Preface: I use “tracer” to mean either “traceur” or “traceuse” which is a male or female practitioner of parkour respectively.
A Tracer’s Code
I am not aware of a rule book for parkour. There is no law. In fact we spend a lot of time while practicing trying to break the laws that cannot be broken—like physics. Without laws and rules and guidelines we are free to do what we want and train however we like, for a little while. When we train—if the environment that we are training in is destroyed or ruined by our practice there, then we can no longer train the same way there. Of course, right? It is important that a tracer leave an area intact for the next man or woman that has come to train. Some groups have adopted the phrase, “Leave no trace” as a fun little mnemonic verse, to leave an area looking better than when you arrived. A traceur is respectful.
Although there are no rules we have a definition of what we practice. Without getting into who created parkour or what the official definition is we all agree that parkour is efficient. I always say that because parkour is efficient it is also safe. Imagine running away from a rabid dog and approaching a vault-able structure that the dog would have to run around. Now, if you can only perform a speed vault 5 out of 10 times, then half the time there is a chance that you hurt yourself and the dog gets you. However, if you can perform a safety vault 10 out of 10 times and you choose to do the speed vault that you can only do 5 out of 10 times then are you still using the method of parkour? Are you using maximum efficiency? Or are you taking a gamble? A tracer is safe in implementation.
When we practice parkour—when we are using the method, we are not always efficient because that’s what we are trying to become! We wouldn’t try to be anything that we already are! That would be absurd! But, we learn a little at a time an in an order so that should we fail a forward vault like a Kong and hit our shin on a wall we know the roll, or the break fall so that we can keep going. A traceur trains progressively—within types of movement and specific techniques.
Many times while training, an obstacle will come about that could make a route quicker or the culmination of practice in certain techniques has opened up a new path. While we look at the difficulty and know how much failing a jump or a drop could hurt we paradoxically know when to train safe and when to shed ourselves of our fear. When we get to the jump that we have never done for instance, we know when we are ready to jump. A tracer overcomes fear—as if it were another obstacle.
When we train where I am from we always encourage each other saying “Do the first one for yourself.” We do not need someone to hold our hand or to watch every attempt. I have heard other groups say “We’ll tell you when you’re doing good.” And I think that both groups are saying the same thing. After you receive instruction, keep practicing, keep moving, get it and after you have it a couple of times people will notice and encourage you, but don’t look for the encouragement, do it because you love the movement; do not perform because you want the praise. A tracer trains for love of movement—because it’s useful, fun or otherwise.
Because a tracer trains for themselves there is a sense of autonomy—one man or woman versus the obstacles before them. At the same time there is community, a strange paradox where a tracer faces obstacles by themselves and yet is not alone. Whether you train in a group or with one other person or alone, there is always the next person that is going to train in that location after you, that will share the experiences at a different time, that trains at a different place but works on the same type of obstacle. You can train alone and still be a part of a larger community. Unless you train in a vacuum you are a part of the larger community. This might seem like a jump, but… A tracer is a friend.
Thank you for reading my recent thoughts on parkour. I am in “discovery mode” and am not attached at the hip to any of what I wrote so if you beg to differ please share why. If you would like to add on something that you think should be in “A Tracer’s Code” please feel free to share and open a discourse.
By Matt Antis, for RVPK