Friday, April 2, 2010

Parkour: Godless Spiritual Experience

Recently I have been practicing a lot of parkour (free-running) and have realized its potential as a spiritual experience. Atkinson (2009) describes his experience of free-runners as the following:
We took turns shepherding one another through the city, practicing speed and stealth in our movement at times as we made our way across the rolling and varied architectural terrain. The movement, and our underlying orientation in the session, encouraged me to let go of all conscious thought and simply be present with my breath, movement, and the physical environment. Lines separating roads, buildings, cultures, selves, and bodies disappeared. I had never experienced the city, or running for that matter, in this way. And even though I felt exhausted at the end of the session, a strange peace descended upon me.
Parkour can be a liberating spiritual experience standing in stark contrast to a sterile structured landscape in which it is practiced. The capitalist influenced modern urban space suffocates the human spirit while liberating those who transcend it. Rather than a sport focusing on strategies, goals, or outcomes, parkour focuses the mind like a lazar beam onto the present moment in order to transcend built structure with grace and precision. During a session the traceur holistically connects with the environment, yet transcends it altogether; the body and the mind merge and become 'one' beyond the grips of sterilizing dualisms casting the physical world as unholy. This 'one' may be Nietzsche's 'superman'. In the modern era, Nietzsche writes about the autonomous subject and the death of God. I like to think of this subject as a person unbound by the idea of a traditional catholic deity; a person who refuses to be disciplined by the heavy hand of sovereignty.     Along side high-modernist concrete structures within an urban environment, parkour can serve as a powerful form of meditation that liberates the spirit. 

Here is a secular 'parkour prayer' I have to privilege to share thanks to Amos (a reader and parkour blogger):

Let us rewire our muscle memory in accordance to the way of nature; let us have communion with God. Let us transcend mundane sidewalks, make a jungle of this oppressive urban architecture. No longer will we clumsily stumble through our existence, we will embrace obstacles as challenges and tools for rewriting our natural reactions. In a safe environment, we will force ourselves into the uncommon and unnatural, forcing ourselves to fall. Now, when hit with the ripples of events outside of our control, our natural reaction will be an adaptation, from the second of falling to the moment we’re safely back on our feet, it will have been as if we didn’t miss a step walking


Atkinson, m. (2009). Parkour, Anarcho-Environmentalism, and Poiesis. Journal of Sport and Social Issues. Volume, 33. Number, 2. 169 – 194


  1. I've been having very similar experiences for about 2 years now. I just wrote this article that seems to have a lot in common with this one, and I thought you might enjoy it. Either way, I would love to hear your thoughts, so you should post a comment with your perspective. Thanks

  2. I commented on your blog post.. As well, I have noticed the power of thought when practicing parkour. I was trying to do a certain jump over and over again but could not make it. I realized it was probably a problem with my mental state. I tried the jump again, but this time taking a brief pause and imagining myself flying over it. I took the jump while still imagining myself landing on the other side and made it with ease. I then did it over and over again without any issues. Just goes to show the power of belief and imagination.

  3. Thanks for contributing to the collective Parkour consciousness. You can of course quote that paragraph you asked about. I like your thoughts, and I'll try to keep up with your writings when I have spare time.

  4. Thanks!.. you can use my post/ my comment on my experience as well.

  5. This sounds like a great spiritual experience!

  6. I learn some new stuff from it too, thanks for sharing your information.
    parkour stunts

  7. i like the parkour sport and i will join the parkour courses. thank for sharing the more information of parkour freerunning sports and technique.