Recently I was asked “What motivates you as a coach?”. It was before a guest coaching for Movement Creative in New York in 2019. I wrote my answer and I thought ok, if I am going to do this I am going to do it right (meaning long lol ). So here it is. Why do I coach you ask?

When I started in 2004 I was one of 5 people in the whole country. Teaching was a necessity back then rather than a choice as beginners were approaching us frequently. It was natural that we tried to keep people from making our mistakes. It was natural to help them progress faster than we did (in terms of technique) and to pass on what we learned and experienced.

From this necessity a passion for teaching and coaching was born. This went together with my constant reflection on what parkour is for me and how I try to transport it. This correlates strongly with the low amount and quality of information that was available to practicioners at these times.  To me parkour has changed a lot of times. And the more I got to train with more experienced people or whenever I had the chance to learn directly from the founders the more it changed. It impacted my own parkour and my coaching too.

Fast forward to 2013. I did a 6 month internship (study related) at PKGen in London. In the last 1-2 months I also assisted in teaching their classes. Children, adults, anything really. This was also the time I did ADAPT, but not because this cert means anything in Austria but because I was trying to grasp all the knowledge I could. Btw. I am aware of the influences of Streetmovement on ADAPT and I am aware that other organisations have totally different approaches than PKGen. And they are all valid to me. (a shout out at this point to PKOne for example from Germany)

When I came back from London I tried to share what I had learned. I still want to  think I am partly responsible that coaches in Austria make sessionplans these days, that they know why a proper warmup is good for you and that parkour can´t be solemly taught indoors. These are basic things but information was so rare. A few years back from London a colleague and me started Parkour Austria, a parkour company. We offered classes and workshops amongst other services. I was teaching a few times a week. I stepped back from PK Austria end of 2018 but I still enjoy teaching.

Why? Because I still think parkour is one of the most amazing and versatile activities out there. I still think it is inclusive and can be practiced by anyone no matter what. (One of my students was blind and deaf btw. You can read about our sessions here:

https://www.we-trace.at/2018/11/22/novision_nohearing_parkour/

My motivation to coach has not changed over time but maybe the demand has. I am not sure if what I teach is demanded or if people actually care, but I am here and with me is the history of my parkour.

Insights into the possibilities of coaching parkour – experiences.

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The following article and the interview are the result of a private session with a client. At this point I want to express a big thank you for doing the interview with me. My deepest respect goes to M. and her day to day accomplishements. – The german version of this article can be found here: https://www.we-trace.at/2018/11/22/parkour-ohne-sehen-und-hoeren

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Intro

M. gradually lost her sight when she was 10 – 13 years old. A few years after that she lost her sense of hearing. Ever since M. can´t see nor hear and has to rely on her other senses. She is 25 years now, studies law and approached me with the wish to try parkour.

Preparation

The biggest concern was communication. How do you communicate if you cannot talk or show what you intend to? How do you give feedback as a coach? I knew it was possible to write short words into M.’s palm but that would be a very limited way of communicating. I decided it would be best to outline the session beforehand so M. will know what will be going on during the training, what exercises will await her roughly and why we will be doing them. In written form and through the assistance of a special keyboard M. can read Braille on her computer. During the session I would rely on touch/and 1 word input through her palm.

Session

I planned the session in 3-4 parts:

Balance

Have you ever tried standing on one foot and closing your eyes? – Then you know it is hard as hell to keep your balance. For M. the heightened difficulty of balancing with no sight is her everyday life, so working on it came natural. We went to a spot with a huge circle of small bars. A bar is 3 steps long with a one step gap followed by the next bar-element. I gradually increased difficulty and it was inspiring to see how M. coped. In the beginning, it was all about standing on the rail with my assistance (both hands). After a while, and after taking a few steps, the distance she could walk was getting bigger. As the need for assistance decreased, we gradually removed one of my hands, leaving her with 1 hand to hold on. In terms of communication I introduced a small and quick double-squeeze of her hand to indicate that her next step would have to be bigger due to the gap between the bars. After a few failed tries she managed and the squeeze became a sort of warning for the rest of the session.

Spatial awareness I and movement memory

After balancing, we went to a set of short walls that formed a tight and enclosed space. The space was not bigger than 5×5 meters, much like a small room cramped with a couch and other potential obstacles. M. knew what the aim was, but I did not tell her exactly how the exercise would be. I guided her to the first wall and swiped across her palm in my direction. I don´t know if that was helpful but she sure did understand to follow me. I laid out a way for us. First it was simple without any special moves, just using the walls as a guide rail entering the “maze” and exiting it again. After a few rounds, I introduced the possibility to cross over walls, thus changing the way we did. M. managed automatically with a (most of times) controlled step-vault. We did a few rounds of the new line, me gradually and intently moving away from her, not providing her with much guidance. At some point I waited for her at the start and wrote in her palm “ALONE”: meaning, she should go for it on her own for the first time. M. remembered all the corners, all the direction changes, all the dangers (screws sticking out of the walls, uneven floor,…). She moved swiftly and followed the path perfectly. I moved with her, but she didn´t know. It was just in case she fell, so I could spot her.

Spatial awareness II

The next part took place on a concrete wall that went from ground level up to neck height. 2 feet wide and about 40 meters long, forming a route that went around a set of trees. The aim was to get M. to walk the whole thing alone navigating the edges of the wall with her feet, preventing a fall by doing so. Most blind people use hands and their stick to navigate, usually (this is just my observation) dragging their feet behind. I remember one of my first sessions training blind on intent with Phil from Germany, who visited Linz back in the days. It was pouring rain and Phil introduced me to blind training along a given route (with sharp drops in some places, should we fall). I was shit scared but we worked it out and we got pretty fast at the route after several tries. A technique we used was the one I wanted to show M.. We had the weight on the back foot quickly scanning the area in front of us with the front foot. If we hit concrete, we knew we could step there, if we felt the edge we knew the drop was there. For M. the exercise was hard, because parkour people are used to moving on the balls of their feet. For someone with no experience in parkour the heel is where the weight is, so navigating with the front foot was hard because the weight was already on it. I think this can be trained and will be of benefit. So this was my feedback I gave M. in the end as well.

Strength training

The last part of our session was exhausting. Climbing down and up a set of four walls. It was a straight line but for M., who mainly moves on flat surfaces, it was exhausting. I hope we broke a little barrier by ascending and descending these walls and I hope it gave her confidence in her skills and a sense of what she is capable of.

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Interview

Can you tell us more about your illness and how it developed? To my knowledge you were in good health until the age of 10. What happened?

In my early childhood I got diagnosed with Retinitis pigmentosa. According to stories, I stumbled a lot since I was four years old. I seemed to could not make out obstacles. Our latest guess is that the illness was caused by a failed vaccination. I haven´t really sensed anything wrong with me then, but the worse it got the more scared I seemed to have gotten as a child. One of my earliest childhood memories is me sitting on the street on a summer day, observing ants – I could practically count them. Or another time, when I was driving to my grandparents place in an evening and where we came across a church that was lit. It was disturbing for me that I slowly couldn’t see that anymore. And yet, my brain has treasured all these memories, as if I had known back then that at some point memories is all that I will have left.

Until the age of 10 I could see comparably normal but it was already bad at that time. But I had a sort of vision where I could see blurred outlines and where I could work with conventional writing. A year later this was not possible anymore and I had to learn Braille (something that felt easy to me). I sometimes wonder, if my eyes lost their training once I used Braille and if that´s the reason my vision faded so rapidly after that.

As far as I know the weakened sense of hearing is part of the illness. This has developed slower though. The acute hearing loss (Hörsturz) came 2011.

How did you get the wish to try out parkour?

Over the internet. Coincidently I stumbled across parkour on a website and was fascinated. I have read a lot about it and the wish to try it came soon. I did not have any hope of being able to try parkour at all, but after having shared this wish with a friend of mine one led to the other. In May I got a glimpse of parkour, when a friend of that friend showed me. Shortly after that I found the link to your website (Parkour Austria).

What were your expectations for your first parkour training?

I´ll be honest, I had little expectations. As mentioned, I was rather skeptical because I had no idea if it would work at all. But I have to say I am reliefed and satisfied that everything worked out well in the end.

What is your impression of your first parkour training?

I have the feeling of repeating myself 🙂 – As said, I was surprised that it worked out that well. For instance, the weather was not the best, but I barely noticed it during the session. I was focussed and in the moment and could switch off for 1,5 hours. In my everyday life that is quite hard to do, that´s also why I enjoyed this time so much. Sure, communication is a bit complicated and it’s hard to do everything as intended, but I have the feeling this will improve over time.

Is there anything else you want to say?

