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Interview with the Founder of the Discipline by Sabine Gros La Faige
Foreword by Director Luc Besson
This book is dedicated to… The two pillars of my life: My Father, who always told me that dreams do come true If you believe in them strongly enough (See Dad, I always believed!) My Grandfather, for his support and passing on his values. May they rest in peace. To my children – that I don’t have yet – but I hope they will read this book one day.
"If two paths open up before you, always choose the most difficult one."
Raymond Belle – The Father – The Champion – The Rescuer – The Initiator. A renowned gymnast and accomplished sportsman, he held several titles in athletics and records in high and long jump, javelin and rope climbing.
FOREWORD At first sight. But a problem arose: the names Yamakasi and Parkour had both been registered by an 8th man. Each sentence is carefully thought and precisely targeted before being spoken. he’ll follow you anywhere. sporting with everything including your eyesight. there were scenes I had to rewatch several times in slow motion to understand how he had done it. Precision. Down means death to him. a steel pole or a ledge. In elements. like an edge. I felt the same kind of freedom when scuba-diving. His trust is a great honour. In you. But the most impressive feature of this young man so deep-rooted in his surroundings is when he leaves behind the pedestrian world. the action starts and it’s pure grace. and I hope I deserved it. His trust is absolute. of feelings. Once all the data he can rely on is listed in his mind. Nothing is left off to chance. and no one really knows what goes on in his mind. His training is often long. He plays with void. strokes concrete. to go forward< to fly. And he unwillingly makes you weigh your words and actions as well. concision of words. no one is more down to earth and rooted than David. To him. In the editing room. Your heart speeds up when you have to tell him "You can rely on me". We first met a few years ago. In him. David has reached such a complete mastery not only of himself but also of the elements around him that he is sometimes hard to reach. Concrete never betrayed him. where non-gravity allows you to plunge headfirst down underwater cliffs and make a turn on your fingertip. But when he is ready. He weighs each word as if to stand on it. I understood that this 8th man had originally 5 . He can come up with as many stories in mid-air as a ballet dancer on an opera floor. everything seems commonplace and useless. That may be the reason why he is more likely to trust a concrete edge than a human being. He needs that confidence to express himself. my crew and I had come across the Yamakasi group and we were preparing a movie with them. because you know it is impossible to let him down. At the time. Except maybe a tree. Watching him flirt with gravity is something totally amazing. flies on wind.
In a world where the place is going to the dogs. Meanwhile. it is good to keep some points of reference. I’ll make a movie with you. David didn’t say a word and let his representative do the talking. But truth was – as I understood later on while watching videos of this 8th man: he was much better and stronger than them. they were mad at him for leaving the group. the Yamakasi were cackling like a bunch of chicken fighting over an egg. I offered David a simple deal: "David. where politics is all about media. "OK. He swiftly left the room and I never heard from him again until I introduced him to Cyril Raffaelli and the project District 13. let them do this movie with us and then. Apparently. He is a modern hero. Revenge. he gave me his first smile. but they all refused. David is one of them. where bribing. On that day. Luc Besson 6 . drug use and cheating happen faster than the laws fighting them. I offered to reinstate the 8th man in the group." And yet. You have my word!" He looked at me for a second and said. David. a few months before. the one we should never have left: the way to human dignity. We organized a meeting between the Yamakasi. At the end of this messy meeting.been part of the group but he had gone on and try his luck – on his own – in the US. the producers of the movie and myself. where earth itself is being worked out by our own treachery. where bank managers play billions tossing a coin. who grew up between concrete walls and is tracing for us a new way. Nothing unusual. alone. Jealousy. His name was David Belle. we had only known each other for an hour or so.
CONTENTS Foreword Introduction My Father the Hero The Start Learning First Steps Gathering Pace Danger Passing the Baton District 13 – A Revelation End of the Journey? Thanks 5 8 10 15 21 29 39 47 56 64 77 87 7 .
And quite naturally I can respect others. Parkour is an opening to a brand new world. it’s only because cities have been built. there would be no David Belle and no Parkour. and a new way of life. we would just jump from tree to tree. we are only "the guys jumping from rooftop to rooftop" whereas this discipline is so much more than that." I eventually understood that I didn’t need to go through what my father had gone through to be a respectable man. It’s not about jumping over obstacles in order to become the best or hurt yourself and take risks to prove you exist. our houses would be rocks and we would jump from rock to rock. Even the most menial of things. The aim of this book is not to give lessons and even less to put myself forward. then just do it. I soon learnt that excess was useless. of the creation of Parkour and its development throughout the world. Being a man is not about being the strongest. Beyond the physical training method. My father used to say. but an explanation of what he passed down on to me. life will give you enough opportunities to learn and know about pain and suffering. jumping farther or higher. If we jump from one building to another. where your willpower leads you. people around him 8 . Parkour is about going where your body can take you." A man can be the strongest in the world. beyond the discipline of movement and crossing obstacles. Raymond Belle is the foundation of it all – of my life. My father always laid great stress upon this: "Being a man is above all about keeping one’s word. all the philosophy of life that was at the core of this discipline and is still guiding me today. don’t try and hurt yourself. "Don’t trigger negative things. Both are indelibly linked.INTRODUCTION Why this book? I can’t talk about Parkour without talking about my father. I just want people to understand Parkour as it should be. if he doesn’t keep his word. one’s true self. Even if at the start there was a little bit of this in me. no matter your environment. Without him. If you s ay something. that Parkour is about. the toughest. Today I can see that many people haven’t understood this quest for one’s identity. For many. This book is not only a tribute to him. a way to learn to know yourself better. No matter where you are. even if they can’t achieve half of what I do in Parkour. if we were living in trees.
to express its true meaning. I could have said all kinds of crap. Some traceurs* claimed the creation of Parkour and they sound like they did it all by themselves. to show off. When time comes to put words into action. They promise things. in their own family. I want to talk about it for everyone who’s interested in Parkour or would like to start practicing it. kid. I. I owe him this respect. this gratitude. Raymond Belle was my father but also my mentor. It would probably take ten books to talk about his whole life. they like to brag. Inventor of Parkour. But when they are being interviewed about it. But there was the story of my father and everything he gave me. After too many years when I didn’t really talk about this very personal matter. My father went through terrible things and his suffering brought me where I am today.will eventually realize it and lose all form of respect for him. all the young people who have so many questions about so many things and do not necessarily have parents on their side to help them. I would never have become who I am today. they are unable to explain this discipline. they can follow. I could have lied and put a label on myself: David Belle. without adding or omitting. could have said that I created this new discipline all by myself. and pass on everything he taught me. word for word. my father’s story isn’t an absolute reference – far from it – and he is not the ultimate example to follow either. But no. too. * traceur: Parkour practitioner 9 . and there must be someone. If I had paid attention each time I was being told "Hey. But the young can look around them. I’ve decided to tell the story of my father and the true genesis of Parkour. My father warned me about the pitfalls of life and protected me against negative people. a role model. don’t climb on this wall!". someone true with real values who can lead them through life. but these are just empty words. I will never be as experienced and charismatic as him but at least I am proud to tell his story here. The young have a hard time with this today: keeping their word. they simply vanish. We all know someone in our relatives who went through extraordinary things in his or her life and can teach us to remain authentic and lead a good life. or feel lost the way I felt as a teenager. I didn’t. Of course.
