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Introduction

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

 

Section C – Language and Sexism

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Competition is dependent on context and the competitors.

 

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

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

Section D – Traveling and communities worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

Section E – Closing Questions

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

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

  1. Anything else you´d like to say?

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

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

Love,

– Pava

 

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

Introduction

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

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

Section A – Parkour Panels

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

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

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

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

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

parkourpanels30

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

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

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

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

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

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

[blockquote align=center]

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

[/blockquote]

and

[blockquote align=center]

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

[/blockquote]

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

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

Section B – Commercialisation of parkour / Influence of brands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for a ‘brief’ explanation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

breaking the jump

Intro

  1. What does Parkour mean to you personally?

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

 

Parkour and science

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

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

 

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

Julie: Nope. I’m all done for now.

 

Your opinion

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

pf1

Closing questions

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

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

 

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

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

 

  1. Is there anything left you want to mention?

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

 

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More Ressources and Infos can be found on:

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

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

A – Opening question

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

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

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

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

B – Gym infrastructure and environment

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

How well accessible was the gym in your view?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C – KRAP finances

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

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

 1.>4000 Euros per month,

How big was the space?

1100 square meters

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

3 fixed employees, 7 teachers paid by teaching hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D – The KRAP image and events

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How would you describe the KRAP image?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E – Running a parkour / freerunning gym

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

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

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

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

F – Closing questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will KRAP continue now?

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

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

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

More Info on the gym and upcoming events at

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

 

A – The perfect picture

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

B – Commercialisation of parkour / Influence of brands etc.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

               Do you think a similar development is possible for parkour?

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

 

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

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

 

C – Parkour / Climbing, Buildering

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

D – Closing questions

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

This interview is part of the archives. It was published on January 12th 2013 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog.

 

Owen Covill is an english Tracer and has shaped the UK (and international) Parkoru scene. At the time I asked him for an interview he told me he is not actively training anymore a circumstance that makes the whole interview even more valuable. Hearing the thoughts of someone as rooted in the Parkour scene as Owen was, but who has taken the decision of stopping, is one of these rare opportunities.

 

Whoever remembers the old Cambridge videos might remember Owen moving alongside with Danny Ilabaca and Phil Doyle. Additionally Owen was a coach at the famous Playstation workshops that toured Germany and Austria.

 

Regarding the picture: Many years ago Owen, Danny, Phil and others did a charity event where they would do a certain amount of backflips in a certain time. The collected money would go to an organisation called New Foundations that would use it to support people in need in the Niger Delta. Overall the guys collected about 1000 pounds and did around 2000 backflips in 4 hours. You can see a video of the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgeEvR6EnxY


 

Alex: Hi Owen, thank you for the opportunity to interview you!

You started training very early in England thus you were able to observe the development of the scene there but also worldwide. You have mentioned that you have basically stopped training Parkour.

Do you still know whats going on in the scene?

 

Owen: I don’t think I do know what’s going on anymore, main reason for that is there is so much going on these days. Parkour has had a BOOM just as we expected. I still follow what I know though, I’ve tried to stay in contact with people and Danny and Chris even came to Cambridge and it was great to catch up. Phil (or little Phil, as I know him) he’s disappeared… busy always running off to different countries doing amazing things. (Hopefully he’ll see this and remember me, haha) Jin is back in Cambridge (from China) so it’s been great seeing him. Although due to my path being quite different to most people I know it does make things hard to stay in touch.

 

Alex: Did you make the decision of stopping Parkour or did it happen slowly?

Owen: I’ll be honest I never made a decision, it kind of just happened. I used to have conversation (a hell of a lot of conversations) with Jin where we discussed what we’d be doing in the future. We always said that we could never imagine doing anything else. For a very long time I think we believed that we wouldn’t do anything different. Always funny looking back on conversations of what we thought we would be doing.

