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Simone Bicorgna is an italian practicioner who, after the events of the AOM 2019 in Matera released a statement openly discussing issues with the events surrounding the AOM that day. For Simone the AOM has raised questions on respecting spaces and on the ethics behind events like these. But it is not just Simones personal opinion. The AOM has caused an outcry from Matera locals and italian newspapers openly doubting the ethics of parkour/freerunning itself. Reason enough to take the initiative and ask Simone on his thoughts on it all.

At the end you will find many links to the articles, the actual AOM live stream, Storror and Storm coverage and other material related to the AOM in Matera.

Hi Simone. You recently released a statement (LINK!) in which you openly discussed your opinion on the Red Bull Art of Motion (AOM) that happened on October 5th in Matera Italy. Before diving into that:

  1. Who are you? What is your relation to Matera and the region?

I’m the director/president of ADD Academy Umbria, the first italian Art du Déplacement Academy directly recognized by the Yamakasi founders, that we opened in Italy in 2014. But first I’m a practictioner of Art Du Déplacement, I started to train in 2007 like many others, after many views of some parkour videos on youtube. Then in 2009 I met Laurent Piemontesi and after Chau Belle, Williams Belle and Yann Hnautra and I started training Art du Déplacement. I live in Terni, a small town in the centre of Italy, in the region Umbria, and I’m a full time coach in my association.

I was involved in a big project that ended in june 2019 in Matera and for this reason I have some good links, some friendships there, that is 500 km away from my place. I know the guys that live and train there, we worked together to make a big show and an International workshop supported by Fondazione Matera European Capital of Culture 2019.

  1. Can you quickly summarise what the key message of your statement was? What is it all about?

I noticed from the news that many accidents and disruption happened in Matera before, during and after the AOM, like damages to the Unesco heritage, and conflicts with the population, so I openly put the attention on it, because I think the most important values in the practice of ADD/parkour/freerunning are RESPECT and RESPONSABILITY. In my text I asked the readers some questions about that event: will there be any positive outputs for the local community? Which consequences for the town? Which for the RedBull brand? Who is going to pay for the damages? And, in the end, which kind of values are inspired by such events?

  1. Were you at the event yourself? How did you perceive the AOM?

No, I was not there, but I saw it on streaming.

  1. What are your main concerns in regards to the event?

I don’t like competitions but this is not the point. The main problem, as I see it, is the negative impact, caused by the event, on the inhabitants, and of course on the historical site. Matera is fragile and has to be protected. The organization of AOM didn’t pay any attention to that, but only on the show.

  1. Some time has already passed since the AOM took place. What is the feedback you have picked up so far?

a) What is the feedback from any officials and/or authorities? -> city administration for example

They didn’t say anything

b) What is the feedback from people living in Matera? How did they perceive the event.

I understood there is some disappointment, someone wrote about perceiving a sort of invasion by the freerunners, people jumping on the roofs of the houses at every hour for the whole weekend, annoying the owners of the houses, causing damages to walls and roofs and things like this. There were many calls to the police in those days by many inhabitants, and a journalist was beaten by a group of young freerunners because she was filming them while jumping on the roofs. I can’t say if in general people from Matera are happy about the AOM, but for sure someone is not. Recently the ADD/Parkour association of Matera “Muvt” realased a statement about that.

c) What was the feedback from the spectators from the event? Did they like the AOM?

I think that people who like AOM and went there to see the show, they liked it.

d) What is the feedback from the parkour communities who travelled to the event to see it live? (Have you heard anything?)

Same as before, I think the AOM has its audience, and these people love it, of course.

e) What is the feedback from the participating athletes? (Storror for example released a video -> LINK).

I don’t really much care about their opinion about that because, in some ways, they are part of the same business. Unfortunately Storror are already responsible for a sad accident that happened in Rome last year, filming themselves jumping on a police car. Because of that no one is anymore allowed to train where it happened and the local parkour associations had serious problems with their work on that area. Storror didn’t pay any consequences or apologize either.

  1. If we look at the relation between the AOM and the Greek island of Santorini for example. As much as I can´t relate to the AOM itself I still think the image of the island as a touristic location has benefitted from hosting the event since 2012. I don´t say the image of parkour has benefitted from the event but for the island and it´s public image it was probably a good thing. –  Do you think Matera is different from Santorini in this matter? – Why?

