ideas of self expression in both of the arts mentioned in it’s title. Sophie’s thesis is that these arts share common grounds in their history in that they both are rooted in subversive attitudes towards oppression. Additionally, she presents the idea that both arts encourage self expression and self development within their frameworks.According to Sophie Fuggle there is at once a confirmation and an oppression of the individual by the urban environment. The practitioner of parkour similarly defined, alienated, and challenged by their surroundings. There is ,according to Fuggle, a subversive dialogue between the practioner and the environment  or as she puts it “Moreover, both involve an ongoing questioning both of oneself and one’s surroundings”.
These three articles are promising not only because of their content but also because of what they represent. These articles show me that professional researchers are investigating the parkour community with a spirit of inquiry beyond mere curiosity.  The common theme in these three articles is that of the mindset of the individual. Not just that of an athlete or sportsperson but that of  soul striving for expression in an oppressive environment not of  one’s choice or design. The end result is not a sport but instead a response of the oppressed individual self  to an restrictive and oppressive world.


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