What really did it for me (which is sad really) is money. I started working more often, and I decided I wanted to make something out of my life. I went from training Parkour every day (or every other) to working almost every day. My training slowly became less because of this. And then I met future Mrs Covill, and time continue to detract from Parkour. I could feel my body not coping with what I wanted to do so I slowly stopped doing as much as I did.

 

Alex: Could you tell us what you think the reasons of stopping are/were? ( Loss of motivation? )

Owen: I had Parkour friends like Danny who would try to encourage me to get more involved with the media side of things (not because it was the most important thing to him) because he could see my time slipping from Parkour.

I knew I wanted certain things from life, family has always been important. I just didn’t feel Parkour could deliver everything I wanted.

I remember an echoing point in my “Parkour career” when I was doing a Playstation event in Germany, and everyone had a late night. The next morning we were contracted to do a film shoot, no one wanted to do anything. Especially me… it took the enjoyment away from me, it was the first time I’d woken up to know I had to do Parkour. My choice was taken away, I’d never had to do Parkour before when I didn’t want to.

It wasn’t for me, for many others… fine. But for me, not so much.

 

Alex: Is it actually possible for someone who was as involved in Parkour as you were to completely stop it? Do you occasionally feel the need of going out and train?

Owen: Yes I do, I will still look at everything with my Parkour mindset, it’s like a gift I have been given from the years on non-stop training. I get thoughts in my head to vault a rail or jump up and start doing laches… occasionally I’ll see an opportunity to do a somersault with perfect conditions… nice grass, perfect take off and right height drop and I just can’t help myself. And alot of the time that the opportunity comes up it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so because I’ll be in a suit or working with others that under working environment I would have to tell them not to do it themselves. Quite funny really.

 

Alex: What do you think of Parkour in England nowadays? How has it changed? What are the biggest developments you can observe?

Owen: Biggest thing I’ve noticed… there are so many amazing people. Doing amazing things! I think it’s great to see the level of progression that has developed over the years. The thing that’s changed the most for me is that the talent is far beyond what it’s been before.

 

Alex: Anything you don’t like about Parkour or the Parkour scene in general?

Owen: I don’t know enough about the scene these days, I know what I didn’t like when I was about and I doubt that much has changed. Won’t bother talking about it now because it was hardly worth talking about it back then. Politics haven’t changed and never will, no matter where you go or what you do.

 

 

Alex: Have you had any experiences with bad attitude/disrespectful behaviour amongst „traceurs“?

Owen: Yes of course, it’s part of being a human being. No matter what you do you’ll always come across those whose only motivation is impressing others or feeling superior. This will never change, for example… everyone that drives a car has had to learn certain skills to be able to do it. But some people will drive like idiots because they think they command the road or they are more important than others for what ever reason. You’ll have good drivers and bad drivers, no matter what you are doing you will come across these people.

At the end of the day surround yourself with the people you trust and care about and forget about anyone else.

 

Alex: What do you think of the image Parkour has amongst the public? (in England) And why do you think that especially in England Parkour bans are beeing discussed and even enforced?

Owen: One of the key things I had to learnt was that (to some) Parkour is antisocial, antisocial is set by the society and if the majority see it as a problem then it is…

We live together as a community and at the end of the day we have to respect that. Don’t get me wrong I had my fair share of confrontations with people who didn’t understand what we were doing and wanted to argue and have a go. But if you want to train in a communal area you need to be respectful of the others that share the space. I’m not saying take shit, but be respectful and the “bigger” person. I’m not saying that just leave an area as soon as someone questions you. But speak to people and explain and try to gain understanding. I don’t believe this happens anymore, I know as I was leaving the scene I was seeing more and more disrespectful Traceurs…

We worked hard to try to gain respect of the people in the local area, and it didn’t always work but I know that a lot of that work has been undone.

This is important in Parkour, give the same amount of respect you give you body, to your environment that you train in, the people that are in it and those around you.

 

Alex: Do you have contact to friends who still train?

Owen: Yes I mentioned some of them above, it’s always great to hear from them and even better seeing the great things they’ve been able to achieve on the Internet.