I don’t really think that places like Santorini or Matera need any help from the parkour community in order to grow their tourism; what I mean is that we are talking about people (ADD/parkour/freerunning practitioners) who, usually, don’t spend so much money while travelling, to let me think about them as an economic benefit for the city; in the particular case of Matera, they can cost a lot instead, causing damages to the ancient sites and roofs of the town.

  1. You mentioned the damages to the UNESCO world heritage: How serious is this damage we are speaking of?

I saw from facebook several walls cracked down and many damages on the roofs, so many that the President of “Fondazione Sassi” (the institution who works to promote and preserve the Unesco heritage in Matera) released an official disapproval statement that echoed through local and national newspapers.

a) Who do you think is to be held responsible for these damages?

First the Red Bull company that benefits from the event, then the ones who directly damaged the stuff, but also the Municipality for giving the authorization for the event.

b) What could have been done to avoid the damage?

I sincerely think Matera is not the place where an event like the AOM can be made without bad consequences, Matera is not Santorini, it is very old and fragile. Anyway the organization did not involved people from the town, or give any advice to the guys, there was not any security service. They came and went back home taking what they wanted, leaving damages.

  1. Do you fear long term consequences for your work in the region because of the AOM 2019? If yes: What kind of consequences? What are your thoughts?

Yes, of course. We did an amazing job in june working with Fondazione Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, but now I feel people in general will not understand the difference, also the municipality could ban future events.

  1. Do you think the AOM 2019 in Matera has helped spread parkour to a greater audience in Italy? Making it more accessible to an audience that had no idea of parkour yet for example?

For sure AOM it’s not promoting parkour, but parkour based competitions instead, that is very different.  I really can’t say if some people heard for the first time about parkour thanks to the AOM in Matera, probably it happened, but I think the great majority of the people who heard about this (understanding what parkour really is) already knew parkour. The real aim of Red Bull is promoting the energy drink in all the action sports and extreme sports in order to reach all the different markets. The marketing strategy is easy and probably the best in the world actually: to persuade all kind of people (mostly the youngers) to buy the Red Bull energy drink, because it helps you to overcome your limits and reach your goals. In order to achieve this goal, Red Bull has occupied every kind of sport, sponsoring (and owning) athletes, teams and of course events. Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz said: “We don’t bring the product to the consumer, we bring consumers to the product.” They associate the energy drink to the best athletes and the most extreme and spectacular sports to spread the energy drink to all the audiences who like these sports. Of course the athletes involved in the Red Bull Circus gain in terms of popularity and fame mostly inside the community, but I don’t think it helps so much to spread the parkour outside the community. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my opinion.

  1. Do you have anything else you want to mention? – Anything else to say?

I think Red Bull can easily pay for the damages and apologize for what occurred. I’m not against events like that, but what about ethics and responsibility? It seems to me that many teams and events are pushing on the marketing strategy to appear as outlaw, over any rules, spreading the message to the younger generations that they can do whatever they want and that it is just fun (escaping from police, invading private property, pushing the adrenaline on the maximum to reach the podium, the likes, the success). I want to say that this is all fake and very risky. The original spirit of the founders/pioneers is very different instead: intimate, respectful and responsible, very linked to the habitat and to the people and yet powerfully revolutionary. The new generations should have the opportunity to know and understand this primarily and fundamental approach based on positive values. Keep your Ego aside, put community first.

We don’t need to build anything fake to move freely, and I also think there is no evolution in the practice of parkour/freerun through competitions, because competitions and competitors are the orthodoxy in sport, it is a very conservative way to look on the physical activity, so, in my opinion, they are not pushing forward, but backward the movement, building themselves their own cage, with the audience screaming out to see them pushing over the limits like any other sport. And what happen if  anyone injuries oneself? They just cut him/her off from the competition and pick someone else up to occupy the empty seat, the show must go on. I still think the best and real competition is with yourself, with your own limits and fears, not with others.

 

Simone Bicorgna

 

Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts on this!

 

To finish this up here are some useful links if you want to know more:

AOM 2019 live stream – LINK

Simone Bicorgna statement – LINK

Newspaper article on the AOM in the local Matera newspaper – LINK

Newspaper article 2 on the AOM – LINK

Neswspaper article 3 on the AOM – LINK

ADD Academy Umbria – LINK

MUVT: local Matera Parkour group – LINK

Workshop video with Laurent Piemontesi and Marcello Pallozzo in Matera – LINK

Storror video of the AOM 2019 – LINK

Storm Freerun documentary on Ed Scott and his participation in the AOM 2019 – LINK

Source of pictures: unsplash.com, Simone Bicorgna

 

 

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