Tag Archive for: 2012
This interview is part of the archives. It was published in 3 parts starting December 3rd 2012 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog. This post will be exceptionally long as it will contain all 3 parts of the previously released interview.
This was the first interview to be released at the old Blog and it had opened many doors to future interviews. Also Naïm took a LOT of time and effort with his answers, one of many reasons the interview is so special.
Alex: Hi Naïm , first of all thank you for your willingness to take part in that interview. Let´s get started.
Naïm: In your videos/training you follow a very direct and clean movement style. What is your inspiration for your way of training and what do you want to achieve with your training?
NMy way of training is directly linked to my conception of parkour, in which I would distinguish between two different aspects:
1- The theoretical purpose, which is to be able to go from A to B in the most efficient way possible using only your body and your surroundings. The concept of efficiency is a complex concept that includes several dimensions:
a)the speed: how fast you can be from A to B.
b)the safety / security: making sure to prevent yourself from any damage or injury on the way from A to B.
c)the economy of energy: making sure to last until B, which means that you avoid any unneccesary moves that would decrease your stamina.
d)the ability to adapt oneself (to situations, environnements, places, weather, different types of light, of material, etc) along the way.
e)the fluency: being able to link movements and techniques together in order to gain speed and save energy.
2- The means to reach this purpose in practice. This is basically what training is made of: technical work, increasement of control over the different techniques that could be used, physical traning in order to prepare and maintain the body in the appropriate conditions regarding to the use we want to make of it, mental training in order to develop the ability to know what we are capable of -or not- and to overcome irrational fears that may prevent us from going all the way until B -and, on the other hand, learn to listen to our rational fear when it is preventing us to do something we cannot or some thing we don’t master enough to land it properly.
Learning these different things requires time (a lot of it). In consequence, it requires from the person that is training, patience and determination, willingness to learn and improve, whatever time and efforts it will take. I think these are the basics to learn properly and not injure oneself too badly.
Now, to answer your question more precisely, I was brought into parkour by watching two videos:
1-the report from the 08/04/2001 on the french television channelTF1, about David Belle and the Yamakasi guys, which is viewable here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v7rLfV8lUA
2-a video by Timpisteur, an ex-traceur that now doesn’t train anymore, which was called „Best of Pie“.
I discovered these videos in 2004 and it made me want to start training Parkour.
These two videos, while displaying different people, had in common to be more about creativity (at least the first part of the report, the one about David Belle, as well as Timpisteur’s video) and efficiency than performance, more about how fast or fluent someone can be, rather than how far or high he can jump. And this is what seduced me, and, at the same time, what made me think I could do these things. I didn’t get, for example, the same feelings from the „Yamakasi“ movie, which I saw years before, but which didn’t make me want to start training. Consequently, I would say that I was clearly more attracted by the creative/efficient side of training than the performance/who has got the biggest jump side of it.
Then, while starting training, I discovered all the other videos from Timpisteur, the ones from Chris Rowat (A.K.A Blane) -as well as his blog and the precious ressources it had about training- , the ones from TCT (Jin and Owen), Teamtraceur, the first PKVM episodes, and then the videos from Teghead, Joenkkoe, Ettore Tozzi, Oniipk, Phil Doyle (his first years training), the Sin Clan and Nextgen videos with Jason Matten, and all the young guys. All these videos influenced me a lot and directly shaped my way of training -and they still bring me inspiration for the next years to come, I would say-.
I also read a lot about training on the Parkour.NET forums -that sadly don’t exist anymore-, and learned a lot from there too I guess.
Today, I watch a lot of videos showing animals (such as monkeys, felines, lemurs, but also bears, etc) moving through their environment. These are definitely my greatest source of inspiration.
And speaking of humans, I generally like to watch the videos coming from Philparkour, Eeto91, Oscar Sanchez, Callum Powell, for example. Apart from these and a few more, I don’t watch that much parkour videos anymore.
Alex: What does practicing Parkour mean to you? What do you gain by it?
Naïm: I would divide my training into two different but complementary aspects, which are efficiency and creativity.
It is a very personal view, and I don’t pretend to have the right view; it is just mine.
