Parkour: the spectacle, the practical, the philosophical, and where competition fits in

By Amy Han – originally posted on her blog, Falling leaves and a bird


Parkour as a spectacle is easy to define. It looks beautiful, impressive, terrifying, exciting. It’s often fast, it often flows, it can look animalistic and superhuman. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular on YouTube, why shows like Ninja Warrior have so many viewers. Parkour as it is widely understood – an extreme sport for super-fit adrenaline junkies and/or ‘crazy’ teenage boys  —  is so far from most people’s everyday lives that it fits perfectly into our constant hunger for a vicarious experience of danger, excitement, fear, pain and satisfaction from the safety of our couches.

Parkour as most practitioners understand it is quite different from this. Parkour is big jumps and small jumps. It’s rhythm, flow, balance, teamwork, strength and discipline. It requires self-checking and courage, an embracing of fear and challenges in order to be better. It’s on rooftops, it’s on the ground, it’s in cities and in nature. It’s quiet, serious, creative and playful. It’s personal and universal. It’s asking questions. It’s endless possibilities. It’s an extension of everyday life, a way of making sense of the madness. It’s experimentation, repetition, refinement, and precision. It’s damn hard at times. It hurts. But it also makes you stronger, literally building a thicker skin. Parkour is a means of getting from A to B, working with your environment rather than against it, or being complacent within it. Parkour is taking your power back. It’s a pathway to freedom in a world in which it’s easy to forget how much you have, how much you’re capable of, and what you have to contribute.

Parkour is not a competition. There is no winning in parkour, just as there is no winning in life. There is only constantly striving to do the best you can with what you have. Your ‘parkour career’ doesn’t end when you get injured, or you establish yourself as the best in the world (whatever that means).

You can’t measure who will be most useful in an emergency, or who trains the most sensibly to last longest, or who has grown the most on a physical, emotional, spiritual level since they started. There are too many variables. Those concepts don’t fit neatly into an event; they don’t make for very sexy TV.

But parkour movements fit easily into competition culture. You can compete to see who has the biggest jump, the fastest time, see how many techniques you can demonstrate over certain obstacles. I can see how this can be motivating, driving practitioners to become faster, stronger, more technically proficient. Obviously it can be fun, and bring people together as they cheer each other on.

I’m not against having any competitions which measure some aspect of parkour skill at all. I’m not against a reality TV series showcasing the incredible athletic ability of people I already know are amazing to the masses. I have huge respect for people who have competed in Ninja Warrior – to me they are admirably brave and strong for not only tackling the course, but for not having my fear of epically failing in public! I have found it particularly empowering to see women competing on the same course as men, for the same prize.

My concern is that you can only compete with parkour movements. It can look like parkour, but the intention is different. And viewers will always, unless we work really hard to make it otherwise, assume a parkour movement competition isparkour.

Personally, since I was very young, I’ve lost interest in most activities the moment they turn competitive. I grew up around some pretty competitive people. Roaring, cocky, throwing racquets and clubs, slamming doors competitive. Play hard to win, even if it means getting injured, competitive. I know it wasn’t their intention – I was always encouraged to join in – but I never felt their passion for competitive sport. I was never very ‘good’ although I enjoyed playing, and this made me decide that I wasn’t sporty. So I retreated to my quiet activities of reading, writing and crafting things.

Maybe it was growing up in a competitive culture, a society in which things are validated by levels and awards. But as I got older and more passionate about writing, I craved something more than personal satisfaction, wanted to share my work with more than my teachers and parents. The only apparent option was to try and become a published writer by entering writing competitions for kids. One prize meant so much to me I cried when mum couldn’t find the awards ceremony venue, even though missing it wouldn’t change the fact that I had won a prize. On another occasion, I won a national short story competition. I still remember how I hung up the phone after receiving the news and danced around the house. When an extract of my story was read out to a full banquet hall, I heard someone behind me whisper to their neighbour, “Wow, that was actually really good!” (not knowing I was in front of them) and that’s still the greatest compliment I’ve ever received, one I never would have received had the competition not existed. So I think I understood then how much winning and recognition meant to others in sport.

The existence of writing competitions gave me a structure to work with – goals, deadlines, themes, and incentives. Not everyone would need it, but it helped me. As writing is such a solitary activity, and with no friends or mentors who loved to write like I did, it provided a way of comparing what I wrote to others my own age, and gaining feedback from professionals. I was awarded and published a few times, rejected many more, and the whole experience made me a stronger, more confident and more determined writer. It gave me perspective and kept me grounded. Not once did I think that just because my work wasn’t chosen, that I had ‘failed’. It just meant that that story wasn’t right for that competition, it wasn’t ready, or I needed to practise more. Again, I know not everyone would respond in this way, but it worked for me.