I hope to do Parkour regularly now. It has gripped me and I´d be happy to make it a hobby I can do besides my studies. I am happy with this first chance of trying parkour. THANK YOU!

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Ein Einblick in die Möglichkeiten mit Parkour zu unterrichten – Erfahrungen.

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Der folgende Artikel mit nebenstehendem Interview ist aus einem Privattraining mit einer Klientin entstanden. Ich möchte an dieser Stelle meinen Dank für die Bereitschaft zum Interview ausdrücken und meine Hochachtung vor dem was M. in ihrem täglichen Leben leistet. Der Artikel findet sich hier auch auf Englisch: https://www.we-trace.at/2018/11/22/novision_nohearing_parkour

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Intro

Als M. 10 Jahre alt war, verlor sie über einen Zeitraum von ca. 3 Jahren allmählich ihren Sehsinn. Mehrere Jahre danach verlor sie ihren Hörsinn. M. ist 25 Jahre alt, studiert Recht und kam mit dem Wunsch Parkour auszuprobieren auf mich zu.

Vorbereitung

Die größte Herausforderung war Kommunikation. Wie verständigt man sich, wenn man weder sprechen noch (vor-)zeigen kann? Wie gibt man als Coach das richtige Feedback? Ich wusste, dass man einfache Wörter in M.´s Hand schreiben kann, aber diese Kommunikationsform hat deutliche Grenzen. Um M. bestmöglich auf das kommende Training vorzubereiten, entschloss ich eine Grobfassung meines Trainingsplanes zu verschriftlichen. So sollte sichergestellt werden, dass M. weiß worauf sie sich einlassen wird. In schriftlicher Form kann M. mit der Hilfe einer speziellen Tastatur Braille am Computer lesen. Während des Trainings würde ich mich auf Berührungen und Ein-Wort-inputs in M.´s Handfläche verlassen.

Session

Das Training wurde in 3-4 Teilen geplant:

Balance

Wer schon einmal probiert hat auf einem Bein zu stehen und dann seine Augen zu schließen, weiß wie schwer das ist. Für M. ist der Verzicht auf den Sehsinn und damit die stark erhöhte Schwierigkeit der Balance Realität. Diese Situationen aktiv zu trainieren war eines meiner Ziele. Wir gingen zu einem bekannten Spot, der aus einer großen Kreisformation aus ca. 3 Fuß langen Stangen besteht, die in Abständen von jeweils ca. 1 Fuß zueinander stehen. Das Stehen auf der Stange unter Zuhilfenahme beider meiner Hände war schnell gemeistert. Nach und nach bekam M. das Selbstbewusstsein mehrere Schritte zu setzen, auch wenn das mit den „Löchern“ im geplanten Weg schwierig war. Die Veränderung der Hilfestellung erhöhte den Schwierigkeitsgrad zudem erneut, als ich mich zur Seite bewegte und eine Hand entfernte. Über die Übung hinweg etablierte sich außerdem eine Art Warnzeichen, ein doppeltes kurzes Drücken beider Hände, um M. auf einen nahenden Spalt (also das Ende eines Stangenelementes) hinzuweisen. Dieses Zeichen sollte sich über den Rest des Trainings bewähren.

Räumliche Wahrnehmung I und Erinnerungsvermögen

Ein Spot, der aus 6-8 Betonelementen bestand, formte einen kleinen abgeschlossenen Bereich. Nicht größer als ein 5x5Meter Wohnzimmer. In diesem Bereich, den wir zuerst behutsam erkundeten, legte ich M. Routen vor, die sie gegen Ende der Übung hin selbstständig wiederholen sollte. Durch das anfängliche Erkunden und vertraut werden mit dem Spot, wusste M. sehr schell über jede Unebenheit und jede Mauer Bescheid. Nachdem ich anfangs vorausgegangen war, überließ ich ab einem gewissen Zeitpunkt M. die Navigation durch den kleinen Bereich. Dabei wiederholte sie Routen, die wir zuvor gemeinsam begangen sind. Manchmal führten diese Routen auch über Mauern, die sie wie von selbst unter Anwendung von kontrollierten Step-Vaults hinter sich ließ. Bei dieser Übung kam schnell zum Vorschein, dass M. über ein starkes Erinnerungsvermögen und eine geschulte Raumwahrnehmung verfügt, denn auch ich hatte in der Vorbereitung der Session an mir selbst getestet, wie es ist, ohne Sehsinn die geplanten Routen zu gehen.

Räumliche Wahrnehmung II

Auf einem ca. 40cm breiten Mauersims, der in verschiedenen Höhen um ein Baumbeet gelegt wurde, sollte M. selbstständig um den Baum navigieren, ohne von dem Sims zu fallen. Dabei war der Fokus auf die Nutzung der eigenen Füße als Tastorgan zum Erkennen der Ecken und Kanten und somit dem Vermeiden eines Falls. Die meisten Blinden (meine Beobachtung) verlassen sich eher auf Hilfsmittel wie den Blindenstock oder die eigenen Hände. Die Füße spielen dabei eine eher nebensächliche Rolle. Für M. war das Vortasten mit den Füßen anfänglich schwierig, da das Gewicht meist auf der Ferse platziert war. Somit war ein Herantasten an den Untergrund ohne gleichzeitig das Gewicht auf den tastenden Fuß zu geben schwierig. Für Parkourtrainierende ist es normal, sich auf den Fußballen zu bewegen, und auch jene Parkourleute mit denen ich eine ähnliche Übung gemacht habe, nutzten ihre Fußballen zum Tasten ohne das Gewicht auf den tastenden Fuß zu geben. Erst wenn die Zone vor dem Fuß als sicher erachtet/ertastet wurde, wird der Schritt gesetzt und der Prozess wiederholt. Ich hoffe, dass diese Übung zur Meisterung des Alltags von M. relevant war.

Krafttraining

Der letzte Teil der Session war anstrengend. In einer geraden Linie wurden 4 Mauern nach unten überwunden um sich danach wieder nach oben zu kämpfen. Für jemanden, der sich meist auf flachem Terrain bewegt eine schwierige Aufgabe. Ich hoffe jedoch, dass das Überwinden dieser Mauern einen Beitrag zu einem stärkeren Selbstbewusstsein geleistet hat, vor allem wenn es darum geht zu evaluieren wozu man selbst in der Lage ist.

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Interview

Kannst du uns kurz etwas zu deinem Krankheitsverlauf erzählen? Meines Wissens nach warst du bis zu deinem 10. Lebensjahr gesund? Was ist passiert?

Bei mir wurde in frühester Kindheit Retinitis pigmentosa festgestellt (heißt inzwischen anders). Laut Erzählungen bin ich schon mit vier Jahren durch die Gegend gestolpert, habe Hindernisse nicht wahrgenommen etc. Unsere jüngste Vermutung ist, dass die Erkrankung durch eine schief gegangene Impfung verursacht wurde. Ich habe das alles aber am Anfang gar nicht so wahrgenommen und mir auch nichts weiter gedacht, obwohl ich mit zunehmender Verschlechterung immer verängstigter gewesen sein dürfte. Eine meiner frühesten Kindheitserinnerungen ist, dass ich im Sommer auf der Straße sitze und Ameisen beobachte – ich konnte sie praktisch zählen. Oder wenn ich abends zu meinen Großeltern gefahren bin, führte der Weg an einer Kirche vorbei, die abends/nachts immer beleuchtet war. Dass ich das alles dann nach und nach nicht mehr sehen konnte, war schon verstörend. Und doch hat mein Gehirn viele dieser Erinnerungen abgespeichert – so als hätte es schon damals gewusst, dass mir irgendwann nichts anderes mehr bleibt als die Erinnerungen.

Bis zu meinem 10. Lebensjahr konnte ich noch vergleichsweise gut sehen, obwohl es natürlich schon damals ziemlich schlecht war. Aber immerhin hatte ich noch einen Sehtest und konnte verschwommen Umrisse ausmachen und sogar noch mit der normalen Schrift arbeiten. Aber ein Jahr später ging das alles dann nicht mehr und ich musste anfangen, die Brailleschrift zu lernen (was mir ziemlich leicht gefallen sein dürfte). Ich frage mich manchmal, ob es an der Tatsache liegt, dass meine Augen nicht mehr “trainiert” wurden, sobald ich begonnen habe, die Brailleschrift zu lernen, und deshalb die Sehkraft dann relativ schnell nachgelassen hat.

Soweit ich das verstanden habe, gehört die Hörschwäche zur Krankheit. Die hat sich allerdings deutlich langsamer verschlechtert. Der große Hörsturz kam erst 2011.

Wie bist du auf die Idee gekommen Parkour auszuprobieren?

