This project was my thesis for my MRes Sport and Exercise Science degree. In the spirit of my undergraduate degree, I decided to also post this online to share my research with the wider parkour community.
This was a big project, but essentially aimed to talk to parkour coaches to really get a good description and potential model of the kong vault for future use in research. As “any quantitative assessment of human movement must be preceded by a measurement and description phase” (Winter, 2009), well, this was aiming to fill the description phase.
While much came of the project, my main takeaway personally is that it is entirely possible to work scientifically within parkour without losing sight of the importance of subjectivity and individuality in the movements. There is also an important point about the differences in experiences with learning parkour movements between male and female athletes in the ‘Future Studies’ section.
I hope sharing this is useful or informative for someone out there, and I’m happy to talk further about anything regarding the project, just get in touch.
Big thank you to all those who took part!
It’s important to know that this work has not been peer reviewed.
Still, I’m proud of my work and I think my findings are, at the very least, interesting. But, please bear the above in mind as you read and consider the results found—and conclusions drawn from those results—with an appropriately critical eye.
You can also download the full anonymised interview data I collected if you would like to perform your own analysis. If you do so, please get in touch and let me know what you use it for and what you find.
Parkour is a discipline in which practitioners (traceurs) traverse their environment using a variety of movements. Parkour’s decentralised spread and community commitment to diverse practice does not provide easily identifiable definitions or outcome measures for a given movement. This can make it challenging to identify a dependent variable of a parkour movement for study or qualitative assessment. In the absence of objective parkour technique definitions, 15 parkour coaches were interviewed about the performance and goals of a common parkour technique, the kong vault. This sampling of expert knowledge provided a broad yet detailed overview of a movement that can be performed with a high degree of variability within a dynamic range of environments. Subsequent analysis led to the development of a deterministic model intended to assist in the understanding of the kong vault in application to highly individual or situational outcomes, rather than comprehensively prescribing objective performance. The model positions the kong vault as consisting of distinct take-off, obstacle contact, and flight phases, and allows connection to any subsequent landing or movement. Flight is determined by the actions taken during take-off and obstacle contact, with obstacle contact making only moderate changes to an existing projectile arc but expressing a greater change in the angular momentum of the body. The optimal outcome of the kong vault can therefore be considered as achieving a projectile arc and body position that effectively places the traceur in as advantageous position as possible to efficiently and consistently perform a given landing or movement.