One has to dig deep inside it to find the roots of what he passed down on to you. both as a father and as a man. The French army took care of him and 10 . They were taught fighting techniques.MY FATHER THE HERO The foundation of Parkour comes from your father and his extraordinary life path. It was a real shock for him. light-years from what he had known so far. But the conflict for the independence of Vietnam turned into a war and his childhood turned into a nightmare. How long did he stay in that "school"? He stayed there for nine years. While he was on vacation at an uncle’s. Can you tell us who Raymond Belle was? My father was born in 1939 in Hué. long walks in the mountains. the uncle who didn’t want to take care of him anymore put him in a military school near Dalat run by the French. assembling and disassembling weapons in the dark< Everything I learnt while in the army myself. He found himself in a camp with other refugees in the area of Lyon. he quickly understood that he couldn’t rely on anybody but himself and he had to become the best fighter. the son of a mixed couple. it was Walk or Die . It wasn’t what he had been raised to expect: he came from a wealthy family and all of a sudden finds himself in this miserable life. In Dalat.survival of the fittest. After a while. he had no choice. he was sent back to France by boat. He hadn’t asked for it and he found himself overnight in an orphanage camp. living in a nice house. After the defeat of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. where your mother wasn’t here anymore to comfort you. He couldn’t come back to his parents and he had to stay in this family where he went through difficult time. His father was a French doctor in the colonial army and his mother was Vietnamese. He came from a numerous family – he had about ten siblings. he found himself cut off from his family by a front line that split the country in two parts. Vietnam. owning horses. at the age of nineteen. a military school were you had to fight to earn respect. In order to survive. But he had to do it as a child. My father was seven at the time. The Indochina war (pre-Vietnam War) was raging and those orphans were trained to become soldiers. They were quite well off.
he was called back for a hazardous mission: taking off a flag from the steeple of Notre Dame de Paris cathedral put there by demonstrators. He showed me newspaper articles from that mission. His bosses knew they could always rely on him. It wasn’t originally his call and he had to adapt but he excelled in doing it. he would go. self-control and self sacrifice were outstanding: he could have given his life to save someone else. That’s probably the best advice he was ever given. When he said he could do something. where he is hanging in the sky on a cable under a helicopter getting close to Notre Dame. his employers were impressed by his efficiency. it was a Vietcong flag. When he was in charge. If there was a roof or a façade to climb.pursued his military education until 1958. 11 . It gave a meaning to all his training in the Vietnamese jungle. he worked for private businesses and was in charge of the security of big Parisian buildings like the Montparnasse Tower. While reading the article. everything rolled on smoothly. He would always volunteer for dangerous missions. A former resident of Dalat who had been impressed by his physical abilities suggested him to join the prestigious Fire fighters' Squad of Paris. He was just the first one to go. His sense of courage. His squad comrades nicknamed him Kamikaze but that’s not the name I would have given him because it conveys a foolhardy. And each time. he would go because he had already assessed danger and balanced the risks in his mind. He always had this self-confidence in every area of his life. my father multiplied difficult rescues that earned him numerous honours and medals. One day as he was off. performing demonstrations for young firemen or public audiences. Throughout his career. before the others did. and that thing was confidence. He had a total self-confidence. Quite ironically. After leaving the Firemen Squad in 1975. he also stood out with his athletic achievements. He was part of the Firemen of Paris gymnastics coach team. I was wondering why him and not another fireman? Then I understood that he had this little extra thing. my father found himself rescuing lives. He put his heart and soul into it. dating back from 1969. He was also several times national military champion in high jump and long jump. hesitating. whereas he had been trained to fight and kill. All of a sudden. While his colleagues firemen were still in their fears. people believed him. Throughout his career. self-destructive feeling whereas he wasn’t ready to throw himself into just any situation.
At some point. This "Stop!" meant so much. It didn’t have anything to do with his family. And when I say hard. I got it: I had never heard anyone say this word so powerfully as he had. His father wasn’t into sports at all. He would train throwing knives. razor blades on targets and his movement was always perfect. Even at the age of sixty. he was on his own. his hands in his pockets. when other kids were asleep. for the rest of his life. He had been through too much suffering and. repeat his moves twenty. fifty times. why he had hurt himself so bad. instead of withdrawing into himself. do jumps.Were his physical abilities a family heritage? Not at all. thirty. So he quite literally changed himself. my father was still running and performing unbelievable running jumps. both mentally and physically? Absolutely. It was a thorough physical work coupled with an extraordinary mental strength. At night. climb on trees. it is an understatement. balance. He would never stop. something clicked in his mind and he told himself. And then. He could hit trees bare fist just to make his fists tougher and more resistant. ever again. he confided in me that he had been abused while at his uncle’s< Unlike most children. he would take boxing bags and throw them on his cheeks and nose to make them harder and less sensitive to pain. "From now on. he would get out of bed to go and run in the woods. and neither was his mother. He started training like a maniac when he ended up in the orphanage camp. he always kept a smile on. he had decided he would never be a victim. I couldn’t understand why he had gone through this crazy training. one day. My father worked hard to develop his physical abilities. When he was telling me about those childhood memories. he pushed himself forward to build a strong shell. I saw him carry incredible weights. With my buddies – seven or eight teenagers – we would gather up and try to push him down in the grass but he wouldn’t move an inch and yet. wearing flip-flops! His physical strength was phenomenal and yet. push-ups. never showing the slightest sign of pain or effort. I could only believe everything he told me 12 . no one will ever touch me again! Stop!" When he described me that specific moment. alone in this camp.
his weaknesses. his mistakes. to go back to Vietnam? When in school in Dalat. For him. drives he had to learn to control. but if he believed something was wrong. He was sixteen at the time and must have wondered if he would ever have children or even survive. He wasn’t trying to play the perfect father in front of his son. He never told me he was the best or the strongest. it backfired. of the military hierarchy. sometimes. a superior made him clean the bathrooms. He did it to show his boss he respected him. He wasn’t given any anaesthetics – only a piece of wood to bite. he could oppose it. Sometimes. knowing the consequences of such a removal for a man. on this boat full of refugees. a hard-earned money. Once in France. They opened up and cut. in the middle of the ocean. He had accepted to be part of the system at some point but. His strength also comes from that. he would never brag and he also told me about his darker side. I saw in him a man fighting his own instincts all his life. it was his money. be stronger than others and go his own way. mine was really out of this world. They told him his father had been murdered. No violence – just his words and confidence< My father was a free spirit. Compared to other fathers. Besides. As he was being shipped back to France.about his life and experiences. I think it deeply affected him. Never. two or three of his brothers managed to come and visit him. Then he 13 . Like most former soldier children. he suffered from a testicular hernia and it got infected. he had troubles adapting. He was physically diminished but he wanted to show that it wouldn’t prevent him from living his life to the fullest. the rebel within him was coming back to the surface. For instance. He had to undergo an operation right then and there. and he wanted his freedom to be respected. but he also made him understand that he would never do it again. did he try to get back in touch with his family. Talking about what he went through in his youth. stubborn and unmovable as a wall. When he started in the Fireman Squad. He was respectful of his superiors. both physically and psychologically. and he didn’t see why he should give it back to the government. he would refuse to pay his taxes. he told me a story that really made a deep impression on me.
Towards the end of his life. For instance. As if all feelings and emotions had been erased in order to turn them into little soldiers. even though he remembered a lot of details. it looks like she never really liked him as a kid. He remembered being left aside from the rest of the family. In Dalat. My father had a hard time talking about his mother and his childhood. He saw his mother again five or six times but the feelings were not there anymore.found himself an orphan for good. It seems like his mother considered him cursed because he was born the sixth or seventh child of the family and in some Vietnamese traditions. he would talk a little bit more about it. a child born in this rank is bad omen. And what had happened to his father toughened him up and he withdrew even more. On arrival in France. Some would even go inside houses< He seldom mentioned going back to Vietnam. After a few years. he told me that they lived in a house near the jungle and tigers would sometimes come close to the village. he was placed in a foster family but he remained a loner. He seemed totally detached from his family. he was able to get in touch again with a few members of his family who had sought refuge in France as well. Cousins told him that his mother and brothers had also been brought back to France. I wanted to make money for that. he had lived among kids who had actually lost both parents so he had learnt to erase all family ties the way they had. For some reason. especially his mother with whom he had never really had a great relationship. But he left on New Year’s Eve of 1999 before I could< 14 . I wish I could have offered him the trip before he went.