 

Alex: If you would have to advise a beginner that wants to start Parkour one thing. What would it be?

Owen: Touch… practice your touch. Everything you do, make sure you do it quietly. If you do it and it’s loud then do it again until it’s not.

 

Alex: Is there anything you still want to add?

Owen: Parkour has given me so much! Although I don’t practice it anymore it will be ingrained within. If/As you move onto different things in life you’ll be surprised how much you can transfer.

 

I hope a non-practitioner‘s words can still mean something to those that are still moving.

This interview is part of the archives. It was published on March 2nd 2013 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog.

 

If you have not heard of Scott Bass you have probably seen his videos. Scott has been behind the camerea of some of the most influental parkour videos in Parkour history. With videos such as Live-On or action videos like Professor Longhair Big Chief Scott has inspired Millions around the gloe.


Alex: You have become well known in the worldwide Parkour community for filming and producing some of the best Parkour videos and short films out there.How did you get into filming Parkour?

Scott: I originaly got into filming parkour simply because I liked watching parkour videos and I saw a lot of things I felt I wanted to try to improve upon or learn to do. I made a few videos on a friends small little point and shoot (this was before HD was invented) and just enjoyed the response and the process of production in general, so I invested in some kit and made more.

 

Alex: Where do you lay the focus in your videos? How do you like to present Parkour to the viewer?

Scott: I like to try and present parkour in a lot of different ways, depending on what I want to get across in a video. For things like my recent ‘Goodbye Cambridge’ I wanted to show how Parkour can build a relationship with an environment, and how training and knowing that space can be beautiful. In some of my other videos, its just a presentation of how movement brings people together in a positive way. Most of the time, it isnt even a concious decision until I begin editing things together.

 

Alex: You have collaborated and still collaborate with some of the leading characters in the scene. Can you explain us the process of videomaking? Do you tell the athletes what to do? Do they tell you their ideas and you try to catch them as best as you can with your camera or is it more of a developing process while filming? Where does the videomaking process start and where does it end?

Scott: A lot of it depends on if there is an ‘end vision’ or not. With a lot of the ‘progression’ videos, we literally went out and filmed whatever was cool. Sometimes I would request a certain sequence, and sometimes I’d just be capturing what was happening at the time. My favourite filming experiences are when everyone gets together to create these choreographed long runs, such as in ‘Live On’ especially. Its such a fun experience as more and more people get involved, and its magical when the final result is this super long dynamic shot that’s taken the energy of so many people to create.

 

Alex: What is the most challenging aspect on filming Parkour?

Scott: Getting things right first time. With some moves or jumps, I have to bet that the angle I have is the best one I could find, and usually it isnt. This gets really hard as it can be exhausting for an athlete to shoot and reshoot a very difficult movement or jump, so I try to get it right first time as often as possible.

 

Alex: Parkour has a very intense videomaking culture. From your point of view: What are positive as well as negative effects of the huge culture of videomaking in connection with Parkour?

Scott: I think the connections people have made through youtube and videomaking in general are responsible for almost everyone that’s training to this day. Virtually everyone saw parkour either on TV or YouTube at some point first. If someone is inspired to move as result of my videos, then I’ve achieved something. The negative side is how the constant ‘raising the bar’ can lead to a culture of ‘one upping’ eachother, and most of the time this is ‘who can do the bigger move’. While in and of itself, progression is awesome, there does get to a stage where I feel the joy of parkour is lost and instead people focus too much of ‘filming for my showreel’ which is a real shame because it segments the community in my opinion.

 

Alex: What is your favourite Parkour related video / short film and why?

Scott: WIDE by Traceurs RU. First of all, its really old, I guess it was shot on a DSLR or something because its in HD, but its SUPER old. The production values of it are incredible though, the core concept is so simple ‘being so in touch with your environment you don’t need to use your eyes anymore’ and the cinematography is exquisite. The location is also especially gorgeous, and then the video hits you with one of the most incredible ‘WTF’ moments in a parkour video, all cut to a beautifully haunting soundtrack. This was made years before anyone knew who BAIT was and its still the best thing he’d been in.

