Hi Seb. Thank you for the opportunity! I recently saw your FB post regarding your thoughts on your role in James Bond. Below is a short summary, please correct me if needed:
You view the role you played critically as it portraits a black terrorist who at the end of a long (and amazing) chase scene get´s shot by James Bond, the white main character.
James Bond is a great character but it just happened that my sequence particularly remind me the cliché of “the bad black guy who is running away from the good white cops!” And it is hard to unsee that for me.
What was the trigger that made you look back and question your role in James Bond?
After I watched on Netflix the documentary 13th and understood that there are people in this world who really want us to be seen as bad and want to portray the colour of my skin as a sign low value. I realised it is important and crucial for black kids to get representatives and inspiring model who portray a positive image to break this deeply unbalanced narrative.
Would you go back and make something different if you could?
I wouldn’t change anything. What is done is done and I’m still proud of my work.
I can remember a situation in Austria. We picked you up from the Vienna airport and went by train to central Vienna. In the main hall of the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) we were controlled by 2 police men. This had never happened before and I did not see the police controlling anyone else. Sadly, that´s why I dare assume that you probably have had a variety of experiences of discrimination:
Have you ever experienced/witnessed discrimination from parkour/freerunning/add practicioners or in the parkour environment in general?
I remember this moment very well and this is exactly what people of my colour experience disproportionately. I’m glad you were there to experience it because it allows you to witness and feel first hand how having a different colour skin can make you a target. My way of practicing Parkour has always been influenced by that. I don’t do anything that can give an excuse for someone or any authorities to over exercise their power on me. It is almost a second nature. My rules: practice in public places with friends, don’t go on rooftops unless you are invited or unless it is a professional situation.
Is there anything we as parkour practicioners could do or need to change in the discipline?
There is nothing to do really to be honest. The energy in the Parkour community is really good. It is a big, open minded place and really welcoming. It is just the case that Parkour is not really popular in the black community and it is understandable. When you are targeted, jumping over walls can be the reason that can lead you into trouble.
When looking at the history of parkour/freerunning/add diversity plays a huge role. The former Yamakasi (incl. you) and original practicioners came from so many different backgrounds.
When you all started what became this movement: how was the attitude from outsiders towards you and the group in the beginning? – In the recent podcast with John Hall you mentioned there was rarely to none interactions with outsiders in the beginning. Were you faced with difficulties in your practice due to the diversity of the group? How did the group approach diversity? How did it make you stronger?
First of all I started with David Belle, who was doing it before me. Our town Lisses is pretty small and almost everyone knew each other from children to parents. Only a handful of kids jumping around no one really cared. The Yamakasi story is a myth as far as it involves me. I was Yamakasi for the period of the creation of the group only. But I never really practice with most of them. This question is more to them as they really have a lot of shared experiences. I was lucky to grow up in a diverse environment where racism was not a daily issue.
Coming back to your achievements in the sector of performance and entertainment. When looking back at the collaboration with Madonna (music videos and live show tour): obviously it´s very different from what you did in James Bond: what do you think of it now? Are similar thoughts crossing your mind as with the movie?
The thoughts that crossing my mind are different in all the work I’ve done. Now I have to think positively and be constructive but always be aware and alert to what my skin colour can project and to make sure the message I send will educate and change the negative perceptions.
Thank you a lot for the time and openness!
Below you will find some links mentioned in the interview:
- James Bond Chase Scene from Casino Royale – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZxNbAwY_rk
- Madonna: Jump – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx0mYN32Kps
- Madonna: Hung Up – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDwb9jOVRtU
- Madonna Confessions Tour – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIeP9aQqb0A
- Netflix: 13th Full Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8
Simone Bicorgna is an italian practicioner who, after the events of the AOM 2019 in Matera released a statement openly discussing issues with the events surrounding the AOM that day. For Simone the AOM has raised questions on respecting spaces and on the ethics behind events like these. But it is not just Simones personal opinion. The AOM has caused an outcry from Matera locals and italian newspapers openly doubting the ethics of parkour/freerunning itself. Reason enough to take the initiative and ask Simone on his thoughts on it all.
At the end you will find many links to the articles, the actual AOM live stream, Storror and Storm coverage and other material related to the AOM in Matera.
