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Do and Jutsu in Parkour

When I asked for the difference between judo and jujutsu to be explained to me, my sensei used to bring me the mountain metaphor. I try to remember it and write it down.

For my teacher the martial art is like a mountain and the journey (life) leads us to the summit. But like a real mountain, one face is rocky and the other hilly, one cold side, the other sunny. When you are preparing for ascension, from the bottom, you can have an overview and decide how you want to climb: by the quickest and most direct route or by the slowest and sweetest path. It is at this stage that, in fact, we decide what our goal is: we want to enjoy the view and learn something about the local flora and fauna or do we prefer to acquire techniques that allow us to reach the top even in the most adverse conditions?

And here we are at the heart of the matter, jutsu means method, technique (1), its objective is explicitly functional. On the other hand, the end of do , which means path, path (1), is to reach a certain level of introspection, a profound experience of reality. (2)

In nineteenth-century Japan, with the samurai era at sunset, culture changed and technology rendered traditional fighting arts obsolete in one way or another. However, people wanted to continue to practice martial arts but had to shift their attention: this new generation chose self-improvement and spiritual upliftment as its main purpose. (2) After this change of goal resulted in a restructuring, more or less marked, the technical baggage of the disciplines that, in fact, no longer had effectiveness as a priority.

We come, finally, to the Parkour. I believe that our discipline is in a privileged position compared to the Japanese martial arts. The jutsu of parkour, in fact, does not consist of a series of techniques to dislocate the joints or to decapitate the adversaries, but in a general system to overcome the obstacles of the environment that is crossed. It is therefore evident that the jutsu of parkour can be applied in its most utilitarian form without having to fall short of its ethical principles (or without incurring serious legal consequences). Practicing jutsu means, for me, tracing paths in continuity from a starting point to a pre-established arrival point, paying attention:

  • To apply the right series of movements (not to waste energy or time)
  • All ‘harmony of movements that follow each other (because the fluidity of the succession of muscular tension derives the effectiveness of a series of movements)
  • The silence of impacts (because “no sound, not shock”)

And the do ? Well, the most spiritual side of parkour lies in overcoming one’s mental limitations, as well as in the continuous strengthening of one’s own will to progress. Working on do in parkour, for me, is:

  • Carrying out particularly painstaking conditioning exercises (from the physical point of view, but above all the mental one) that I set (to temper my willpower)
  • Perform single risky movements, that is, motilemente difficult and potentially dangerous (to develop concentration and lucidity in moments of stress)
  • Refine the techniques (to respond to an aesthetic and functional sense)

It is good to remember, however, that there is a common basis for the two practices: physical conditioning. Neither the justu nor the do can express themselves if the body is not ready to face the obstacles.

On the other hand, there are some specific consequences of the two training methods. Training jutsu leads to greater adaptability, a high capacity for improvisation as well as the possibility of seeing the city as one full of possibilities and not as a series of watertight environments and obligatory passages. On the other hand, developing the do refines the precision and control and the possibility of “unlocking” passages deemed unimaginable.

We return for a moment to Japan: considering the jutsu as a functional modality and the do linked more to reason to engage in combat, we realize that very few could harmonize the two components . These rare cases do not justify the belief that this was the norm or that, from the historical point of view, jutsu was identical to the do of high ethical purposes. (3)

Parkour’s luck is right here: the do and the jutsu of the parkour are not as difficult to integrate as those in the Japanese fighting arts. It is possible, for us, to develop the two things together: we rely on do to develop and give meaning to a track and tracing out of overly specialized or aesthetic research.


  1. From Wikipedia
  2. From Do vs Jutsu, Jeff Brooks
  3. From the ancient martial arts, Ratti Westbrook