I work a lot on efficiency while training. As it is the theoretical purpose of parkour, I try to keep it in mind at any moment and think through its prism when I look at things, especially when I’m training runs, asking myself questions, for example when I choose between two techniques to overcome this particular obstacle or that particular situation: is the technique I’m choosing the fastest, if I’m being chased by someone? But, at the same time, is it the one that lets me save a maximum of energy, or just the more instinctive -because I might still have a long way to go after this step-? Am I sure I could do it properly if I were stressed to be caught? And if I was chased by a leopard, would I still use this same technique? Would I still go in that same direction? Or would there be a safer solution then? And, by the way, this technique is not enough to escape, so how could I link it the best I can with the next one, in order to gain time and save energy? And if I had a precious object in my right hand that I would have to keep with me, would I still be able to use it? And what if it was raining? Etc.
I’m constantly using my imagination to challenge myself positively, inventing new problems in order to build new solutions. In this system, efficiency is a pretext for being creative, and being creative a way to get efficient. That’s why I like to train this way: I’m having fun, and I’m working at the same time. This way, the games I’m playing are not pointless, and the work I’m doing is not boring.
While doing this, I’m using my imagination to try to be creative. To me, this is what Parkour is all about. When you train Parkour, you want:
1-to draw different routes than people are usually using.
2-to invent different ways to use the things that are around you (a bench, a bin, a rail, a wall) on the routes you’ve drawn.
3-to adapt yourself to different situations, which means you have to find different techniques and ways to overcome each thing/obstacle you’re using.
4-to imagine extreme situations that could happen in order to give different orientations to your training and make you work on various configurations and deal with various problems, so you make sure to get ready for the most numerous possible situations.
These four reasons make me think that parkour is intrisically linked to creativity. But I guess it is also very personal and due to my taste for art in general, for using my imagination, for research, for making the most of a few things, for invention and renewal, and also for increasing the effectiveness and precision of the way we look at things. I live and practice parkour as an art, not as a sport. Even if it makes what we could call a “sportive” use of the human body, to me it is not anymore a sport, and in fact it is its exact opposite (no predefined rules, no competitions, no trophies nor medals, no approval certificate, no federation license, no clubs, no defined playground, no hierarchical structure, no sponsors, no money to gain, no money to pay, no required clothes, etc).
As anything else, each individual can get different feelings and gain different things from practicing parkour, it depends on the person. In my case, parkour gave me different opportunities:
1-to express myself as an artist
2-to gain a lot of both mental and physical strenght
3-to learn about my body: to know how it is made, how it reacts in different situations, know its possibilities and its limits, and its unexplored potentialities.
4-to learn about myself: how I react to fear, what type of fears I should fight and overcome, what type of fears I should listen to carefully and follow, the reasons why I get scared from some things and situations, the tools and tips to overcome my mental barriers.
5-to learn about architecture and structures I’m using: the different types of materials they are made of, how do they react (Do they slip? Do they grip? Are they solid and stable? Which weight can they support? How do they react to water? Etc), be able to visualise and measure the spaces between them instantaneously.
Alex: A lot of people just practice single jumps nowadays, how important is connecting movement while training for you?
Naïm: Something that could make parkour difficult to comprehend for beginners is that the word „parkour“ defines in reality two different things:
1-an efficient means of transport using only human body and its surroundings (the purpose).
2-a training method including technical, physical, and mental exercises (the way to reach this purpose).
Of course, when you’re a beginner and you’re training parkour, you need to work a lot on the physical side in order to condition your body to what you’re about to use it for, and also you need to work a lot on the technical side, because you need to learn the basic techniques that are used and useful in parkour: running, precision jump, roll, armjump, catpass, wallrun, climb-up, lazy vault, turn vault, side vault, etc.
That means you will take some years exploring these techniques, obsering how the other do them, ask questions about them, and try to learn them and do them properly, which takes time and efforts.
In consequence, you will work on each technique, repeating it over and over and trying it in different situations. So in fact, you need to practice „single jumps“ for a while, because before you are capable of linking techniques togehter you first need to master each and every technique correctly.
To me, there are two problems with people practicing single jumps though:
1-I think it would be interesting -and important- to work in parallel to the technical training I just described, on running, breathing, stamina training, and little movements combinations, from the very beginning, firstly because it is something doable without taking too much risks, and secondly because it is something you will need later to connect the movements together and make longer runs. And it looks like a very few people do that.
