This interview is part of the archives. It was published in 3 parts betweenApril 14th and 28th 2013 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog.
At the time this interview was done Adam Dunlap and Take Flight were subject of many discussions in the world wide Parkour community. On the one hand there was the release of a concept called “Parkour City” (by David Belle and Take Flight) a sort of Parkour park that introduced a competition aspect and on the other hand Adam had on numerous occasions backed his statements and his partly controversial views with his close relationship to David Belle. In this interview that also includes some quite critical questions Adam took the time and effort to present his view of things. If one remembers, there were many different upset parties of Parkour related people blaming Adam for a variety of things in public. The interview starts slowly with some rather general questions about Parkour and how he got into it and slowly touches the more fragile topics.
The interview was released in 3 parts on the PKLinz Blog as it was big and each part had a little German introduction to it. Below you will find the parts all in one but still with the German introductions.
Enjoy the read and beware that the interview ws taken in 2013, some things, views or facts might have changed.
Adam Dunlap, Gründer von Take Flight, “der offiziellen Bekleidungslinie für Parkour” (laut eigener Angabe), hat in letzter Zeit für viel Diskussionsstoff gesorgt. Einerseits mit dem Konzept Parkour City und andererseits durch seine Ansichten von Parkour die er gerne auf David Belle stützt. Seine enge Beziehung zu David Belle definiert seine Auffassung von Parkour und in diesem ausführlichen Interview hat er sich unseren teils kritischen Fragen gestellt. In diesem Ersten von mehreren Teilen des Interviews steigen wir mit ein paar persönlichen Fragen zu Adams Lebensumständen ein und schließen mit Fragen zu seiner Beziehung zu David Belle ab.
Viel Spaß mit dem Interview!
We Trace: Hi Adam first off, thank you for your time!
Adam: Absolutely. You’re welcome. The pleasure is mine 🙂
We Trace(CQ): When and how did you start training Parkour? How much time do you invest in your training at the moment?
Adam: I first started “Parkour” (emphasis on the quotations. I wasn’t doing Parkour, but I was trying lol!) in March/April 2006. I saw the movie scene from B13 and a couple other videos (there weren’t that many online at this time), and I decided I wanted that physicality and capability. So I began training. I remember my first “training” session. I left the house in a sprint and jumped over everything I could find. About 100 yards away I was exhausted and out of breath, so I stopped and rested. Then a minute later I set off again in another full sprint. Lol! That’s what I thought Parkour was! But you can’t really blame me. After all, that’s what you see going on in B13 – David just doesn’t stop. So I was just emulating it lol.
Since then my training has been a really interesting evolution. Skipping all the history and bringing us to present day, I now train 2 hours a day, really intensely, “Go, go, go.” I train in the Parkour method as David passed to me and as I understand it. Sometimes if I have physical issues (for example, currently I’m overcoming from a sprained ankle) then I modify my training a bit and focus more on the physical conditioning / rehab which relies on a different approach but still equally intense.
We Trace(CQ): What do you think is your role in the whole Parkour movement? What do you think what influence you have had on the global Parkour scene so far?
Adam: I don’t know if I have a role. In some ways I feel boxed into one though. I built Take Flight, and a lot of people look up to that and are inspired by it. So I feel I have an obligation to continue running that. And not only are people inspired by it, but we provide a great product that people love. Plus now it’s also providing for Traceurs through our endorsements which have financial compensation. So my role is to keep my promises to all those customers and partners, and to continue to work to build something that is lasting and is admirable, and something that continues to support those who believe in me and the company and who have invested their time and energy in it as well.
Another role I have is to share David’s vision of Parkour with the world. This role wasn’t appointed to me by David, it’s just something I feel I have an obligation to do. Not many in the world have had the chance to train, learn, and get to know David the way I have. All the Parkour aside, the Belle’s are family to me. We’re that close. And a lot of people want to know the insights I have from that experience. Because of David’s history I think people will want to hear that insight for many years to come. Sharing that is another role you could say I fill.
Lastly, combining all that together (Take Flight, David, my history etc), I see a role for me as being a model to show how you can stay true to yourself and still be successful. The way I live is to follow my convictions, and money hasn’t changed me and it never will. You can’t “buy me” as some would call it. So there are some doubts out there about Take Flight and our vision and what we are doing and whether it’s “profiteering” or what not. So boil it all down and my role is to reassure people in the faith they have in us and say, “Look, it’s not like what the rumor mill is trying to tell you. We can be a large and influential company that still has the right heart and perspective, and that is what we are! And it’s what we will continue to be.” We don’t do it for the profit. We do it for the principles. And being an example for that is important to me because it affects a lot of people in a positive way, and I’m committed to seeing that through.