I went back to live with him three more years in Vendée. but no one ever really knew what was going on. He respected them and me alike to the point of not showing up one day with a woman. I guess he didn’t want to impose a stepmother on his children. he was actually going to see a girlfriend but he never told anything to anyone. He was teaching me another way of life. He was a very quiet. after a short break with my mother in Boulogne-Billancourt (near Paris). For instance. He was a total opposite of my father who had learnt to fight to death. He was a former fire fighter from the Paris Squad – like my father. He worked there for thirty-two years. I personally never saw anything and yet. He brought me up from my birth in April 1973 until I was fourteen. did you feel like admiring and imitating him? Actually. It totally balanced my education. unobtrusive man. the very first person I did admire and take as a role model was my grandfather on my mother’s side. I probably would have fallen in excessive patterns the way my father did. and he also had an outstanding self-control. He never had the physical abilities my father had. and.THE START Growing up with a father with such an extraordinary life path. He truly was my very first role model. nor his spirit. He had relationships and affairs. how he had overcome adversity and I admired him for that. I was living with him. I find myself balanced between those two men. of respect and 15 . My grandfather never fought with another man nor learnt any martial art. He was a straightforward man. He was also a WWII veteran. the outside world was a jungle where you had to constantly beware and protect yourself whereas my grandfather was more serene in his relationships with the outside world. I was looking up at how he had managed to go on in life. For my father. He became a widower at a very early age but never remarried. there was always a pack of cigarettes at home but he would only smoke one on Sundays after lunch. Normandy. Maybe when he went for a walk. I spent the first years of my life in his house in Fécamp. A mix of wisdom and audacity. Without him. My grandfather was a widower and he took real good care of me. very honest in his private life and respected in his work.
They made me what I am today." Why were you raised by your grandfather and not your parents? My parents didn’t live together. "You have a mouth. He used to tell me: "Should anything happen to you. And rather than talking rubbish. use this energy to help people. the foundations of how to behave in society. And since my grandfather was a widower and living alone. Both my grandfather and my father are the pillars of my life.rebellion. a choice that can take you on the right or the wrong path. go to very wealthy apartments where everything was a mess and dirty. What was life like with your grandfather? I can say that I have been raised with a certain amount of discipline. he probably thought it would be a good thing for me as well. since he grew up without his own parents and had managed pretty well on his own. the best role model for his child was the patriarch of the family. probably because he was hoping I would become a fire fighter myself. I would see my 16 . do it for good reasons: rather than robbing a home. He told me about times when he was being called in people’s homes and could find himself in a very modest place where everything was neat and clean and. My grandfather taught me the great principles of life. "With a knife. I personally have no regrets about their decision nor my childhood. Thanks to his experience with the fire fighters." Thanks to him. my physical abilities to do useful things. He kept repeating: "If you have to use your physical strength. They probably thought that the best option for me was to be raised by my grandfather. I was kind of a present to him so that he could look after me and I could be under his protection. so use it to speak. of restraint and action. just tell the truth or useful things. you can choose to become a serial killer or a sculptor. I understood that we always have a choice in life. on the contrary. that can bring something to others. you have to make sure that everything is neat and clean. should people have to come to your home. to respect others and tell the truth." He also pushed me to use my body. things that can teach something. My father wasn’t exactly born a father and. I believe that." He taught me to be polite. to him. he showed me why it was important to have a healthy lifestyle or a wellkept home.
and he didn’t want me to become handicapped the way he was. I always kept in touch with my father. Also. hang over the balcony or climb on the roof of a little shack in the yard. and if I wanted to change. He didn’t want to bully me. I felt more cared for from him than some of my classmates living with both their parents.mother on weekends and I missed her but my grandfather was so involved in my education and he was caring so much for me that I never felt like I lacked affection. learn things by myself. I remember there was an embankment on the beach in Fécamp and I would go there all the time and jump even though the height was quite 17 . And that’s exactly what happened later on. The entrance was shaped like a pagoda with huge pillars and a Chinese roof. My grandfather used to put barbwire on all windows to prevent me from going to dangerous places out there. I had to climb on it. even if I was living with my grandfather at first and then my mother. reserved and withdrawn. he’d let me do it. For instance. without him forcing or imposing anything on me. I was afraid at night and I would wait for my grandfather to go to bed before I could fall asleep. learn to know him. if I wanted to practice a sport. Even me. during teenage hood. on my own. My imagination could run wild in this place and it felt to me like a fairytale castle. He had a hip problem following a bad landing after a jump. he would enrol me at a club. He kept telling me all the time to stop climbing and jumping. I was rather shy. So I would do crazy things like climb on window ledges. he just didn’t want me to get hurt. He had the little habits of an old man but he was always very respectful of my own world. And it was the same thing outside the manor: each time I saw a rock or a tree. Even my friends wouldn’t come over very often because they were too impressed. I have the feeling he wanted to stay away from me so that I would have to look for him. But at times. Did you have any specific physical abilities as a child? Were you a daredevil? Actually. He would come and visit me on weekends. He took real good care of me and talked to me a lot. or I would go to his place. I could be daring! My grandfather and I were living in some kind of a big manor in Fécamp that we shared with another family. This manor overlooked the city and I felt kind of remote in this impressive mansion.
I was simply failing school. they would be less 18 . but also athletics in school. I always had this doubt in my mind and as a result. I don’t know exactly why I was doing this. I didn’t want to learn. but I believe it was above all to please my father and also because he wanted me to develop my physical abilities in order to join a fire fighters' squad later on. all I wanted to do was practice sports. I didn’t know who I was among the others because I wasn’t asserting myself. I was doing gymnastics. My grandfather never forced me to do anything. It’s not because I could do a flip or a high jump that I felt stronger or tougher. I was very industrious. I personally didn’t have any preferences. but something was pushing me. I was gifted compared to others but there wasn’t much of a difference to me. I felt like I won when the teacher ended up asking someone else. and I just wouldn’t learn my lessons. And in my head. Not because I couldn’t but because I couldn’t see any good reason to do it. There was a time when I was questioning everything I was being taught in school. I didn’t see the point in learning all that. Did your grandfather enrol you in a sports club to channel your energy? My grandfather enrolled me in gymnastics. I would put it in question and kept wondering: "But how do they know? They were not here to witness it!" Teachers were not reliable to me. But truth was. I think today if we first told kids why such and such thing is going to be useful for them in life.impressive for a kid my age. So I would rather pretend I didn’t know anything than express myself. In class. Except for basic things like "two and two are four". what was the aim of it all in the end. I was always very reserved and didn’t speak much with my classmates. they were just telling things they had learnt in books themselves. very withdrawn. I didn’t want any information to get inside my head without being sure it was true. I wouldn’t answer questions teachers were asking me or I wouldn’t go to the blackboard even though I knew my lessons by heart. Simply because I didn’t want the sound of my voice to be heard. If I was told that Louis the Sixteenth had lived and died in such and such way. I didn’t have any kind of identity at school or outside of it. nothing would make it through my thick skull. I was still very introverted.
and she had moved to Lisses. And me. it was on my mind and influencing me. I had the feeling I had been born in an era where nothing was happening and therefore I wouldn’t experience all the exciting adventures my grandfather had known during WWII or my father during the Vietnam War. When I became a teenager. soldiers. her sister-in-law was a teacher and. And I was the exact opposite. and withdraw even more. I was sometimes wondering what I would do with my life. and teachers thought I was a failure. know more about my Asian roots on my father side even though it didn’t show on my features. Since childhood. heroes and feats of all kinds so. of course. in the suburbs of Paris. At the time. Instead of telling me the reason I had to learn by heart the life and facts about such or such famous historical character. I was fourteen at the time. Did your problems in school worry your parents? My mother was probably worried because her brother was a headmaster. I had been brought up listening to stories of fire fighters. I wasn’t interested one bit. I needed to know where I was coming from. I was wondering what I was doing here. her nephews were head of their classes. when I came back to live permanently with my mother. of course. If I listened to my relatives. to my cousins on my mother’s side.reluctant to learn in school. the teacher just said: "Learn this by heart for tomorrow". I was living in Vendée with my grandfather and I started talking a lot about my father. As a result. I would ask him a lot of questions about his past. And you ended up looking for those roots at the source… I did. his missions while in the Fire fighters' Squad of Paris. So there was some kind of a pressure both on my mother and myself. I kept telling over and over again that I wasn’t like them. It was working on my mind and. This is when I started getting more and more in touch with my 19 . in this life. I started asking myself a lot of questions about life in general. Some people in my family thought I had no future whatsoever just because I couldn’t play board games! All those stupid remarks really upset me and I ended up thinking I really sucked. I couldn’t even spell without making ten mistakes in a sentence and I got discouraged.
