This interview is part of the archives. It was published on January 30th 2013 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog.
Rene is the founder of Origins Parkour in Canada, well known for the huge indoor Parkour training gym they have built themselves without the help of sponsors or any financial aid. As initiator of the North American Parkour Championships Rene has not been free of criticism from some parts of the global community but we are lucky to have him share his thoughts on the whole building process of their Parkour gym and on competition in general. Additionally the Canadian style of Parkour is characterised by a very methodical approach and some amazing results, especially considering the average standing long jump amongst canadian practicioners.
Alex: Hi Rene, thank you a lot fort his interview!
Your Parkour gym is famous around the world and has inspired a lot of people to build something similar.
How did funding this project work exactly? And how are you covering the operation expanses?
Rene: It’s famous?! Well to make a long story short I put in all the money I had, and when that ran out I had a friend invest all the money he had, and when that ran out I went to the bank and asked for a loan, and when the money from the loan ran out I went to another friend and he invested all the money he had… Finally the gym was complete to my liking. Now it sustains itself with members paying for classes and open gym.
I’m sure there’s some sort of a moral or lesson here…
Alex: Did sponsors play any role in funding?
Alex: Did you get support from the community?
Rene: There was a core group of us that did most of the construction. Others helped out when they could. If it wasn’t for a small dedicated few the gym wouldn’t exist.
Alex: What was the inspiration for building such a gym?
Rene: Well the many gyms that were built before mine laid out a lot of the ground work. Being the critical thinker I am I couldn’t help but see flaws in every one of them. Even in my own gym I see flaws, and its my passion to improve upon them all the time. Every day I walk in to the gym and think of tearing stuff down and starting all over again. I’m constantly thinking of how to get rid of what we don’t need and make room for better installations. Our programs continue to evolve and improve as well. My standards for coaching are just as high as my standards for the facility. I really want to have the best possible environment to not only learn and practice parkour, but also allow practitioners to reach their highest potential. For this reason I’ll always be inspired. I can’t stand to be away from the project for too long. It never leaves my mind. There is always something to be done.
Alex: Competition has always been a widely discussed topic amongst the community. As the initiator of the upcoming North American Parkour Championships following questions arise.
What do you think of competition in Parkour generally?
Rene: I think it’s a necessary provider of goals for some athletes. Specifically high performing athletes. I think some of them currently put out videos as a means of competing and acquiring status (If you count youtube views then you fit in this group). Live competition, however, is a better demonstration of skill. You can rehearse and practice the same line for a video, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to carry those skills over to another scenario. Not everyone has to compete, but for those that need it I think it can bring a lot of positive growth for parkour.
As I said it is a necessary outlet for many high level athletes. I think a lot of them are bored with parkour. They get high profile jobs and get to make a living doing what they love, but they stop challenging themselves, and sometimes stop training all together. I won’t name any names, but it’s true. Most, if not all of these athletes are just happy to be thrown in with people that can inspire them and push them, push parkour, and get more people involved. The right format of competition does that, and that’s what we are trying to create here.
Alex: Do you think there are dangers behind competitions in Parkour? (Especially for participators and especially the danger of over estimating the own abilities)
If yes, what are you doing against it?
If no, what is your personal opinion about it?
Rene: Not really. I mean parkour can be dangerous if you choose to make it dangerous. Just think about all the stress you have when you prepare for a big jump. Why do you do it if it causes you so much stress? Now imagine preparing for the same jump except in this instance your effort is being timed or measured! Yes, competition is stressful, but is stress bad? Do we not train parkour to put ourselves through stress in order to adapt and improve?
Everyone falls. If you fall because you over estimated how much stress you can take that’s your fault, not the competition. We aren’t setting up challenges where someone holds a gun to your head and tells you to jump. We’re building courses that consist of certain structures. It’s up to the course runner to decide how they pass these structures. In previous smaller competitions we’ve used eliminations and qualifiers to make sure the main competition consists of athletes who are well trained and prepared for the stress of the course.
Alex: What´s the main difference between the North American Parkour Championships and Art of Motion? (besides the different judgement of movement)
Rene: I think the main difference is the people behind this event are long time parkour athletes themselves. We’re also highly critical thinkers. We didn’t just wake up one day and put together some courses and invite some people. This event has been a long time coming, and we’re proud to take parkour competitions back from the people who don’t know anything about the sport.
Alex:based on what criteria will you judge the athletes?
Rene: We have 3 areas of competition that will all be judged separately:
Both our speed course and precision course will be decided by whoever completes the course(s) in the fastest time. In the precision course if you touch the ground via falling off of a structure you are immediately eliminated.
We have 3 skill challenges. One for an approach skill, one for a jumping and landing skill, and one for a climbing skill. For example one of the skills is a dyno challenge. There will be one start hold, and various end holds each one presenting a more difficult challenge. Points will be awarded for the most difficult challenge completed.
Freestyle Battle Tournament
This will be performed in a relatively small area (compared to AOM) where we set up a variety of structures. In this space athletes are encouraged to create movements. They will be judged on difficulty, execution, creativity, and flow. There will be no time constraints for athletes. They can choose to do longer or shorter sets. The athletes will compete in teams of two. Judges will select winning pairs that move on to the next round and face another team.
Alex: What do you think of the genreal knowledge of Parkour amongst practitioners nowadays?
Rene: General knowledge is easily acquired. Everyone has general knowledge. Special knowledge is only going to be held by those who are passionate about parkour. I think its absolutely ridiculous to wish that everyone have this special knowledge and passion. Parkour will continue to grow and for most people it may only touch their lives for a very short time. I certainly hope that this short time is not spent with someone talking their ear off about their knowledge and philosophies of parkour. I hope that people are just able to enjoy it and overcome challenges. That is surely better than how most people spend their time “nowadays.”
Alex: How important is outdoor training to you? and If you had to give a relation in %: What is the relation of your indoor vs. outdoor training at the moment?
Rene: I think if you’ve never trained outside you’ve never really experienced parkour and might not actually be as effective outdoors as you are indoors. This may sound dangerous, but I think every traceur needs to spend some time outside if for no other reason than to make mistakes. They need to fall on concrete, they need to have walls they thought were solid break under their feet, they need to cut their hands and slip on moss. All of these experiences will toughen the traceur and teach him valuable lessons.
I have nearly ten years experience training parkour outdoors. Over which time I’ve learned many lessons about my environment. Recently most of my training has moved indoors, and this is largely due to having a gym where I can put together training sessions that involve everything from rail precisions, to gap jumps, to strength training with weights. As nice as that sounds it is not necessary to have access to a gym. You can get everything you need if you have enough creativity and will power.
Alex: Is there anything else you would like to say/ share?
Rene: Yes! Please contact me if you want to talk about anything I’ve said in this interview. Whether you agree with me or not I would love to hear from you.