2- Many traceurs just take the habbit to train this way (one jump – stop – one jump), and never go on to the next step, which is connecting movements together, and link the obstacles overcoming parts between them with running, in order to make movement out of movements.This is a big problem, when you think what parkour is meant to be (a means of transport), and what people really does (showing how far they can jump on one single jump, and then stop to see if their friends recorded it on camera). This is not the same activity, not even anymore a different way to train. A lot of people that claim to practice parkour actually don’t: and this is not meant to be a judgement, it is a fact.
Alex: How important is strength training / conditioning to you?
Naïm: Strenght training -especially when you begin- is the only way to get your body ready for parkour.
Of course, a lot of people don’t do any strenght training and can still jump really far and high. But how far and high they can jump doesn’t show how their body is reacting to the impacts they are inflicting to it, it doesn’t show the post-traumas they may have, it doesn’t show in which physical health they will be in 5 years, in 10 years, in 20 years.
There are so many funny and entertaining ways to work on your strenght, using the outside structures, rather than being locked in a gym! When I do some strenght training, I’m always having fun while working. I just invent some games and rules like „let’s travel all this way from here to there without touching the floor“. Then, you just have to choose what you want to work on more precisely: legs, arms, stamina, power, etc. It is up to you to orientate your training in any of these directions.
You don’t have to do it everyday, you can do some here and there, just to keep your body in good conditions for parkour training. And, once again, it doesn’t have to be boring (like push-ups and pull-ups can certainly be when you repeat them a lot, even if, of course, they are helpful), but can be really entertaining as long as you use your imagination.
These 2 videos might give people some ideas:
This video is really good too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to6SGjaovSo&feature=plcp
Alex: Are you teaching Parkour yourself? and: If yes, where do you lay your focus on? (Especially for beginners )
Naïm: I have been teaching parkour during one year in a social-cultural structure of my neighbourhood to a little group of 7 kids from 11 to 15 years old.
The parkour classes there couldn’t persist this year, but I’d be happy to keep teaching, and the kids would have been happy to continue too.
These kids were totally new to parkour, which was an interesting experience to me. The classes were 2 hours long. I dedicated the first one to talking only: I asked them what they knew about parkour and what it is, took the time to explain in details what it consisted in to me, and how we were going to work together. I also made the essential distinction between risk and danger to make them aware of why they should try some jumps, and not some others.
Basically, I told them this. Risk in the possibility to fail when you try something. Danger is the nature of a situation where you can get hurt very badly and/or die. What you should want to do, as a parkour practitioner, is to take risks in situations that are not dangerous, in order to learn the techniques for example; and jump in dangerous situations only if there is no risk to fail. If there is any risk that you fail in a dangerous situation, then you should walk away and work on the technique you want to use there to master it perfectly, and work on your mental to control your fear (which could make you fail where you shouldn’t), and then come back. If you still feel like there is a risk you fail, it means you’re not ready, mentally, or technically, or both. If you feel that you’re capable of the jump, that you are certain to do it properly, and that the fear you still feel is irrational, then you should work on your mental and do the jump. But basically, I don’t bring beginners into dangerous situations at all, there’s no need of it.
I remember that in the end of the „Generation Yamakasi“ movie, Williams Belle said: „When I’m taking kids on a roof, they are risking their lives! Me, I just want to teach them how to do a jump“. I never understood the consequential link between these two propositions. Having to make them risk their lives in order to teach them how to do a jump is a view I completely disagree with.
To sum up what we did during this year of training with the kids, I would say:
1-I taught them how to warm up and stretch properly.
2-I taught them how to run properly.
3-I taught them some of the basic techniques that are used in parkour, and made them work on them along the year.
4-I made them do a lot of conditionning and strenght training, such as quadrupedal movement, push-ups, pull-ups, and different invented exercises and „games“ adapted to the places we were training in.
5-I made them work on little movements combinations and short runs in the end of the year, to condition their bodies not to stop after a jump, but to be ready to keep running and/or jumping.
6-I made them work on their ability to measure what they are/aren’t capables of, and to act in consequence according to the level of danger of the situations they were in (20cm high border; 1m high wall; wet ground; etc), instead of willing to do a jump because their friend just did it, or just to impress him, or me, or whoever they would like to impress at that age.
Alex: What was the process behind „Parkour, literally“? What was your motivation to shoot such a video?
Naïm: The motivation for making „Parkour, literally“ came from two different reasons:
1-Quentin and me shared the same conception of parkour: an efficient way to get from A to B using the human body and its suroundings. So, basically, we tried that type of training because we felt like we should train longer runs than what we were actually training at at that time.