Tatsächlich übers Internet. Ich bin rein zufällig auf einer Seite darüber gestolpert und war sofort fasziniert, habe dann einiges darüber gelesen und immer mehr den Wunsch gefasst, das selbst einmal auszuprobieren. Ich hatte aber lange Zeit nicht wirklich Hoffnung, dass das überhaupt gehen könnte, habe mich dann aber doch mal einer Freundin damit anvertraut und so kam dann eines zum anderen. Ich habe im Mai einmal kurz bei einem Bekannten dieser Freundin reingeschnuppert und später dann den Link zu eurer Homepage erhalten.

Welche Erwartungen hattest du an dein erstes Parkour Training?

Ehrlich gesagt bin ich eher ohne große Erwartungen an die Sache herangegangen. Wie schon erwähnt, war ich eher skeptisch, weil ich nicht wusste, ob das überhaupt klappen kann. Aber ich muss sagen, dass ich hinterher mehr als zufrieden und auch erleichtert war, dass es dann doch so gut funktioniert hat.

Welchen Eindruck hattest du von deinem ersten Training?

Ich habe irgendwie das Gefühl, dass ich mich ständig wiederhole 🙂 Wie gesagt, ich war überrascht, dass es so gut funktioniert hat. Es waren beispielsweise nicht die besten Wetterverhältnisse, aber das habe ich während des Trainings kaum wahrgenommen. Ich war konzentriert und ganz bei der Sache, konnte für 1,5 Stunden komplett abschalten und einfach im Moment leben. Das ist im Alltag eher schwierig, daher habe ich die Zeit wirklich sehr genossen. Klar, mit der Kommunikation ist es etwas schwierig und sicher nicht leicht, alles so zu machen, wie es sein sollte. Aber ich denke, mit der Zeit würde sich das immer besser einspielen.

Gibt es irgendetwas was du sagen möchtest?

Ich hoffe, dass ich Parkour ab jetzt möglichst regelmäßig machen kann. Es hat mich einfach gepackt und ich würde mich freuen, wenn das ein Hobby werden könnte, das ich neben meinem Studium regelmäßig betreiben kann. Auf jeden Fall bin ich sehr dankbar, dass mir diese Chance auf das erste Training gegeben wurde. DANKE dafür!

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As you know I am a great fan of interviews and in the past I dedicated a lot of resources towards conducting a variety of interviews with parkour-related people. Recently Skochymag lead by the awesome Andy Day has released interviews with Blane, Boki and Thomas Couetic.

Andy got a great sense for relevant and sharp questions and the three interviews you can find below are a great read. My last interview with Blane dates back to 200x, in the time between then and now Blane has totally changed his life to being a fulltime firefighter in London, leaving most of his coaching duties behind and living our well known motto “being strong to be usefull” to its fullest.

If you happen to don´t know Boki already, he is a Serbian traceur, Etre Fort sponsored athlete and one of the main influences of parkour in Eastern Europe.

Thomas is the second generation of traceurs originating from France and currently living in Fontainbleau. Along with others from his generation (Stephane Vigrourx, Kazuma, the Shintais and many more) he is a direkt link to the early phase of parkour, a still active practicioner and a soruce of parkour wisdom and philosophy, although he mostly keeps to staying in the background. Enjoy the interview.

The only thing I regret when reading the interviews is not having done them myself 🙂

On June 9th 2018 we invited Sébastien Foucan over to Vienna to teach workshops for Parkour Austria. In between there was a lengthy Q and A session we recordedto video.

Enjoy 🙂

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obe_TM3jWLc” ]

Introduction

In the first part of this interview Alex Pavlotski provides some great insight into the Parkour Panels (http://www.parkourpanels.com/) and the research related to them as well as his thoughts and observations on the commercialisation of sports and parkour in particular. Part 1 also revolves around the question if these developments are “good” or “evil” and what we as practicioners can actually do to oppose developments we don´t agree with. The interview continues…

 

Section C – Language and Sexism

When we think about co-option and the effect on groups or subcultures (like parkour) the whole sexism and language discourse is closely related. The use of language and the actual influence on the subculture might not be very obvious at first sight.

 

  1. Terminology plays an important role in parkour. For example there are the french terms like “saut de bras”, then the English translations like “arm jump” and then the English synonyms like “cat leap”. The usage depends where you go in the world, with whom you train or how traditional or progressive a parkour group´s approach to parkour is. What do you think of the different developments of parkour terminology and what cause / effect does this have on our discipline?

Alex:I think to some extent this was the inevitable outcome of parkour’s disorganized origins. So many people at the start had to improvise technique based on a few grainy videos downloaded over 56k Internet and a handful of TV and HVS screen features. Those early practitioners had to figure out movements, and because they were so involved in that process they named them. The sense of invention and ownership that would have been part of that process makes sense to me.

There is however a second category of ‘renamers’ for whom the object of the process of renaming is to distance moves and themselves from the disciplinary history. They want credit as inventors and founders without paying homage to those who came before them. Here I worry a bit because this is the process by which we lose touch with where it all came from. When I look at the history of martial arts and how contested and bitter the fights between many traditions are, I can’t help but think that we could avoid so many of those errors by simply being less egocentric. I think we should know and teach the origins and terminology, but I think, if we do that, we should be free to use localized terms. I don’t think it’s hard to say: “This is a saut de chat, but we call it a catpass or a kong.” You don’t have to agree with the first generation and their ideas, but not acknowledging them is an act of egotism in my book.

I hate to see people use language to isolate, appropriate and control. Sadly, there’s a long history of people doing that.

© Julie Angel: www.see-do.com – http://instaembedder.com/post.php?id=1397261722099752397_1519225710&u=131#.WH-7ZTXGCSo

  1. What do you think of referring to women as “beasts” or “beastly” when they achieve a certain feat in parkour?

Alex: I do it all the time. I’ve always seen it as a gender-neutral term. Why? Am I missing something?

  1. “Traceuese” is supposed to be the female form of traceur in french. In English there are no gender related forms of terms to distinguish female / male practicioners as such. What do you think of the term “traceuse” and gender distinction in our terminology?

Alex: . Before I address the question directly, there’s something I need to say. When it comes to women in parkour there’s one big thing any supportive male practitioner can do to help: GET OUT OF THE WAY. This is surprisingly hard to do for many of us men. And it’s a mistake I’ve made myself. There have seen so many conversations among male leaders over the years about how to ‘fix’ gender imbalance. Even today, guys will sit around and discuss and dismiss community initiatives suggested by upcoming women in parkour. It makes us feel like we are helping, but if you take a step back it looks like paternalism: men making decisions for women ‘in their best interest’. Somewhere in there is the assumption that it’s our job to look after them – not very equal. Everyone has different obstacles to overcome before we meet at the pinnacle of skill. We (men) can help when we are asked, but it has to be at their request. Often it isn’t.

Coming from that angle, this is my thoughts on language. This is tough for me to comment on because I don’t have that much direct skin in the game. The rule of thumb is “if it doesn’t hurt anyone and helps others what possible issue can there be?”

Simultaneously, I’m a fan of acknowledging tradition, even in disagreement. I don’t think we will have anything akin to equality if we try to achieve it by choosing to forget the nasty components of our history. There are definitely bits of our sub-culture that are sexist (varies from place to place) and we need to work on that. But words alone are never going to fix that. The Queer community is a good example of this. They turned around decades of hate by taking control of the words that were used to hurt them. Policing language is like policing history; you can’t erase something by not talking about it. We must remember where we came from so we don’t lose track of where we’re going.

  1. There was a discussion about the similarity of price money for female and male competitors from the APEX competition in 2016. Do you think competition can be used as a means of sparking a positive gender discussion?

Alex: Definitely. The subculture can’t take action without these kinds of conversations. Communities tend to share political outlooks and parkour is a conglomerate of local communities. We learn from each other or live in isolated and territorial bubbles. As a topic of conversation, competition has been key to parkour identity, the progression of the evolution of the practice and the resistance of co-option. I think the APEX discussions were fascinating and important. There’s a tendency to assume that not arguing is somehow good for the international community. Nonsense. We can imagine this as an analogy of a couple having trouble in a relationship. One couple doesn’t talk to each other because they know they will argue. So they talk to others about their problems and live their lives side by side in silence to avoid a fight.Another couple argues all the time but defends each other to others. Which case is healthier?

  1. Should parkour embrace certain types of competition? (APEX vs. Red Bull – does it make a difference?)

Alex: I think competition is here and it’s here to stay simply because there are enough community members that hold it as a personal cultural value. And I definitely would rather see it come from the community rather than be imposed by some other external party – As I said earlier, The Barclaycard World Freerun Championship is a good example of internal co-option. I’m happy to accept it, but do I think we need to embrace it? No.

