Q&A: Parkour

Can freerunning or parkour ever be used for today combat? Or escaping? Even in our modern world? I mean, jumping and running in all weird forms and making a lot of flip flops, to confuse your enemy ( well if said character has a lot of stamina), or catching someone, or running away from a bullet or something.

So, it’s worth remembering that parkour is only a few decades old. Obviously, athletic training is nothing new, but the specific combination of skills that has come together to form parkour would have been somewhat “singular” until very recently.

Extremely condensing the sport’s history, it started as an extension from military obstacle course training a little over a century ago. The specific transition to the modern sport started roughly thirty years ago. In that sense, parkour distantly derived from combat training.

Along the way, proto-parkour was used as advanced mobility training for firefighters. (This was in the mid-20th century.) I’m bringing this up because it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of applications for mobility in difficult environments, not just combat.

The actual combat application is the same as those the original obstacle courses, mobility. Being able to effectively, and efficiently, move across the battlefield is incredibly important. There’s been a move in the last decade to incorporate some unique elements from parkour back into military training.

The more acrobatic elements, like flips, don’t have a combat application. You’re not going to bounce around to, “confuse” an enemy. It’s important to remember, the application is being able to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Flourishes you don’t need, don’t benefit you, and burn energy you’ll need for more vital actions.

Having said that, there is a practice of using large amounts of movement to distract an opponent. You’re overloading their brain with sensory data, so that they have difficulty defending against your attacks. You wouldn’t do that with simple parkour tricks, but there is some science and application behind that idea. Parkour simply isn’t a way to do that.

Parkour is an excellent way to build up physical fitness, and condition yourself to withstand exertion. That alone would be enough to say, “sure, if you want,” however, because it opens up movement options parkour has real potential.

Now, you asked about, “running from a bullet…” No. You can’t outrun a bullet. The current human speed record is Ursain Bolt at close to 28 miles an hour. A slow bullet will be doing more than twenty times that. You can run, you’ll just get shot in the back. Now, a moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one, and if you’re moving at an angle to the shooter, it couldn’t hurt, but you’re not, “running from a bullet.” Similarly, no matter how good your reflexes are, you can’t, “dodge a bullet.” The thing’s just moving too fast.

Parkour offers a significant advantage for running someone down. It allows you to move more quickly through an urban environment. For the same reason it’s a significant advantage to escaping from an attacker or pursuer. If you can get moving, and they don’t an athletic background, you’re gone.

Parkour is not a replacement for hand to hand training. It won’t (reliably) let you close to melee against someone who’s armed with a firearm, though it may let you attack from unexpected directions. For example: coming in behind them, when their back is to a dead end alley.

So, yes, parkour has combat applications. You don’t use it on someone else, but the mobility offers some real value, and extra physical conditioning isn’t a bad thing.

-Starke

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