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I know that there's a fair amount of debate in the community about the distinction between parkour (getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible) versus freerunning (do impressive stunts while getting from point A to point B). Even among the more hardcore on the parkour side, it seems common to do a front flip when jumping from a high height before landing and doing the momentum-absorbing roll. Is there any actual parkour advantage to this versus just looking neat?

Possibilities I can think of

  • By rotating, you get a full view of your surroundings
  • Some of these jumps start out as dives, sometimes through narrow openings. If you're going to have to rotate to get back to your feet, it makes more sense to keep rotating forward, in the direction of the roll rather than trying to get your momentum the other way by bringing the legs forward to rotate backwards.
  • Relating to the last one, the front flip gets started into a forward momentum which makes it easier to transition into the roll
  • It's just general flip training as espoused by traceurs such as Amos Rendao which helps improve air awareness, making it more likely that you'll find a way to recover when a vault goes bad.

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Yes, if you have running speed. Doing a dive frontflip is often very beneficial, because you get to land such that your feet are out in front of you as you land.

When you have a lot of forward momentum, if you land straight up and down (i.e. perpendicular to the ground), you're going to have way less opportunity for your legs to break the fall before you roll. By landing angled, where you're leaning backwards, your legs will have more time to catch up, and you will have less downward momentum left as you lean forward into the roll.

This is why you see traceurs often to the dived pike or superman frontflip as they jump down heights if they're running into it.

For straight-down jumps, with no forward momentum, the flip is pretty much useless, and it's easier to mess it up. A lot of what makes the frontflip managable, is diving into it with running speed.

As for the aesthetic aspect of the jump, the flip has an undeniable effect. But in my personal opinion, it's not the flip itself that looks the best. It's the dive into it, that looks most impressive. One then has the option to dive head-first into a roll (which is extremely advanced depending on the height), or front-flip out of it to land on your feet.

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Jesse La Flair discussed this in this Corridor Crew Stuntmen React video when commenting on Rick Charles and his world record 172 foot high dive, indicating that it's about harnessing rotational momentum:

Niko: So why flip at all?
Jesse: I mean, that's a great question. I think honestly it allows you to have something to control. If- if he were to just a pencil dive down there's no way to come back from that, right? If you're just slow, like, "oh...", even if you're trying to back pedal, there's nothing, control. With a flip his ability to tuck, spot, and then open is actually the thing that's allowing him to be able to control the braking pattern, right? So he is now very... he's opening, opening, and opening, seeing, the body goes where the head looks, so as he turns his eyes it twists him a little half turn, I mean look how he lands. It's almost, yeah, dead straight so actually doing a flip gives you more control and is in a way easier for a professional than if you tried to not move at all.

Basically, it's about managing inertia. If you start the movement with a rotation, you can adjust your rotational momentum (speed and direction) by tucking or extending to ensure you can land on your feet (or in whatever position you need), but it's very hard to add rotational momentum mid-jump if you were not already rotating.

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  • Could you re-word this? La Flair is undeniably qualified, but this sounds like an unprepared mess, and I don't think it really answers any questions. Phrases like "I mean look how he lands" makes it seem like there's supposed to be a lot of visual context around this answer, and it's missing.
    – Alec
    Sep 26, 2021 at 15:08

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