 

Alex: What defines a good Parkour video for you?

Scott: A good parkour video promotes an emotional response in the viewer, one way or another. With some, its simply awe at the abilities someone has, and with others, it’s the blend of filmmaking or story or concept. ‘Storm Origins’ by Claudiu Voicu and ‘Down’ by Lukman (http://youtu.be/IePjgBMWHbk) are both great examples of either narrative driven, or concept driven videos.

 

Alex: If there is anything you could advise to anyone with the intention of shooting a Parkour video. What would it be?

Scott: Cut out the bullshit. All too often a video has way too much extra stuff that doesn’t actually result in anything, be it timelapses, black space between clips, nature shots, slowmotion etc. When I watch a video, if im not drawn in within 20 seconds or so, I’ll just close it. There isn’t really a secret recipie, its just a case of making it so the atmosphere you create hooks the viewer in.

 

Alex: As far as we know you are training quite some years now yourself. How would you describe the relation of filming and your training?

Scott: Yes I first experienced Parkour in 2005 I think. My relationship with training has always been a weird one, I’ve never really focused a lot of getting ‘good’ at parkour,  and to this day my skill level is acceptable at best. Its often difficult because I have to balance if I want to film, or train, and Im the kind of person that needs to practice something SO much to get good at it. Filming usually wins out because ultimately I’d like to be able to continue filming as a carreer, so the more I can do the better my abilities will get with filmmaking.

 

Alex: What are your plans for the future?

Scott: In the future, I want to try and get in front of the camera a little bit more. Not specifically ‘doing’ parkour, but at the very least be a little bit more visible. On the ParkourTour stuff I’ve done, you see a lot more of me and I want to try and start expressing my own personality and opinions, and my own character through the stuff I make too.

 

Alex: Is there anything you would like to state or add?

Scott: A lot of people in the scene don’t seem as connected as they used to, because its grown so much. I want to make a point that if anyone wants a chat, advice or to tell me how much my videos suck, just send me an email scott@ampisound.com!

 

Alex: Thank you for your time. All the best for the future!

 

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X15VRzQHq2U

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGzepBg216M

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:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlsazzq5Q6k

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIHnlJ7KbTM

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“:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9h9r7Klqsk

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:

http://www.facebook.com/notes/na%C3%AFm-linconsolable/5-good-reasons-not-to-participate-in-any-parkourfreerunning-championship-or-comp/10150672470690748

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.

This interview is part of the archives. It was published on December 29th 2012 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog. Most of the questions came from the community directly.

 

Blane is an english Tracer known to most of us for his passion for movement and hard training. Especially his high level of strength and control are unmatched. Additionally he is the author of some key articles considered standard lecture amongst practicioners of all ages and skill levels.

http://blane-parkour.blogspot.gr/2007/04/dilution.html
http://blane-parkour.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/a-call-to-arms.html

As a senior coach at Parkour Generations and one of the main driving forces behind the organisation, Blane has long made his passion profession and along with Parkour Generations is to be held responsible for major Parkour coaching game changers.


Alex: Hi Blane, first off: Thank you for participating in the interview!

 

Blane: (Thanks for the opportunity!)

 

Alex: What was your inspiration for your very recent article „A Call To Arms“? Was there a certain incident that motivated you to write down your thoughts?

That article I wrote was just the end result of some thoughts that I had been having for a while. There wasn’t one particular thing that made me sit down and write but it was just an accumulation of a few weeks of different thoughts, ideas and looking at the Parkour community from an outside point of view. It was a message to people who care about more than big jumps, whether they’re already practicing Parkour or just finding it now.

 

Alex: Your article “Dilution” has become a classic read for many of us and your recent article will as well.

– How do you define Parkour for yourself?

Blane: Parkour for me is a training method for life, a way to improve myself, to test myself and to maintain and develop my physical capacities.. as well as my ability to deal with difficult situations and fears. It’s a self-improvement tool!