Amongst creative writers, there is a strong mutual understanding that success is based on chance as much as skill and hard work, and that lack of recognition isn’t necessarily a measure of the quality of your writing. JK Rowling is a popular example – Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before a publisher finally saw some potential in it. Dedicated writers are persistent, consistent, and passionate; they write because they must, because it brings them joy, because it challenges and satisfies them. If you are writing for money or fame, you shouldn’t be writing, despite the fact that competitions and many avenues for recognition exist.

But back to parkour. Personally, I fell in love with it for many reasons, but it was it’s non-competitive aspect that kept me training. It reminded me that I can and do love moving. I love playing, exploring, being outdoors, challenging myself without worrying about tests, levels, shows or races. I can play and be challenged in my own way, developing practical skills and having fun, and that is not only ok but the norm.

I’ve been trying to work out why I reacted in one way to competitions in sport, and another way to competitions in writing. And I think the answer is that in writing, I was motivated by the confidence that I could be noticed – if I tried hard enough, if I learnt as much as I could, if I stumbled upon the right opportunity. And no matter what happened, because I never told anyone I entered anything unless my work was selected, I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s expectations.

In sport, I was de-motivated by the acceptance that I had no chance of winning, or even helping a team to win. I didn’t want to get in the way. And no one seemed to be playing just for fun.

The question is, do we want parkour to be a thing that is a casual part of more people’s lifestyles, like walking a dog or riding a bike? Or do we want it to be a pursuit only the able and passionate need bother even try?

Honestly, I just want people to move more and play more, no matter their age, gender, background or ability. I would love to see more value placed on movement for movement’s sake, in the same way I have tried to build Creative Write-it up as a space for kids to be creative for creativity’s sake – don’t worry about grades or if what you do seems silly or doesn’t work. It’s the trying, the process, where the lessons lie. And I truly believe parkour has a lot to offer mainstream modern society, whether the ‘moves’ are part of your everyday life or not. How to face challenges and measure fear. A culture of effort, self-improvement, longevity, and sticking together. An awareness of environment, a connection to it. I’m not saying parkour is the only way to find these things, but it is definitely a way. Parkour provides an antidote to disconnection from the environment, ourselves, and each other, during a time in which disconnection from all of these is one of the biggest, most dangerous problems we face.

If parkour competitions had existed when I started, I’m certain I would have stopped very early on. It would have been like every other competitive sport I’ve tried and lost interest in because I was never going to win, and didn’t even want to. And I worry that now that competitions do exist, and they are likely to continue to, that many people like me will never experience the multitude of positives parkour has to offer. I worry about a shift in culture, from an inclusive, welcoming community, to one in which more people are driven by money, fame, and ego. In which more people are driven to win, no matter the cost. At its worst, I fear parkour becoming another sport which links competition and depression in both the ‘winners’ and the ‘losers’.

If there is a way for parkour competitions to exist without losing our integrity or hurting the inclusive culture we’re all working so hard to cultivate, I’m doubtful. But, based on my experience as a writer who has found value in writing competitions, I’m also hopeful.

Competition culture isn’t going away. The media isn’t going to lose interest in an activity that seems ‘extreme’. But it makes the role of parkour coaches imperative, in the same way we (at Creative Write-it) are constantly reminding kids that the ‘creative writing’ component in their upcoming scholarship exam is only tapping into a tiny element of what it really means to write creatively, in reminding trainees that only so much can be taught. Training for competitions is a very specific skill-set that does not nearly encapsulate the whole of parkour training, in fact the competition element itself is not parkour at all. And training without any interest or intention in competing is just as valid.

Keep teaching, training, sharing, talking. As Julie Angel’s See & Do project suggests, the more people see, the more they will do.

It’s a tricky balance, but not an impossible one.

Amy Han is a traceuse and instructor with Melbourne Parkour. She is also the author of YA novel Breaking

Further reading:
Federico ‘Gato’ Mazzoleni, Parkour in the Entertainment Language, 2016
Giorgio Ferre, Defined in Practice, 2016
Alex Pavlotski, Parkour and the link between Competition and Depression, 2016
Julie Angel, See & Do, 2013 – present


Parkour before profits – our reaffirmation for community driven progress

Originally posted in our News section, 19 June, 2017


We are the pre-eminent national parkour organisation in Australia. Since 2006, we have mobilised volunteers across Australia and internationally to grow Parkour productively, and to empower communities to teach and develop parkour practitioners. We have taught Parkour in hundreds of schools and organisations and to thousands of people around the country. We have played an active role in the development of Parkour internationally, and our members have been a part of its many successes and many challenges.

