At some point during training, wherever and whenever parkour practitioners gather, conversation devolves into a discussion of the best parkour videos ever. It’s a tough call, especially with all the amazing videos from around the world that are coming out monthly these days. So instead of talking about that and making people mad with my preference for raw, old school, “pure parkour” edits I’ll tackle something slightly (but only slightly) more objective.
We all know who the rawest pk practitioner is anyway…
What does it mean for a parkour video to be “influential?” To me, it mostly means the video had a wide audience during its release and has had a serious effect on the parkour community’s development since it came out. And it will probably have some badass movement in it, or badass people, or a combination of general badassery because…I don’t know, an influential parkour video should be badass.
Now that you understand my extremely complicated and delicate criteria for judging a parkour video’s level of influence here’s my list of the 7 most influential pee-kay vids to date…
#7. Parkour, imaginatively by Naïm L’Inconsolable (11/9/13)
When I started making this list, I realized most of the videos in it were old favorites. I also realized that there is a heck of a lot happening in the scene right now that wasn’t really covered by any of my other picks…hence: this bad boy.
Weighing in at a comfortable 82,000 views this video is one of the least-viewed on the list (largely because it hasn’t had the time to accrue thousands of re-views like the others). Parkour, imaginatively is a collaborative video between a group of French, Finnish, and German traceurs with Parisian squirrely-man-beast Naïm (of Parkour, Literally fame) behind the edit and music. Like most of Naïm’s other videos, it doesn’t feature flashy flips or jumps that’ll make non-practitioners jump out of their chairs but there are plenty of holy-shit-that-was-freaking-cool moments for a traceur’s viewing pleasure.
More importantly from the standpoint of influentiality (influentialness? influentiosity? English can be such an annoying language…) Parkour, imaginatively also introduced a lot of people in the community to Andi Wöhle, Endijs Miscenko, Winston Spennert, and Martin Riedl. The style that they brought to the table in this video is physically demanding, technically precise, and requires ingenuity by the Feiyue-full. The runs they recorded inspired practitioners of all levels to re-evaluate the ways they were training and in the wake of this video, “Imaginatively-style” runs popped up all over Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. This video was a reminder to the community that bigger isn’t always better, strength is still important (and in many places throughout the parkour-verse, heavily lacking), and longer runs don’t just look good on film but can be fun to train as well!
It’s tough to say how Parkour, imaginatively will stand the test of time but it has certainly had a major impact in its first year of existence. I can only imagine the style it has helped create will continue to grow. Speaking of popular styles, let’s move on to…
#6. Excelsior by Blaneuk (5/6/08)
If you started parkour before this video came out I’m sure you’ll feel comfortable backing me up when I say this video completely turned around the way I thought about parkour. Don’t get me wrong, Blane’s other stuff is also great. That channel is a goldmine for anyone looking to start their training or double-check some of their techniques. Not to mention his blog (http://blane-parkour.blogspot.ch), which is like a set of blinding 4th of July fireworks in a dark sea of mixed metaphors and crappy, pseudo-philosophical parkour scrawlings (mine obviously not included).
It wasn’t only this video that was influential but for some reason Excelsior always stood out in my head as the epitome of Blane-style videos. Maybe it was the Batman music or the fact that “Above the Clouds” is still pretty much the best hip-hop song for a video ever (even though they’ve both been muted now…thanks Google). For whatever reason, Excelsior really encapsulated the whole “be strong to be useful” and “train technical jumps, not just 2 story drops” vibe that Blane helped popularize. But what’s the big deal?
Think about what the parkour community was like before late 2006/early 2007. Lots of drops, lots of rolls, lots of questionable technique, lots of questions in general with very few concrete answers to be found. It was the nature of the beast and to a lot of people that “Yamakasi style” of training was all there was. Blane’s videos really helped transform that. He was one of the first high-profile practitioners to step away from making (for lack of a better term) “chase scene” videos like DB in favor of videos showing things like rail balancing, QM, climbing, and precisions to stick. I remember watching Blane’s videos in 2007 and not even thinking it was possible to stick a precision to a rail. Blane’s videos in general, and Excelsior in particular, opened up an entirely new world of possibilities to up-and-coming traceurs. And so did…
#5. Storm Freerun Volume 1 by StormFreerun (11/17/10)
What Excelsior did for the general community, Storm Freerun Volume 1 did for all of the people trying to become “professional” parkour athletes. It helped legitimize parkour as a sport in the eyes of the public and showed that making a well-edited, highly marketable parkour video was actually possible. Storm Freerun Vol. 1 is currently hovering around 5.5 million views, a surprising number of which are from non-practitioners, and for many people outside of the community suddenly made the idea of sponsoring a parkour athlete a lot more palatable.
