Skip to main content

Karakour Nation

Parkour & Martial Arts Coaching

Be Free & Find Your Way

The History of Parkour, Freerunning, and L'Art du Déplacement

Child's play

Raymond Belle, who was a former Vietnam soldier, taught his son David Belle in the forests of North France the "Méthode Naturelle" and "Parcours du combattant".  At the age of 11, David Belle moved to Lisses in France. In 1986/7 Phung Belle, Cheau Belle Dinh, Williams Belle, David Belle, Yann Hanautra, Frederiek Hanautra, David Molgogne started moving, playing, and seeing opportunities for training in nature and the surrounding of their school. Sébastian Foucan, David Faucan, Guylain N'Guba-Boyeke, Malik Diouf, Charles Perriere and Laurent Piemontesi joined their friends in 1987/8. They were "sharing a quest and research of freedom, challenging themselves in the form of physical games, transcendence of self, exchange of ideas, thoughts and reflections about life, sharing precious and intense moments" (Williams Belle 30 April 2016).

L'art du déplacement (ADD) and parkour come into life.

In 1997/8, Cheau Belle Dinh, Williams Belle, David Belle, Yann Hanautra, Sébastian Foucan, Guylain N'Guba-Boyeke, Malik Diouf, Charles Perriere, and Laurent Piemontesi were asked to perform for the Paris Fire Fighters, made their first TV appearance on Strade 2, and got invited to perform at the "Notre Dame de Paris" musical. At the same time, they started calling themselves the Yamakasi and their discipline "L'art du déplacement" (ADD). Sébastian Foucan left the group before performing at the "Notre Dame de Paris" musical and concentrated on his creative projects. David Belle left before the musical, too. In his opinion, the Yamakasi and their discipline "l'art du déplacement" (ADD) did not credit his father enough. Because of this, he developed his discipline. He called it parkour, derivative from the French military discipline parcours du combattant. After he had created the show real SpeedAirMan for his acting carrier, he started the traceurs group together with Kazuma, Romain Moutault, Jerome Ben Aoues, Rudy Duong, Stephane Vigfroux, Michael Ramdani, Sébastien Goudot, and Johann Vigroux. For a short time, they were joined by Sébastian Foucan, but he decided to focus on his own goals, creative projects, and artwork. Since 1998, parkour and l'art du déplacement are covered in media and commercials, performed by different groups and individuals.

Birth of Freerunning

For Sébastian Foucan parkour was too restrictive. He was inspired by Bruce Lee who said "Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless. Add what is essentially your own". In a documentary from London Real, he explains that "If a dog is behind me, I will go from A to B. [...] And if it is an artistic thing, like perform for Madonna on her Confessions tour, if to entertain the people, if I have to do the tricks and flips, I will do it. If I have to do a flair or anything I find good to express myself, I will do it". Furthermore, for him "his system is not just about overcoming physical obstacles, it is about navigating the rest of your life, too" (London Real). During the filming of the Channel 4 documentary Jump London in 2003, his friend Guillame Pelletier suggested using the terms 'Freerunning' and 'Freerunner'. Influenced by martial arts and the saying from Bruce Lee "it’s just a name; don’t fuss over it.", he started using the terms 'Freerunning' and 'Freerunner' for what he is doing.

Urban Freeflow

After Jump London, it became the dream of many children. They went outside to replicate what they saw. Paul Corkery (known as 'EZ') was the first to recognize the commercial potential of parkour. In the same year, he started Urban Freeflow, an early group of UK practitioners and a performance brand. When it became clear that he did not have the best interests of the discipline or the community at heart, most of the group left.

Development of a widespread misconception with consequences

Soon, clothing brands and parkour-specific shoes were created. Free running schools started to pop up everywhere, and fitness centers added "freerunning" to their portfolio. Competitions were created and the discipline(s), especially the jumps, got exploited in commercials and movies. The supporting community uploaded tutorials of vaults to YouTube to enable newcomers. Newcomers and non-practitioners started believing that it is about big and dangerous jumps, flips and flairs. Soon, YouTube became "a stage for the talented, an opportunity for people to show the world how they can jump further than everyone else, and how they flew half way across the world to do the same jump that someone other guy did in that video last year, but wait, you can now side-flip out of it" (Blane 16-11-2012). The motto 'Etre et Dure' (to be and to last) faded together with other values. In its place came a competitive community with little creativity. The misconception keeps spreading, especially due to commercial exploitation.

ADD Academy

Since 2004, Williams Belle shares his passion for l'Art du Déplacement with three other Yamakasi members through the ADD Academy. Each of them developed their method since then. Yann Hnautra developed 'Tcheso', Chau Belle the 'ABC training', Laurent Piemontesie the 'Esprit Yamak' and Williams Belle the 'Williams Belle method'. They continue together to share and exchange their vision of the practice of life.

Parkour Generations

In 2006, Dan Edwardes, Forrest, Stephane, and Tracey Tiltman had left Urban Freeflow. Along with several of the second generation French traceurs such as Thomas Couetdic, Johann Vigroux, Sébastien Goudot, they formed ‘Parkour Coaching’ in 2006. In June 2007, they renamed it ‘Parkour Generations’. As the discipline spread worldwide, the Yamakasi were being forgotten. Parkour Generations did their best to raise awareness about the original practice by bringing the Yamakasi to their large teaching events in the UK, USA, and beyond. Since the beginning, they are the leading parkour organization. They not only teach the techniques, but they also emphasize passing on the culture, spirit, and values of parkour and art du déplacement.

Foucan Freerunning Academy

Probably around 2012, Sebastien Foucan started his Foucan Freerunning Academy. It is a community where they share instead of listening to and following a leader. It is more like a guide. They see the path and experiment together. By doing so creativity, inspiration, etc. are improved, they give each other energy, and they get stronger together.

Side note

This page will be revised with information from Dan Edwardes's article 'Parkour History: The (Re)Birth of a Movement' and Julie Angel's books 'Ciné Parkour' and 'Breaking the jump'.

This is a very condensed version of the history and only a few branches are portrait. There are as many practices, histories, and meanings in life as there are individuals. No practice is above another; all are complimentary.