A Brief History of Parkour / Art du Déplacement


The discipline was founded in France in the 1980s by a group of nine young men who eventually called themselves Yamakasi ("Yamak" for short). Yamakasi is a Lingala word loosely meaning 'Strong Man, Strong Spirit', and summed up the core aim of the discipline – to be a strong individual physically, mentally, and ethically. The founders were Yann Hnautra, Chau Belle, Laurent Piemontesi, Williams Belle, Sébastien Foucan, Malik Diouf, Guylain N'Guba Boyeke, Charles Perriere, and David Belle. As it grew, some of these men split away from the others to pursue varying endeavors. This created some confusion and leads to some of the misunderstandings of the discipline that still exist today.

Watch our videos with Yamakasi founders Laurent Piemontesi, Chau Belle, and Yann Hnautra:

9 men, 3 names

The original name given to this discipline by the Yamakasi founders was "L'Art du Déplacement" ("the art of displacement"). The term "Parkour" was first introduced by David Belle in 1998. The term "Freerunning" was created in the production of a Channel 4 documentary, Jump London, in 2003. The terms are now often used in many ways to mean different things to different people.


"Parkour" was created and molded by David Belle. The name "Parkour", the name more widely used and recognized by the world today, was actually Belle's strict method of training in which practitioners were meant to move from one point to another point quickly and efficiently. His Parkour was essentially driven by his desire to be as great as his father. There were no flashy movements in Belle's Parkour - those were only done during play time after the training.


"Freerunning" is commonly used today to describe a manner of self-expressive training. Some will argue that Parkour and Freerunning are the same thing. Others would say that Freerunning is more about showing off and throwing flips. While Freerunning is often more about self-expression and creativity, the discipline always urges its practitioners to train in a way that inspires others and keeps the practitioner safe. It was never meant to be about impressing others, showing off, or gaining attention with dangerous stunts.

Art du Déplacement

"Art of Displacement", in English. The word "Art" represents your past: everything from your life that has gotten you to where you are and who you are today. "Du" is the present, who you are now, and what you are trying to accomplish. "Déplacement" represents your future, where you will take yourself and who you will become. It is a discipline, a lifestyle, and a philosophy to live by. It is about strength both in the mind and the body... about the spirit of helping others through every day pain and struggles and never giving up. It is a way to truly discover yourself, and to use that knowledge of yourself to improve and to help others - to improve the world as we know it.