Hi Simone. You recently released a statement (LINK!) in which you openly discussed your opinion on the Red Bull Art of Motion (AOM) that happened on October 5th in Matera Italy. Before diving into that:
- Who are you? What is your relation to Matera and the region?
I’m the director/president of ADD Academy Umbria, the first italian Art du Déplacement Academy directly recognized by the Yamakasi founders, that we opened in Italy in 2014. But first I’m a practictioner of Art Du Déplacement, I started to train in 2007 like many others, after many views of some parkour videos on youtube. Then in 2009 I met Laurent Piemontesi and after Chau Belle, Williams Belle and Yann Hnautra and I started training Art du Déplacement. I live in Terni, a small town in the centre of Italy, in the region Umbria, and I’m a full time coach in my association.
I was involved in a big project that ended in june 2019 in Matera and for this reason I have some good links, some friendships there, that is 500 km away from my place. I know the guys that live and train there, we worked together to make a big show and an International workshop supported by Fondazione Matera European Capital of Culture 2019.
- Can you quickly summarise what the key message of your statement was? What is it all about?
I noticed from the news that many accidents and disruption happened in Matera before, during and after the AOM, like damages to the Unesco heritage, and conflicts with the population, so I openly put the attention on it, because I think the most important values in the practice of ADD/parkour/freerunning are RESPECT and RESPONSABILITY. In my text I asked the readers some questions about that event: will there be any positive outputs for the local community? Which consequences for the town? Which for the RedBull brand? Who is going to pay for the damages? And, in the end, which kind of values are inspired by such events?
- Were you at the event yourself? How did you perceive the AOM?
No, I was not there, but I saw it on streaming.
- What are your main concerns in regards to the event?
I don’t like competitions but this is not the point. The main problem, as I see it, is the negative impact, caused by the event, on the inhabitants, and of course on the historical site. Matera is fragile and has to be protected. The organization of AOM didn’t pay any attention to that, but only on the show.
- Some time has already passed since the AOM took place. What is the feedback you have picked up so far?
a) What is the feedback from any officials and/or authorities? -> city administration for example
They didn’t say anything
b) What is the feedback from people living in Matera? How did they perceive the event.
I understood there is some disappointment, someone wrote about perceiving a sort of invasion by the freerunners, people jumping on the roofs of the houses at every hour for the whole weekend, annoying the owners of the houses, causing damages to walls and roofs and things like this. There were many calls to the police in those days by many inhabitants, and a journalist was beaten by a group of young freerunners because she was filming them while jumping on the roofs. I can’t say if in general people from Matera are happy about the AOM, but for sure someone is not. Recently the ADD/Parkour association of Matera “Muvt” realased a statement about that.
c) What was the feedback from the spectators from the event? Did they like the AOM?
I think that people who like AOM and went there to see the show, they liked it.
d) What is the feedback from the parkour communities who travelled to the event to see it live? (Have you heard anything?)
Same as before, I think the AOM has its audience, and these people love it, of course.
e) What is the feedback from the participating athletes? (Storror for example released a video -> LINK).
I don’t really much care about their opinion about that because, in some ways, they are part of the same business. Unfortunately Storror are already responsible for a sad accident that happened in Rome last year, filming themselves jumping on a police car. Because of that no one is anymore allowed to train where it happened and the local parkour associations had serious problems with their work on that area. Storror didn’t pay any consequences or apologize either.
- If we look at the relation between the AOM and the Greek island of Santorini for example. As much as I can´t relate to the AOM itself I still think the image of the island as a touristic location has benefitted from hosting the event since 2012. I don´t say the image of parkour has benefitted from the event but for the island and it´s public image it was probably a good thing. – Do you think Matera is different from Santorini in this matter? – Why?
I don’t really think that places like Santorini or Matera need any help from the parkour community in order to grow their tourism; what I mean is that we are talking about people (ADD/parkour/freerunning practitioners) who, usually, don’t spend so much money while travelling, to let me think about them as an economic benefit for the city; in the particular case of Matera, they can cost a lot instead, causing damages to the ancient sites and roofs of the town.
- You mentioned the damages to the UNESCO world heritage: How serious is this damage we are speaking of?
I saw from facebook several walls cracked down and many damages on the roofs, so many that the President of “Fondazione Sassi” (the institution who works to promote and preserve the Unesco heritage in Matera) released an official disapproval statement that echoed through local and national newspapers.
a) Who do you think is to be held responsible for these damages?