Ahhh one more thing I just thought of. What we have at Take Flight through our method, heart and vision, is the opportunity to bring product innovation! So I see my role in the Parkour world as also being the leader in the product development for our discipline. We’re working on shoes, and some amazing pants and a few other products as well. That product initiative is not something anyone else in the Parkour world is positioned to take on for many reasons – financial limitations, expertise, time wise, connections etc. So I see another role for me as being a leader in bringing the Parkour world the products they want. Shoes made for our discipline is one example, and there are many other product innovations as well that I will be behind.
All that being said, I wouldn’t call any of those “roles.” They are more just like what I am in a position to do. I never planned any of this. It just is what it is and I’m seeing it through.
Regarding what influence I have already had? Depends where you go. I started the Revolution Parkour gym which supports a thriving Parkour community. So in my home town I’ve had a lot of influence. I’m also the man behind brining David to social media which now has 140,000 followers across the channels. Add those into what Take Flight has done and how many people that has touched, and I’d say I’ve probably had a big influence. But exactly what and how? Well, that probably depends who you ask.
We Trace(CQ): What is your profession and how do you make your living?
Adam: Oh gosh, ummm…. well we have a couple misconceptions in that question. First, my profession. I don’t really have one. Or rather it keeps training. First I was a Traceur who got endorsements and trained and did some modeling and acting. During this time I was also delivering pizza so that was my “profession” if you will. That was in 2007-2008. Then in early 2008 I founded Revolution Parkour and became a Parkour instructor. During this time I was also a part-time trainer at another gym. Within that year I founded Take Flight which I guess then made me some sort of a serial entrepreneur. Then when I moved to France I considered myself retired lol.
Point is, my profession keeps changing. Currently I run Take Flight, I teach Parkour from time to time, and I run training classes for a fencing academy (non-Parkour related training). I also have some pending commercial projects with David that we’re hoping to do. So I guess I’d call myself….maybe a freelance professional/Traceur that is just trying to make it in the world just like anyone else.
Second misconception: me making a living. Thing is, I don’t really make a living. I kind of just lived on borrowed money. I don’t get paid for the work I’m doing for Take Flight, and my work for David has been out of friendship, and I haven’t made anything from that either. I usually tell people that are close to me, “If you work part time at McDonald’s you make more than me,” and that’s absolutely true. I think with some projects we have coming up that will change soon, but for now I’m content and happy with what I’m doing. I feed off creativity, and Take Flight and David give me my creative outlook so that keeps me going.
We Trace(CQ): You are living in the US if we got that right. How often do you visit other countries and how often do you get to exchange yourself with other opinions?
Adam: I’m actually kind of in between locations right now. As of mid-February I officially ended 2 years spent traveling back and forth between the US and France. The majority of that time I spent living in France so I consider myself as technically living there for that time. Now I am in the States, but I’ve only been here planted for like 6 weeks! And I might be off again in a few more. I have no official residence, and my future is uncertain. So that takes care of where I’m “living.” Again, I’m in between.
Regarding traveling, I’m not much of a traveler because I don’t like it that much. I prefer to stay in one place where all my friends and family are. I’ll travel for work, of if I’m invited somewhere, but other than that I prefer and intend to stay put.
I associate with other opinions all the time through the internet. In the Parkour context I am quite aware of almost all of them, and they all intrigue me. I keep pretty good tabs on all the communities around the world, and I like seeing other ideas and perspectives.
We Trace(CQ): Relating to other interviews you stated that you act as David Belle´s brand manager. Could you tell us what your duties and responsibilities as David´s brand manager are? What decisions are you taking for him?
Adam: David is a tricky one. Working with him in a business context is like trying to play checkers with a tiger. So, yes, I have responsibilities. But at the same time I don’t because trying to direct David’s energy in the way a typical brand manager would do is not, shall we say, possible? In any case, at the moment I manage his clothing brand which I also produced. I also manage his social media, his website, and I manage and pursue endorsements for him.
I don’t make any decisions for David. David always makes his own decisions about everything. All you can ever do with David is present ideas and see what he thinks. That can be frustrating from a business perspective, but once you understand David then it’s simple because that’s just what it is. You are just there to kind of help him and then you step back. When it comes down to it I always tell him, “You’re the boss.” For the most part I just see myself as a really good friend who compliments him in many ways because of my talents. Because of that I can bring a level of focus and insight to him and his career that he wouldn’t have without me. Brand Manager is the title I role with because it’s the most applicable, but it some contexts it may or may not be the best title.