My issue with competition is that it is so often such a failure of imagination. We have this new thing that comes out of the French-German anti-competitive tradition. And for many English-speaking people who are acculturated to competition this is mind-blowing idea. I’ve seen many communities, and it’s interesting to see how people deal with something new to them. Some have taken this non-competitive practice as a breath of fresh air – something new and interesting and an opportunity to learn. Then you get the people who just start to think about it on local established terms. To me, that’s just lazy and unimaginative. Like, “I have this new amazing French thing that I love and makes me happy… but I need to fix it so it’s less new and less French.”

I find it hilarious how many people treat their inability to cope with novelty as some kind of awesome and unique rebellion. There’s nothing progressive, edgy or original about adding competition to anything in an Anglo nation. I can’t think of anything more conservative. Cultivating a business, community, practice that is anti-competitive is the radical and edgy move in this context, albeit, significantly more challenging. Obviously, it’s a bit different from place to place.

Competition is dependent on context and the competitors.

 

  1. Do you think the parkour vs. freerunning discussion about definitions and such is over or is there still potential for conflict and need for clarification? If you see the need for clarification: Can this issue ever be 100% clarified and be dealt with?

Alex: I think we are getting pretty close to being settled. The debate remains open as long as some people continue to insist that there is no difference. But history generally pushes for diversification and this is where language becomes important. Parkour is a word that defines a specific practice which was defined by a specific guy in a specific place. Freerunning and Art du Deplacement were defined by different people in different places and refer to different practices. Words relate to history. Right now, everyone feels like they are inventing something or redefining something. But I feel like diversification is a matter of time. Parkour and freerunning are close and complimentary disciplines. So close that it can be tempting to blur boundaries in practice. But it’s not all just about practice, origin and history matters. I guess we’ll wait and see how it all plays out.

Section D – Traveling and communities worldwide

Alex – Intro: I moved around a lot, but I got to spend a few months in USA, Canada, Denmark, Russia and Ukraine. Then, shorter periods at each place (two weeks of so) moving around England, France and Japan. Also, I’ve been all over Australia except for Perth (sorry guys!). In some places I moved around a lot looking for regional communities. In other places I spent the time mostly in one place.

  1. What do you feel makes a strong, inclusive, sustainable local parkour community?

Alex: Leadership. I spent a long time thinking about this and trying to figure out the difference between tight and lose collectives. Leadership was the big factor. Wherever there was a person willing to spend a great deal of time articulating, teaching, defining ideas, there was always a strong community. These communities weren’t always unified – some were quite fragmented – but a strong leader was always important. Some would hate them, some would love them, but everyone needed someone to translate parkour from an abstract idea seen on videos into something that made sense to the people on the ground. Before you have a deeply involved local leader parkour is some cloud-like idea floating around on the Internet. Leaders translate that into real movement, local philosophy and then communicate it back into the international sphere. Without a defined and committed leader you just have small groups moving in a way that doesn’t really feed back to the next level. They may have good movement, but rarely does that become a community.

  1. Do you have any advice for community leaders to better facilitate people getting involved?

Alex: Think about the way your philosophy impacts people who are coming in. Pay attention to the things that work in other places and don’t let your pride stand in the way of good ideas.

Section E – Closing Questions

  1. Is your Phd available somewhere or do we have to wait for the book? 🙂

Alex: Sorry to say, the publishers don’t want the thesis out before the book. So, there’s a ‘stay’ on open access. However, I can give people copies with good reason. Just send me an email. But, if you want more comics and more accessible language, wait for the book. 🙂

  1. Anything else you´d like to say?

Alex: Just one thing: Contact me! Anyone who want to have a conversation, or share their experience. I’d love to hear it. I am still and always learning. Plus, PK Panels ideas are always very welcome.

a.pavlotski@gmail.com
https://alexpavlotski.wordpress.com

Love,

– Pava

 

At this point I want to thank Alex for all the time and effort he took for this interview. I am aware the written format is slow, needs a lot of time and is a pain in the ass, so thanks especially to Alex (and everyone else so far) who took their time to sit down and write all this. – Alex

Introduction

Alex Pavlotski is the creator of the well known and widely loved Parkour Panels (http://www.parkourpanels.com/), a satirical and critical web-comic series about parkour. On the one hand these webcomics were a quick read and greatly entertaining but a second, closer look at them revealed that the processed topics were meant to inspire and make people reflect on parkour. Not only were the characters exagerated satirical archetypes of current developments in the parkour scene but the comic-series itself always used the most recent developments as inspiration for the current episodes.

Parkour Panels was part of Alex´s PhD thesis soon to be released into a book. He travelled for around 5 years and met various communities in order to properly understand parkour as a whole. You can find Alex through his blog or actively participating in many of the ongoing online debates on current topics of parkour – for example in the parkour research facebook group.

Section A – Parkour Panels

  1. Each character clearly represents a certain way of thinking, a certain pkmindest or a certain tendency of how to view parkour. At least back when the comics were released. What kind of a new character could you think of bringing to life that envisions some of the developments going on right now?

Alex: This is something that constantly drives me crazy, and a great question. I knew I’d only be able to run PK panels without a break for three years before shifting to writing and drawing more broadly about parkour. But, in truth, the series became a really important outlet for my own feelings and observations (as well as those of the great practitioners I met). So, whenever anything happens in parkour I instantly think about it in PK panels terms, and a lot has happened since I shifted focus to writing.

That means, as you said, new characters are needed to represent new world-views and philosophies. I have a backlog of panels ideas and a few already drawn up, including the debut of one of the new characters. There are three new cast members I have in mind that reflect changes in the international scene.

Gimmick Guru – ‘Master of movement’ keen to market his skills to all who have the cash to pay.
Trainer 2 – A woman community leader who causes Smurfette to realize a few things.
Opinionated n00b – What happens when a fanboy takes the next step…

There was a three panel arc finished with New Kid, but I shelved if after giving it some thought – the character was too concept specific and didn’t have enough range. The three above make good flexible archetypes.

parkourpanels30

© Alex Pavlotski – http://www.parkourpanels.com

  1. Parkour Panels originated as part of your PhD thesis ” Visualising Parkour – Visualising Ethnography” which is now being transformed into a book; could you briefly describe some of the main findings of your research?

Alex: I think the big thrust of the book is about how complex human cultural creations and practices, like parkour, really are. The thesis took on a big range of topics. The book is a little more focused.

For the thesis, the thing that made my study unique was its breadth. I spent nearly five years travelling quite widely and training with and talking to people who jump and something became clear really quickly: everyone does it a little differently. Sometimes it’s a matter of technique, sometimes it’s a question of how people understand what parkour is, sometimes it’s in the community dynamics, but there is always a fundamental and distinct character to parkour everywhere. The Russians, for example, have a strong technical basis that comes from political history and a philosophy that combines European and Neoliberal ideals. In French parkour you can see the ideologies of the state influence definitions and understandings. In English-speaking countries parkour can be both conformity to local norms and a form of innovative rebellion. In Scandinavia parkout fits like a glove.

The thing that makes this interesting is how understated these difference are by people who practice world over. Online, people are always talking about a global community and being part of a global practice, but are constantly fighting largely because of misunderstandings that come out of these differences. Most people simply can’t see them. Their local character is a result of long historical and cultural processes that feel so universal and natural that they are taken for granted. This is culture and bias and I loved the process of working out and explaining the cause of these differences. When you look at it that way parkour transforms from a movement practice to a stage where history, culture, language, politics, ideology, and human drama play-out.

From these observations there were two main findings I want to be central to the book.

[blockquote align=center]

People all around the world think they’re doing the same thing. They’re not, but the similarities, differences and perceptions tell us a lot about the people, the places and the cultures that take up movement, as well as something about our universal desire to move

[/blockquote]

and

[blockquote align=center]

Human beings change our habitat in ways that have unforseen consequences for our own happiness and health. Sometimes these changes impact us in negative ways that force us to adapt or suffer, parkour is one such adaptation.

[/blockquote]

© Alex Pavlotski - http://www.parkourpanels.com

© Alex Pavlotski – http://www.parkourpanels.com

Section B – Commercialisation of parkour / Influence of brands

  1. Could you quickly explain how commercial Co-option is done (and what it is)?

Alex: Sure. Though it’s important to say that commercial co-option is a creative process. People commercialize things in all kinds of ways, some good and some bad.

There is, however, a standard model described by Robert Reinheart and Naomi Klein separately back in the 1990s. This is the model that worries me most. Fortunately, it’s a little outdated now, though it is still regularly used.