Alex: What does Parkour mean to you and how did it benefit you until now?

Blane: Parkour is not everything in my life but it’s a large part of it.. I suppose it’s a tool I have to improve my life and something that I can use to experience life with. Everyone has their own thing that is special for them and something that shapes the way they think and experience life.. and mine is Parkour.

Alex: How could you imagine to be the title of an article you might write in 10 years? What topic could you imagine it to circle?

Blane: That’s a great question! Hopefully I won’t have to write anything in 10 years if the community is very strong and there are plenty of people sending out good messages and coaching safe, effective methods and the original messages of Parkour. But perhaps in 10 years I’ll write an article entitled “The effects of 20 years of training Parkour on the mind, body and spirit”

 

 

Alex: Are you a full-time Parkour-Coach or are you working additionally?

Blane: I have two jobs, my first is coaching Parkour and delivering ADAPT courses, and my second job is managing the coaching department of Parkour Generations.. so both Parkour jobs luckily!

 

 

Alex: What is your (backup) plan, if your mind is ready, but your body isn’t anymore? (disease, accident, etc.). What would you do without being able to do/teach Parkour (physically)?

Blane: I think if that ever occurred and I couldn’t train physically in Parkour, but could still do other training, then I’d still train very hard in other methods. But if I couldn’t train physically at all then I’d probably find that very difficult to accept. I’d probably spend my life refusing to believe doctors and the professionals and I’d still do my best to train. I’ve heard hundreds of stories of people being told they will never walk again only for them to come back and return to their sport. I’d fight to come back and even if it was impossible then my goal would become to just keep trying.. that would be the biggest obstacle I would face in Parkour. 😉

 

Alex: Which person in the scene had the biggest influence on you? (…or left marks on your way of training)

Blane: It’s really hard to name one person since quite a lot of different people influenced my training and approach, both inside and outside of Parkour, but if I had to name just one person in the Parkour community then I’d go with Stephane Vigroux. His movements and training methods heavily inspired me and influenced my training early on.

 

Alex: How much time do you put into teaching and how much in actual training for yourself? Could you give a relation in %? (For example 50% teaching/50% training)

Blane: I’d say of my ‘Parkour time’, 70% is spent training and 30% is teaching.

Alex: Is teaching a form of training for you?

Blane: I don’t count teaching as part of my training. You can teach and train at the same time but it doesn’t really work if you are truly giving all of your attention to your students, so I prefer to keep them separate whenever possible.

Alex: Could you also estimate the relation of your strength training / conditioning to other forms of your training?

Blane: Of my total training time at this moment, I’d say 40% is focused on strength development, 40% is focused on technical training and 20% is spent on conditioning and developing fitness levels.

 

Alex: What’s your opinion about the image of Parkour in the UK?

-On the one hand as the public perceives it.

 

Blane: Parkour in the UK is widely seen as a positive thing in most cases but it’s largely misunderstood. The public tend to perceive it as ‘that cool thing from tv’ and are impressed by it, but they don’t know anything about what’s actually being trained in most cases.

 

Alex: On the other hand: How do you think the international community sees Parkour in the UK?

Blane: I think a lot of the worldwide community see the UK as one of the central locations for Parkour, which is interesting due to its French roots. It’s true that there are a lot of people training in the UK and that there are a lot of very experienced people here.. but Parkour is a truly global phenomenon and the UK is really quite small! People also think that we are very lucky in the UK since we have some very, very good training areas. 😀

 

 

Alex: You are well known for pushing yourself very hard in training.

-How do you determine the point where it would turn into destroying your body, rather than pushing the limits?

Blane: I think that knowledge comes from experience. I think I understand very well what is beneficial for my body and what is damaging, but there is a difference between knowing where that line is and choosing to cross it. Sometimes I do things that I know are damaging for my body because I believe there is a psychological benefit to doing so, but as long as I’m careful then I can recover from that training and become better from it.

Alex: How do you cope with injuries?

