Books about parkour are few and far between. There simply aren’t that many coaches out there who have transitioned from hands-on teaching to written instruction. The ability to convey complex movement with words and photographs often feels like a near impossibility.
Yet, it can be done.
Many months ago, I received a copy of the 2nd edition of “The Ultimate Parkour and Freerunning Book”, by Jan Witfeld, Ilona E. Gerling, and Alexander Pach. Given the relatively recent release of Mad Skills, I had been more than busy with my own promotions, so I really didn’t have the time to do a proper review.
Things have finally slowed down a bit and I had a chance to pour through the book over one weekend.
The first thing you notice is its high production quality. From the foldout cover to the full-color interior photographs, the publishers put out an excellent product. The action shots are crisp and the sequences truly capture movements from start to finish.
Digging into the book, you’ll find a thorough history of parkour and freerunning. Georges Hébert, méthode naturelle, Raymond Belle, the Yamakasi, David Bell, Sébastien Foucan, and l’art du déplacement — you’ll gain a nice understanding of parkour’s development to the present day.
There is even a long passage directly from Tim Shieff, one of my favorite athletes!
The authors then delve into muscle fiber function, energy sources utilized in training, and general strength and conditioning. If you’ve never taken a physiology course, it is a nice primer on how your body works under athletic loading.
Tied into the initial section are a few pages devoted to training principles that beginners should observe. Footwear, clothes, safety awareness and general behavior — it’s a nice refresher.
After that, the book dives into specific skills. By my count, there are about three-dozen movements described. Given the breadth of moves used by traceurs and freerunners, one might argue that it is a shallow account of potential skills. However, for the individual getting started, it is more than enough to get you going down the right track.
One of the neat things that the authors do is to include illustrated diagrams of how instructors might set-up obstacles to assist with teaching their students. They also cover how to “spot” someone for safety and how to provide cues for error correction.
It bears mentioning that this book is an excellent resource for aspiring coaches. Aside from offering ways to help students at a one-on-one level, the book goes into how to bring parkour and freerunning into schools and classroom settings. There are even 6 distinct lesson plans for how one might structure a series of classes.
In summary, you can think about this book as a general textbook on parkour and freerunning. It’s enough to get beginning students familiar with concepts, movements, and philosophy. And then it has the depth to inform aspiring coaches on some of the basic science and teaching techniques needed to help athletes develop.
Give it a peek. If you don’t already have a book on parkour and freerunning in your library, then fill the void with this worthy addition!