Let’s imagine you want to sell an idea and a product. Big companies have long realized that ideas are where the money is. A bag might be 20 bucks of material and less in labor, but add an idea and you can sell it for thousands of dollars. Water is free throughout much of the industrialized world, add an idea and people will pay more for it than milk. Entire industries are created on ideas that are attached to products. Ideas like prestige, courage, adventure, youth, etc., appeal to everyone and can be used to boost the price of your product way above production value.

The process of capturing and associating ideas to products is the golden grail of commercial product development. Ideas like wealth and prestige are easy to manufacture, they simply relate to exclusivity of price. Some people will pay more because they want to be seen as wealthy. They want to splash their cash in what academics call conspicuous consumption. But not everyone is into that. Coolness, youth, adventure are more universal aspirations but companies can’t MAKE those ideas. They’re fundamentally unrelated to material stuff, these things come out of authentic experience. This authentic experience is the ultimate gold mine for product manufacturers and you still have a product to sell. So, most large companies hire people like me (anthropologists, psychologists, demographers, sociologists) to find that idea for them. These guys are called corporate cool-hunters and their job is pretty self-explanatory.

Where do you get your cool? If youth, adventure and coolness are unrelated to your bank account how can you capture it? The first step was to borrow it. Celebrity advertising and trendsetters like sports stars can be hired to associate with your product to lend it some of their cool for cash. This is regularly done and it works. But, some companies decided that this wasn’t enough. Attaching yourself to a person is good, but risky. What if they turn against you or ruin their reputation? This might damage your product value. Worse yet, no celebrity appeals to everyone, so how do you get a bigger range? Another plan was needed. If the sportsperson is untrustworthy you can go further up the line and simply buy the sport.

This is what major brands started doing in the 1980s and 1990s, as the marketing of ideas became increasingly targeted. The upside was each sport brought in a new demographic. Want to target the wealthy? There’s golf and dressage. The working and middle class? Soccer, football, etc. Working classes? Boxing, MMA, etc. In the 1990s companies decided to aim for the niches. Youth and adventure sports would bring in another audience and associate products with all kinds of cool ideas. When these companies got there they found something they didn’t expect or particularly like – culture. Culture is meaning, politics, expression, community, ideology, resistance, creativity and history. While some of this was good, a lot of it was not what the advertisers are after. Lots of examples of this: surfers were cool, free and young, but they were also aggressively territorial, ideologically anti-consumerist and deeply political. Rock-climbers and kayakers were often militant echo warriors. Skaters were too diverse to and disorganized to work with. The good news for companies was that these sub-cultural groups were small, isolated and largely unknown to the public. They were also not used to large amounts of commercial interest and exposure and were relatively new when compared to the more widely watched traditional sports. This made they vulnerable to a great deal of manipulation.

What companies found was that they had the power to almost completely reinvent subcultural practices in ways that make them more fitting for the harvesting of their cool ideas. The first step is to strip them of any historical politics that don’t work well for a mainstream market – to introduce an inherently conservative and commercial politic to replace whatever was there before. This was easy because they controlled broadcasting, which put them in a position to control the growth of the activity. What these companies did was look for willing ‘stars’. Then they would use their resources to start broadcasting the subcultural activity but in a selected way, redefined with a new commercial politic. This politic was borrowed from sport (yes, sport is inherently political and due to its long interaction with industry and the state, quite conservative). The voices of dissenting practitioners, of which there were many, were easily drowned out before the wide proliferation of the Internet by simply keeping them off the mainstream screen. These people were excluded from TV broadcasts and commercial VHS/DVD rereleases. The voices of the paid stars were amplified. Because these ‘stars’ were often young, poor and keen for attention they would agree to all kinds of contract conditions most mainstream celebrities would reject. Their success in their chosen sport was (and still is) completely reliant on their support of the commercial line and product. The final touch was the effect of this kind of co-option on the next generation of practitioners. Because these companies positioned themselves for maximum exposure, many newcomers to these activities were introduced to the commercial version. Many simply assumed that ‘this’ is just what surfing/rockclimbing/skating/etc. is. By telling a story about a group loud enough companies were able to own and reinvent entire subcultures, with ‘stars’ who did whatever they wanted and total control of branding, broadcast and message.

This is the process of commercial co-option. To some extent, some of this is quite healthy. And in the age of the Internet it’s much harder to silence dissenters, but we’ve seen this same process applied to parkour, fortunately, with only partial success. The cultures of skating, surfing and many other movement cultures have been quite badly affected by this process. Practices stand to lose their politics, their diversity and their history in the face of a demand to conform to market politics.

I’d hate to see that happen to PK. I’m lucky to be practicing and recording these debates so early in the development of this practice. Hopefully we won’t go down the same paths as many of the more co-opted and contested practices and keep our internal richness and diversity.

So much for a ‘brief’ explanation!

© Alex Pavlotski - http://www.parkourpanels.com

© Alex Pavlotski – http://www.parkourpanels.com

  1. What can we as practitioners who want to oppose this exploitation and transformation, at least to some extent, actually do?

Alex: Keep hold of authenticity! Commercial co-option only works if the narrative and politics imposed by commercial interests are unchallenged. Their cool-hunting is dependent on authenticity. So, if enough internal practitioners stand up and take ownership as authentic members of the culture it kills the associated cool. We’ve seen this already with MTV’s Ultimate PK Challenge, The Barclaycard World Freerun Championship and the original RedBull ‘parkour’ competitions. All of them followed the co-option formula and had similar effects but all of these faced massive resistance inside the community.

The other thing is to keep talking to each other and disagreeing. Lots of people think that online arguments about parkour are a waste of time, but they’re really important. They demonstrate the diversity of practice and create understanding that there is no single monolithic parkour. This may be frustrating and feelings might get hurt, but it keeps us diverse, informed and connected.

  1. Should we oppose these developments or do you think that on the long run everything will get back to “normal”?

Alex: Culture is a skillset. It is developed through use and we invent it as practitioners. If we don’t guide it, others will. “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

  1. What is your opinion on parkour companies that rise from within the community?

Alex: Largely positive. While I don’t like commercial co-option I also know that culture is never separate from economy. People need to make a living and parkour is legitimated and even enriched when it enters the mainstream. The only thing I’d worry about is when one entity tries to swallow up the others. I’d hate to see us get railroaded into a single path. From interviews I’ve read and seen, so did David Belle and a number of other central founders.

 

Julie Angel dived into the world of Parkour around 2003/04. She contributed greatly to a very rooted and real picture of Parkour through her short films, documentaries and portraits. Julie somehow manages to capture the spirit of Parkour on video without solely relying on the spectacle aspect of the discipline. Through her videomaking and her own practice she inspires people of all ages and abilities. In 2011 Julie released Ciné Parkour, the first ever academic work on PhD level on Parkour. At the same time Ciné Parkour, for the first time, provided a written and scientific base for the history and development of PK. 2016 saw the release of Julie´s “Breaking the Jump“, a book filled with incredibly detailed stories of the founders of the discipline along a structured timeline of the events and the history of Parkour. Below you will find the interview. The questions were developed with strong input from the community.

 

breaking the jump

Intro

  1. What does Parkour mean to you personally?

Julie: For me it’s a mixture of things both physically and mentally – a way of facilitating change, a mindset of embracing challenges, and a way of experiencing environments as more than they first appear.

 

Parkour and science

  1. What do you think would be interesting Parkour related research topics in the coming years?

Julie: I love the work Charlotte Blake is doing on Parkour and mental health – see this blog for more info on that. I also think longevity is an important issue that I’d like to see more projects focus on. Even though Parkour is still such a young discipline I think this matters. And public space, there’s so much to research! I’m a big fan of public space and there’s not so much left these days but it’s not clearly sign-posted so it’s a sort of stealth issue in that spaces that may appear as ‘public’ (ones where you can sit down and eat a sandwich on your lunch break etc.) but are in fact private and highly regulated. Bradley Garret is doing some great work on this at the moment.

 

  1. Do you intend to publish more scientific research related to Parkour?

Julie: Nope. I’m all done for now.

 

Your opinion

  1. As you actively work for inclusivity in Parkour and a broader acceptance: do you sometimes feel frustrated by the sheer mass of action orientated Parkour video releases and their influence on the broad public perception of Parkour?

Julie: Not really, I understand and also appreciate the will of people to share their achievements and the role it plays in inspiring others. It’s also easier to film the action than communicate something a bit more ambiguous or meaningful. Society loves a spectacle and Parkour can be a beautiful one so it’s great to celebrate that but yes a bit more balance would help those who are trying to communicate a broader message and especially those who focus on the educational potential for Parkour across a diverse range of ages and abilities. I think more filmmakers could do work on the other aspects of Parkour beyond the action but given the choice, if someone is only going to make 1 project about Parkour then most will go for action, but that’s not to say that more meaning can’t be communicated at the same time, it just depends on your filmmaking craft, experience and motivation.

