Crossing Boundaries

DISCLAIMER – I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but very quickly – Parkour/Freerunning/Art Du Duplacement etc for me are not distinguished by certain movements. This isn’t an article about flips, because it’s not 2004.

I’m just coming down from a mad summer of trips, experiences and Roots of Movement 4 and I’ve found myself in a new place in terms of my view of the Parkour world as a whole. I guess I have arrived at a place I might not have seen myself at before, and I’d like to present how I feel as I think it’s relevant for everyone, particularly those with a ‘voice’ in the wider PK community. tattoo

I’m going to be very honest here – when the idea was first put forward of bringing Ryan Doyle and Airborn Academy to ROM this year I totally scoffed at the idea. (bear with me Airborn guys, if you are reading this….) Not because of the movements that they are teaching – we have had tricking and acro at ROM for a number of years, but because Ryan in particular is associated with a particular ‘camp’ or ‘community’ which at times appals me. Personally, I think it’s terrible that freerunners with such important voices and who are potential role models could align themselves with brands that encourage showmanship, poor diet and online gambling to name but a few. I’m not shy about these opinions, but there’s a bigger picture that I didn’t see before, which I’ll get to later.

With ROM being an open committee- what the community wants, the community gets – so I apprehensively agreed for the ROM4 organisers to contact Ryan and Airborn about attending the event. This was a big step for ROM, and proved that we are more aligned with meeting the demands of our communities than letting our personal opinions wade in. This was the beginning of my epiphany.

So the more that Airborn etc. got mentioned, the more feathers it ruffled. This actually encouraged me to bring the guys. I had the realisation that stepping back from this type of group does nothing to solve it. I was actually quite stunned by how offended some people were at the thought of bringing more acrobatics, tricking and commercial groups to ROM. In the same way that I had with certain groups, these people had formed an opinion about what ROM was, and fit it into a certain ‘camp.’ It felt like they had separated themselves from lots of groups, and firmly closed the doors on any chance of conversation.

I came to the realisation that ROM had an opportunity to make positive changes to the way that the more ‘commercial’ groups operate – expose them to how we do things, and allow them to take things away from watching us coach in an environment that promotes the spirit of Parkour, and not the spectacle. We don’t all need to share the same opinions, but we should be sharing the same spaces.

The Airborn guys did a brilliant job, were top guys, and were open to talking about their art. They could see the distinction in what they do and what we do, and I hope were encouraged to ‘step across’ that line, which I think has actually been created by the ‘core’ Parkour community, not by the Red Bull Athletes(for example). I’m actually quite embarrassed about how I originally felt about these guys coming to ROM. It’s shameful, and it’s a symptom of the old-school Parkour community to just completely exclude these groups, and also breed this attitude in their students. I have done it.

Now I am very much of the belief that the Spirit of Parkour is lost in a lot of the modern day incarnations of it. I have always felt like that and been fairly outspoken about it in the past. I’m not saying that doesn’t matter now, and I still don’t understand someone doing a run which executes tricks mostly finishing in a fall or poor landing can be given any credit or merit.

What has changed, is that I am NOT of the belief that these incarnations should be scoffed at, ignored and mocked. Ignoring events like the Art of Motion, and not engaging with it’s participants does not make it go away. It’s narrow minded on the part of Parkour groups who try to promote openness, helpfulness, equality and community to ignore these groups. What it actually creates is an insular community where you have to think a certain way about Parkour if you want to be accepted. There’s not a lot of room for dialogue, and I’m not up for that.

Our job as voices in the community should be to open dialogues, try to make these groups who are distorting the core values of Parkour think and talk about how we can move forward together. Yes, some people won’t care, and their own selfish motivations will win out. But I think that some of the real advocates of Parkour’s original values are in danger of doing the same thing.

Parkour is bigger than one person. It’s bigger than one group’s beliefs. It’s not everything it was in the beginning. If we want to hold onto these core values, we ALL need to have open minds, and try to accommodate conversations, positive changes and break down barriers.

We don’t need to agree with what everyone does, but we also don’t need to actively separate ourselves from other groups, dismissing all chance of change and becoming more and more divided and insular.