Blane: Injuries are a part of the discipline but I’m happy to say that I don’t get injured very much. I’m overly careful with my training in some cases but I really focus on taking care of any problems I have before they become bigger.. so if I feel some strange pain or issue then I’ll immediately deal with it and adjust my training around it and give the area time to heal or rest. This method has kept me relatively injury free since 2003! Whenever I have any minor injuries I try to stay positive and treat it as an opportunity to improve something else.

 

The following questions were originally designed for the general Parkour Generations interview.(as we already did) But as a coach and vital part of the organisation we would like to direct them to you instead. [The I in the next question refers to a particular member of our community]

 

Alex: When I was training with Parkour Generations during my stay in London i had the impression that especially the indoor classes follow a very physical way of training without any visible way of focussing on parkour philosophy.

-How important of a role is teaching your practicioners an understanding of a true to the original way parkour spirit?

 

Blane: I think it’s important that people understand the original way of Parkour and it’s difficult to pass this on in a coached session, but it’s very possible. The important thing is that students are exposed to these situations that naturally call for qualities like respect, strength, honesty, humility.. so we try to expose our students to situations that would do that, without forcing it on them.

Our indoor classes are only a supplement to training and we don’t call it Parkour training in itself. If someone only trains indoors then they will miss a huge part of what Parkour is! Therefore we use our indoor classes to build qualities like endurance, strength and power, and some technique work.. and we focus on presenting the original messages of Parkour more in our outdoor classes.

 

Alex: Do you encourage your practitioners to go training outside and connect with others as well? (i mean outside regular classes)

Blane: We insist that our students train outside of Parkour classes! It’s absolutely necessary that they do so if they want to really reach their potential in Parkour. I believe training outside, alone or in small groups, is one of the best ways to train Parkour and we actively encourage it. The Parkour community is very open and friendly in the UK so we want our students to go see that.

 

 

Alex: As a company one of the most basic needs is income. As a result of a discussion in the community the following question arised:

What effect has the need for income on the quality of classes? (If there is any)

Blane: There is a need for income for any company to survive, as you said. But this doesn’t have to have any negative effect on the quality of classes. In almost every case, I think that it means the quality of the class has to be exceptionally high, because people are paying to be there!

We’ve always approached coaching Parkour from the mindset that we’re not being paid to coach Parkour, we’re being paid for our time.. which is very different. Time is the most valuable thing a person has so if someone wants to use your time to learn something from you (as is the case with a coach of any activity), it’s completely fair that you someone should be compensated for that.. but it’s better if it never becomes the reason or priority for coaching. J

 

 

This interview is part of the archives. It was published on April 4th 2013 when I was doing an interview series for our PKLinz Blog.

 

Teige is an english Tracer that is known for his clean, efficient and quick movement style. Through Parkour he found his way into Track and Field and olympic weightlifting, a development that was encouraged by a chronic knee injury. Teige developed his own way of moevement being part of an english generation of tracers when a young Phil Doyle or Toby Segar started to train. His inspirational movement stands in contrast to the mainstream Youtube hype of going further and higher. Enjoy the interview!

P.S. you can find Teige ripping apart the Ninja Warrior UK Course in 2015 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UypBHqUBFY


DSC05951

Alex: Hi Teige, thank you a lot for this interview.

You have mentioned that training Parkour is not your number 1 priority anymore. You have layed the focus on weightlifting, sprinting and athletics in general. Injuries have played a certain role in that development.

Can you explain us how you found your way to what you currently do through Parkour?

 

Teige: I didn’t get truly involved in athletics or any sports when I was younger, so Parkour has been very valuable for me. It was a chaotic journey in to sport: jumping off the school roof with my friends, injuring my knees; then spending a lot of time on internet forums (UF, pk.net) as I was trying to get back to training. For a few years I was trying to manage my tendinosis, but I was also young and excitable, and wanted to make cool videos with my friends.