We Trace(CQ): How did you get to meet David Belle and how did you become his brand manager?
Adam: Meeting David and becoming his brand manager were two completely different things. In October 2009 I flew to France to meet David for the first time and discuss him endorsing Take Flight, which he agreed to. This trip was coordinated by a man named Guy Janodet who was working pretty much as David’s manager at the time. A year and a half later in March 2011, I moved to France to work with David on various projects (Take Flight was one of them). The way I thought about it was, “Hey look Adam, you want to work with David, right? Well you’re going to have to do two things then: #1. You’re going to have to learn French, and #2. You’re going to have to train with David and get to know him on a personal level.” So moving to France was the logical step. At the time the trip was also coordinated through Guy Janodet. In a very sad turn of events, however, Guy passed away just a few weeks after I arrived. Somehow I stepped into Guy’s role after that. That’s pretty much it. David has a very small, tight circle of friends, and you can’t break into it unless you know him or unless you’re really close with someone who is really close with him. Guy had always spoken highly of me so the timing was serendipitous, and it all kind of worked out the way it did.
Adam: Everything that is posted on David’s channels comes from him. Everything. He has done three Twitter interviews and he answered every question. In a case like that, I was with him every time. I interpreted the questions for him and he answered the ones he wanted to and I’d translate/scribe the answers back into English. It was all him. Almost all the posts on his Facebook were also typed by me, but, again, they were all, word for word, written by David. In general, if he isn’t the one typing/posting it (which he does do from time to time), he sends me a text and says, “Adam, I want to post this!” so I do. It’s the same with the videos on his YouTube. All the videos we have launched are old. I suggested we started posting them. He agreed, and whenever we publish one I ask him to give some comments on it and he gives them. Everything is 100% from him.
David doesn’t use or like the internet the way the younger generations does, so when I’m not in the same city as him he won’t post as much. That’s just how he is. He’s the poster, I encourage him endlessly, and sometimes I get through and that’s when you see a post. We make a good team in that way.
PART 2 OF THE RELEASE
Der zweite Teil des Interviews mit Adam Dunlap beschäftigt sich mit Fragen zu David Belle, zum Konzept Parkour City (wobei Adam unter anderem einer der Initiatoren ist), sowie mit der Frage nach Adams Meinung zu Competition (konkret auch die North American Parkour Championships). Ein gewisses Augenmerk wird auf die geschäftliche Beziehung Adams zu David gelegt, wobei auch hinterfragt werden soll inwieweit Adam sich als Repräsentant David Belle´s versteht.
Viel Spaß mit Teil 2 des Interviews!
We Trace(CQ): Do you see yourself as a messenger of David´s views and opinions?
Adam: No, I do not see myself as a messenger of David’s views and opinions. I do think that I understand David’s views and opinions better than possibly anyone, and because of that I speak to them. But I’m not his messenger in any way, now has he asked me to be such. I only give a testament to what I know and understand. Until David publicly says, “Adam speaks for me on this issue,” then my words need to be taken as separate from David, although as coming from someone who knows David as a good friend / family member.
We Trace(CQ): What would you do if David one day decided someone else should manage his business?
Adam: I’d respect that and support it as long as it wasn’t someone I thought was trying to use David. You can’t cage David. He’s going to do what he wants. Once you figure that out, the only thing left to do is step back and respect his decisions. That’s what good family and friends do anyway for anyone, but it’s even more true with how we work with David. At this point in time knowing who David is and how he works, it would literally blow my mind if he asked someone else to do the job I’m doing. There simply isn’t anyone else in his inner circle that could do what I do. So unless he goes to a really corporate level like CAA or something then there is no one. But you never know. He has an agent well who handles all his contractual things, so there are other people “around,” but they aren’t quite “around,” if that makes any sense. For now, as I said, in many ways I’m just a good friend that looks out for David and has helped established things. Because I know and understand David so well, he trusts me and we make a good team. If one day David decides he wants someone else to do what I do, then I’d graciously step aside. Unless, as I said, it was clearly someone who I felt was not right and/or had other intentions besides David’s best interests. If that happened then I’d talk to David’s family about the issue and express my concerns before stepping aside.
We Trace(CQ): Is David trying to get himself involved more in the international Parkour scene at the moment?