2-Now we also decided to share this kind of training with people through a video series, and decided that because we were considering that in the huge diversity of things that a parkour training can actually look like, this kind of training was widely under-exposed.
As efficiency is the aim of parkour training, we considered that this particular part should be visible as any other part of training -and maybe even more than any other part-.
But, it was the contrary: when we went to some parkourday or any collective training , then we only saw people training single jumps, and other people applausing after every jump, no one training runs and movements combinations, no one running. What was important to them was how big the jump was -not to include it in a path, not to link it with any other technique or running-.
It was the same with videos: when we watched videos on Youtube, we only found „showreels“ and „teasers“ showing how big was every single jump the person was doing, and nothing else. In fact, the majority of videos that claimed to be parkour were actually acrobatics and gymnastics, and the only ones that included some parkour techniques displayed only single jumps and big stuff -without even talking about the fact that all these things were often really badly executed-. Do you know what was actually the first video displayed when you typed „parkour“ in Youtube search engine? It was Damien Walters doing acrobatics and stunts. Of course, Damien Walters is really good at what he does, and executes his moves really well…but that’s not the question: his videos don’t show any parkour training!
So, making these „Parkour, literally“ videos was for us an act of resistance and a way to try to give efficient training more visibility on the internet and in the parkour community, and it was at the same time a personal choice and a turning point in our trainings, something we wanted to make for us before anything.
We took these different decisions to give us the opportunity to have the biggest audience we could to make this kind of training the more visible we could:
1-Make a long video series showing long runs done with the efficiency concept in mind.
2-Accept EZ’s proposition to join the UF All Stars team, in order to use their visibility against them, and give „Parkour, literally“ a larger audience (and especially the young audience from Glyphmedia’s channel, which had been misleaded by EZ and his corporation, Urban Freeflow). The idea was also to trap them by gaining EZ’s confidence enough to make an interview of him that I pretended to be for a documentary about parkour, asking him crafty questions about UF history and what they did, in a way that would make him think we actually liked him and the competitions and other bullshit he created -and get him to speak freely about his real thoughts-, and then put this on the internet so everybody sees who he really is. Then, the plan was to make a noisy exit from UF and use it to spread the word about who they are and what they did.
We made the videos, we used UF popularity against them, but I never managed to trap EZ -he actually was really suspicious, and maintained distance between him and us- as I planned to do. So, we made the noisy exit of UF anyway, because I couldn’t wait any longer, and I felt like I would never have this interview.
To come back to the „Parkour, literally“ videos, I broke my right arm just before starting them, by failing on a rail catpass in a run I was training, so Quentin started alone on the first two episodes, and then he did the third episode with Anthony Arbona, a good friend of us. Of course, even if I was not able to do parkour at that time (at least not like this), I was with Quentin all the time, filming him, talking with him and thinking together about the route he chose, about the technique to use in this or that situation, etc. We did the whole thing together, from the idea we had to its realization. Along the path, while we were filming, we often had discussions about some parts: we had, for example, to figure out what was the most efficient technique to use in some situations. The fastest solution was often chosen, but sometimes we had the case of two different solutions, as fast as each other.Then, we tried to figure out what was the technique that could allow Quentin to save more energy, and sometimes the answer we found didn’t match the „usual traceur’s standards“, as it was a lot less impressive, and had no labelled name, but that was the solution we chose because it was to us the most efficient, and efficiency was what these videos were about.
The filming of these videos was something intense, because both of us were really demanding: I wanted the shot to be the cleanest, and Quentin wanted the movements to be the cleanest and the fastest. Until we were happy with both (video and parkour), we repeated the shots. That means Quentin had to do a lot of repetitions of each part of each run, and generally he ended the day exhausted. That made us think that was a good way of training. And we could see how much he improved since we began with it: at the beginning, as any other traceur that doesn’t train long runs, he had to slow down a lot when coming into obstacles, and had these „little steps“ problems to take off on his favorite foot. But while time passed, Quentin got used to speed, and could come into obstacles really fast, without having to slow down that much; also, he learned to use nearly every technique with both feet. He told me afterwards that shooting these videos were not only what it seemed (shooting videos): it completely changed his way of training, and made him improve like never he did before. And I could observe this myself when looking at him afterwards. Shooting these videos was definitely a great experience to both of us.