I became a bit bored and frustrated with what I was doing – I was falling in to the trap of ‘conquering moves’ and matching my friends (my friends being people like Phil who were fearless and precise) – and so I started training a little differently. I abandoned long, busy ‘jams’; I learnt some basic climbing techniques from Bobby and started looking for large routes with climbs or descents to train with people like Bob & Rupert. Strength training was very important at that time for me and my friends.

Parkour took a back-seat to strength training perhaps due to my studies – a workout is easier to get done if you’re busy than devoting days to Parkour, and I also reasoned that strength detrains faster than Parkour skills (I’ve no idea whether it actually does!). Thinking about Parkour and MéthodeNaturelle (MN) got me interested in sprinting and swimming – when I started university I joined a sprint group and improved my swimming a lot. My friends in London Bobby and Kristian were becoming very serious about weightlifting (the sport), to get strong and increase their jump. I was interested for the same reasons, and partly because they are good friends and I want to share in what they do, so I tried to find somewhere to train weightlifting for more than a year before I was able to establish a place myself at my university in November 2012.

As it turns out, weightlifting and sprinting are very enjoyable and rewarding sports in their own rights; they might be more abstract than Parkour, but they are more disciplined and there is much to learn from doing these competitive sports. So although my focus is on these sports just now, I’m feeding the lessons about physical training back to Parkour, I’ve not yet abandoned it!
Alex: When you were still training Parkour more actively, how important was strength training and conditioning for you and what purpose did it serve?

Teige: The first time I went to see my doctor about ‘jumper’s knee’ she told me I had very skinny legs, and needed to build some muscle! So like most Parkour guys back then I was doing pistol squats at school every day – me and another kid at school used to do pullups and pistols (he managed 40+ per leg) every lunch.

That helped my Parkour quite a lot, so from early on I knew I needed to get stronger, I just didn’t have the best methods. When some new guys in my town, Dan & Luke, started Parkour, I coerced them into doing ‘hell nights’ inspired by Blane: a lot of pullups, traverses, pressups, and even squats and shoulder press with stones and tyres we found or stole from local council storage. There was no program, but it still helped all of us. We dropped the hell nights, but our regular pullups and squats with my cheap weights in my tiny bedroom remained an essential part of our Parkour training, we avoided or managed overuse injuries better, and improved our jumps and climbing steadily, especially the new guys.

 

Alex: You have a very natural approach to Parkour. How important is connecting movement to you and what were you aiming for with your Parkour training?

Teige: I wasn’t very good or brave with big or dangerous moves, or with flips (trying to match my friends was killing me), so I needed to find some other way to be satisfied with what I was spending all my time doing! I enjoyed Erwan’s posts on pk.net about MN, and the old footage of Belle’s raw style, and I also enjoy fantasizing about heroics and vigilantism (I can’t help it!), so covering ground became the most enjoyable aspect of Parkour for me.

When I was protecting my sore knees in the early days, it was necessary to move gently and carry momentum, to try to get some enjoyment out of moving smoothly – and when my legs became stronger and healthier, I could train what really interested me: aesthetic ‘flow’ has never been important to me, but covering distance has. Maybe they just happen to correlate since people often used to talk to me about ‘flow’. Protecting my knees influenced my ‘style’ (more correctly, choices), the pain made me think hard about how I might descend something; I couldn’t just take the height drop, so I practiced conservative ways to dismount.

 

Alex: What is your opinion on Parkour related strength training? Is it a must?

Teige: I think anyone doing Parkour ought to be doing some strength training. People can do what they like of course, but anyone training with me will definitely do some strength training. Parkour is harsh on a person’s body, and can lack discipline/routine. It’s very difficult to continue making good progress without any injuries in any sport without some strength training, and I think this is especially true for Parkour, where we shift our own bodyweight in powerful movements and take a lot of impacts.

 

Alex: How does weight lifting benefit ones own abilities in Parkour?

Teige: Lifting weights is a very convenient form of strength training and probably the best way to train strength, since you can choose a particular weight and do full-body movements to strengthen your legs and back more than you could without weights. If you squat you can expect to jump a little further and to take impacts better, avoiding injury. If you do pullups you can expect to climb up walls faster and more easily. In general, if you lift weights to get stronger you can expect to be more in command of your body and ready to move in unconventional ways.