Adam: I don’t know all of David’s intentions, actions, and motives, so I can’t and I won’t speak on his behalf for that. From what I know, though? I’d say he’s not being proactive about it, but he is going about becoming more involved in subtle ways. Knowing David, I don’t think there is a lot of draw for him to be a prominent figure. First, he doesn’t like being in front of people. He is very shy and quiet in that way. People see him in a big film and they don’t understand that side of him. So it has led to a lot of misconceptions about his actions the “why” behind his actions. He makes his appearances when he feels it is right, but on the grand scale he’s not the type of person who will proactively take steps to be involved on a grand scale.
People look to David as a leader, which he is. But he leads by example and by being himself – the example -, not by trying to be or do what other people expect him to be or do. He’s turning 40 this month and he has a wife and son now. He spent the first 30-odd years of his life literally running and jumping around the world, because he loved it, never expecting to Parkour to become as big as it has. He wants to slow down now and enjoy life and find the peace and quiet. If he was a martial arts master from another century people would understand that. As it is, everyone expects him to be a star and a public figure. He has some other plans to teach Parkour and do things of this nature, and he has a few films in the works and other projects which will lead to him being visible than he has in the last few years. But in general I see him as taking things at a much slower pace and doing things on a much quieter level. That’s just who he is.
We Trace: Reading your previous interviews and Blog entries you often state that asking David Belle before doing something (like setting up a clothing company) would be the right approach. Two questions arise when thinking of it:
- a) What is your opinion when someone says that “Parkour has by far exceeded its creators and can impossibly be controlled by one or a few people anymore? It has its own life and everyone practicing it is an equal part. Thus no one has control over Parkour”.
Adam: I don’t agree with that. People who say that, don’t understand Parkour. Yes, Parkour has far exceeded the vision of its creator in many ways. But it many ways it’s still the same. David is still the creator, and the fact that Parkour exploded internationally doesn’t now mean that some 16 year old self-taught practitioner has as much right to the word as David. David isn’t some power hungry guy that wants to control everything, but he is, again, the creator of Parkour. People try to hide that fact or shove it under the rug in various ways with false history and/or by saying, “I didn’t see David do anything for 5 years so he lost that right to Parkour, blah blah blah.” All that is simply a bunch of talk from a bunch of self-righteous Traceurs with big egos who think they are hot stuff because they can jump from a few meters or do a back flip. They clearly have no understanding of what Parkour by David Belle is and how good David was. Don’t give me this crap about how Parkour belongs to everyone. It doesn’t and it never will.
To give you some more insight on this from David, I’ve talked to David about this and his answer is this (I’ll do my best to quote him – he has explained this to me on multiple occasions):
“If someone owns a car and leaves it in their driveway, do other people have a right to take that car and drive it? Of course not. Now what if the owner doesn’t drive it for a year? Do people then have the right to take that person’s car and drive it? No. What if he doesn’t drive it for 10 years? Do they then have the right to take it from him and drive it? No. That is how Parkour is. And some people think that just because I’ve kept to myself, I’ve somehow lost my right to Parkour. I haven’t. It’s still my car.”
David is the creator of Parkour and that’s that. It doesn’t matter how big Parkour is or how big Parkour becomes. It doesn’t matter the size or reach, it’s all irrelevant. Now, there are some places where the community can work together and advance things together without David. Like, for example, have a Parkour film festival. That’s cool! Go ahead and do that. David likes watching videos, so make some great videos and he will be proud. Again, David doesn’t want to control Parkour like some dictator. He has made Parkour and given it to the world and it brings him joy to see people doing it. But when people think that they’ve been doing Parkour for 5 years and they can jump from 3 meters or whatever, and that gives them the right to rewrite the definition of Parkour or say what Parkour is etc etc? C’mon mec. You have no idea. To me, there are certain things that will never change and to which David will always have the right to. One of those things is the definition of Parkour. Don’t tell me that “we” or “the community” can redefine Parkour. What David says Parkour is, goes. End of story. It’s his car. Quit trying to steal it and justify your actions so you can drive around in it and pick up chicks.
You’re welcome to follow your own path and do whatever you want, and call it whatever you want. But don’t forget who made the key and don’t be prideful enough to think that you are anyone with any authority just because you do some kong vaults or some big jumps. Before the majority of the modern day Parkour world was born, David was doing bigger jumps than even today’s best Traceurs have ever done. Now it’s ilke we have a bunch of mini Cortez’s that have arrived on the banks of the New World claiming they are “leaders in the community.” You’re not, and you don’t have any authority on the larger issues. You need a big does in humility if you think you do.
We Trace: b) If someone would like to contact David in order to sort out some things what is the best way to do so?