First the Red Bull company that benefits from the event, then the ones who directly damaged the stuff, but also the Municipality for giving the authorization for the event.
b) What could have been done to avoid the damage?
I sincerely think Matera is not the place where an event like the AOM can be made without bad consequences, Matera is not Santorini, it is very old and fragile. Anyway the organization did not involved people from the town, or give any advice to the guys, there was not any security service. They came and went back home taking what they wanted, leaving damages.
- Do you fear long term consequences for your work in the region because of the AOM 2019? If yes: What kind of consequences? What are your thoughts?
Yes, of course. We did an amazing job in june working with Fondazione Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, but now I feel people in general will not understand the difference, also the municipality could ban future events.
- Do you think the AOM 2019 in Matera has helped spread parkour to a greater audience in Italy? Making it more accessible to an audience that had no idea of parkour yet for example?
For sure AOM it’s not promoting parkour, but parkour based competitions instead, that is very different. I really can’t say if some people heard for the first time about parkour thanks to the AOM in Matera, probably it happened, but I think the great majority of the people who heard about this (understanding what parkour really is) already knew parkour. The real aim of Red Bull is promoting the energy drink in all the action sports and extreme sports in order to reach all the different markets. The marketing strategy is easy and probably the best in the world actually: to persuade all kind of people (mostly the youngers) to buy the Red Bull energy drink, because it helps you to overcome your limits and reach your goals. In order to achieve this goal, Red Bull has occupied every kind of sport, sponsoring (and owning) athletes, teams and of course events. Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz said: “We don’t bring the product to the consumer, we bring consumers to the product.” They associate the energy drink to the best athletes and the most extreme and spectacular sports to spread the energy drink to all the audiences who like these sports. Of course the athletes involved in the Red Bull Circus gain in terms of popularity and fame mostly inside the community, but I don’t think it helps so much to spread the parkour outside the community. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my opinion.
- Do you have anything else you want to mention? – Anything else to say?
I think Red Bull can easily pay for the damages and apologize for what occurred. I’m not against events like that, but what about ethics and responsibility? It seems to me that many teams and events are pushing on the marketing strategy to appear as outlaw, over any rules, spreading the message to the younger generations that they can do whatever they want and that it is just fun (escaping from police, invading private property, pushing the adrenaline on the maximum to reach the podium, the likes, the success). I want to say that this is all fake and very risky. The original spirit of the founders/pioneers is very different instead: intimate, respectful and responsible, very linked to the habitat and to the people and yet powerfully revolutionary. The new generations should have the opportunity to know and understand this primarily and fundamental approach based on positive values. Keep your Ego aside, put community first.
We don’t need to build anything fake to move freely, and I also think there is no evolution in the practice of parkour/freerun through competitions, because competitions and competitors are the orthodoxy in sport, it is a very conservative way to look on the physical activity, so, in my opinion, they are not pushing forward, but backward the movement, building themselves their own cage, with the audience screaming out to see them pushing over the limits like any other sport. And what happen if anyone injuries oneself? They just cut him/her off from the competition and pick someone else up to occupy the empty seat, the show must go on. I still think the best and real competition is with yourself, with your own limits and fears, not with others.
Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts on this!
To finish this up here are some useful links if you want to know more:
AOM 2019 live stream – LINK
Simone Bicorgna statement – LINK
Newspaper article on the AOM in the local Matera newspaper – LINK
Newspaper article 2 on the AOM – LINK
Neswspaper article 3 on the AOM – LINK
ADD Academy Umbria – LINK
MUVT: local Matera Parkour group – LINK
Workshop video with Laurent Piemontesi and Marcello Pallozzo in Matera – LINK
Storror video of the AOM 2019 – LINK
Storm Freerun documentary on Ed Scott and his participation in the AOM 2019 – LINK
Source of pictures: unsplash.com, Simone Bicorgna
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
I planned the session in 3-4 parts:
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.
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.
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!
Ein Einblick in die Möglichkeiten mit Parkour zu unterrichten – Erfahrungen.
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
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.
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.
Das Training wurde in 3-4 Teilen geplant:
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.
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.
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!
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.
[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obe_TM3jWLc” ]
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.
- 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.
- 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?
- “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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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. 🙂
- 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.
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
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
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
Section B – Commercialisation of parkour / Influence of brands
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.