You can have friends telling you. I had some physical abilities. that will enable you to get out of any situation or help someone should anything happen on the street or in a building. but nothing fantastic. then train in an area that will truly be useful. I wanted to talk to him. I was learning to use my body. the more I realized I didn’t need all that." The more I talked to him and the more I could see something coming into shape. He would ask me: "What do you want to do with your life? Are you training because you want to become like such athlete who wants to compete. I had reached an age where your body needs action but I didn’t want to go into just another sport and then regret it later on in life. or do you want to do something really different? If you want to be different. 20 . coming to life in my head and this is when the true adventure of Parkour began. in a nice heated room. I found teaching in clubs too scholastic for my own taste. "Come on. with mattresses on the floor for protection. but in a cool and controlled environment. Then you go and start liking it but without really knowing if it was your true calling.father. at first. let’s play basketball or football". I wanted to move with him. Of course. I practiced gym and athletics in school and clubs. And the more I talked to my father.
I was still playing with my Playmobil toys when he was suffering in the jungle at the same age. survive through war and protect himself against all odds. For many. "Here. but also on other courses he had come up with by himself. I was wondering how he had managed to do all those things. To me. was very abstract and didn’t mean anything. I had to dig. He explained that there were different types of courses – or parcours – over there. He told me how. tears and blood. alone and on the sly. nowadays. agility course. resilience course. (Parcours du combattant = Assault Course).LEARNING & TRAINING Where does the name "Parkour" come from? The more my grandfather was telling me about the physical condition and abilities of my father. it was vital – a matter of life or death. To my father. tenacious and dedicated. Parkour was about sweat. I ended up asking my father himself. as a soldier child. overlooking French patrols. and so on. on the assault course. willing. There was even a silent course where he would practice with his friends to go from tree to tree in the forest. He would take each obstacle coming his way and find the best way to go across. this word. nose around. I felt totally behind: if something happened to me. "parcours". one hundred times. search. I would get upset and cry as if I had been beaten up. This training would help him get tough. And he was only twelve or thirteen. Their minds were already focused on warfare. And this is when I heard the word "parcours" for the first time. until he mastered it to perfection. How did you get initiated to Parkour? You have to understand that Parkour didn’t come out of the blue one day. I wanted to know what kind of sports he had practiced to reach such a level. parkour is something fun but for my father." no. Now that you’ve turned fifteen. he would wake up every night to go out and train. like endurance course. I first had to discovered my father 21 . a bit like a journalist. I am going to share a great secret with you. the more I was asking myself questions. Compared to him at the same age. without being noticed or heard. My father was very patient. my son. And he would repeat the movement fifty. My father never told me.
I was more mature for my age. ask yourself if it is necessary or useful. I wasn’t interested in school anymore. Then I assimilated everything he taught me about life. money< He kept telling me: "Don’t hang on desperately to it. in which area I could excel and the rest would follow. He tried to make me understand how things work in life. to get back to something fundamental. and all the things I would come across: work. In a way. how to build it with a solid background. take care of yourself or express yourself properly and so on. David. He believe that if you learnt certain bases. I didn’t invent anything. I knew he was giving me everything he could so that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes.and what was behind the man. but I am not! I am not a scientist working in a lab or an engineer. good. step by step. I took a break and told myself that life was short and I started looking inside myself to find out what I could do with this life. more real. I was only fourteen or fifteen but thanks to my father. My father taught me how to behave. attacks and pitfalls awaiting me. But instead of thinking it’s a hassle and complain. Some people nowadays tell me: "Hey. He gave me a large amount of elements regarding a certain philosophy of life but also sports advice for a better physical and mental preparation. But if it’s not. My grandfather had taught me the practical aspects of life – how to keep a house. you are the creator of Parkour". brought me answers on simple matters or situations everyone comes across one day or another in his lifetime. He told me: "You’ll realize that it’s hard to juggle with five balls in your life. What was this philosophy he taught you like? My father guided me. Remain faithful to your core principles. At some point. they would help you out in any other situation. and he was passing that on to me. It came from a long process started in teenage hood – if not earlier." He taught 22 . women. It’s a mixture of those elements and the personal work I undertook for years that led to Parkour. don’t hassle yourself to understand why you are not rich. I got that from my father. If it’s there. both with yourself and with others. he had assessed his achievements and it was as if he had understood things that he could have avoided as a teenager or an adult. friends. how to deal with it. and I needed something more authentic. how to face the outside world." He encouraged me to have right thoughts.
good and honest people on earth. I would look at him through the bedroom window and tell myself: "I have to go. on cars." He wanted me to avoid his mistakes and didn’t want me to lose my time in a relationship that wasn’t meant for me. a vital need to do it. What mattered the most to my father was to respect others and be honest. There are very few true. And when I was eventually with him. he’ll have to come and ask them." I had the urge. Bad because they always end up hurting someone or try to take advantage of others. and I have to do it before it’s too late and I reg ret it. know yourself. And this is what we should be taught in school: be aware if someone is real. he wouldn’t come to see me. recognize a real statement. I’ve been here for two days. on human beings. to save his marriage and conversely another husband is going to remain faithful but turn his wife’s life into a living hell. I understood that human beings in general are bad. Without my father. being able to make the difference between people trying to abuse you and honest people. He rather told me to look at the intention. For instance. whether it was a good or a bad one. He would tell me: "You are going to know women like this or like that and it will just be as many different experiences." My father was sleeping in a tent in the yard.me so much that nowadays. He never judged someone on his behaviour good or bad. nothing would happen. Guys who think that they have all life ahead of them and that they are going to make the 23 . he could talk to me about everything and anything. His motto was: "If my son wants to know things about me. He could lecture me on cooking. I have to talk to my father. For instance. I wanted to talk with him about everything he had gone through. a guy cheating on his wife can do it for good reasons. about my life. But it has to bring you something. even in the dead of winter. He was always telling me about examples showing that men and life are closely intertwined: there is no black or white. if I spent the afternoon in my cousins’ room and he was downstairs in the living room. listen to people and be able to see through them. I would not have been able to do it. I always question the aim of something or someone new coming to my life. you have to learn to know women and. How did those exchanges with your father took place? I had to go and look for him otherwise. therefore.
son. But can you tell me if she is the right one? Are you bringing her because you love her or because you are trying to show off in front of others. it was more of the opposite: "You can go out with a hundred women but. he became a fire fighter and pursued a career in the fire fighters. You could have avoided going out with some of them and hurting them. I just can’t play a game or be fake because he taught me so often to be authentic that I feel bad when I lie. his feats. then you missed something. moments spent with them. it’s great to have lots of girls! Go and have fun. Both my step-brothers had known him living at home but they have never had the conversations I had with him. Do you feel you shared more with him than other children did with their fathers? I think I had a much better communication being away from my father than if he had been there all the time. I can say today that Jean-François played an important part in the development of Parkour. What’s the point in breaking a heart? There is no positive energy in it. cheat or do things for wrong reasons. faces. David!" Actually. I couldn’t show off in front of him. I was proud of my elder brothers Jean-François and Daniel. our elder brother Daniel – who was ten years older than me – followed a way more tortuous path with a tragic ending. from starting something I couldn’t finish.best of it and get as many women as they can only end up hurting girls. He 24 . I could feel the essential question in his eyes: "Ok. My father had known many women but he confessed that he wasn’t exactly proud of it. in the end. After everything my father had told me about women." To him. He never told me "Hey. documents. showed me photographs. told me about my father. You can even bring ten. asked questions. He triggered certain things. in front of your buddies?" Today. Both my brothers were strong characters. if you can’t remember each and every one of them. the one that would share my life. They helped me develop a sharper vision of people and not be focused on looks alone. Those lessons from my father prevented me from making a lot of stupid mistakes. what really mattered was to find the right person. you are bringing in a pretty girl. even though I didn’t see the latter much. If I brought a girl at home. what’s the point? If you can’t remember names. On the other hand. in very opposite ways. Jean-François was a good student in school.