Adam: Call him on his cell phone. If he knows your number he will pick up 🙂
We Trace(CQ): David was never really involved in the global Parkour community. It seems like a lot of important questions were not answered by him. The lacking clarity has already lead to a lot of confusion all these years. Do you think David is aware of his impact splitting the community when he misses to make clear statements?
Adam: David’s statements have always been clear. Compare him to all the other ancients, and he is the only one who has never changed. The confusion lies in people like UF, Parkour Generations, the Yamakasi, and many others who have changed their stories, and/or distorted Parkour in various ways. That has filtered down, and now lots of people are complicit it perpetuating those distortions without knowing it. Even I was complicit in sharing false idea when I first got started! I didn’t know any better! Now I do know better, and I take a stand for the truth. That offends a lot of people that have money riding on false beliefs, and I’ll give that context by saying I don’t think anyone is perpetuating their false beliefs maliciously. As I was long ago, they just don’t know any better. Pride and ego get added to that as well and it makes it a whole lot worse, but that’s just life. In any case, it has led us here to a lot of confusion, and a lot of personal issues which still enforce the confusion.
Going back to David’s story, we have a few problems. First, beliefs shape perceptions, and in many cases people didn’t hear the whole story or the context of the stories David told. So for many, figuring out what Parkour was, was like reading a book expecting it to have a certain message, nut then not finishing the book and yet still proclaiming the message they thought it was going to have. Clearly there are problems with that approach. That’s how Parkour has been. People simply should have said, “We don’t know all the answers yet. Here is what we think we have figured out.” Instead, people saw one video or one interview and said, “I know what Parkour is!” and it screwed up a lot of things up. Don’t blame David for that.
Read the literature, watch the interviews, and study the movement, and you’ll see that everything is there, all the questions are answered, for those with an open mind to see it. One of the reasons David doesn’t do interviews is because he is tired of them. He has told me on multiple occasions, “Why do people keep asking for interviews? I have already answered all the questions!” I know it has been tricky to get the full story over the years, but the information is out there for those who want to know. The confusion is not David’s fault. It’s the fault of those who didn’t search enough or believed someone who wasn’t a good endorser of the discipline.
We Trace(CQ): In your blog you wrote about Parkour competition models. Could you please explain what’s in your opinion the difference between “the first person to the finish line” and “the fastest person” models? And why is ‘the first person to the finish line’ model negated?
Adam: Those seem like the same models to me. The fastest person always finishes first, right? That’s kind of the point. Am I missing something?
Maybe you mean a time trail versus a versus model? I still think it’s the same. A versus model would be cooler though, then you can see people moving at the same time 🙂
We Trace: What do you think of the North American Parkour Championships?
Adam: I didn’t watch it. I didn’t like the name – I thought it was too authoritative. And I didn’t like their ‘monster truck’ publicity video. It told me that this event wasn’t being done with the right heart. Because of those two things I didn’t pay any attention to it. From what I’ve heard, it seemed to be a very positive and unifying event for a lot of people. I’m glad people felt that way.
On another note, some people recently made a video titled “Adam Dunlap” and it had a bunch of footage from the gym that hosted that event. The video was great. So since then my admiration for that gym has jumped up a few points lol 🙂
We Trace: When you hear people’s opinions who are totally against artificial training places for Parkour (Parkour parks especially) as they see Parkour as a way of handling ones environment and adapting ones movement to the environment (not vice versa). How would you argue to the favour of a concept like “Parkour City”?
Adam: Naim recently stated this – he didn’t agree with Parkour parts. Although I disagree with him, I respect his view as I respect all opinions. In this case a park like Parkour City is merely a place to call our own. It’s an environment constructed to allow Traceurs to train in a place where they can practice all the techniques in one location without being bothered by society and told, “Get down from there,” “You can’t do that,” “Quit acting like kids,” etc etc. Parkour is a training method, and although you can train in any environment, having a place that can optimize your training as a park would is great too. As I understand it, this is David’s view too which is why he designed Parkour City.
We Trace(CQ): How likely do you think is the realization of the concept “Parkour City” at this point?
Adam: We just need something like 3 million dollars. Once we have that the rest will take care of itself. It’s really just a matter of people getting behind the project. Whether that’s through a fundraiser, or getting everyone to buy a Take Flight t-shirt so we can fund it, either way one day it will happen. I’m sure of it. When and where? That’s the only question.
