How Free Running meets Architecture

When I discovered that the daring jumps and leaps over walls higher than those on Alcatraz made by James Bond, in the movie Casino Royale, were actual moves from an extreme sport, I had to know more. As I dug deep into the origins of Free Running, I came to realise that it’s more than just an adrenaline-charged activity, it’s a way of defying both physical and mental boundaries and like most things in life: It’s all in the mind.

So the story goes like this: There was once this incredibly intuitive French naval officer, Georges Hébert, who went on a tripe to Africa. Upon noticing the exceptionally robust physique of the African warriors, Hébert realised that when it comes to physical strength, agility and fitness, there is no better gymnastics coach than nature itself. And so it began – a physical method of military exercising based on energetic, natural movements combined with the altruistic virtues Hébert considered to be so essential. He called it, “méthode naturelle.”

From there, it’s simple. An architect came along and created a kind of challenge course which would serve to further the strengths of the French soldiers. These methods later influenced the life of a young boy called, David Belle, a high-school drop-out, who developed these techniques into an extreme activity, known as parkour. What parkour became was a way of getting from point A to point B by negotiating tricky challenges and overcoming urban structures with death-defying leaps and dashing vaults. But what most traceurs, or practitioners of parkour are most interested in, is “human and urban reclamation,” – overcoming both the physical and mental obstacles of modern society and defying the fear that reasons hesitation and makes a hurdle look more threatening than it really is. It’s about moving the way people were meant to move – relying on instinct, thinking on their feet, and using intuition rather than logic. Very cool indeed. It is on this association that Free Running found its basis – taking freedom of movement to its most important level.

As a way of presenting the extreme activity of parkour, to English speaking society, the film Jump London, featured David Belle’s partner in crime, Sebastien Foucan performing nail-biting dash vaults, cat passes and balances on The Royal Albert Hall and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to name but a few. But while parkour is a sporting discipline, Free Running has developed into complete freedom of movement, urban acrobatics and self-expression through movement. Free Running is about, “finding your own way,” – no imitations, no limitations; just pure freedom of movement.

It is not surprising why Free Running has spread like wildfire and is now an internationally acclaimed extreme sport. South Africa boasts some of its very own Free Running hotspots and a rapidly growing society of free runners. Cape Town tops the charts with the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University Campus, the Company Gardens, Muizenberg Beach and the Cape Town CBD being popular Free Running places. After all, who ever said you have to take the stairs, when you can just jump down to the next level? Ever asked yourself that question? Then you’ve simply got to try this.

Some example of urban Parkour in France: