Alessandro Egger is a 22-year-old parkour coach from ADD Academy Finistère and he has been training parkour for nine years now. Alessandro decided to create a Parkour association with his friends, so that they could have some safe place to train indoors with an insurance. More and more teenagers started to arrive to their place and attend their trainings and from that moment on, they chose to train them. The training methods were based on their own experience and after a while they felt it wasn't enough.
Although their experience kept on growing, thanks to teaching and attending to Parkour meetings around France. Alessandro decided to go to Paris and train with the ADD Academy Paris. In May 2014 Alessandro got the permission to open a new academy, so ADD Academy Finistère was born. During all these years Alessandro was teaching Parkour and going to the Sports University at the same time. Alessandro graduated this year with the Sports and Management Degree.
Alessandro, could you tell us what Parkour is?
Parkour, also known as Art Du Déplacement (Art Of Movement), is a more physical way of experiencing your environment – replacing walking with running, jumping and climbing. Not just a sport, Parkour can be considered as a human adventure, helping a practitioner to overcome their fears and develop their physical and mental abilities.
Given the repetitive lives we lead – waking up, going to work, going home, sleeping ¬– many of us are stressed and overwhelmed by the cities we live in. Parkour is a way of embracing the city around you, rather than living a constrained life.
What age group is Parkour for?
It can be practiced at any age and at any level. Walking around, we see children take their first steps towards Parkour as they make the most of their urban surroundings by climbing low walls and jumping all over the place. That is Parkour.
I would advise every young teenager to get in touch with a Parkour community where they live. Why? Because as young people we have no fear, jumping from place to place. The teenagers are preparing their body to receive shocks and building up a solid muscular shell and a Parkour community can help them to safely develop their skills.
How would you describe the physical progress Parkour provides?
It’s just amazing. At the start your body isn’t prepared. For the first few days you ache and you discover new muscles.
Physical training, or conditioning, is really important for every person who wants to train in L’Art Du Déplacement. Laurent Piemontesi, founder of Yamakasi, the original Parkour group, explained it as the need to “prepare your body not for the next jump, but for the next ten years of practice”.
The benefits of Parkour are remarkable for every type of practitioner:
Youngsters: The ability to develop their co-ordination from a young age.
Teenagers: Prepare their body physically, and focus their energy.
Adults: Maintaining a good posture, and developing strength to prevent injury.
Elders: Re-education by the sport. Helping them to prevent injury and mobility issues, including osteoporosis, by practicing a complete physical activity.
What about the mental side, how does it affect mind and what skills does it develop?
L’Art Du Déplacement is a complete sport. It develops our mind and spirit through different exercises.
With the Yamak Spirit we learn to:
- Treat life as an adventure.
- Respect the body with good nourishment.
- Improve appreciation of our environment.
- Face the unknown.
- Develop a freedom of thought ¬and learn to act.
That’s the philosophical point of view we use every day.
You also learn to recognise and understand fear. Nobody should practice Parkour without fear. Fear is always present, and it reminds you of the riskiness of the movement you are ready to perform. Your head, your conscious, tells you if you are ready for the jump, or not. You may have tried it hundreds of times before, but maybe today you are a little tired or distracted, you learn to know when to act and when to stop.
Before performing a jump, I always risk-assess it thinking: “okay, it’s windy today, a bit slippery, I should pay attention to my foot placement if I don’t want to fall, etc.”
This is important because it’s about learning to focus on the move itself instead of showing off. A lot of people, when they start training, they see people looking at them and applauding each successful movement, making them want to push themselves further. It can help you discover your abilities, but without the awareness of fear it is silliness.
Others don’t like to be watched, for instance sometimes we crawl on the floor or roll, and they don’t want to be teased. In this case the mental training is to learn to cut yourself off from the rest of the world: to practice Parkour for you, not for others.
Parkour can also help people face their personal problems as they learn that with each physical object they overcome they have the mental ability to tackle all challenges they encounter. It’s about visualisation and applying the same equality to all obstacles.
When training, the mental side is as fundamental to success as the physical. It helps you to discover who you are, what you can do, and also what you can’t do.
Could you see Parkour competing with video games for people’s attention?
Parkour helps you to get over video games. Instead of focusing on a screen, Parkour makes you go outside and move about.
When you start discovering what you are capable of it is difficult to stop. You will want to push your boundaries and face the unknown. I used to be a geek, spending the whole day in front of the computer, until the day I watched District 13 featuring Parkour expert David Belle. After that, my life changed.
The more you train, the more you are willing to learn. I think teenagers who play computer games but are willing to try L’Art Du Déplacement, should get in touch with the local Parkour community. By joining up with others for support and advice, teenagers will find it quicker and easier to learn the sport. People who are stuck in front of their screens could be led outside to a healthy life if they gave Parkour a try.
At what point in your Parkour training are you ready?
To my mind, you are never ready enough. Achieving hard conditioning and technical work can take several months or even years, but it is important to continue to train to build and maintain your strength.
We only have one body, one mind and one spirit. If we aren’t prepared the consequences can be dreadful. You have to learn to listen to your body, to know when you are tired. Sometimes you feel great, but your legs are tired and you decide to perform one last move. You might have practiced it 100, 300, 500 times and never failed, but all of a sudden when you land you break your leg. This happened to me a few years ago when I was training too hard and a stress fracture occurred while I was in the gym: I had been physically prepared but my body was tired. A Parkour practitioner has to keep training all the time. We always have something to work towards, if not it would be boring.
Where do you train for Parkour?
We mostly train outside in the streets. We want to keep the practice outdoors because indoors, people pay less attention to danger. It’s normal, you are in a warm, soft environment, with crash mats, so why would you bother? However when the weather is bad and we are giving lessons to beginners we will go indoors for their safety because it is very slippery and risky for them.
We also like to give classes barefoot. It reminds the practitioners how vulnerable their body is to the environment. Training locations are varied: downtown, in the woods, on the sand near the beach. We love to train on stairs – or in any place where conditioning can be hard.
What advantages do you see in ready-made Parkour training parks?
Ready-made Parkour training parks are really interesting, because they are carefully designed for their individual community, for the discipline and they use carefully selected materials that are non-slip. This means we can train and teach in good conditions even when the weather is bad. A Parkour park needs a range of different furniture that is resistant to impact, rust and weather, with easy to change parts should there be any damage. It also needs a good floor that is non-slip and doesn’t deteriorate.
It needs to be at least 50m sq, with rails for vaulting and precision jumps and walls for more vaulting and cat leaps. There is no maximum limit when it comes to a good park.
What should designers consider when creating a Parkour training park?
The most important thing is to always remember that the dimensions of the different products have to be suitable for the practice. For Parkour, the practitioner has to be able to adapt to their environment, but if a park is created, the practitioner wants to have fun ¬– they don’t want to suffer due to inappropriate dimensions.
Designers should have an introduction to Parkour, and experience the different movements for themselves. That way, they will be able to put themselves into the Parkour practitioner’s skin. They should also work directly with the people involved, to develop the products to the requirements of the individual Parkour community.
Do Parkour groups train for any other sports, for instance Street Workout? If yes, how could you combine the training?
Some groups might also do Street Workout, swimming or gymnastics, however the Parkour community is really welded to Parkour. I have observed the relationship between Parkour practitioners and gymnasts, and it isn’t good. This is because the gymnast’s point of view is very straight and disciplined. Street Workout practitioners and Parkour athletes don’t have the same strictness and so working together can be difficult. People who watch Parkour could say they are watching elements of Street Workout, or vice versa. We would just use the equipment for conditioning in different ways.
With Lappset Parkour Solutions you can start to train effectively
If you got interested in Alessandro`s story, remember the Lappset Parkour Solutions as an option to provide a place for training. Lappset’s Parkour products are safe for beginners while also offering plenty of challenges for advanced users. Different levels of skill were taken into account as early as the planning stage, as professionals in the sport were on board throughout product development (Parkour Academy Finland)
In designing routes particular attention must be paid to the distances between the equipment and the position of the various elements in relation to each other. Designing a parkour area is an excellent opportunity to kick-start a relationship with local traceurs. If this isn’t possible, however, there is always the option of choosing a suitable ready-made design for your site instead. In designing the site you can also call on the expertise of Lappset’s MyDesign team, whose designers work in close cooperation with parkour professionals.
More about ADD Finistère
ADD Academy Finistère is an association created in February 2011. Members of the original Parkour group, Yamasaki, trained the instructors.
The academy respects the Yamak Spirit, with training sessions being much more involved than those of the regular Parkour associations in France. We dedicate 80-90% of each training session to conditioning because we consider it key to mastering movement. Conditioning should be the focus from the start as it will be harder to gain later, whereas the technical side can be improved over time.
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