PART 3 OF THE RELEASE
Der dritte und letzte Teil des Interviews mit Adam Dunlap widmet sich wieder generelleren Fragen, wobei sein ausführliches Schlussstatement ein gutes Bild vermittelt wie er sich eigentlich selbst sieht. Summa Summarum war es ein interessantes Interview mit einer umstrittenen Persönlichkeit der Szene. An dieser Stelle danke an Adam für die Möglichkeit des Interviews und möge sich jeder selbst sein Bild darüber machen welche Schlüsse aus dem Interview gezogen werden können.
We Trace(CQ): What are your idols when it comes to Parkour? (Not your top 5 traceurs as in your blog but rather the characters with the most influence on you)
Adam: David Belle and Raymond Belle. Those are the two I look up to. Raymond’s not really a Traceur per se since he came before David/Parkour/Tracers, but without getting into all the history and the discussion, Raymond is my model for being a warrior. David has said before that compared to his father he is just a kid playing, and I’ve heard many stories from David and Monique and others about Raymond. Knowing what I know, I look at the world’s best Traceurs today none of which compare to David in his prime – none of them, not one – and I say, “If David was a kid compared to his father, how much more so are we all just kids trying to grapple and understand something that is beyond us?”
David, however, is also a warrior, and since I never met Raymond, David also takes that place of inspiration for me since I have visually seen the force behind David. Raymond becomes the reference, and David becomes the model which makes me realize how incredible Raymond was. But they are both true warriors and incredible in their own rights.
Different from Raymond, David is my model of a Traceur. David has done jumps that no one else in the world has done. And he has done them easily. In my mind he is the best Traceur ever and no one will ever be as good. I know how he trained, and no one trains like that and I doubt anyone ever will. That’s what gives me the confidence to say that. For some reason I’ve always been drawn to that aspect of David, and ever since I began I always aspire to move and jump like David.
No question about it, the Belles are my idols from the Parkour perspective.
We Trace: What is your biggest achievement so far? What are you proud of the most?
Adam: Do you mean in Parkour? Or in like the larger context of Parkour and my endeavors, Take Flight etc? Either way, I have a really simple answer. I did a 12 foot jump which I was really happy about : )
I don’t do things for other people. I mean that in the context of, I don’t do things for the purpose of showing them off or being admired. I often will sacrifice and spend time and money and energy to build something and to help others. I did this with Revolution Parkour and I’ve done this with Take Flight. But as I said, I never planned any of that. It’s just kind of what happened. So I think a lot of people may look at what I’ve done/do say, “Wow, that’s great what you’ve done! Congratulations! Aren’t you proud?!” And even I look at it sometimes and say, “Woa, Adam, that’s pretty cool. You’ve done a lot in the last 5 years.” But I never intend to do any of that, so it’s kind of just is what it is. That’s why something as simple as a 12 foot jump would be the thing I’m the most proud of. I always intended to do that. And when I do a 13 foot jump that will be my proudest moment.
We Trace(CQ): Does it bother you that there is no way for you to control what is happening with Parkour and how the development is going on?
Adam: Not at all. I mean, why would it bother me? That’s life. Each person is going to follow their own path and do what they feel is best for them. That’s human nature and it doesn’t bother me that I can’t control that. I mean, I can’t even control what my students do in a class lol! Why would it bother me that people around the world are doing things I wouldn’t do? It doesn’t.
We Trace(CQ): What do you think of Urban Freeflow in general? What is the main difference that distinguishes Take Flight from former Urban Freeflow? (except David´s support of course)
Adam: I don’t have any thoughts on Urban Freeflow. As far as I know Urban Freeflow is gone. Paul Corkey has moved on to Flexdem at least for the time being. So there’s really nothing to think about them. They are in the past.
When you look at something – a company, organization, a movement etc – you have to look at the heart of that object. The heart usually resides in the founder. The founder of UF was EZ, Paul Corkey. The heart of TF is me, Adam Dunlap. So that’s the major difference. But I’ve never met EZ so I don’t know exactly what those differences are. I also don’t know what his vision was for his company, so that is all the more reason why I can’t speak to the differences between Urban Freeflow and Take Flight. All I can speak to is what Take Flight does and we do things.
