This post was first published on my Tumblr on Aug 16, 2013, and is now updated with my experiences since then.
I’ve noticed that this is a fairly common dispute between practitioners of both, so I thought I’d share my two cents worth.
Note: The following is purely my opinions. Keep that in mind.
Some people say they’re totally different, some people say they’re the same thing, and some people don’t care. Just train, right?
The main difference I see is that freerunning involves all the cool stunts, flips and tricks, which are flashy but have no practical purpose. As you probably can guess, parkour is thought to be more conservative, making very efficient use of energy and maintaining a near-constant speed throughout a course.
One definition of parkour is “moving from point A to B in the shortest time possible”, which begs the question: Wouldn’t running in a straight line be considered parkour?
Well, my opinion on this is on a different level. I think that they’re different philosophically, but physically more or less the same.
They’re both about movement. Both sides require you to be physically strong, committed and disciplined. And both preach safety first. What is the first thing we all learn in Parkour/Freerunning? How to bail. How to roll out of a failed move and minimise injury.
The difference, I feel, is in my personal definitions of these terms.
Parkour: Mastery of your environment.
Freerunning: Mastery of yourself and your body.
Both go hand in hand with one another and they’re not mutually exclusive. The focus of each one is just a little different. With parkour, you do need some mastery of your body (duh) in order to land precision jumps, execute kongs and pull yourself up in wall passes. In freerunning, you don’t really need a particular environment to work in, just yourself. Practicing flips, springs and rolls don’t generally need obstacles. Just a simple floor or wall will suffice.
I likened these two points of view to the segregation of a human brain.
Parkour is the left brain, doing everything efficiently, planning ahead to see what the easiest/shortest route will be and using repetitive training to get your flow.
Freerunning is the right brain, creatively coming up with new flashy moves, seeing many different possibilities of doing something (like different ways of flipping over an obstacle), and using more of your body than just your hands and feet.
I only thought of this because this is what I like do. I like to draw definite lines around things, keep them neat and orderly and classified correctly. But to be honest, I belong in the “don’t care, just train” camp. I do both Parkour and Freerunning. I only know the names of moves when I want to ask how to learn it.
Otherwise, just keep training.