 

 

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  1. What do you think of the current sportification of Parkour?

Julie:  It’s a mixed bag, in some locations the sportification and creation of certifications and regulated training has helped break down the barriers to participation for many. I wouldn’t have started training without there being a ‘proper class’ and trusting the coach. There’s also a big difference between someone being good at Parkour themselves and having the progressions and wider knowledge to coach and introduce it to someone of a very different background and level of physical competence than they themselves had when they started. As far as I know, the places where there are larger female participation are ones where there is a solid coaching community. People need to feel that they are welcome and this is communicated in everything a group or community does. It could be the imagery they use in their ads or promos, the style of language they use and how they are perceived locally. It all forms an impression of whether someone thinks ‘oh that’s something that could be for me’. At the other extreme the free exploration has been lost sometimes and replaced with a bootcamp style of training, the ‘no pain no gain’ mentality which I don’t personally enjoy and don’t make any progressions with. Depends on how you see ‘sport’, and what level of standardisation is imposed. I think the word ‘sport’ currently has a very narrow meaning and it would be great if an activity like Parkour could help broaden that.

 

  1. What do you think of the interplay between Parkour and business? Do you see any potential issues to the integrity of Parkour?

Julie: There are ethical businesses and there are opportunists and parasites. There are some great Parkour businesses out there that are community run, ethical, sustainable and profitable. These organisations have a high level of reflection on the question of ‘why’ they are doing what they do or offering X.Y,Z. They tend to take their time on projects but the results are ones of quality. For example, in Finland, if you are training to be a teacher for P.E. (physical education) or sports, every candidate will have had some Parkour training.  I also think there are Parkour businesses that are being run by people who know a lot about Parkour but not so much about running a business. People need to be open to learning more than just how to coach or perform Parkour. I know quite a few athletes who now have ‘Parkour office jobs’ and they can´t believe how much admin they have to do etc. but admit that they don’t have good efficient systems in place because maybe it’s the first time they’ve ever run a business. It’s like anything, there are always people you can ask for help, learn more about and have a different skillset. Nobody is good at everything. Every business makes choices around the values it wants to maintain and at what cost to their profit and sustainability. It comes down to informed choices basically.

 

  1. How do you estimate the ratio of female to male Parkour-practicioners right now? (50% / 50%?) Has this ratio changed over the years? (If yes: What are the main reasons for this change?)

Julie: Depends where but my guess is that on average it’s 10-30%. The places where I have seen growing female communities are ones where there is a solid coaching culture that has made a concerted effort to make women feel welcome. By advertising something as ‘for everyone’ is quite meaningless when you look at the wider culture of who does activities that are perceived as ‘risky’, need acts of courage and are potentially physically demanding. In general people wont think ‘oh well I bet there’s loads of women training of all ages’, they are more likely to think, ‘there are probably a lot of young athletic guys’. It takes a more specific approach to make those outside of the major demographic feel welcome at an event/class/jam. I think there’s more awareness of what needs to be done if people are interested in having more female participation. I think it’s really positive that people are asking the questions now of ‘well if it’s for everyone where is everyone? Where are the women, older participants, less able’ etc.

 

Julie in motion - pic by Andy Day (Kiell) - Link on bottom of interview

 

  1. Have you ever had the fear of not living up to the expectations of people you dealt with while working on the subject of Parkour?

Julie: Apart from the book no, and that was self-imposed. When doing my PhD  Iwas very lucky in that aspect compared to some other Parkour researchers I know. When I started training it was clear that I hadn’t moved for a very long time so there was no expectation for me to perform or be able to do anything. I spent years just doing step vaults and that was fine. I turned up and tried and was humble to the process so there was a mutual respect between those who I filmed and when I was a student at one of their classes. When filming and interviewing I have a very informal way of being and a very typical British self deprecating sense of humor so no big ego which meant that nobody ever knew if I was going to make anything that was any good or not. I quite often get told ‘oh wow, I thought it would be ok but I didn’t think it would be that good’. I take my work seriously but I’m not a very serious person if you know what I mean. However, with the book I felt an incredible sense of responsibility as people were sharing so much of their personal stories for which I am incredibly grateful. I was constantly humbled and amazed at how much people shared. I’m quite a private person and I can’t imagine how weird it is for those individuals to read about their lives.  I took that responsibility very seriously.

pf1

Closing questions

  1. Is your work on the history of Parkour finished or will we get more on the subject from you?

Julie: There’s more but not another book. There are some chapters that I decided not to put in the book but I’d still like to share. I’m going to release those soon. If I put everything I wanted in the book I would never have finished it so there’s still more that will come out in the form of blogs etc. I just need to get back into a writing mindset again.

 

  1. What are you currently working on? (Current projects?)

Julie: As part of See&Do I’m working with several very inspiring coaches towards developing on a series of online courses: Strong Body Strong Mind, that involves a combination of functional natural movements, neural linguistic programming and self-defence strategies for women. It’s how to be healthy, happy and safe. Train your body, your mind and connect the two. I’m really excited about this and doing a lot of research.  If all goes well this should be ready early next year.

 

  1. Is there anything left you want to mention?

Julie: Keep moving, stay strong and be brave. And thanks for the questions 🙂

 

[blockquote align=center]

More Ressources and Infos can be found on:

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The KRAP gym was one of the first of its kind and when earlier this year it was announced that KRAP will be undergoing fundamental structural changes the opportunity arose to get a glimpse behind the curtains of one of the biggest parkour and freerunning dedicated facilities out there.

krap_announcement

Below you will find a firsthand interview with the people behind the Krapannone gym. At this point a HUGE THANK YOU to the team for sharing all the details you will find below.

A – Opening question

Can you introduce yourselves? Who are the people behind KRAP and what´s your story? Who are we talking to right now? 🙂

is a result of the passion for freestyle sports and parkour in particular of three young athlets: Riccardo age 20, Valentino age 22, Giovanni age 20.

Krap came out from a group of friends passionate in freestyle disciplines, skate, parkour, snowboard and more, we funded in 2008 a sport association called KRAP A.S.D. and started teaching skate in the city skatepark and parkour in a small municipal gym. In those areas we were not allowed to carry vault boxes or other parkour equipment so, after the first year, together with a small group of 30 students, we decided to build our own facility to train and also plan all the other associative activities such as workshops, events and shows, that’s when Krapannone was born, in October 2010.

My name is Valentino Di Lauro, President of Krap A.S.D. and I am proud to say that we made the Krapannone for ourselves in the first place because it was our dream to train also when the weather was bad and to keep progressing in our disciplines.

B – Gym infrastructure and environment

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The KRAP gym is located in Santorso (Province of Vicenza) in the north of Italy. Santorso with its ~6000 inhabitants seems like a small village. The city of Vicenza (~120.000 inhabitants) being 25km away.

How well accessible was the gym in your view?

The gym location was due to a good (at the time) rental deal with the owner of the space which was not too far away from where we all lived.

How many classes did you run per week and how many people visited your regular classes (weekly)?

We have 15 different classes that people can attend 1 or 2 times a week, divided in 3 different level range and age from 4 years old up

Total number of participants per week:~200 of which 90 % are locals living within 10 km distance.

Could you characterise your main client groups for us? (In terms of age, where they came from geographically, level of experience in pk/fr, whatever helps to get a picture of who your regular visitors were)

As I think all gyms most of the people are kids approaching the discipline for the first time, from 8 to 14 years old.

How many events did you host / organise each year and what events were they? We know the famous Krapinvaders Jam, the KrapFreerunning competition, anything we missed?

Indoor main event is Krap Invaders Winter in Krapannone, that we did every January since 2011. We organize minor in-door events during winter mainly as guest in other structures. Main out-door event is Krap Invaders Summer + other minor events mostly in Italy as guests.
“Krap Challenge” Freerunning competition we organize only in case that we find proper sponsor, so it was done 2 times, 2013-2014

C – KRAP finances

On your website we found the statement that for financial reasons you have to move your gym to another, smaller location. A few questions that came to my mind were.

What were the overall monthly costs of maintaining the gym? [We provided various answer categories]

 1.>4000 Euros per month,

How big was the space?

1100 square meters

Did you have fixed employees / a staff of members or coaches that you were paying?

3 fixed employees, 7 teachers paid by teaching hours.

How much did building the whole gym cost? (Equipment, restoration of the building?, creating the foam pit?)

The gym is 100% DIY, that’s were we saved a lot of money, I think that building the actual setup would be over 80.000€, that we managed maybe to spend half thanks for all friends working for free and self-planning and constructing everything

How did you finance the gym in general? Did you take any loans from banks? Did you have savings before? Did you receive funding? What about sponsorship deals or cooperation with other parkour organisations?