Regarding Take Flight, first, we can’t overlook David. That’s a foundation that at the very least shows the heart of the organization. I ask you, what other company in the world that is using Parkour in a business context has gone as far as I have to meet David, earn his friendship, and ask to use Parkour? I can only think of one other group – Parkour Paris. Parkour Generations would be the third, but Stephane betrayed David’s trust and endorsement when he joined forces with the Yamakasi. So that’s done. That leaves us with Parkour Paris and Take Flight, and besides us I can’t think of anyone else that has gone the distance and stayed true. Ah one more, Founcan. He’s the man 🙂 But that’s a bit different since he doesn’t use the word Parkour. Anyway, people want to overlook my friendship with David and say, “What else makes you different?” But the “David Belle Factor” is the most important difference!! That should be enough for people to say, “Woa. Respect. You are guys are different, and even if I know nothing else I will give you the benefit of the doubt because of that.” That shows a purity of heart, direction, and vision that no other organization in the Parkour world of our prominence has today.
As fate would have it, however, the ‘David Belle Factor’ is not the only thing that distinguishes us from other organizations past and present. What makes Take Flight different is we operate as a mission driven not-for-profit. We of course need money to function, but we don’t pursue money, and as I’ve said, I don’t get paid for my work with the company which is not something I see any other company heads doing in the Parkour world at this time. Our vision at Take Flight is to grow together with our athletes, partners, and supporters, in order to support others and work collaboratively with Traceurs around the world in a humble, supportive, and inspiring fashion. We intend to do this in order to provide a business stability to the Parkour world and help the Parkour community advance in various ways as I mentioned before (innovation, inspiration, financial support, and other methods), and in the ways that they want most. I see us as a community run company, and that’s the focus I want to keep at Take Flight.
Backing that up, and bringing us back to what makes us difference, is me, Adam Dunlap. If you look at my history you’ll see clearly where that vision comes from. When I started doing Parkour, I was doing it for me and only for me. It was a personal discipline way before there was any of this branding, business, commercial, publicity stuff. I remember shunning an offer to do a newspaper interview with my school because I didn’t want any involvement in the commercialism of Parkour in any way! That’s how committed I was to keeping the discipline only as a personal training method! I just wanted to do Parkour and help it keep it’s heart. What changed was my realization that Parkour was going to go global whether I was involved or not. And I realized that I could either sit back and let people and companies do what they wanted with Parkour, or I could be a part of that and help guide it in the right direction with the right spirit. You could say that I took up my roles in the Parkour world very reluctantly. But I knew I had the right heart, and I knew I had the talent and vision to do it, so I knew I was the right person and it was the right decisions.
The people that understand all that are the ones that support Take Flight the most. When people look deep enough they can see that energy and spirit, and even for those who don’t look, part of that energy permeates everything we do so I think they still feel it. I think that’s the main reason why Take Flight has gained such a large following.
We Trace(CQ): What do you think are the reasons Parkour has become (at some degree, and in some places only) a social problem in the UK even leading to Parkour bans?
Adam: I can only give my best thoughts. I didn’t know it banned except in a few select locations, and I didn’t know it had led to any type of social problems. But I think there are generally a few things that lead to this all over, so even if the UK is an exception, it may not remain that way:
#1. People training in larger groups. This attracts attention and easily leads to false perceptions of the discipline / a false understanding of what people are doing.
#2. People being disrespectful. I have never received a negative response from someone in authority as a result to me training outside. However all of my students, and virtually every Traceur I have ever spoken to has. I’ve thought about it a lot over the years and I think it boils down to an energy you omit and the spirit you move and train it. If you are laughing and joking while you are “jumping around” then people passing by who don’t understand what you are doing can easily misinterpret that as “jumping around” and react negatively. But when you are training the way I train, with a focused mission/goal/objective and anyone from a mile away can see that you are doing something intently and in that focused energy, then they always respect it. Always. Yes, they may still ask you to leave if it’s their property or something, but nonetheless, it is perceived differently. I’ve tried to explain this to many people but most don’t get it. That “community” and “fun” mindset which many thrive on, is great, but it often takes over and it leads to getting labeled in negative ways. It’s not because anyone doing Parkour is bad. It’s just because a lot of Traceurs don’t understand how other people are going to view them based on subtle things they do. I, for one, prefer training alone, so that’s why I think #1 and #2 don’t follow me.
#3. Politics. I could see the UK cracking down on this, when other countries wouldn’t. I’ve heard they are cameras everywhere? Maybe that’s not true, but that idea adds to my reason for mentioning that thought.
Combine it all together and it doesn’t surprise me that Parkour is being banned in the UK. But I’m just being speculative based on your question, and speaking to what I’ve seen in my community. You should probably ask someone in the UK about this, as they will probably know more.
We Trace(CQ): How do you see the future of Parkour in the next 20 years?
Adam: It’s going to become a lot more formal. You’re going to see a lot more brands, and a lot more businesses, gyms, and the like. Look at skateboarding. I know people don’t like the analogy, but look in a business context and at a professional level. That’s what I think we are going to see, but it’ll be Parkour and our future will be unique to Parkour.