Most Parkour movements, jumping or vaulting a large distance, kicking up a high wall, involve a lot of power and speed, and lifting weights is a good and safe way to develop power.

 

Alex: How would you recommend someone the start of lifting weights as a mean of improving Parkour?

Teige: It depends a little on their current strength and mobility, but beginners will improve even from totally disorganized training. The important thing is to perform the exercises right and get good habits – it will help later. A beginner could find a gym (or get their own equipment) to squat and do (weighted) pullups two or three times a week; that alone would help their Parkour, and they can add other exercises to ‘prehab’ their shoulders or to grow big biceps, whatever you like.

There are a lot of online resources for beginners, but basically just do a few sets of a few reps and keep the workout to about an hour maximum, beginners make fast progress.

 

Alex: Would you say that 100m sprinters are in certain ways much more efficient than the typical Parkour practitioner, since running short and flat distances is much more likely in an emergency situation than climbing up walls or jumping over waist-high obstacles?

Teige: It’s hard to imagine all the likely emergency situations. In reality, if we care so much about being useful in an emergency we’d probably all apply to work in the emergency services as firefighters, mountain rescue, paramedics etc (where they drive vehicles). So on to self-preservation instead. A sprinter could chase you down in most places: it can be hard to quickly find opportunities to use our Parkour skills under pressure, and climbing something gives plenty of time for someone to grab you.

As for versatility, Parkour offers so much more than elite forward speed. Unless you are constantly starting fights, situations more common than a chase where Parkour comes in handy are e.g. climbing a tree to get some kids’ frisbee/football, dismounting from a bridge so as not to miss your train (true story), impressing your friends… having fun!

As a Parkour practitioner you should learn to sprint properly, I think, but a good Parkour guy should be much more versatile and get more daily-life carryover from his sport than a good sprinter. Sprinting is abstract, focused on the fine details of acceleration and stride; whereas Parkour allows us to explore our surroundings in many ways: useful mental preparation should we ever need to buck convention for our own good in a city.

Maybe you shouldn’t start a fight with a sprinter, they’ll chase you down 9 times out of 10; but overall Parkour offers much more to your daily life, in my opinion, especially since you can mold it to your own interests, hopes and fears. Having said that, sprinters with decent coordination would make great traceurs! It is a shame that a lot of great traceurs can’t even run well, I’d say given how tiring it is to climb a wall, traceurs would benefit from practicing 200 – 400m running, probably the most torturous distance to run, but it would teach efficient striding and train them to endure a high intensity.

 

Alex: Considering you might train specifically Parkour again one day (as you mentioned) what will your training look like?

Teige: I do some standing jumps occasionally if my gym is closed for a holiday. 😉 This summer I’m hoping to train some fun routes, eat up the ground and mash up walls! I will split my Parkour days: some days I will have short sessions doing some jumps separately and try to be precise; other days I will train routes, these are the creative and the physically challenging days. Most other days I’ll be lifting weights!

 

Alex: Is there anything you still want to say or add?

Teige: Parkour is a great sport, and I think it’s enhanced by outward-looking. Unless you’re training to win the freerunning championships, Parkour is a very free format and you can benefit so much more by taking influence from other established sports like athletics and climbing. That requires a bit of humility and patience but there’s less new material and skills coming from inside Parkour than already exists outside of Parkour.

I encourage every traceur to explore other sports so they can enjoy applying new skills to their Parkour, and so they can gain an idea about programming their training – weightlifting is great for this because there’s a lot of planning.

Parkour guys have some advantages when they take up new sports, we have relatively good body awareness and are used to visualizing tasks – so never take for granted your chaotic journey in to sports if it was through Parkour. Do try to carve your own path if you become unsatisfied with what you are doing in Parkour!

Thanks for being interested in my opinions; I hope some nutters had fun reading.