Parkour is the art of controlled movement whereby practitioners utilise obstacles in their surrounding environment to further their aim of getting from one place to another. Walls and railings usually perceived as a means of restricting movement take on new meaning as a tool of freedom and liberation. The sport originated in the Parisian suburb of Lisses by a small group of friends who over a period of many years developed what essentially started out as a childhood game into the purposeful activity of escape and reach. Unlike many sports which are of a competitive nature, in parkour the competition is only with oneself; a concept which is shared by many martial arts.
As Parkour developed further it evolved into two separate paths. Some of the founding members such as David Belle (who is frequently credited as the inventor of parkour) were keen for Parkour to remain a purely functional discipline utilising only the most efficient movements and little more. Other members of the original Lisses group were keen to develop Parkour further and incorporate a wider range of movements such as the back flips and acrobatic manoeuvres seen in martial arts like contemporary Wushu. This is what then became known across the world as freerunning which has since been featured in many high profile films, music videos and television programmes.
Contrary to popular belief you do not need to have the fitness of an Olympic athlete before you can start freerunning. As long as you can run and jump you will be able to participate, however if you have any long standing injury or medical condition it would be sensible to check with your doctor first, especially if you have not exercised for an extended duration.
Like all physical activities there is an associated element of risk but to put things into perspective, freerunning is no more dangerous than any other established sport such as football, rugby or martial arts. Due to the non-competitive nature of freerunning participants are not pushed into things they are not ready for and everyone is free to progress at their own pace.