We Trace: How has meeting David Belle changed or influenced your perception of Parkour?
Adam: It changed everything. I moved to France thinking Parkour was one thing, and I had an awakening of sorts and realized I wasn’t even close. It took about a year of knowing and learning from David to get it, but it all finally clicked. This is what has led me to write articles like “Parkour PURE vs Parkour FUN” and “The Four Things the Parkour Community Doesn’t Understand About Parkour.” If I had read these articles before I met David I probably wouldn’t have understood a lot of that. But that’s what he passed to me, and one of the reasons I share it is because it is so much different than what I thought Parkour was.
Those article cut to the heart of my ideas/understanding of Parkour, and I plan to write a lot more in the coming weeks and months and give a lot more explanation to that. Understandably most people don’t have the experience I have with David. So when I make a point people can easily say, “That’s not what David thinks,” or, “That doesn’t make sense” blah blah blah. And to my amazement, a lot of people say this type of stuff! The first thought I have whenever I read this type of thing is, “So you’re telling me you know David’s view better than I do? Come off it dude. You’re clueless.” The reality behind what I say is that each of my views either aligns with David directly because he told it to me, and out of respect of him as the founder I will not disagree with his views. Or my ideas is formed independently of David because it is based on a subject he isn’t versed in (like, the current attitudes and training of the current Parkour community) BUT my idea is based directly on countless hours spent with David , training talking, hearing stories, talking to his family etc. I can’t put all of that in one article so I just publish parts at a time, and often I publish the conclusion.
People can choose to trust me and understand that those views are based on an extensive history and learning, or they can reject them and follow their own path. Ultimately it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not here to convince anyone about anything. I’m just here to share my experiences and perspective, because I think a lot of people will be helped by it. David shattered my understanding/view/perception of Parkour and I write to that.
We Trace: Is there anything you would still like to state or add?
Adam: A few things:
#1. I’m still learning. That should be evident by me stating the fact that my proudest achievement is a 12 foot jump lol. My friend Thibaut Granier says that Parkour starts at 13 feet, so clearly I have some work to do 🙂
#2. I think one of the biggest problems in the Parkour world today is that many have a lack of respect for David and the history of Parkour. Disagreements on the origins and history of Parkour are what lead to virtually all disagreements as I see it. From my experience, I’ve found that those who have been around since 2006 or earlier, for the most part, don’t have a lack of respect. In other words, those people are very respectful. But many of those that who have come after this are not respectful. I think this is based largely on the fact that most people who found Parkour after don’t have a concept of what Parkour was without a global community. That gives them some feeling of entitlement or some feeling like they helped create what is here – which they did, but they didn’t create Parkour. There is a difference. The other thing that causes a lack of respect is that most just have any idea of how good David really was and still is. The greatest Traceurs in the world today don’t even compare. The chasm is so large that people have, for understandable reasons, begun to assume that the chasm couldn’t be that large. But it’s mind blowing large. I could tell story after story, but I’ll save those for another day. For now understand, that if you think you are someone or if you think any Traceur is someone, then you probably need to take a giant dose of humility. David was and still is better than you can possibly imagine.
#3. Keep your eyes on Take Flight. The biggest thing we are missing, I think, is the grassroots community support. We have a big following, but the viral following is not there. This has slowed our ability to bring a lot of that innovation I talked about, which I think has fed in to some of the doubts about us etc etc. I’ve talked to some of our athletes and the feelings I’ve received based on their feelings of the public perception of the company is that Take Flight is seen more as a corporate entity as opposed to the various teams/brands out there which have more of the community and grassroots/viral support feeling. I don’t know exactly how Take Flight acquired this corporate feel, but it was never my intention lol! The community feel is always what we wanted because that’s how we run, so it only makes sense. My point is simply this: when the Parkour community decides to support us in that viral community-grassroots type way, then you’ll see amazing things overnight. Whether this happens soon or a ways off, keep your eyes on us. Because either way you’re going to see the Take Fight organization continue to develop and set a standard for a purity and heart that transcends a business and provides amazing benefit to Traceur around the world through all that we do. There are only two question that are yet to be answered: when will the vision be fulfilled and who will be a part of it when it is. Ride now that doors are open, and I hope people see that and join us. I think for anyone who loves Parkour, Take Flight is going to become that company that we are all hoping and wishing for. And that’s the gift I want to give to people through Take Flight and through my work.
We Trace: Thank you for your time and effort!