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Lessons In Creativity That You Can Learn From Parkour

You’ve watched Casino Royale, or Babylon A.D.? Yes? Then you’ve seen traceurs in action.

They’re the people who run around cities, jumping over walls, climbing the outsides of buildings and generally doing ‘impossible’ stuff. Their ‘sport’ is called “Le Parkour” or “FreeRunning” and the practitioners are called ‘Traceurs’. Their goal is to get from point A to point B in the most graceful and efficient way physically possible.

Now, Where’s the Creativity?

Their creativity is in the way that they tackle each obstacle. Each of them may go down the same route, but tackle the same obstacle in different ways. See this video clip to understand just what they do.

What Can You Learn from Parkour?

  1. Conditioning is King – Traceurs have to be able to deal with real-time changes in their environment. They practice for hours every day in an effort to develop an innate “muscle memory” that will help their bodies understand their commands and adapt their movements instantaneously.It’s the same with photography. If you practice enough, your adjustments will come to you so naturally that you will forget about the technical aspects altogether. Practice makes perfect. It also helps you forget about the camera and think more about the things that are going on around you… essential for a ‘brilliant’ photograph.
  2. Understand you environment – As a photographer, you need to understand everything that’s going on around you while taking photographs. This is more important if your environment is one that is constantly changing.
  3. Use the environment to your advantage – This is an offshoot of the previous point. Knowing what to expect in a given situation will help you plan out your shots in advance, anticipate what is about to happen and make the most of that situation. A keen eye for detail can help you in this.
  4. Keep your mind free – Your mind is at it’s creative best when it’s free of inhibiting thoughts. Lots of practice will help you with this. It takes your conscious thought away from repetitive actions that you’ve practiced a thousand times before, and helps you concentrate on the creative aspects of your photography that confront you.
  5. Know the rules and respect them – This may seem odd at first. Do ‘the rules’ mean the rules of photography? Do they mean the law of the land? Do they mean the confines of ‘good conduct’?I believe that this means all of the above mentioned points. Know the rules of aesthetic photography, The law of the land, and the limits to which you can push decency. Stay within those confines, and people will respect you and treat you well.
  6. View the world through childrens’ eyes – What could be less confining, more innocent and more questioning than a child’s mind? Try to view the world through a child’s eyes and you’re sure to see something different and new all the time. The traceur is urged to do this because that is what they’re after… a mind and body free of the restrictions imposed on it by ourselves, yet responsible and ready for action.
  7. Express yourself – The traceur seeks a world free of inhibitions, and their freedom of movement beyond the “traditional” gives them a form of creative expression that is unique. You have that freedom too… your camera gives you a means of expressing your thoughts that is impossible for some. So, do not restrict yourself.
  8. Know who you are, and why you want to do what you do – A traceur’s journey is hard on the body, mind and soul. It is a path that is as difficult as the highest form of martial arts at it’s very zenith. Traceurs who want to attain this peak are advised to ask themselves why they want to achieve that level.Why does this matter? Because, as with anything, if you know your intentions and motivations it will strengthen you and guide your thoughts and actions. If you do not intend to reach the very peak of your skill, you will know that you need not put in your best efforts here… Rather, seek out where your efforts should be directed to achieve your goal.

I’ve recently been enthralled by “Parkour” videos that are freely available on the internet and have been studying their training methods and the reasons why they do what they do… If you get nothing else from this post, I hope you go away with an appreciation of how wonderful the movements of these athletes are, and a yearning to be be able to do something close to it.

This post is part of the Beyond Phototips Birthday series (2008), see the other posts from this series here.

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Published: November 30, 2008 | Last Updated: June 4, 2021

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