I believe that our project is unique first of all because our investemet was maybe the lowest ever, 5.000€ from our saving, that were used for paying the first months, then we used some scaffolding brought in our last event in the cit..
As we didn’t have significant funds to start with, we had to begin early the activity to earn some money for the second month! So after 10 days of forced-labour camp with little the help we cleaned up the structure, layed down the parquet in the small gym for kids and started parkour lessons, with in empty warehouse with one scaffold, a decathlon trampoline, and a few wooden vaults… no mats, no tumbling, no foampit!

We never had sponsors because in this small city they’re hard to found, we’ve collaborated with a lot of parkour organizations or athletes that came here and helped us with promotion and activities.

What were your main sources of income? (Classes, Events, Merchandise,…?)

Classes, Events and membership fees for the use of the Gym. Merchandizing sales a bit inside the gym, but krapstore.com is international oriented.

D – The KRAP image and events

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How would you describe the KRAP image?

Since the beginning Krap mission was to spread the Parkour / Freerunning knowledge through events, courses in Krapannone and video activities in the web. Krap name and Logo has become synonymous of freestyle life. Sport garments and gadgets related with our name and logo has become the flag of a large community, I think our difference with the other teams/brands parkour related is that we embrace complete freedom, and we have space for every point of views or projects, Krap is a tool that everyone can use to build his dream!

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your image? Do you think KRAP had an image problem?

Strengths is the one I cited above, and sometimes that’s also our weakness, as we embrace a lot of views and different activities sometimens we can appear disordered or we lose some focus in some…
Since the foundation KRAP made something in these fields:

  • Classes in: Parkour, skate, bmx, breakdance, juggling
  • Exibitions in the above disciplines
  • Building parkour, skate, bmx structures
  • Renting a warehouse and building a gym (Krapannone – 2010)
  • Renting another warehouse and building a Skatepark (The Wall Skatekrap – 2014)
  • Building an outdoor bikepark (Nanto’s Park 2016)
  • Building structures and organizing contest and activities in big events (The Jambo 2013-2014 and more)
  • Organizing our events and inviting people from all over the world, most of the time giving good athletes found on the web the chance to travel and be noticed in the parkour community
  • Making HI quality parkour and events videos for Youtube and facebook (2009-now)
  • Creating a clothing brand and made an online store: krapstore.com
  • Sponsorship of famous or emerging athletswith our garments
  • Enjoyed ourselves with all these activities

Do you think KRAP has influenced the world wide parkour/freerunning scene?

I think we’ve influenced a lot this world, more internationally than in Italy.

We have been among the first to produce great videos and invite international people in parkour events, expecially the Russians, our gym was also the first in Europe and I think our structures are also more elaborated comparing on what you find on regular events.

Events like KRAP Invaders and your competition are well known and some of the first of their kind. What is / was the motivation behind these events and how big of a role did they play in the financial maintenance of KRAP as a whole?

Gathering the international community, spread the name and logo Krap, spread the knowledge of our garments and gadget line www.krapstore.com is our main motivation, make a good job with this stuff and give people a good environment to train and have fun! Unfortunately Krap Invaders as self-financed event is not profitable (despite the high price), most of the times it’s an investment and a lot of people including us are working for free or very low money to organize and set-up the event.

Competition can be a better business when you do it in the name and with a good deal with a main sponsor.

E – Running a parkour / freerunning gym

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The more people frequent a place like KRAP the more likely it seems injuries happen at some point. Did you have any serious injuries happening in the gym?

Injuries are part of the game in every form of sport activity. Our courses in krapannone teach to better understand the possibilities and the limits of our body, train mindfulness and movement creativity. I do not think that the rate of injuries in krapannone is an issue (we may count 4 or 5 minor accidents per year only one or two requiring hospitalization

What was your policy on handling the everyday dangers of providing a training space? Did you let people sign a waiver? Did you have a special insurance going? How did you manage people in classes vs. people who trained on their own? And especially: how did you manage underage kids and teenagers in that sense?

Everyone using the facility, either for the courses or free training, is requested to become member of a recognized sport association (KRAP) affiliated to a National Sport entity called UISP. Every athlete is covered by an insurance and for the events we ask the participants to sign a waiver both for adults and minors.

F – Closing questions

What are the the most important aspects of running a parkour-gym in your point of view? What are the main lessons learned?

  • Dedication, entrepreneur mind, a community and a lot of volunteers.
  • Lesson learned is common for every kind of social activity:
  • Work hard, be creative, and be humble as somebody is always better somewhere! Learn from them and from your mistake.

Do you feel like KRAP failed or is it more an adaptation, maybe a welcome adaptation and a chance for new ways?

We have worked hard, sustained lot of pressure and economical adversities, but learned a lot and exposed ourselves to the International community. By enlarging the base of practitioners there will be more opportunities in the future and Krap aim is to remain a main reference for the international community.

Do you have any special projects planned in the near future?

We are working a lot to expand the quality and distribution of garments and gadgets on krapstore.com. And this summer we’re coming with 3 KRAP INVADERS events, that will be a great chance for everyone to join!, check out dates and places in www.krapinvaders.com

How will KRAP continue now?

Krap activities will continue and improve.We found now a new place for classes in 2016/17 Season, and we’re scouting new locations for Krapannone 2.0 which may be operative in 2017/18 Season

Thank you for your time and the interview in general. Good luck!

For an action packed tour through the current gym setup featuring the incredibly talented Krystian Kowalewski check out the latest video.

More Info on the gym and upcoming events at

Andy Day (Kiell) is one of the reasons why parkour has become so popular worldwide. As a photographer he accompanied the scene early on, not only mirroring parkour as a discipline but also shaping it to some degree. The interview you will find below is divided into blocks of questions each with a different thematic focus. As Andy is also one of the voices not affraid to point out developments he finds problematic, topics in this interview will also highlight aspects of the commercialisation of parkour or thoughts on the visual representation of the discipline in general.

 

A – The perfect picture

The image and the video as a medium are probably the most dominant factors in spreading parkour world-wide.

  1. What makes a “good” parkour related picture to you? What constitutes a good picture in terms of parkour movement (or in general)?
    framing, the angle of the shot, lights, background, the athlete, the movement

 

Andy: I think for me a good photograph has got to be about the space as much as it is about the athlete. The thing that interests me about parkour is the relationship between the body and the architecture, which perhaps explains why I’m not that interested in seeing videos in gyms or people tumbling across flat terrain. A shot of someone moving, isolated from their surroundings, is just that – a body, without context, without a dialogue with the world. When it is placed in context, the body enters into a physical relationship with the space that, as a result, changes that space, as well as being changed by it. That’s what interests me about parkour; space is fascinating – it shapes us, and, in turn, we shape it. In order to simply exist, we take up space and through our actions we turn a space into a place.

Secondly, I guess, is a sense of authenticity. If a shot feels like it exists for the sake of being a photograph, or is in thrall with the personality of the athlete rather than that athlete’s conversation with the environment, I lose interest. Trying to verbalise exactly how this works is quite tricky, but I think anyone who knows parkour has a sense of what I’m talking about here. There are plenty of shots in my catalogue that don’t really achieve this authentic feel and I don’t value them anywhere near as much as the others.

Sorry to answer your question in such abstract terms! All of the more practical elements really are secondary – it can be blurry, out of focus, poorly lit and with a weak body posture. But if it nails a sense of exploration of a space and conveys a feeling of authenticity, these things don’t really matter.

 

  1. What do you look for when taking pictures? Do you even look for something or is it a more spontaneous process? Maybe both?

Andy: It’s certainly both. Finding a picture is always a collaboration, to the extent that you could describe many of my photographs as being a self portrait on behalf of the athlete. For example, the picture of Thomas that I took jumping in India that many people might be familiar with: Thomas suggested we go to the location to explore. He led the climb and then found the jump, and even suggested where I could take the photograph from. And even if you forget the fact that he put 10 years of training into doing that jump, he did most of the hard work. All I did was set the camera up and push the button.

That said, I’m very much involved with the exploration of a place when I’m in search of new photographs. It’s something that I’ve written about extensively recently in relation to my most recent project in former Yugoslavia. I bring my own parkour vision and movement to the discovery of a place, and the camera is part of that process.

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  1. What is the most memorable picture you ever took, and what makes it so special? 

Andy: The shot I previously mentioned is certainly up there. Thomas is a very good friend of mine and I value my time spent with him because regularly he takes me out of my comfort zone, pushing me to be more than I am. The whole trip was remarkable – the hospitality of our hosts, the motorbikes, the country, the road. And Hampi. It is an amazing place simply for its landscape, never mind the temples and rice paddies.

