Working as a Parkour Practitioner is a curious thing.
‘Work – Life Balance’ has a completely different context since what I do for work has already engulfed my life and shaped me as a person. 90% of the time, it’s a beautiful thing. Travelling the world, sharing, making crazy connections with brands and companies and most importantly communicating something which I truly believe in, every day. Parkour brings positive change to every person it touches and I am extremely grateful to be part of the process and a ‘giver’ of that gift, as well as a humble student of the discipline and it’s founders.
There is another 10% however which involves a constantly changing career path which has no security, earning very little money and sometimes being in the path of keyboard warriors and people who think they have some ‘entitlement’ to make comment on how I live my life, even though they haven’t a clue what it involves.
There seems to be this ‘illusion’ that people within the Parkour Industry are swanning around like rockstars and making millions. I don’t think this has been intentionally created by most practitioners and I’m not disputing that a very small fraction of practitioners have found themselves with ‘good’ money in their pocket. I think that most traceurs/freerunners in the industry value a wealth of experiences over a wealthy bank account. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have bills to pay, but I don’t think that full pockets is a large factor in our motivation to share Parkour. (There’s always going to be someone out there looking to exploit the industry for $ but that’s for another conversation.)
We have a duty as coaches, performers, professionals and role models to have a strong, confident ‘presence’ within our industry which often overlooks the sheer amount of hours, unpaid trips, training, emails, tax returns, meetings and conversations that go into this job.
A large number of ‘high profile’ practitioners are working in coffee shops, bars, banks and supermarkets on the side of their Parkour practice to make it all work. I think that’s brilliant. They do what needs to be done, they present themselves and their organisations in a professional manner and they get on with it. Over the years I know I’ve done my fair share of part-time jobs to support everything, sometimes even when the rest of my team aren’t working other jobs.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the 10% can be really heavy sometimes and hard to shake off. What I’ve realised though is that this ‘work’ takes all the values of an experienced Parkour practitioner and throws them back in a very different context. Coping with that 10% for the bigger picture takes conviction, determination, risk management, patience and a calm mind and there’s a real connection between direct Parkour training and applying those skills to the 10%.
‘Being Strong to be Useful’ really rings true here if you look at the ‘Strength’ part as a determination to see off the 10% and the Useful as the 90% positive that can be shared and enjoyed.
One of the other important values within Parkour which applies to this 10% is to be non-judgemental and respectful. The reality of it all is, you just don’t know what that 10% is like for each individual practitioner, coach, performer, whatever. We don’t even really know much about the 9 guys who started Parkour, and we probably never will. Parkour professionals are not obliged to share these private aspects of their life to their students and followers and it’s important to remember that while you can be inspired, outraged or motivated by watching someone’s youtube videos, coaching or performances you don’t have the right to assume how hard they work or how they conduct their lives.
Remaining humble, respectful and open is at the heart of what it means to be a Parkour practitioner, so the next time you see someone with a Redbull can, a seemingly ‘rich’ life-style or a style of training you don’t like – ask questions – don’t make assumptions and general statements – and remember that at the heart of it, they are all out to make good things happen.
For me, and I suspect for most within this industry, a simple handshake or thank you from a student far outweighs that 10% and I think that’s the main reason most of us do it.
I absolutely recognise the hard work of anyone who’s made their mark on the Parkour world in its small lifetime and I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to all of them and recognise the stress and hard work of the 10% that creates the 90 % Passion, love and happiness that Parkour brings.
My gratitude to those people and to be part of this community, is endless.
(Photo Courtesy of Zeno Watson – ZenoWatson.com