Alex: What is your motivation for shooting videos in general?
Naïm: I’m really happy you ask me this question. I heared so much stupid things about „parkour and videos“!
Before giving you my thoughts about it, I will sum up the two common attitudes I encountered during 8 years of parkour training:
1-The „I want to make my video RIGHT NOW even if I don’t know how to do parkour“ attitude.
This seems to be the most common attitude. A lot of practicioners, especially the young ones -but not only them-, come into parkour because they saw videos that impressed them and consequently want to try it themselves and make their own video in order to impress all their friends. This is a reason why when you type „parkour“ in Youtube, you find so many bad videos; people don’t even know how to do a jump, yet they film it and put the result on Youtube, whether it is a success or a fail -and call it parkour, when it has in reality nothing to do with it-.
But one problem with this attitude is that it also exists with more experienced traceurs. A lot of them make videos not to share a part of their trainings with others, not to say something particular, not to say anything in fact: they just make videos to show how good they are, how far and high they jump, how dangerous the jumps they do are -but they don’t care because they have big balls-. Their aim is not to share anything with people, not to bring them any tips, ideas, thoughts or inspiration; their aim is to get something from them, which is views, subsribers, and the consequent fame. Of course, they will say it is to „mark their progression“. Yeah, right!
2-The „Stop making videos, and go training instead“ attitude.
This position was certainly adopted by some traceurs in reaction to the previous attitude I just described. Anyway, it is not less stupid, it is even maybe more, as it comes from more experienced and older traceurs I would say. The problem of this position is that it considers every single video as a part of „videos“, which are all the same, pointless and bad, and turn away practicioners from training. These people have an opinion on „videos“ as a generic object, not on some types of videos. In consequence, they can’t consider any video to be beneficial for training as they look to all of them in the same way.
To the people defending this position, watching parkour videos as well as making them is a waste of time. The only thing that matters is training, and watching or making videos isn’t training. I would like to ask them how they discovered parkour, and how they learnt their first techniques?
Now, my thoughts about it.
As mentionned before in this interview, I discovered parkour through videos, and only through this. It is parkour videos -and not the Yamakasi movie- that made me want to start training parkour.
In addition, I was at that time living in the country, far from any wall or urban structure, and I knew no one practicing in the region I was living in. And so, for a long period, I learnt with -and only with- videos. I watched David Belle’s videos and reports, Timpisteur’s ones, and tried to figure out how they were doing each movement, and then went outside alone, to try it in safe situations, without height or any danger. And I learnt like this for 2 years. I learnt a lot of things technically speaking, just by observing what good traceurs were doing in their videos and trying to imitate them.
Later, even if I moved to other towns where I met traceurs in real life and could learn from it, I kept being inspired by videos, like the ones from Blane, Oniipk, Teghead, Joenkkoe, etc. I could find in it new ideas for my trainings, new techniques, or better ways to execute the ones I knew, ideas of conditionning exercises, a first look to efficiency being applied to longer runs, as examples between many others. I kept being feeded and inspired, intellectually and technically, by good parkour videos. I think it stayed my numer one inspiration source for a very long time.
Now, what are my motivations to shoot videos?
1-I love films, wether it is videos or cinema, I’ve always loved it.
2-It is a way to return the favor: videos is what taught me and inspired me for my trainings, it is only fair that I try to share my ideas and forms of training with people in return, with the hope to help and inspire some of them maybe.
3-It is another way -with conversations- to share my trainings with some of my friends that also train and that are living far from me (like Quentin or Max), and motivate, emulate, and inspire each others.
4-It is a way to pass on parkour and what I know of it, to pass on my way to understand and practice it to people, a way to passit on which is complementary to workshops, to the classes I had for example, and to training with people. It is surely not better than live transmission, but it has the important advantage to reach people all around the world, living very far from me, people that I could not reach in the everyday life reality. It is just another way -not the way- to spread parkour.
5-I make videos to share my views on some things in parkour and highlight some of these questions or problems: „Parkour, literally“ to highlight the lack of videos showing really efficient and long runs, which is supposed to be the purpose of parkour training; „Urban free fuck“ to alert young people, that didn’t know parkour history, about UF and their intentions and actions; „Spots are everywhere“ to say that we don’t need to look for the socalled spots to train, and that we can train anywhere with anything, as long as we look around us; „May movement can tell them what words cannot say“ to show how unexplored and under-exploited are the most famous spots, where everybody always comes to do the same jumps everybody did before, without even taking a look at the special architecture and unique structures it is made of.