Other than that, possibly a shot of Boki I took during the recent project in former Yugoslavia. For me, Boki is one of those people that epitomises parkour, not just in the way that he moves and trains, but in every aspect of his being. The parkour community of Croatia and Serbia is phenomenal, and in many ways they are one of the most important collectives in the world in the way that they work together, across borders, ignoring ethnic and national divisions that are centuries old. They don’t think that what they do collectively is particularly special or different, and that’s half the beauty of it: they just get on with it, training, travelling and exploring together. That’s part of what this photograph represents, I guess. In my mind it sits alongside another photograph from that project, of Ficho, a young guy from Rijeka in Croatia, who will hopefully have opportunity to build on the hard work of people like Boki and Mirko and so many others in Zagreb, Belgrade and beyond.

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  1. Can you recommend any other parkour related photographers / movement photographers whose work you enjoy? (maybe with links to their portfolio sites?)

Andy: Crucial to developing my understanding of how I work and what I do is the writing and photography of Brad Garrett. It’s not just his images that I find important, but the way he perceives the city and works tirelessly to convey that perception through all aspects of his work – teaching, writing and public speaking. His photographs aren’t just pretty pictures but instead sit amongst a broader provocation of how we should relate to the city, the danger of ignoring the decline of public space, and our potential to disrupt and undermine systems of power that are bent on containing us without us even realising. He lives his work, and his work lives in his photographs. Find out more at http://www.bradleygarrett.com/. And if you have any interest in cities and physicality, you need to read his book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Explore-Everything-Place-hacking-Bradley-Garrett/dp/1781681295 (Buy it second hand for £3.76. You won’t be disappointed.)

Ours is a culture dominated by spectacle, a spectacle that is usually masculine. This is why the work of Julie Angel is so important for me at the moment. Through creating a body of work that looks at alternative bodies – typically female – that is not primarily concerned with personality or overtly dramatic demonstrations of physical ability, she’s challenging our perception of what parkour photography should be about. It’s a challenge to my own work, and that of everyone else. We – myself included – create a media that is obsessed with spectacle and ego that is male-domainted, and she’s trying to shift that landscape a little through what she does. In my own work, I talk about the ‘insertion of bodies that are radically out of place’ and yet most of my work is about athletic, white, middle-class young men. What the hell is radical about that? What’s more revolutionary: an athletic teenage male doing a backflip off a wall, or a woman in her forties vaulting across a rail? Julie is a renegade photographing the renegades, and it’s refreshing. www.see-do.com

 

B – Commercialisation of parkour / Influence of brands etc.

In your article “Spectacle and spirit; parkour needs better sponsors” you highlight the problematic relationship of parkour and potential sponsors / brands getting involved. In that article you state: ” The beauty of parkour is that it requires nothing. The flip side of this is that parkour can be used to sell pretty much anything.”

  1. Where do you see the main problem of certain brands getting involved in parkour (from energy drinks to cigarette companies)?

Andy: I think the problem is twofold. First is many people’s naivety regarding the power of advertising. People don’t see a nice advert and go and buy a product. It’s infinitely more complex than that. Brands create a lifestyle around their product, provoking an emotional response and, in some cases, creating a normality to their consumption to the extent that, as a society, we’re blinded to its negative aspects. The second problem is that people need to get paid. As a subculture and a community, we’re hungry for work as it permits a lifestyle that allows us to do even more of what we love. When rich companies with questionable products come along, it’s no surprise that they can simply buy their way in. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really blame anyone for taking these shitty sponsors as, in their situation, I might well have found myself doing the same, certainly 8 or so years ago.

 

  1. What do you think of Red Bull and the Art of Motion in general?

Andy: I think there is a bubble of elite performance athletes and their supporters who dominate the visual culture of parkour and give the impression that their world is the epicentre of the parkour community. It’s possible that the reality is actually very different. I’ve travelled extensively and I get the impression that this bubble is primarily supported by very vocal, media-savvy teenagers who buy the products and generate the clicks. Maybe that’s the difference: there’s an online community, and then there is the community. They’re two very different things, which is strange when you consider how much the internet is responsible for the emergence and growth of parkour.

Much of Red Bull’s media over the years has bizarrely been quite clumsy, as though they knew that they wanted to do something with parkour but weren’t really sure what. A few years ago, it was a case of taking their sponsored athletes to random locations and pretty much parachuting them into culturally complex environments and then asking them to talk about it. It was excruciating to listen to these athletes mumble awkwardly about how different everything is and how unique the architecture is, as though having the ability to jump around and do flips is going to have endowed that athlete with the ability to offer cultural insights into the complexities of a former war zone. Again it goes back to parkour’s treatment of space; parkour’s real value is in its relationship with and capacity to change a place, something that’s not really examined through a superficial, spectacle-driven tourism.

 

  1. In the article mentioned above you also state: ” By comparison, the climbing community is supported by a wealth of progressive companies engineering fantastic products and funding athletes, events and expeditions around the world. It’s a healthy symbiosis.”

               Do you think a similar development is possible for parkour?

Andy: I’m not sure. To a degree that already happens with various tours and events organised by some of parkour’s clothing brands.

 

  1. Is there anything we as practicioners can do to support a way of commercialisation of parkour that we can live with morally?

Andy: I think if everyone who thought that Red Bull was a shitty sponsor suddenly spoke up, Red Bull would run a mile. Strangely I’ve been asked a few times to coordinate something like that but I don’t think I’m the right person to do it. I get a lot of people thanking me for taking a stand but, honestly, it’s very easy to sit here and throw stones!

 

C – Parkour / Climbing, Buildering

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You are an active urban explorer, climber and also engage in buildering (climbing / bouldering in the urban environment).

  1. Do you see any similarities between parkour, urban exploration and buildering? (thinking of how the urban explorer, climber views and uses public space for example)

Andy: The boundaries aren’t distinct and this indeterminacy is one of their characteristics. Parkour is the only one that really engages in arguments about what is or isn’t parkour. The other two couldn’t give a shit.

 

  1. If you think about parkour communities, urban exploration and buildering/bouldering communities. Are there any main differences you have observed that are worth mentioning? (be it from an athlete’s point of view or from a photographer´s point of view)

Andy: Well, firstly, there is no buildering community. Certainly not here in London. There’s me and Bobby and Ash, and a few others, and that’s about it. We meet up a few times a year and repeat some of the old stuff, and very occasionally go in search of new stuff. So I think that’s one of the first things to emphasise – buildering is barely a thing. As for the urban exploration community, I don’t really know. I’m not really a part of that community. Community is a weird concept, though, especially many people would regard me as part of that community even though I don’t feel a part of it. And that’s a characteristic of these urban social formations, much like the indeterminate boundaries I discussed earlier. Membership is fluid and you’re a part of something (even if you don’t feel a part of something) that is amorphous, fragmented, dispersed, and indistinct.

As for differences… parkour is a little caught up in its own sense of self-importance sometimes, probably because people genuinely care about what it is and what the future holds for it. Parkour is pretty unstable but buildering, through not really existing, has no stability whatsoever. As a result, it can’t take itself seriously at all – one of its features that I find quite endearing. Plus buildering is generally a bit ridiculous which all adds to the fun. I’m a big fan of silliness, something that strangely has quite a lot of power.

 

D – Closing questions

  1. What are you currently working on? Can you tell us anything about upcoming projects?

Andy: At the moment, I’m still working on FORMER, the project that I shot in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia. I’m not sure if I will shoot more of the monuments but there’s a load of stuff that I need to do, mostly to try and understand the project fully and give the images a life beyond their current state on my hard drive. Beyond that, I’m teaching a week-long course in parkour and dance photography at Central St Martins in the spring and plotting my escape from London.

 

  1. Is there anything else that should be mentioned? Anything else you´d like to say?

Andy: Parkour is progressive. Its community is progressive, as is the way that it values teaching, as is its spirit of inclusivity. We can inspire future generations to move through the spectacles we create, but let’s also ensure that this doesn’t compromise our values. It’s a fine balance but one that’s worth fighting for, which is why I’m often so vocal. Often the response from those that get called out for shitty decisions is that criticising is easy and ‘haters gonna hate’. In response it’s worth considering this quote from Churchill: “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” As a community of progressive-minded people, I’m very proud of parkour. I think as a collective we have an intelligence and a self-awareness that is different to most other sports, characteristics that have their roots in the values estbalished by some of the earliest practitioners.  We’re very fortunate in that respect.

 

At this point a HUGE THANK YOU to Andy for taking his time and putting his thoughts on paper. Thank you for this opportunity and the insights you have provided us!
If there is anything else you would like to know or if you wish to see some more of Andys work visit http://www.kiell.com/