they learnt from their mistakes. I listened to him. I pay more attention to those people because I know they talk from experience. When he got out of jail. but I also heard the other fire fighters talking about him and I knew it was the truth. He had found a job – he was working as a set designer for theatre and seemed very confident. He never told me more than he had done. And my father was that kind of a man. I believe his life and the problems he went though also had a big influence on my relationship with my father. to go elsewhere. In his everyday life. or rather. He knew where the traps and dead ends were and his advice helped me prevent falling headfirst into them. we thought he would be alright. If I have children one day. Thanks to him. I could have just dismissed everything saying it was all bullshit. giving me things he hadn’t had time to give Daniel so that I wouldn’t follow the same path. his wife. He kept telling me: "Living in such or such way is not worth it.D. my father never showed off. In life in general the people I respect the most are not the ones who have read a million books. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t miss him – I did. man. I truly grew up faster and I have the feeling I didn’t waste time going astray. I can still see him talking to me with so much calm and confidence. I’ll try and do with them what I’ve never done with my father. what I would have liked to do with him. but rather those who lived things – you can see their lives passing in their eyes like a movie. he died from O. and he wanted to prevent me from doing that as well. Daniel had been pushed in that direction by people who were not necessarily good. his excuses. I did this amazing thing today…" He didn’t need to brag about what he was 25 . Was it easy for you to listen to your father when he didn’t raise you? I have never been angry at him for leaving his home. I ended up understanding what was on his mind. But in any case. And after looking at him for so long. a few months later. He never told his buddies: "Hey. I was very careful with everything he told me and I literally drank his words. the sufferings he had gone through as a child." and gave me examples. I couldn’t be mad at him: he had his reasons. then don’t do it. Of course.fell into drugs that led to armed robberies and he was sentenced to jail for that. But then. I think he believed he had missed something with that son. that he hadn’t been up to it. He probably felt guilty and tried to catch up with me.
cook. mend things. Even when I was little. not a single element linking him to me as my father. when I am successful in one area. The only things he never told me about were maybe a few negative aspects of his personality that he didn’t want his son to see. my father was successful in one thousand! He could fix a car. My father had his faults – he wasn’t perfect – but his numerous qualities erased all the rest. David. I was a very shy and quiet little boy – the exact opposite of him. He can’t be blamed for whatever harm he may have done in his life because he truly was a good person at heart. that’s very likely. I never saw him take anything too seriously or be very focused! He was always taking everything easy and naturally. Don’t be amazed when you watch a circus acrobat because the guy you see performing on TV. he rehearsed his show all year long. And he did insist on that aspect of things: "Don’t be amazed. That was his strength. He truly had a strong aura. Maybe you admired him because he wasn’t there often? Yes. very feline. keeping his smile on. always paying attention to details and yet. He was very thorough and careful in everything he did. and so on. But above all I was trying to see in which way I was like him. Nothing happens at random. He could achieve something impressive and yet remain very calm. because that’s not all what there is to life. well. like archery on the No Parking sign on the garage door. he juggles with eleven balls but when he performs in front of an audience. I would even tell myself: "I must have been adopted. there is no other way!" There was nothing. And maybe when he rehearses. And his good nature was often turned against him. What would be very surprising would be if the guy never juggled in his life and started doing it with 26 . people would turn around and stare at him. as if there was nothing extraordinary about it. he removes two of them to look even more comfortable doing it. There is always a trick. and I think this is what impressed me the most. People could use and abuse him for he couldn’t refuse help when he was asked. He would shoot from a hundred and fifty feet and hit the bull’s eye as if it was a piece of cake. The most amazing thing is. He was shining bright. Sometimes.doing – people always ended up knowing one way or another. I would see him perform feats. He was like a cat. because I didn’t look like him at all. When he walked down the street.
the more questions you ask yourself. do fifty push ups!" They are yelled at. For instance. But the truth is." He had understood that if you have a gift in life. I would like to insist on one thing. then develop it. then go faster. Because you know you can travel the easy one. it would even be a miracle. religion or elsewhere. The more you grow up. always take the most difficult one. as long as you can find a meaning to it. without any cramming." Willpower is useless if you don’t do things thoroughly." By listening to and watching him.nine balls as if it were a piece of cake. then jump. But if you don’t. "Do this. if you want speed. And since I was outside the normal system. On the contrary. martial arts refer a lot to animals. That would be amazing. He 27 . everything seems easier. I found a way to exist. my father managed to give me the desire to do it by myself. I took a path that I chose and I found my true self along the way. He did it intuitively. soldiers don’t have a choice. do that. They end up disgusted and it leaves marks on them. and I wanted to get back to my true self and listen to my desires and not what others expected of me. if you want to go high. I understood something essential: I was always avoiding things when he was always confronting them. if you don’t go for it without asking yourself questions. get on the ground. though: my father brought this philosophy gently. In the army. the smarter you think you are avoiding obstacles. But never mind that the philosophy you choose comes from martial arts. My father kept repeating me that: "If two roads open up before you. And that’s exactly what Parkour is all about: move from one obstacle to the other and make it more difficult on purpose so that in real life. I wasn’t feeling well in my mind. then you have to work for it: "If you want strength. you don’t have to look for it: it’s there. without any constraints. forced to do things. the more excuses you find. it is experience and going all the way into things that makes you go forward. All those teachings are very close to martial arts philosophy… I just think that the philosophy in martial arts is based on the philosophy of life. just like Parkour. When I started Parkour. I developed another way of life.
His favourite motto was: "Become what you train for. even if it is difficult.never ordered me to do Parkour." 28 . over and over again. Even if it hurts. and how much effort you put into your training. But above all. not to fall victim of daily routine. find another way to train." Thanks to my father. then don’t be content with lifting weights for one hour in front of a mirror because in the end. "If you want to develop your strength. Instead. then you are already different from others. "I can hit you to try and make you do things." His thing was to try. even if you fail. I understood that the most important thing was to work on yourself. If you can tell yourself that you are going to try something and do it. He just showed me the way. of what everyone else does. I know you won’t. he made me understand that you can’t achieve anything without willpower. It was my choice and will to follow the path or not. but if you have decided in your head that you won’t do it. And it was important to my father to do things differently. that’s all you’ll be able to do: lift weights.
I had this image in front of me. doing better than I did. At the start of Parkour. And in any case. If he could achieve so many things in his life. this picture of my father jumping higher. otherwise. My father was a guide to me. When I got home to my mother’s after visiting him. jumping< He was just showing me bases and never tried to impose a style or a particular technique. as many as possible. but I wasn’t alone in my head. to try out new things. 29 .FIRST STEPS What was your physical training like? At the very beginning. it becomes automatic. People on the street thought I was training alone but I felt as if someone invisible was showing me the way. I could get closer to him and have a better understanding of what he had been through. I could feel it in myself. If you miss your jump. I understood that if I fully and totally went into that. in Lisses and around. The most important thing to him was to repeat: "By doing the movements a dozen. my body would tell me right away. Parkour is truly a long distance discipline. on my own. you hurt yourself. it was because he had worked out on his own parcours. So very quickly. my father would make me do little physical exercises like walking on a fence to keep my balance. I had a better understanding of where the key to his achievement lied. and he would give me physical advice like working out my thighs to improve explosive takeoffs or how to turn my speed into strength for a wall run. if I didn’t do the movement right. farther. go from one place to another without touching the ground. I felt it necessary to train on my own to improve even faster. trust comes and by doing the same movements over and over again. a hundred times. I could feel there was still plenty of room for improvement. climbing a little wall. I would tell him about my jumps. I ended up doing my own stuff. I had to hang out outside. Sometimes." As I was training. when I got to see my father again. you don’t feel anything. I would tell him what I had been doing for training. I was very lonesome.
