Diversifying Parkour Competition

January 12, 2022 4 min read

Max Barker in the speed competition at NAPC 2018

The Asian Parkour Championships’ recent competitions showcase the unique possibilities for compelling and diverse competition formats for parkour. In this article we discuss competitions themselves, rather than the judging criteria, as we would all be here forever discussing the finer points of judging miscellaneous skills. 

Competition in parkour has more or less always been modeled by three broad, albeit key, categories inherent in our sport: speed, skill, and style. While each of these obviously has a place in the world of parkour competition, they feel played out. This isn’t to say parkour competition is stale by any means. Simply that, in my opinion, our competitions would benefit from a change of format, and the inclusion of other facets of the sport. 


Additionally, many people don’t have access to parkour gyms where these competitions take place, and so they have to make do with the obstacles around them (you know, like parkour athletes do.) This is the benefit of the online contest format. Online submissions geographically unite the parkour community by opening up the competition circuit to a much larger talent pool. Personally, I consider this one of the very few improvements to our sport brought on by Covid-19. 


With the onset of clip submission tournaments comes a few challenges as well. Obviously, not all spots are created equal, and so online style tournaments can suffer from an uneven playing field, literally. A disparity between those blessed with aesthetically pleasing, inspiring structures, and those whose practice space is comparatively meager. Style competitions are also one of the few contest categories that are truly quantifiable online, as speed and skill competitions can’t be effectively replicated amongst a million households. The challenge of spot choice lead to the creation of new, more inclusive subcategories of style competition. The first of which being the Asian Parkour Championships (APC) “Homeflow” tournament and the following “Wall Flow” competition after Covid-19 first hit in 2020. This clip submission contest was the first of its kind to call on athletes to make a style and flow video and submit their footage from at-home quarantine. The call-to-arms was answered by the community and the footage can still be seen on the Asian Parkour Championships Instagram page today. I highly recommend visiting this footage, as it’s very inspiring how many people didn’t break absolutely everything in their home, and the unbridled ingenuity shown by athletes repeatedly bouncing off of a single wall. 


The APC have continued to push the envelope of engaging parkour competitions. This year they’ve had the Team Flow and Rail Flow competitions, the latter of which has only just started the judging phase. These capitalize on different niche aspects of parkour: team flow, a relatively new approach to parkour style that relies on choreographed collaborative movement, similar to dance; and rail flow, an exploration of creativity around a widely available single object not easily trained on, practically an extension of their early wall flow competition. 


I can’t discuss these tournaments completely without speaking on their additional rules. One of the more interesting caveats to the home, wall, and rail flow competitions is the “No Flips Rule.” In order to maintain true inclusivity the APC has made this rule an institution. This balances the scales of technical skill, and encourages creativity from the athletes. While I may not prefer to see the “No Flips Rule” used at all competitions, I do find it to be a great tool in eliciting interesting movements and increasing the sample of athletes for competition. I honestly believe that “no flip” style competitions have an important place in the future of parkour. 

 

In the team flow competition, the APC is allowing flips, but they have another curious rule: all team flow submissions must feature both male and female athletes. I appreciate this rule as well, because it seems the APC is really stepping up to the idea of bar-none inclusivity in parkour. That anyone and everyone is, and should be, welcome and encouraged to participate. 

 

So what else is possible? What other aspects of parkour are worth exploring in the context of competition? I would love to see parkour lean in the direction of Olympic track and field, where we throw every challenge at the wall and see what sticks. Ascent and descent competitions for example, where people fly up and down urban structures; “jungle gyms”- style comps strictly for bar swinging and flow;  stairway or tree flow competitions. The list is realistically endless. 


Parkour is a conglomerate of other disciplines, and all of these dimensions of parkour are worth amplifying through competition. This writer commends the forward thinking of the APC. I believe that the future of parkour competition is extremely bright, and that we as a community are on the forefront of unique competitive standards and unrealized growth potential. These new competitions are simply the tip of the iceberg. 

Media Credit:

Max Barker NAPC - courtesy of Giles Campbell Longley

Excited Johnstone - courtesy of Giles Campbell Longley

APC Ruleset Graphics- courtesy of Asian Parkour Championships


Support the author of this blog & our push to provide more opportunities within Parkour by using the code

CHAPPY10

when purchasing something from the store.