As a young discipline, Parkour is finding its place and becoming known in the world. As with all young disciplines, there are those who wish to influence and shape parkour into something that strips it of its unique value – and instead transform it into something that only offers commercial value without regard for the community.

Today we face the encroachment and misappropriation of Parkour from many fronts – including the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique, corporate interests, and organisations operating within the parkour community but contrary to local interests. We stand firmly against those actors and resist their influence.

We believe in a future for parkour that:

Puts the community before profits
Celebrates and promotes what is the unique about parkour, rather than search for ways to make it conform
Promotes non-competitive practice
Is consistent with the underpinning philosophy of parkour – altruism, useful strength, longevity, self-improvement and self-understanding
Respects the geographic and cultural sovereignty of other national communities
The Australian Parkour Association does, and always will, act with the community as its primary interest. We reaffirm our commitment to our goals and statement of purpose.

We invite and encourage all other like-minded parkour organisations to get in touch, collaborate, and share with us and our members.

Our fight against the FIG

In May this year, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) announced that they had given its approval in principle to begin the development of ‘an obstacle course sprint’ event, which was later revealed to be parkour, as a discipline of the FIG. The implications of this are far reaching and threaten to take parkour out of the hands of practitioners and into the hands of gymnastics instructors who are unqualified and unfamiliar with parkour and its rich philosophy. If FIG is successful in gaining recognition as the international governing body of parkour it would provide its national members, such as Gymnastics Australia, a range of mechanisms of control over parkour. This could include: what is and is not recognised as a parkour teaching qualification, who gets funding and for what, and the public image of parkour.

It is not just the Parkour community that is outraged at this, many from within the gymnastics community are standing up against the FIG for ignoring the development of disciplines they already govern such as acrobatics. We are also not the only new discipline or sport to be threatened in this way – emerging adventure sports have a long history of being appropriated by unrelated international bodies, leading to significant issues for their members and practitioners – as New Zealand Parkour Association CEO, Damien Puddles, has written about in depth here.

Gymnastics and Parkour may use similar movements, but they are distinctly unique in their practice and the value they provide. The FIG do not represent parkour communities internationally, just as Gymnastics Australia do not represent parkour communities here.

We have joined forces with communities around the world who are standing against the encroachment and misappropriation of Parkour.

If you want to help in the fight to keep parkour in the hands of the community, you can do so by signing the petition and calling your local FIG representative (for us in Australia, you can call on 03 8698 9700).


New APA Blog

Welcome to the new Blog page – where APA Instructors and other members of the Australian Parkour community can share their thoughts.

APA Instructor Qualification Update & How We Hope to Engage More Women in the Community

In response to community feedback about our current APA Qualification system, we are pleased to announce a number of both pending and immediate updates. There will be a number of other things announced in the coming weeks, but in this post we would like to specifically announce the decision to remove the women’s version of the qualifications.

Instead of having different requirements for men and women to pass certain areas of physical testing, we will be shifting to a modular system which includes baseline requirements for each level of instructor (regardless of gender), with an additional selection of modules to allow flexibility and recognition of different abilities, strengths, and skill sets. We believe this serves to provide a happy medium in which we maintain a professional standard for parkour instruction, while also supporting a diverse community of practice.

Examples of modules (to be completed in addition to baseline requirements for physical and theory) include:

  • teaching kids
  • flexibility & mobility
  • creative movement
  • advanced strength & conditioning

Details are still being drafted but will be shared soon for further community feedback as these updates are finalised.

After spending the weekend almost entirely focused on revisions of the qualifications, we are hopeful that this new system will encourage and enable more people to gain their qualifications, recognise diverse expertise and interests, and encourage more people to get involved in their local communities.

We are very proud of the growing number of female practitioners around the country, and have always hoped this would translate into more female instructors. We believe that this new system alleviates all of the major issues raised in recent months, including complaints about it being discouraging for women by setting them ‘lower standards’.