and I had to find my own path. Would the jump be that easy?" I put myself in situations where I had to constantly excel. "Well. but without taking too much risks at first because I was aware of my mother waiting at home for her son who was training. let’s assume you are tired because you just ran for two hours. if I hurt myself. to catch up with his experience.Was there a desire to look like him? No. so I had to come up with my own situations. I was David. you can’t move forward anymore. I just don’t care!" Some guys are really proud to break a bone and they like to brag about it. I think I just wanted him to be proud of me. Whereas the aim of the game is to constantly improve. So for instance I would pretend that I only had one arm and I was wondering how I would do to go from this place to that place with such a handicap. I ended up understanding that. look. or do things I had already done. I would tell myself: "Ok. you get a taste for it. it required a lot of imagination – he had gone through very real and tangible circumstances like a fire in a building. The next hardest part was to find my own obstacles. it’s Raymond Belle’s son! It’s the Kamikaze’ son!" Maybe at first I had this desire to go through what my father had gone through. Of course." I wanted that kind of recognition. and not do again what my father had done before me. look. And I wasn’t Raymond. It’s a tendency we all have. If you hurt 30 . be more efficient than someone who doesn’t train or very little. That prevented me from doing crazy things and having an uncaring rebel teenage attitude like. Or if a jump felt too easy. not in Vietnam. I wanted him to be able to tell his buddies: "Hey. And little by little. I would never be in the same league as him. it’s my son. what we know best. it only shows a total lack of respect towards oneself and one’s body. it almost becomes like a drug because the body keeps asking for more. I wanted them to say watching a video: "Hey. But truth is. including from elders who had known my father in the Fire fighter Squad of Paris. to go to what is easier. no matter what I’d do. So I had to push myself to go and look for difficulty. But I soon realized it was not possible and would never happen: I was in Lisses. I started with jumps that were likely to help me make progress. What’s the point in being ready to destroy yourself just to show that you don’t care? Once you’re hurt.
But when your technique is good. how do you jump from great heights without breaking anything? Is it an acquired skill? My father told me that he could jump from twenty-five feet as easily as from a chair. you can already feel it from eight. And no need to jump from twenty-five feet. And without even realizing it. And I know if I had to jump from a balcony because there was a fire. Then I went on to a table. right. Little by little. So I started practicing from a chair and I got the feeling of it. Talking about it. But you walk with crutches and you limp…" Money can be around. Then you start feeling your weight increasing. All its movements are perfect. the impact hurting. I did it fifty times and I feel good. fifty times. little by little.yourself. I drive a Porsche and I have a nice house…" . if your body is not well." These are data that come naturally. When you wake up in the morning after an evening session of training. I could do it without breaking a leg. the brain registers as well as the body. by playing. the appraisal of distances and so on is worked out in a completely natural way. forty. he doesn’t ask himself how he’s going to catch the next branch. Then comes the time when the baby is in complete harmony with itself and its environment – the forest. you think to yourself: "Ok. instinctively. An animal will learn while still a baby. and even jump three or four feet higher. not because it is a better monkey. because this later also has a memory. Not like a sportsman who is going to calculate every fraction of an inch. he doesn’t ask himself any question. I could do it. I would tell him: "Yeah. you can’t say you achieved something or you have reached some truth. and a little bit higher each time. thirty. If an injured stuntman told me: "Look. Even if I am tired. even after three sleepless nights. the vision. He just does it. every hundredth of a second. when you repeated your jump twenty. hanging on low branches. I didn’t hurt myself. Animals have this instinct in themselves. the first reward of Parkour: be true to yourself. Falling is also part of the apprenticeship. Because that’s the first wealth. So I can make it a hundred. That’s how it goes in nature alike: look at a gibbon monkey jumping from branch to branch. you can’t be efficient anymore. but simply because it has reached a perfect balance between his 31 . the physical strength is worked out naturally.
The only difference is that some are going to suffer and others won’t. you can tell that those monkeys have reached their full potential in a totally natural way. Everybody can find his or her own way in Parkour. You can be as good and efficient as an athlete but somewhere along the way. speed< When they move around.weight. A little bit like Georges Hébert’s Natural Method. energy. I worked out by climbing trees. some physical data are going to change the deal: a 130 lbs guy isn’t going to jump like a 220 lbs one. Universe. throwing. jumping. From the moment you have two arms and two legs. you can move. your level. size. It’s as if you told me that one monkey is fit to climb a tree but not another one. But no matter your age. it’s useless. or the way you move. to look good or try to be Mr. He never had any doubts. run. For true Parkour followers. But doesn’t Parkour require specific physical skills at the start in order to evolve? Absolutely not. And I repeat what my father used to say: "You become what you are dedicated to. swimming. hanging from a parapet or adding weight on myself. at 40. If you measure things too much. jump. you don’t move like at 30 and so on. Did you go to gyms in order to work out? No. you can climb on a table and jump to the ground. To me. Everybody can do Parkour. everybody can clear obstacles. You also adapt Parkour to your age: at 30. you lose your instinct. for instance. lifting. with a backpack. Parkour changes you. with whatever is available to you. outdoors. muscles have to be built in a natural way. He was in the military where he developed a training method for sailors who didn’t have much space on boats to keep in shape. what really matters is to move. I saw that my father kept on doing his thing without even questioning his physical abilities. He had classified his method according to movement groups: running. you don’t move like you used to at 20. fitness rooms are more of a game than anything else where you just build up muscles for the sake of building up muscles. 32 . Of course. But in the end. He knew he could still move." Whether he was forty or sixty. you lost the true nature – and therefore the authenticity – of the movement.
Everyone knew the place. and change this sufferable course into something positive. and it echoed what my father was teaching me. Obstacle courses had been around for a long time but my father and I decided to perceive obstacles in a different way. Then I got transferred to Essonnes (south of Paris). in Fécamp. In Vietnam. I could practice just about any part of Parkour there for three or four hours at a time. And I saw the difference with Hébert’s Method when I did my military service in the Navy in Vannes. you can go around the architectural elements and turn it into a training element in order to evolve in a positive way. and so on. I spent a lot of time there. It truly was the perfect training ground. a hill. I was often going to the Dame du Lac (Lady of the Lake).climbing. no compulsory place to train in Parkour. For instance. there is no specific spot. Did you have favourite training spots in Lisses? At the beginning. each time I saw a dune. It was still open to the public back then. People went there for a walk on Sundays. For instance. For me. sailors could put a wooden board between two barrels and work out their jumps and built up their thighs muscles. pulling. And even though it was inspirational to me. what do you do?" I was a just-in-case type of person! A forest of trees or a forest of buildings. I had to go and climb it. in an urban environment. Parkour truly has a development and techniques of its own because it’s about moving around an urban environment. he too had come up with his own training method. My grandfather had told me about that method. These were simple exercises. I ended up developing my own techniques to cross obstacles. It was a park with a huge climbing structure. carrying. I followed my feelings and adapted it to my own environment. As if I had mountains for a landscape and found myself on top of them. pacifist and useful. The aim of the game was to adapt to just about any surrounding. this place was the essence of Parkour because there were so many obstacles in this one place. a rock or a cliff. but my desire to get higher was still intact. This is how I overcame the suffocating feeling of suburban districts. And you can find a way to adapt to the urban environment. always keeping in mind that "should anything happen. When I was a kid. But there were also many other places where I liked to go. So I had no other choice than go on top of 33 .
And anything a human body could do. I was climbing with a smile on my face. and people around can feel it. to land where I wanted to. they see young having fun 34 . you just go along your way flawlessly. and this smile said it all: I wasn’t a thief.those tall apartment buildings. The aim was to go forward. I would tell myself that there had to be a way. So I would look for new ways. I was often in mid-air and never considered myself as breaking the law. with the same desire to have a freedom of movement. Search and discover. I would go. or that no one else had done that jump before me. always. When guys in the hood come across a Parkour group at night. you have a positive energy. I would even discover places that locals themselves didn’t know about. free from gravity. I knew exactly what I was doing and I was respectful of the place I was going through. did you ever get in trouble with the local gangs? I personally never had any troubles with guys from the hood. I liked the feeling of knowing that I was the first one to go through this path. just because I had taken a different path than the one where the restriction signs were posted on. A guy looking for a fight is going to end up one day facing a bigger guy who’s going to beat the crap out of him. I felt like a bird. My father thought that those who get in trouble somehow looked for it. find the way. Going around in different neighbourhoods looking for buildings to train on. I just erased this block of concrete blocking my view. If someone told me that it was impossible to go through such way. I would sometimes find myself in places forbidden to the public but without even realizing it. or like a cat. Somehow. And that’s what Parkour is also about: overcome and not let yourself be overcome. And I didn’t understand that it upset some people. I would do it. I ended up feeling very comfortable in that seemingly hostile environment. As soon as there was a new way to be opened. This way. they can feel their good energy. When you live a normal life and follow your rhythm without messing with other people’s businesses. it seems like you enjoy the pioneer aspect of the discipline… Absolutely! What I liked in Parkour was to find a way.