While the movement in Storm Freerun Vol. 1 is undeniably sick (one might even call it rad) the real star of this video was cameraman/editor Claudiu Voicu (https://www.youtube.com/user/claudiuvoicu). In terms of shot preparation, composition, and cutting, this video was lightyears beyond anything else previously attempted in the parkour community. And that’s where the true value of Storm Freerun Vol. 1 lies. This video singlehandedly paved the way for all the professional-quality parkour productions (try saying that three times in a row) we’re seeing now. Teams like Farang, Storror, Jestion, and GUP have all been working in a medium that Storm was the first to master successfully. So when you see a trailer for a parkour video that looks like this, you know who to thank.
#4. Team Farang – Thailand Parkour Tour 2010 by Shaun Wood (9/7/10)
This was a tough one for me, because there are a lot of potential videos that could have shared this spot. The Team Farang video by Shaun Wood marks, for me, the very subtle point at which all the small little “teams” around the world started to take themselves seriously. Don’t get me wrong, there were already teams out there. But the teams that were popular before this video were generally ones that seemed more interested in the business/performing side of things (like Tempest in America, Jiyo in Denmark, or Speeders in Belgium). If you look at videos from the three most famous teams that didn’t start this way – Storror, Farang, and GUP – you’ll see a shift in the content right around the time Team Farang was released. It’s almost as if Team Farang accidentally supplied the younger, up-and-coming groups with a template for successful media. And that’s important, since these days the subscribers of those three teams probably cover the majority of parkour practitioners in the world.
Besides creating a path for new blood to make waves in the global scene, Team Farang did something else that has since influenced the parkour community. In the first 60 seconds of Team Farang, we see some really good parkour guys smoking, partying, and generally just lookin’ fly on the streets of Bangkok. Which isn’t really unusual in videos now but was certainly a little strange to see back then. In this way, Team Farang was one of the first popular parkour videos to seriously dabble in creating an atmosphere or “character”.
Nowadays, it’s pretty easy to see a Farang video pop up in your subscription feed and predict what’s going to happen. These guys are the rock stars of the parkour world; they have sweet clothes, cute girls, and you’ll see a bunch of cool flips and good camera work. Predictability in a video is nice. I mean, that’s why people like to watch TV shows. You can turn on a show and have a pretty good idea what’ll happen. Farang tapped into this idea and other teams have followed suit. When you watch a Storror video, you expect it to be adventurous and maybe a little happy-go-lucky . When you watch a GUP video, you know it’s going to be epicly cinematic. A Storm video will probably be dark and gritty and generally English and some dude with a Storm hoody and black mask on will randomly pop up at some point. The parkour community has a diverse taste in videos and a lot of teams have slowly molded themselves to fit a niche, which is really cool and pretty dang important in the long run if I have any sense of foresight whatsoever. Either way, I think it’s fair to say this trend really got going with Team Farang.
#3. Cambridge Joy by ChrisIlabaca (10/11/07)
Whoo boy, where do I even start with this one? Cambridge Joy is without a doubt the single most influential video for me, personally, as a parkour athlete. Having come out about three or four months after I started, I felt like (now that I think about it, I was) a complete n00b watching “All Stars” play around and do things for fun I didn’t think were even possible. With appearances by Daniel Ilabaca, Chase Armitage, Owen and Jin from Team Traceur, and a very young but very beast Phil Doyle, this video played like a “who’s who” of the English parkour scene. But more importantly, it showed these amazing, inspiring athletes goofing around and having fun.
Before this video came out, I remember jams being serious events. I’m not talking serious in the “hey-I’ll-actually-come-on-time” sort of way (because let’s face it, that’s never happened). I mean serious in a “let’s-get-shit-done-and-work-hard” way. Which totally isn’t a bad thing at all – some of my favorite memories are from my first year of training where I’d spend an hour doing hellish QM missions or push-up circuits. In fact, a lot of times I wish more jams were still like that. Either way, there definitely wasn’t the same casual atmosphere to jams back then (at least, there wasn’t in New York) as there is now. I think that started to change with Cambridge Joy.
I mean, think about it…before Cambridge Joy came out the videos most of us drew inspiration from were by guys like David and the Yamakasi, Blane, and Tim Pisteur. Awesome videos and amazing practitioners, but they definitely had a no-nonsense vibe to them. Even earlier Ilabaca videos were a lot more intense or pseudo-philosophical. Cambridge Joy was like a slap in the face to the whole idea that parkour training was deadly serious and couldn’t be taken lightly. It shouted “Hey, look! Here’s a bunch of really advanced practitioners doing crazy stuff! And you know what they do when they’re not training? They eat leaves and screw around and have fun instead of acting like drill sergeants in their 40-somethings.”