Our immediate actions

We recognise that the finalisation of the new system will take some time, but there is a need to provide additional support right now. In particular, we discussed that if we are genuine about increasing the number of female instructors, we need to be providing a broader suite of support right now. As of this weekend, we are launching two things:

Instructor intensive – We will be holding an Instructor Intensive for which we are particularly encouraging women from around the country to attend. Our instructor intensives are for both current and aspiring instructors who want to develop their depth of understanding of parkour and parkour instruction. We will be announcing further details (when, where, etc.) soon, but you can keep up to date by registering your interest here.

Mentor and buddy system – We are also introducing a mentor & buddy system for aspiring instructors to help provide support for those training towards their qualifications. This will include access to a list of current APA instructors at all levels (who are happy to be listed) and those willing and able to offer support, advice, or just be a training buddy – whether online, over the phone, or in person. The first stages of this will be launched in the upcoming days.

If you would like to be kept up to date with either of these initiatives please register your interest here.

We’ll be sharing more details about the updated qualifications system over the coming weeks. In the meantime, huge thanks to all who have shared your thoughts and feedback online, and particularly to individuals from who dedicated time this weekend to help collate this feedback and make change happen. Please continue to share any thoughts/feedback/questions in the comments!


NatGat 2017 Successfully delivered and a new committee for the next 12 months!

The official 2016/2017 Parkour year has again come to an end with NatGat 2017 finishing up on Monday the 2nd of October, ending a massive national annual gathering. Over 100 parkour practitioners descended on Canberra this year in what seemed to be an even longer event, running from Thursday with a dedicated day for instructor training through to a beautiful nature training session on Monday.

It was awesome to see practitioners from across Australia come together, and especially great to see such a big representation of Tassie traceurs this year.

As with every NatGat, the APA held it’s Annual General Meeting and elected it’s new committee for the 2017/2018 period, seeing quitea few changes in position, some old and some new. President of the APA, Eliot Duffy, discussed some of the big movements in the national and international parkour community, including the work to rebuff the misappropriation of Parkour by the FIG,  the establishment of the International Association Parkour Earth, for which the APA is one of six founding members, and the APA’s focus in delivering instructor training and coaching certifications. We are very happy to announce this years committee:

  • President – Eliot Duffy
  • Vice President – Amy Han
  • Treasurer – Jade Hiroki
  • Secretary – Lluka Johns-Mead
  • State Representative (WA) – Isaac McClellan
  • State Representative (SA) – Travis Ranson
  • State Representative (NSW) – Monique McDonald
  • State Representative (Vic) – Kelley Glaister
  • State Representative (Qld) – Steve Berry
  • State Represtnative (Tas) – Brian Wagner (non-voting)
  • General Member – David Haines
  • General Member – Josh Douglas

Alex Pavlotski will also continue in his role as a strategic advisor, drawing on is in depth research on parkour communities and leadership.

We would like to give sincere thanks to Vivian Cao, Suzi Miletic and Sam Hinwood for all their work for the committee over the past 12 months.



Parkour Instructor Intensive – Adelaide – July 2017

Ross and TJ – both APA Level 3 Instructors – are hosting a 4 day intensive in Adelaide, with 10-12 Parkour instructors from all over the country. Check the information below, and fill out the application form if you are interested.



14th-17th July 2017 – (should be in most school and uni holidays). 9am start on Friday – 5pm finish on Monday.

Accommodation from Thursday night till Tuesday morning.


Adelaide – Group accommodation provided in/near the CBD from Thursday night till Tuesday morning. There will be activities outdoors, in Point A, and carpooled to other locations.


$300pp – Your instructing community will likely subsidise this. Includes accommodation but not food, travel to and from, etc. [pending confirmation of sufficient attendance to split accommodation].


Participants will be active in their teaching community – must be working above the level of an APA L1 (Assistant) Qualification. Ideally, close to L2 (Full Instructor) point – either striving for or recently achieved. (Actual qualification not necessary, they are just good shorthand for knowledge/experience/responsibility level).

All participants must attend for the whole time, will train and live together, and work on a mixture of Parkour and Instructing related skills and experiences.

In future, we may run a similar intensive for a L1 level group to start them off towards L2. However for this round we’re aiming for that higher tier.


Applications will be reviewed by Ross and TJ, and approved by the APA committee. They must be submitted by the 12th of June, and applicants will be informed before the 18th.

Fill out this form to apply



Direct to your state rep, or



Open Letter to the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique on the encroachment and misappropriation of Parkour

This letter was written in response to movements by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) to develop parkour-like activities as a FIG discipline with the view to claim representation of the Parkour community at the international level. For more information you can read about the events here

To President Morinari Watanabe

We are writing to you as the Australian Parkour Association, operating as the peak body for Parkour in Australia, and on behalf of our members across Australia.