6-I’ve always used videos as a training tool -even the ones that I consider to be artistic pieces-, not as something else separated from training. When I decide to work on a new video project, then it orientates my training in a certain direction and makes me train in a certain way. That leads me to focus more on some aspects of my training and „specialise“ myself for a period, and then to focus on new aspects on the next video project. I trained long runs and stamina while making „Parkour, literally (part 4)“; I trained short combinations of movements along with creativity and use of my imagination in „Spots are everywhere“; I trained little technical challenges and observation in „May movement tell them what words cannot say“. And when I film movements, I want the movements to be done the fastest and cleanest I can, so until I’m not certain to have done it the best I can, I keep repeating it while filming, and then watch what I’ve done on the camera, and try to analize what parts can be done faster or cleaner. That means I reapeat a lot every bit I film, just as if I were training without my camera. The camera doesn’t turn me away from training, in fact it helps me training, giving me motivations to repeat things, and visual informations about what I’m doing right or wrong.
7-I also make videos as artistic objects -just as what I make songs for-. I don’t just like training parkour, but also like filming, taking the time to choose the right angle, the good light, etc, I like editing, making the original soundtracks of my films. When I do videos, -as well as music, as well as parkour-, I consider myself as an artist. As artistic objects, I try to put some poetry in my videos, I don’t only show parkour movements in order to show parkour movements; I show certain parkour movements, in a certain way, filmed with a certain angle, edited in a certain way, with a certain music, and a certain concept behind -well, I’m trying to make art-.
Alex: We sometimes play a certain game where someone does a move and stops. The next person copies the exact move and combines it with one of its own. And so the combination continues. While repeating the line, you get a lot more fluid and it´s even a great game for warm up in small groups. Do you have special training methods for special purposes? Have you developed training methods yourself?
Naïm: The game you described looks fun and interesting! I will definintely try it.
I also do have special methods depending on the purposes I’m pursuing.
Here are some examples:
1-The most famous one, but it still works good to me: the lava game. We begin on any structure around us, and have to make a path through the spot, without ever touching the floor -which is full of lava, as everyone knows!-. This allows to work on creativity, little technical challenges to go from a structure to another, stamina as the path goes on, and it can be a soft way to warm up in a fun way.
2-I once played a game with Quentin, which was to find a spot with enough walls and structures in it, and then find 99 different ways to cross it from any point in the spot to its opposite. We also had a time challenge: we had to find, do, and film these 99 different ways to cross this space in 9,9 hours. It made us for on both stamina, flow, reaction time to find a lot of ideas in a limited time in a limited space, and before everything it made us work on creativity and imagination, because as the game went on, finding the ideas became harder and harder. That game leaded to the video „Exercices de style“ on my Youtube channel:
3-I also played a game alone, which was to do each and every parkour technique I could in a normal way and then right away in the reverse route. It made me work on my imagination, trying to figure out how to do this or that technique in reverse, and also on proprioception and on consciousness of every step of the techniques. That game also leaded to a video, „Get back“:
4-Another game we sometimes play with friends is that one of us says „Follow me“, and then he starts running and jumping, crossing the spot in a way, and then in an other, with everyone behind following him. The rule is: it doesn’t matter if you use different techniques and do different jumps, the only thing that matters is that you follow the same path. So, everybody has to work on his reaction time to find out the appropriate technique to overcome an obstacle or to get through a gap, depending on his own body, abilities and knowledge.
These are examples.
And I’ve found recently some ideas, so I’m currently working on different training methods and games that are new to me. I can’t say much about it by now – I prefer to keep it as a surprise-, but 3 different videos (along with their descriptions) should come out to illustrate and share with people some of these trainings.
Alex: What is your view of the global development in Parkour?
Naïm: To be honest, I’m quite worried about the global development in parkour.
When we first look at it, we could feel happy that parkour now is practiced all over the world, by so many different people, that share the same passion together. And in fact, I’m happy about that part.