I learnt much more reading books by myself than anything they tried to teach me at school. Attitude is everything in Parkour: when you know where you are going. where have you been yesterday? Messing around?"." "And how useful is that going to be to you in your life. Sir. Of course. and it’s the same thing in life. "No. I was training. They understand right away that they are not here to look for trouble. I jump. with pictures and videos. They come here to use the architecture around. I was a teenager who was successfully feeling good thanks to a sport he loved. She trusted me. And to be honest. that she started really understanding what I was doing. and it was always the same thing: "David. She thought I was training like a good boy. And when I saw all the things they were trying to cram in my head at school. nothing can hurt you. And yet I could tell that they wanted to break me. I was respectful with others and I didn’t bring the cops back home. there is no right time or day to practice. but she knew better that he knew what he was doing. but I did it to go training. When she saw you jump. At first. I sometimes came across her and I showed her a little jump or something. Do you think you could have become a delinquent without Parkour and your father’s teachings? 35 . my mother didn’t know about Parkour and the risks involved. David?" " I climb.doing jumps and somersaults. I would skip school every once in a while. I was just feeling good with it. explain what would be the use of it later on in life. I would find out later on in life. because she knew him better than anybody else. David?" I was always asked to justify myself when I didn’t want to. doing sports in the woods. to prevent me from doing Parkour. It’s only later on. I run. But when it comes to sports. Others could consider my father crazy. if any of it was of any importance at all. cheering each other up. That’s what my father tried to teach me." " What training. the school thing brought problems. Whenever she went shopping. And you shouldn’t pay attention to minor factors and other interfering elements along the way. The principal always caught me because he didn’t like it. I figured that. wasn’t your mother upset at your father for giving you such ideas? No.
I have to remind myself where I come from and all the efforts I put into Parkour when I was nobody and didn’t make a living. I can bang my knee on a piece of furniture and moan like a kid. If I hadn’t had such a strong thing as Parkour in my youth. who is strong both in his body and his mind. I could just have become an anonymous office worker. I was spending my time training. go out with girls. as if something was about to happen and I had to be prepared. I didn’t drink. At first. When you are outside and face obstacles. I was very proud of what I was doing. And if I was carried away by silly fantasies like "I want one million dollars right here right now". I would look at myself in the mirror with all my scratches and I had the feeling I knew where I was going. I tried to have realistic dreams. have fun. But of course. pushing me to go there. And if I wanted that money. At night. I always ended up telling myself that there were a lot of needy people out there who deserved it way more than I did. I had to earn it. When I was training real hard and managed difficult moves or jumps. I wouldn’t have improved the way I have. When friends invited me to parties.It’s hard to say. didn’t smoke. I needed my body to face real obstacles in order to have landmarks and know where I was going. I don’t know what I would have done with my life. At an age where teenagers go to parties. you know who you are. with my failure in school. I was concerned with becoming a good person. I was very careful with what I was eating. to deserve it. I needed to feel what’s real. When I was a kid. Even today. It was a vital need. So you had a very strict discipline of life… It’s true that Parkour gives you the taste for effort and a certain sense of discipline. the line to normality is very thin. I 36 . who loves life. I knew I would earn respect later on and people would respect me and see me as a good man. I was always in control. I had to deserve it and sweat tears and blood to get it. And I applied the same principle to Parkour: if I wanted to be good. Sometimes. getting to that point is everything but easy. I wasn’t supposed to cry over a pack of candies but over the fact that I couldn’t cross a set of buildings. Even if I didn’t do well in school. future didn’t look too bright but thank God Parkour brought me what I was looking for.
that I was able to make it. the man has already been shaped. and I never gave up. I tore the skin from my arm repeating a movement on a tree branch. You have to get rid of all the locks. you face yourself. as my father had taught me. When you lose your motivation and courage. life made me regret it right away by giving me a good lesson. How did you manage to keep this rhythm and not get discouraged? I was working on my willpower and determination. to show that I wanted to make it. It’s now you have to get in shape. change their routine. He doesn’t even take time to wonder if he wants it or not. to go and train in the woods. I would tell myself." To me.m. getting all upset. When I was getting upset in front of an obstacle I couldn’t cross. "Ok. Take athletes for instance. you wouldn’t be stuck here. He’ll just wake up and say. Forget about it…" So I took the challenge up. it’s almost too late. have a target and stick to it. No hesitation. I was bleeding like a pig but to me it was a test. kid. Sometimes. Even tired. when I was lazy. And I even ended up hurting myself.answered them: "Later on. pain is nothing. Actually. that’s when you feel the pain. A real athlete can wake up at any time. I ended up talking to obstacles as if they were looking at me and asking me to prove myself. With most guys. If you want to learn something. One day. But if you have trained and have absolute trust in yourself. for instance. We’ll have plenty of time to have fun but training is now. and you would have crossed it easily. you have to go into it. those obstacles are like mirrors: you work on yourself. no turning back. a guy who 37 . won’t wonder if it’s a test from the coach. if you had trained on this before. you have to have had a rough time of it. There are very few like them. as if the tree was telling me: "You won’t make it. If you don’t feel good in your head the physical pain will be sharper. I would get all worked up. David. completely." There was a time in Parkour when I imposed very difficult things on myself. "See. and always be ready. In order to know exactly what they are worth. putting myself in situations worse than boot camp. Parkour requires a total commitment. like waking them up at three a. A real athlete won’t think twice. let’s go. once you’re an adult. you have to tell them ahead of time that you are going to do a night outing in order to prepare and motivate them. But in order to always be ready like that." That kind of athletes aren’t too many.
When training. Music can help with Parkour. it puts energy to the movement and a specific rhythm in my course. some young are losing their head. Of course. rap music is my thing. It can help you put more energy into it. Personally. Life is short. 38 . In order to move swiftly in Parkour.has internalized the training of Parkour will always be better than another athlete who will hesitate because he doesn’t have the right shoes. because it rains or it’s cold or God knows what. you have to find your own internal metronome. but there is a good rhythm to take to move forward. There is a rhythm to do things. it’s like a metronome. To explain what it feels like. taking too much time arguing. you can’t master everything happening in your life.
in town. What would be the use outside. I felt like a lonesome gold digger who has found a goldmine. from training indoors and contests. but I could communicate with others and. in real life? Absolutely none. So I willingly walked away from those sports. I was putting a kind of protecting bubble around me because I knew all the other adults but my father would tell me things to stop me like. I wasn’t a good student. building a shell. sleeping in daytime during class. then four flips. be careful. To me. for competition. that was what really mattered. I was a bit worried because of my mother who had to face what people thought of it and negative comments about it from other adults. "Watch out. I trained until late at night. friends and other adults. I would have put an end to it all and I would have found myself completely lost. on concrete. But I was genuinely happy and didn’t have a problem with it. I knew I had found something with Parkour that would only bring me good things in life. you are not your father…" If I had listened to them. I also walked away from certain relatives. So that’s when I decided to drop out of school and my gym clubs along and put all my heart. Jumping from a building doing a back flip would just be dangerous and useless…" I didn’t see the point in carrying on with my training to manage three. And I was encouraged by what my 39 . without anything to make a living. I caught up the best I could. energy and time in Parkour. I would do Parkour all along the way to school or my gym club. After a while I realized I was much better off outdoors. I was purposely putting myself aside. After school. I was thinking: "What’s the point in doing back flips on a mattress? It won’t ever happen outside.GATHERING PACE When did you feel Parkour was your only way out in life? I had come to a point when it was my one and only reason to live and that was all I did. You were not afraid to drop out of school at 16? I know it may seem strange that I had such confidence at such a young age but I’ve never been worried about my future. And coming back as well. it was training for others. David. but not for me nor my life. to me. It felt to me like that was the real thing. And deep inside. Sure.