We are writing to express our objection to the recent encroachment and misappropriation of our practice by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) via ‘development of a related FIG discipline’ based on Parkour, as detailed in their press release dated 24th February 2017, Lausanne (Sui), FIG Office.

Furthermore, we reject the assertions of FIG Secretary General, André Gueisbuhler, regarding the history of Parkour as inaccurate and ill-informed. We support the stance taken by Parkour UK, Fédération de Parkour (FPK), and the New Zealand Parkour Association and demonstrably reject the Secretary General’s notion that our community is not organised in our development of Parkour.

It is our duty to look after the rights and interests of our members across Australia and ensure that our practice is not misappropriated by FIG internationally and/or nationally by any of FIG’s National Federation members. As such, we assert the independence of Parkour as a characteristically unique, culturally distinct and sovereign practice for which FIG is neither presently representative, nor does it have grounds to claim representation, of the international Parkour community.

We support the call to invite other national Parkour communities to issue letters of support for this position and invite collaboration across the international Parkour community to ensure the protection and integrity of the practice.

Our discipline is our own.
President of the Australian Parkour Association,
Eliot Duffy

On behalf of the national committee of the Australian Parkour Association and its members.

APA Blood Drive

We are coming up to the giving season and in true giving spirit, we are launching the APA Blood Drive!

This is a campaign to encourage everyone in the parkour community (who can) to donate blood.

According to the Red Cross, 1 in 3 Australians will need donated blood, but only 1 in 30 make a donation. The aim of our blood drive is to get as many as possible into the habit of donating blood/ plasma/ platelets regularly, which is very much in the be strong to be useful spirit of parkour.

We are launching this through social media, so please get involved by donating or getting a group to donate together AND by bragging about it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (and whatever else the kids are playing with these days)!

We are sfb_img_1479190351982ad to recognise that unfortunately not all people are able to donate (due to illness, injury, phobia, religion, travel requirements, or restrictions against queer men from donating blood). We hope all of you who can’t donate yourself will help by spreading the word through your social media networks and we hope for change in the future to allow all to donate.

– Go to and make an appointment to donate blood
– If you have a donor number, register yourself with our Red25 group, by going to and searching for Australian Parkour Association. (If it’s your first time donating, you can do this at/ after your appointment.
– When you donate blood, take a selfie and share it with the hashtag #APAblooddrive, to encourage all your pals to join in. (Along with other blood and parkour related ones like #save3lives, #donateblood, #bestrongtobeuseful, #australianparkour

Do it in a dress: Global jam for change

Earlier this month, the world’s first Do it in a Dress: Global Parkour Jam for Change happened, led by Amy Han from Melbourne, who also happens to be our Vice Pres!

Amy volunteers as an ambassador for One Girl, a charity on a mission to raise awareness and funds for girls in Africa to go to school. She brought together practitioners from around the world to jam ‘together’ on the same day to support the cause.

In total, $4339 was raised – enough to send 14 girls to school for a year. A huge thanks to Amy and everyone who turned out to show their support!

Happy 10th Birthday APA!

On Saturday, the Association celebrated its 10th birthday, surrounded by practitioners at the 2016 NatGat in Brisbane. There was BBQ, videos, training all weekend and cake!

In 10 years we have seen parkour grow and grow in Australia, we have taught thousands of students and trained hundreds of instructors. The Association its self has had to grow and evolve to meet new challenges. We are so proud of what we have achieved so far and those who have helped us achieve it, we are looking forward to the next 10 years!

The weekend also saw mammoth efforts from the Brisbane Parkour Association to host an amazing NatGat 2016, with about 100 practitioners from all around Australia converging on the city to train, explore, learn and catch up with old friends. It went off without a hitch, thank you so much to the amazing Brisbane team.

We also had our annual general meeting, where we elected a brand new committee for the next year. Notably, one of our earliest practitioners of Parkour in Australia and a co-founder of the APA, Matthew ‘Chippa’ Campbell, stepped down. Chippa has served on the committee for the whole 10 years of the APA, 8 of which as President, and has been a mentor and leader for many of us around Australia. Thank you for the years of hardwork Chippa, Australian Parkour owes you so much. Chippa isn’t going too far though and will be focusing his efforts on the Melbourne Parkour community. THANKS CHIPPA!

Stepping into the position is Eliot Duffy from Canberra, Eliot has been training Parkour for 10 years and has previously served on the Committee for 6 years as ACT Representative, Treasurer and Vice President.

We are all looking forward to the year ahead!