Parkour, from the French parcours (course or route), can be considered a running style, to get from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. Overcoming all obstacles in one's path using techniques such as vaulting, jumping, climbing, and balancing.
It is as much a mental discipline as it is a physical one, similar to a martial art, or self-defense. Male parkour practitioners are recognized as traceurs and female as traceuses.
Freerunning and l'art du déplacement are aesthetic forms of movement derived from the core motions Parkour, including acrobatic flips and tricks.
The concept of freerunning predates the founding of parkour. In Africa, freerunning existed in several tribal traditions. Likewise, in Asia, freerunning existed in several acrobatic martial arts traditions. The African freerunning traditions inspired Georges Hébert's méthode naturelle, a form of freerunning, in early 20th century France. Freerunning later gained mainstream popularity with Jackie Chan's films in the early 1980s, modernizing Chinese acrobatic running traditions.
Eventually, the above influences led to the founding of parkour in late 1980s France, which was made known and named by David Belle, using a mixture of various different sources, including his father's teachings which were inspired by Georges Hébert's méthode naturelle (in turn inspired by African running traditions), gymnastics (including the freerunning and acrobatics of Jackie Chan), and martial arts (including Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do).
Parkour was introduced into the English-speaking community by the TV programmes 'Jump London' and 'Jump Britain', as well as the internet site http://www.urbanfreeflow.com/ . Urban Freeflow, or UF, have more recently been criticized of 'selling out' the true spirit of parkour by commercialising parts of it and introducing the Barclaycard World Freerun Championships.