When you think about it, Cambridge Joy cleared the way for all the amazing lifestyle videos we have now. Chaps on Tour, Live On, Take My Strong Hand, and sooooo many of the most popular parkour videos ever have Cambridge Joy to thank for essentially creating an entire genre.
So if Cambridge Joy only made it to number three after spawning (arguably) the most popular genre of parkour videos ever, what could numbers one and two have done?
#2. Parkour and FreeRunning by Sauloca (6/7/06)
Before you do anything else, please go find “Paper Wings” by Rise Against and synch it to this video. Because the Google execs deserve a special place in Hell for removing that song from Parkour and FreeRunning. Seriously.
Now that you’ve done that, we can continue…I guess being the video that helped jumpstart an entire sport is good enough to land you at number two on my list, because that’s pretty much what Parkour and FreeRunning did. If you’re not into the old-school, original parkour videos on YouTube you might want to skip this part. It’s about to get nostalgic up in here.
Besides Jump London and Jump Britain (which I’m not including in this list because, technically, they’re documentaries…albeit ridiculously influential ones for the development of the worldwide parkour community), Parkour and FreeRunning was responsible for introducing a serious amount of OG practitioners to parkour. Granted, there were a few videos like that (Russian Climbing, On Avance Toujours, and…oh god…the Urban Ninja video come to mind) but Parkour and FreeRunning also provided would-be traceurs with a list of established practitioners to check out. The list in the description covered pretty much every traceur on YouTube at the time, which was especially helpful considering Parkour and FreeRunning was the first video that would pop up on YouTube when you searched “parkour” until about two years ago. Besides introducing people to parkour, it also introduced people to the athletes who were helping to create and transform the sport every time they put out a new video. Which is something that Russian Climbing and On Avance Toujours didn’t do.
That, more than anything else, is why Parkour and FreeRunning is the second-most influential video of all time. Without scouring forums or the depths of YouTube, it gave 14-year-old losers like me access to the best parkour athletes on the planet. And that’s pretty hard to top.
Which leads us to number one…
#1. Out of Time by Oleg Vorslav (9/8/09)
Surprised? Just hear me out…
While Out of Time may not have as many views as some of the others (although 3 million between Vimeo and YouTube ain’t half bad) or contain new ideas about training methodologies, the movement in Out of Time has affected the development of the parkour community more than any other single video ever. Which is really saying a heck of a lot.
I remember watching videos before Out of Time came out and being impressed if I saw one or two moves in it I’d never seen before. I used to try and name every new flip or flip variation I saw. I tried to do that the first time I saw Out of Time and quit about 70 seconds in. On a 14 minute video. And the first 60 seconds were just shots of Oleg walking around on a beach and yelling Latvian stuff in a tree. By the time minute number two had started I’d already seen more innovation in one video than the previous hundred I’d watched. Out of Time raised the bar for style, tricks, bar work, rail running, and even story-telling for long format videos. I mean, 14 minutes is a long time to watch people jumping around and I’m pretty sure I watched Out of Time at least 4 times the first day it was out. Heck, I even made my parents come and watch some of the bar sequences. It was that unbelievable.
There’s a reason that Oleg is such a legend in the parkour community. I’ve heard so many stories about the man I have no idea what to believe…and I’ve freaking trained with him. Out of Time brought the “Russian style” into parkour’s collective consciousness in 2009 and since then it’s spread all over the world. Think about some of the most well-known “freerunners” in the world right now. Jason Paul. Pasha. Shade. Bait. Now go watch their videos from 2008 and early 2009, before Out of Time came out. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
Out of Time did for the “freerunning” community what Parkour, imaginatively has started to do for the strict parkour community. It gave people permission to create, to envision new types of movement, and to throw away old stereotypes and beliefs. Imagine where the Red Bull Art of Motion would be today without Out of Time. In a way, Oleg paved the way for an entirely new sport with his video. We’re starting to see that now. I mean, I’m not one to bring out the old parkour/freerunning argument but it’s tough for me to swallow when you tell me that Naïm is practicing the same sport as Pasha. Does it mean one is right and the other is wrong? Honestly, I don’t care. Neither should you, really. Both styles are awesome and there’s enough room on YouTube and Earth for any type of movement you can think of. Whether you like it or not, that change in the community can be traced back to Out of Time. And since this style of movement, call it what you will, is getting more and more popular every year I’d say that makes Out of Time the most influential video to date.
Maybe that’ll change, but from where we stand right now I think it’s tough to deny. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot cooler than Urban Ninja 😉 And I promised you badassery, did I not? Because I think running around on a rail like an elf from The Hobbit and swinging on bars with the ease of a gibbon certainly qualifies. So celebrate our numero uno by hitting that play button, smiling, and dancing around your room like a madman when “Move Your Feet” comes on 🙂