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Written by Michele Maciejewski

A Brief History of Movement

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of parkour with a look at its most notable moments.

1912: French Naval Officer Lt. Georges Hébert introduces the “Natural Method,” a philosophy he developed for naval training after witnessing people flee the Mount Pelée volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Martinique. His method later becomes a major part of all French military training.

1954: Raymond Belle, the father of future parkour pioneer David Belle, trains himself via Hébert’s teachings while at a military orphanage. He later relayed some of this knowledge to his son.

1988: Raymond Belle’s son, David, and Sébastien Foucan, begin to define parkour in Lisses, a Parisian suburb. They call the discipline “parcours.”

1997: Belle, Foucan, and others form the Yamakasi, the first public parcours performance team. Foucan refers to the discipline as “L’art du déplacement” (“The art of moving”) during an appearance on French TV.

1998: Belle introduces the idea of calling the discipline “parkour” to differentiate his type of training from others.

2002: BBC debuts Rush Hour, a short film featuring Belle. The clip includes the now-famous Rush Hour Gap, a 23-foot-wide jump with a 60-foot drop.

2003: Foucan stars in the documentary Jump London. Guillaume Pelletier, a representative of French practitioners participating in the documentary, coins the term “freerunning” as an English translation for parkour. Foucan embraces it as a distinct activity that emphasizes creativity in movement.

2005: Mark Toorock establishes American Parkour Academy in Washington, D.C., the first parkour gym in North America.

2006: On June 7, YouTube user sauloca releases the video “Parkour and FreeRunning,” a montage of parkour clips set to electronic music. As of June 2013, it has almost 37.5 million views.

2006: Foucan brings freerunning to a worldwide audience with his role in Casino Royale, the 21st film in the James Bond film series, as the villain Mollaka.

2007: Foucan helps American footwear company K•Swiss create the world’s first official freerunning shoe.

2007: Red Bull Art of Motion, the first freerunning competition in the world, takes place in Vienna. British freerunner Ryan Doyle wins, despite injuring his leg while landing a 12-foot jump.

2008: Sharon Merchant establishes Girlparkour, a leading website for traceuses, which serves as a resource for networking and sharing information.

2008: Parkour Generations starts Art du Déplacement and Parkour Teaching, or ADAPT, the world’s first parkour training and teaching certification program.

2008: Foucan stars in the trailer for Mirror’s Edge, a video game that implements freerunning techniques in its gameplay. 

2009: Traceurs publish guides, including Free Running: The Urban Landscape is Your Playground by Foucan and The Parkour and Freerunning Handbook by Dan Edwardes, founding member and director of Parkour Generations.