Running Freely

a review by Peter McCambridge

It is said that practicing parkour is basically about learning how to interact with the world around us. This is another way of saying that living parkour is primarily about learning to be authentically yourself.

Anyone approaching Vincent Thibault’s Parkour and the Art du déplacement expecting a how-to guide filled with fitness drills is in for a surprise. The book could also be called “The Art of Living,” focusing as it does on how to apply the philosophy behind parkour to everyday life. Peppered with inspirational quotes like “Think lightly of yourself and deeply about world affairs,” this is a workout for mind and well as body. As suggested by the subtitle – “Strength, Dignity, Community” – the parkour way of life is heavy on building values in the interest of all.

“In the same way that a bird cannot fly with only one wing, compassion, if it is not accompanied by wisdom, will be futile,” Thibault writes. “Conversely, a remarkable intelligence mired in self-centeredness can bring about horrors, as history has witnessed.”

“The parallel with parkour seems remote,” the author concedes, “but let’s dig a little deeper.”

And dig we do, for some 166 pages, as the author advises us to “cultivate a love of effort” and warns against “falling into monotony.” How? By going for a walk the next time we have a break at work, by opening our eyes, exploring our city and its parks, by touching things, living, and breathing.

This is a very much a book about expanding our horizons. Tall tales of superhuman feats, urban legends, advice on what to eat before and after training, sports injuries, and the like are left for others as Thibault shows us how to not just learn the discipline, but to live it. ≈



From Parkour and the Art du déplacement

by Vincent Thibault
≈ translated by Casey Roberts (Baraka Books, 2013)

The best action is not always the first right thing that comes to mind. In his book Budo Secrets, author, translator, teacher, and martial artist John Stevens tells an inspiring story about Jirokichi Yamada (1863-1931), who was a great fencer.

Yamada had received a great many documents on the arts of the sword from his teachers. Feeling as though it was his duty to preserve these veritable gems for future generations, he carefully stored them in a box that could be quickly moved in case of emergency.

The great Kanto earthquake took place on September 1, 1923, causing more than 100,000 fatalities and countless missing. The Kanto plain was devastated, and fires raged in the cities.

Yamada, meticulous though he was, was certainly not aware of such statistics. He took his precious box out of hiding and prepared to flee for safety.

Suddenly, he stopped and thought: “How will it look if people see a samurai running away to protect material possessions! It is foolish to save samurai documents while ignoring the samurai spirit to serve society.” He replaced the box and then ran out into the street to help pull people from the rubble and fight the fire.

This is sometimes where courage lies: in accepting the need to review our priorities, to take another look at our opinions. The extent of our courage – and many stories demonstrate this – is greatly increased by compassion. In return, genuine compassion, which is the desire to put an end to all suffering, gives a sense of purpose to the training and infuses the warrior with incredible energy. Solidarity and universal responsibility, strength and courage, selflessness and true happiness: in parkour, everything is related. But the powerful energy that is the result should be used wisely. ≈



Parkour and the Art du déplacement

by Vincent Thibault

trans. Casey Roberts

Baraka Books, 2013

Extract and book cover courtesy of Baraka Books. Feature image courtesy of