When it comes to urban survival, being able to move around fast and efficiently is a necessary skill to have in your toolbelt. And what better way is there to do that then by learning some awesome parkour vaults? As a practitioner of this incredible form of movement, I’ll tell you straight away that no matter how well I explain the content in this article, it’s no replacement for actually getting out there and trying it yourself. So once you’ve finished reading, I encourage you to get out there, find a fence or other object, and practice these parkour vaults!
What is Parkour?
To start off, though, let’s dive into what parkour is and how it differs from freerunning. Originally, parkour was developed for firefighters to get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient way possible, allowing them to save more people who might be trapped in a burning building. Freerunning, on the other hand, is getting from Point A to Point B in the most creative way possible. This is where are the fancy flips come in – something that has (unfortunately) been something of a weak point for me. However, in an urban survival setting, flips are probably going to be the last thing on your mind anyway, which is why we’re sticking with parkour.
We’ll start off with the easiest one: the safety vault. Something that anyone can do, it’s by no means the most efficient vault, but is a great place to start if you’re a complete beginner. Start by putting one hand on the wall (I prefer my non-dominant hand, but do whatever feels best to you), and place your opposite foot next to it. If you put your left hand on the wall, you should be putting your right foot next to it, and vice versa for the other side. Now that you’re supported by your hand and foot on the ledge, pass your other leg through the gap created by your limbs, and set it down on the other side of the obstacle. Congratulations! You’ve just completed your first vault.
The speed vault is very similar to the safety vault we just covered. However, it’s a more advanced technique and much more efficient when it comes to moving quickly through obstacles. Start the same way as you would if you were doing a safety vault, by putting one hand on the obstacle. For the sake of example, we’ll say you used your left hand. Now, instead of placing your right foot on the wall, and passing your left leg through the gap created by your arm and leg, you’ll swing it over the obstacle completely. Your left leg will follow after it, with both landing on the other side.
Most vaults are easier to perform if you come at them with a running start, but the speed vault can be done statically as well. In my opinion, it’s one of the simplest to learn and start practicing, making it a well rounded option for beginners and veterans alike.
Though arguably less practical for running away, the lazy vault does still get you over the obstacle while providing a little bit of flair in the process. Due to the nature of the vault, you won’t be able to tackle it with your hips facing forward – instead, they’ll need to be facing one side or the other. Assuming you’ve placed your left hand on the obstacle, you’ll naturally have your hips facing to the right. Without moving your hand, toss your left leg over the obstacle with your right leg following soon after. Once both legs have cleared the wall, put your right hand down and push off with both.
While it’s still a great way to get over something that’s in your way, the lazy vault wasn’t designed for speed (as you probably could’ve guessed by the name). Still, it’s easy to perform, does its job well, and gives you something cool to show off to your friends should the opportunity present itself.
This vault was the trickiest for me to learn, simply because the motion felt unnatural. When you first start practicing it, the reverse vault almost feels like you’re going be vaulting backwards…and in a sense, you will be.
I always use my right hand when doing this vault, so I’ll explain it with that in mind. As you’re coming toward the obstacle, twist your body to the left and place your right hand on the ledge – your fingers should be facing back the way you came. Continue the motion of turning left, and throw your left leg over the obstacle with the right leg following close behind. Most of your weight should be on your right hand while you’re in the air.
This vault never really felt natural to me, and it’s difficult to find a practical use for it. However, if you’re interested in looking good as you show off your moves, it’s a technique well worth practicing.
A popular vault among parkour enthusiasts, the kong vault is something that you’re bound to pick up sooner or later if you spend time in that community. Requiring a running start, this vault is incredibly straightforward – both hands go directly on the obstacle, you pull your knees up to your chest, and push with your arms until you’re completely over the ledge. The first few times can be a little scary, as it can feel like you’re going to face plant as you’re going over.
There is a variation of this vault that is worth noting. The double kong vault is a more advanced technique, and it does exactly as the name implies. If there are two obstacles in close proximity (or if it’s one long obstacle that you’re trying to get over in one go), this is a skill that will allow you to do it. Start off as you would a normal kong vault, but try to get your legs higher than your head. It should look like you’re on your way to go into a handstand, without quite reaching that height. This will ensure that your legs don’t drop and drag against any objects during your extended time in the air. Push off with your hands and feel yourself fly through the air until you’ve reached the distance you wanted to achieve – then, place your hands back down, and finish the vault as you normally would.
The dash vault can be one of the most scary to practice. While I would argue that it doesn’t really require much more technical skill, you do need to pass over a mental hurdle when you first begin practicing. A successful dash vault involves throwing both of your legs over the obstacle first (sort of like doing hurdles) and then pushing off with your hands once most of your body is already over the ledge. It’s mostly scary just because it’s the only vault on this list where your hands don’t touch until the end, but in reality, I find it to be easier than many other vaults. The key is to commit to it without hesitation.
Still, trying it out for the first time can create a huge mental barrier for most people. Thankfully there’s a more secure way to practice the techniques while building up your confidence enough to do the real deal. First, start by jumping up onto the ledge with one leg. Then pass your other leg through to the other side without letting it touch the obstacle, put your hands down, and push yourself off.
Like the kong vault, there is a variation that is worth noting, and also happens to be my favorite vault, due to how fun it is to practice. I don’t know what the official name for it is (if it even has one), but my local parkour gym refers to it as the “anti-kong.” In essence, it starts off the same as a regular dash vault, where you throw both of your legs over the obstacle first. But then, as you’re in the air, you twist your body until your stomach is facing the ground. Once you’ve completely passed over the obstacle, place your hands on it and push off the rest of the way over.
Vaults were created as an efficient way for people to get from Point A to Point B, despite the presence of obstacles. While all of the techniques listed in this article will get the job done, some are far more focused on speed than others, making them ideal for rescue or escape situations. Lazy, reverse, and safety vaults will get you where you want to go, but more often than not, they aren’t the best for moving quickly. In a real crisis, speed, kong, and dash vaults are what you’re going to want to focus on more than anything.