The problem is, when we look at it a bit closer, we can see how big is the misconception of it, how many people practice gymnastics and acrobatics and call it parkour, how many people practice only single jumps in a permanent quest of performance, and call it by the name of a discipline that has efficience as its only goal, how many people start making videos before even knowing how to do any parkour technique; and we can see competitions, the ones UF organized, and then Redbull, and now we can see competitions growing everywhere, practitioners being called athletes, and motivations moving from emancipation and having fun, to fame and money; we can see how many people share the same desire to commercialize parkour, using it as something we can make money from, whatever how and who we deal with: how many people sell t-shirts with their logo on it, and tell people that these shirts will make them better at parkour; and we can see stupid videogames like „Freerunning“; and we can see federations everywhere that try to state that parkour is -only- a sport, and should be considered as so; and we can see parkour-parks all around the world, which not only are incompatible with parkour, but are an insult to parkour and what it is made of (I wrote an article about it in french to explain my position); and the list goes on like this.
That teaches us that quantity doesn’t matter when you loose quality. Of course, parkour has grown really big in a really short time these last years, but what does actually remain from its essence in what it has been turned into? Are we even still talking about parkour, when we are talking about its development? I personally don’t see so much links anymore. Parkour is not something that should or even could be turned into merchandise and consumer items; it is not something that could be turned into any sort of competitions; it is not something that could be turned into video games, t-shirts, and clothes. It has a deep and beautiful essence that gives parkour a precise definition and nature, which protects it from being tarnished. If parkour is „parkour“, then the things I’m worrying about are something else, but certainly not parkour -in any way-. The only problem is that people keep calling it parkour, and actually believe it is.
Against this phenomenon -which not only happens to parkour but to any avant-garde cultural and artistic form, like hip-hop or skateboaring for examples-, we have to fight with any weapon we have: write articles about any of these concerns, make videos showing real parkour in its divers aspects, make interviews (like this one), write blogs like Blane’s one, talk to people outside, on the internet, anywhere, by any mean. We have to stay humble, and not dispise the newcomers that had been misleaded; at the contrary, we have to talk to them and tell them what we know, every time we can, and do it in a respectful and humble way. It is only by staying true to ourselves and our values -even in the way we tell it to people- that we can inspire them the same feelings and convince them.
Alex: What is your opinion about Red Bull´s Art of Motion?
Naïm: My opinion about Red Bull’s Art of Motion is the same opinion I have for any kind of competition in parkour or freerunning: I’m resolutely against it. I’ve always been, and will always be.
I will give 5 simple reasons to sum up my position:
1-Competition is not compatible with any of the principles of parkour .
2-Parkour/freerunning competition is extremely dangerous.
3-Competition in parkour/freerunning has been created by people who don’t practice parkour and don’t care at all about parkour and practicioners, but only about money .
4-Parkour/freerunning competition has been created against the parkour practicioners community opinion.
5-Through its sponsorships and that are behind, Parkour / freerunning competitions link parkour, which is a liberating activity, with capitalism, that leads to alienate people, making them dependent through work centrality, finance companies strategies, and advertisement and its permanent injunctions to buy things.
These 5 reasons are developed and explained in a text I wrote, which is called „5 good reasons not to participate in any parkour/freerunning championship or competition“, and is available at this adress:
There are a lot of things we (traceurs) can do against it. A first thing would be not to participate in any parkour or freerunning competition ever. A second thing would be to inform people about the reasons why we don’t: it can be done with videos, articles, discussions, or whatever we judge useful to do it.
Alex: What do you percieve as helpful to get into „flow“ and what is preventing it?
Naïm: I would say that, as anything else, gaining flow in parkour comes with training. You just have to focus on this particular part, once you’ve made yourself sure to master the different techniques you’re trying to link together. I personaly began training movements combinations a long time ago. When I did, I began with trying to string together 2 jumps, and repeat these different 2 jumps combinations a lot of times until I felt I was linking them as fast as possible, and not loosing any control while doing it. I had to learn to use the precedent jump dynamism and put it into the next one, use my landing as a take off. Then, I tried the same thing with 3 jumps, and then 4, etc. I also included running parts between the different obstacles to work on stamina. And I just repeated these until it became more natural and spontaneous to me. Then, I started to work on longer runs, and tried to run faster, and come faster into the obstacles.
Improving your flow is not harder than any other part of your training; it is just that people are not usually used to really train it. They wait for it to come naturally as they master the different techniques. But as well as the techniques, flow is something you have to work on, precisely and widely, not just to try here and there until it hopefully comes by magic.