Briefly describe free running…
Phil: It’s an expressive sport that, for us, is more of a lifestyle. You have parkour; that’s strictly vaults and things, so it’s just reserving energy and getting from one place to another as quickly as possible. Then there is free running and that’s more of an art form where you can use parkour elements and introduce tricking and suchlike and then there’s purely ticking, so flips, vaulting, that kind of thing.
James: It’s the art of movement, finding different paths through the urban environment. You walk between and past and through fences and walls gates, we go over and under and through them.
The action of free running is a very personal one. Is there a community feel to it too, or are you lone wolves?
James: community is a strong part of parkour, certainly.
Phil: I hang about with teenagers and you don’t get that with other communities. With skateboarders, it’s just kids of the same age hanging about and a younger guy will get pushed away because he’s not cool, but we just want to help because everyone’s got that same passion.
What’s the split between male and female, is it more male-orientated?
James: I think it is, unfortunately but that’s changing.
Phil: If you have a group of lads on the streets jumping around, it’s not so inviting for a girl to just join a group and take part, whereas if you have a facility it draws more women because they have mixed groups. At the new park in Bulwell, I’ve taught more girls than lads.
How did the park come about?
Phil: We have such an age range in our groups and a diverse community but when we train in town a lot of the younger guys get intimidated when authority approaches; CSOs, security guards, police… it puts a lot of people off. We’d see a talented person come down and as soon as they’d been approached we’d never see them again. It was such a shame because that kid was coming out to do something they enjoyed and then someone ruined their parkour future. Once when we were training though, a warden came along and was really interested in what we were doing. I asked her if there was anyone I could speak to in the council to try and get something made and she put me in touch with the head of sports development. I went to a few meetings, did a lot of promotional work and eventually we got the funding.
Do you think a park is against the idea of free running and moving from one place to another?
James: I suppose it’s like a gym; you can use a running machine to train certain elements of your technique, whereas outside you have to adapt to the environment you’re running in. It’s the same with the park, you can go there and train specific moves. Parkour is all about repeating moves until you’re completely confident in your ability.
Phil: When you train in town, you’re going to get moved so you’re not actually getting quality training time in, but when you’ve got somewhere specific to train you can spend all day there and have no trouble from authority.
Have you ever done rural parkour?
James: A lot of the guys do, there’s a big event called Spring Thing and they go into the Peaks. There’s a lot of stuff there and it’s about seeing the opportunities and challenging each other in a group. I went to Chatsworth House and scaled the rocks; it was great, you move so organically, like an animal, it’s a completely different feeling to being in the urban environment but you just adapt.
Parkour’s becoming more commercialised, how do you feel about that?
James: I love it, personally. Parkour has broken into movies and is being used as a toolkit to construct the action scenes. Whenever there’s a movie and I see a parkour part in it I’m all like, “oh, I know that move!” It makes you feel really connected to it.
Does it make you more attractive to ladies?
Phil: Ummm, no.
Who would you most like to get involved?
Phil: I’d like to see people with disabilities try it. Also people that see parkour as a negative thing. Try before you knock it.
James: people say they’re old at 31/32 and think they can’t do it anymore. When we’re training at the park a lot of dads come down and one dad came along with his kid and he did everything including this massive jump that even we couldn’t do in these huge shoes. He was 42 and he was loving it.
Phil: My dad tried it and he’s 51.
I got an E in P.E. at school. Can I still parkour?
Phil: Yeah. Basically parkour is simple as anything. I saw someone crossing the road where the cars had right of way; rather than going to the zebra crossing he went diagonally and vaulted the railings. To me that’s parkour because he moved from A to B in the quickest way possible.
Nottingham Parkour blog