Movements of Parkour

Posted by Justin Deffner on May 19, 2013 in Recreation, TW Parkour |

By Guest Author: Justin Deffner

When you were little, did you ever climb a tree? Did you ever play on the monkey bars? Do cartwheels at the park, play the game “floor is lava,” or jump from one spot to another? If so, you have done parkour. By moving differently, creatively, and by using your body in a way different than the norm to overcome obstacles – or simply to have fun – you are doing exactly what the freerunners on YouTube are doing.

Often times when people see me doing parkour, they ask how I can do most of the things I do. That question has always confused me, because the movements I do come second nature to me. When I’m out doing parkour, the moves area as natural as walking to me. I firmly believe that everybody has the ability to do what some consider to be the basic movements of parkour, which I’ve listed below.

Shoulder Roll

The Shoulder Roll is the first thing that just about every traceur learns to do. The roll is similar to a gymnasts somersault, except instead of going over the head and down the spine, the shoulder roll passes over one shoulder, goes diagonally across the back, and ends at the opposite hip. This is used whenever the traceur trips, falls, over-rotates, becomes off balance, or needs to disperse impact. On an episode of Fight Science, scientists measured the impact of Red Bull Athlete Ryan Doyle taking a drop of 14 feet and landing with the shoulder roll. The result? The jump resulted in about the same amount of impact that you might feel when doing a simple jumping jack.

Safety Vault

The Safety Vault is used to vault over an obstacle quickly, and with as many points of contact as possible. The traceur puts one hand and the opposite foot on the obstacle. He then jumps over the obstacle and continues on his way.

Safety Vault

Speed Vault:

The Speed Vault is used to pass over an obstacle quickly, without changing direction or body position. The traceur jumps over and plants a hand on an obstacle, pushes off, and continues on his way.

speed vault

Kong Vault

The Kong Vault is used to pass over an obstacle and gain momentum/distance. The traceur dives towards the obstacle, and after planting his hands on it, pushes off and pulls his feet through.

Kong vault over two tables

Precision Jump

The Precision Jump is exactly what it sounds like – jumping to a precise location. Sometimes the obstacle being jumped to can be as tiny as a handrail.

Kong vault to Precision

Cat Leap

The Cat Leap is used when an obstacle is too high to precision jump to. The traceur jumps towards the obstacle, and will put their feet on the side of it, then latch onto the top edge with his hands before climbing over and continuing on thier way.

Cat Leap at SHSU


The Lache is simply swinging off of a bar. Commonly used in combination with other movements (lache to precision, or lache to cat, etc).


Wall Climb

The Wall Climb is used when the traceur wants to get to the top of an obstacle that is too high to jump up to. He runs towards a wall, plants his foot about waist high on the wall, and pushes off the wall at an angle that allows him to convert forward momentum to upward momentum.


The Tac is similar to the wall climb, except instead of traveling up a wall, the traceur pushes off the wall to travel to another spot. Commonly used in combination with other movements (tac to precision, tac to cat, etc).


Parkour, at its most basic level, is simply movement. It’s jumping from one curb to another. It’s vaulting over a bench. It’s going over a rail instead of around it. It’s not adrenaline-fueled jumps off the tallest thing you can find, or doing the most dangerous thing you can imagine. The movements I’ve listed above form the basis of the physical aspect of what parkour is, and as I have said before, anyone can do it. I’ve taught hundreds of students over the years, from 4 years to over 40 years old; and all of my students have been able to do most of the movements listed above. Granted, a 4-year-old will have trouble climbing a 6 foot tall wall, but many kids that age love the rolls and cartwheels and laches.

Below is my friend Bryan’s video from last year. He does most of the movements described above, along with a few others in his video. Everything in this video was accomplished in only four months time. This is a prime example that you don’t need to do huge drops, or big flips to do parkour and have fun while doing them safely. All it takes is some time, a good attitude, and willingness to learn.

Should you ever run across Bryan or myself doing these movements here in The Woodlands, feel free to stop and say hello!

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