How did things go when friends came along with you on Parkour? At first I was on my own because it was important to me to find myself without any kind of help or anyone watching me." to anyone who wanted to train and was curious enough to find out more about Parkour. come over. I would say. "Ok. I had a driving force. the best reward was when an old man sitting on bench called out and say: "Hey. I was really proud. my brother Jean-François and some of my friends told me. I felt I was on the right path. raise their curiosity and make them understand what Parkour was all about and how to practice it. Going to bed at night and pondering about the jumps. I was open and didn’t consider Parkour a private property. I’ve been watching you for an hour and what you are doing is really great. Those guys usually gave up whatever sports they were in to come and train with me. video games. I would never let go. something deeper. football or hanging out. When others joined in. I tried to put some order in their desires. they kept coming back because they understood that Parkour could bring them more than the rest. But little by little. I truly had the feeling I had achieved something. I didn’t do that back when I was in the army…" I hadn’t even noticed the old man but he was there.father. I let them ask me questions the way my father had done with me. friends started getting interested and I wanted to share what I was living. a bit like a hunter in the Amazonian forest coming back to his tribe with a trophy and narrating how he had done it. And getting positive outside feedback made me stronger. And when they did. I always gave a chance to anyone. When I was doing Parkour. When I started training. kid. When I was sixteen or seventeen. a willpower. You were kind of challenging each other… We were looking for jumps and set our minds to it with our imagination. watching me. 40 . I was trying to see if they were following the right path. the teachings of my father. I knew what I was doing. I had to do the jump. even a young who didn’t have a sports background. and I knew why I was doing it. if they perceived things the way I did.
And I wouldn’t leave before I had managed to cross the obstacle. well. When a girl asks you to perform a jump just for her. that was inspiring. it was now or never. there is no plan. we’ll come back tomorrow." But I didn’t want to. In Parkour. So I would often find myself alone. My friends were not so sure and some would tell me: "Forget about it. you can tell he knows what he’s doing. no show. that was just the idea that came to her mind at that moment. my way. I was being yelled at. Of course. of course. just because there was a girl. Then you do it for wrong reasons. proud of myself: I had kept my word. A bit like the media asking you to do a jump again because they want spectators to be impressed. when I overheard a father tell his kid: "Look how this man moves. I wanted to prove to myself that it was the right way. it was genuine admiration. It’s kind of hard to do that when you are fifteen or sixteen because you want to show off with girls but it’s useless for the movement itself. he did his flip. but I wasn’t looking for it. Each time I said. I was hanging on to positive feedback. I would hear locals talk and I could tell they were more and more amazed. That’s what being real is all about. you waste your energy for nothing and the jump loses its all of its value and meaning. 41 . without paying attention whether girls were here or not. at all.even if it was the end of the day and it was getting dark. I didn’t do Parkour for cheers and applause. I waited until they were gone to pursue my training. I was happy and proud of myself. When girls were passing by in the street. It wasn’t "your kid’s stuff" anymore. he’s very careful with each movement". I would come back at eleven pm and. I did it and made it. When I managed to go through a difficult path. Instead of coming home at eight. But I was happy. "I can do it" or "I can make it". I had friends who waited for girls to pass by to do their flip and then just crashed. That taught me a good lesson and I asked my friend why he had waited one hour doing nothing and all of a sudden. that’s a trap. Did you like having an audience? No. I wasn’t looking for that at all. my friends being all gone. I wasn’t doing Parkour to show off because it wasn’t my thing. He ended up on his face. It’s not the girl who is bad. It would have been better to rehearse during that hour. It can even be disruptive. Sometimes. He would not even have noticed them and he would have made it.
I’ll watch a stuntman do his thing on TV or on a movie set and even if the guy has a great physical condition. when he lands. the first thing to do is to find out if you are able to cross it. Even if I hurt myself doing so. Then the last step is to do it well and fast. putting his little finger in the air like that. when you can make it. this is when Parkour becomes efficient. When you start putting emphasis on the aesthetic side and doing artistic figures. if his landing is good. you can start thinking about doing it well. If he learns to cross obstacles without hurting himself. There are three main rules in Parkour and that’s the priority: do it. do it well and do it fast and well. that’s what really matters. a discipline that has to bring something. he’s going to 42 . It’s not meant to be nice-looking but efficient. He may bite the bullet and won’t let anything show but once in his dressing room. Parkour is a hardcore sport. Practicing Parkour isn’t about fun.So there is no sense of aesthetics in Parkour? It’s of minor interest. Parkour has to be instinctive and natural first and foremost. climbing. my aim is to jump fast and well. I’m not trying to look nice. then he got it. Which means jumping across that gap that could mean death and land on the other side without hurting myself. I want people to think: "He trained and didn’t hurt himself. Then. a distraction. You mentally get ready by thinking you only have one minute left before the whole thing blows. Can I do the same movement in one minute only? By doing fast and well. getting back on my feet without any mental or physical injuries. with piercings everywhere. In Parkour. your attention is focused on the salto and you get rid of all the rest. Art is meant to be beautiful. When I move. I can tell right away if he hurt himself really good. it’s useless and even dangerous. who cares?! What matters is to know if I can save my life running as fast as I can and jumping from here to there. When looking at me." Sometimes. who cares? If a guy feels good when he jumps. green or purple hair or nice shoes. The rest. if the guy understands why he’s here. everything Parkour is about. It’s unnecessary. When you add acrobatics. When you are in front of an obstacle. How you achieve it. be beneficial. moving from point A to point B. before the roof collapses. which is jumping. the somersaults and pretty jumps are not necessary. why he’s doing these movements. if he puts style into it. that’s great. can I make it? And then.
They thought it sounded good for the media. afterwards. You can see me moving around Dame du Lac and in the streets. it was a kind of a recognition for all those years of hard work and training. I didn’t feel too good about it. Those images had also been seen by producers or directors who started different projects – shows. How did Parkour become such a phenomenon with youth? It all started with my brother Jean-François who brought a video tape of our training sessions to the TV show Stade 2 (a sports show on French Channel 2) at the end of the 90’s. commercials. We took different paths because we didn’t see things the same way. when a jump failed. I wasn’t going to prevent them – they were free to do what they wanted.grab his elbow and moan. Going to Channel 2. I agreed because I wanted more people to find out about this discipline and show our positive spirit. But as the media phenomenon grew bigger and bigger. they came to see us and did the shooting with my friends and I in Lisses. on the other hand. some of them didn’t have any recognition whatsoever regarding the origins of Parkour. I felt like something was being created that didn’t suit me and no one seemed to care about my father. It also brought splits and clashes among traceurs training with you… Groups started to form and others split away. But I wasn’t at all into Samurais or Ninja Turtles stuff. I wanted people to understand that this sport could be practiced in a group and enable the young to move about in a positive way. Jean-François came across journalist Francis Malto who watched the footage and said right away: "Ok. Some friends chose group names. when do we start the shooting?" One week later. Most people in the audience won’t realize but I can tell. Some were jealous because I had been put forward in the Stade 2 video. stage names. After it aired it raised a keen interested among a lot of young. My brother had asked us for footage to bring our sport some recognition. even on screen. movies – and this is what truly started the phenomenon as we know it today. Reports and amateur videos flourished and Parkour was brought to light. The only thing is. I didn’t look for it but. They acted as if my father’s heritage and what I had brought had never existed. the audience. They 43 .
if there had been some recognition of my father’s input. But back then. it felt like Raymond Belle had been erased and all my work had been useless. what was behind this discipline. Some even went as far as pretending that crossing obstacles has always 44 . then it could have worked. I didn’t expect at all that some of them would have the audacity to claim the genesis of Parkour. They didn’t grasp certain things. but none of them did what Raymond Belle did. the real reasons and true meaning and values I was putting in Parkour< So you felt cheated somehow… Absolutely. I didn’t want to give up. when they went home. They thought they had made it when Parkour had actually just begun. I went out again and trained two more hours. getting his kicks by jumping all over the place and his father was a fire fighter. I was naively thinking my father would be put forward but people acted as if he didn’t even exist. I think I made a mistake not speaking up at the very beginning of the popularization of Parkour by the media. I realized there was a big problem and it wasn’t taking us anywhere. They were talking nonsense to journalists. If my friends had been fair and honest. I withdrew even more. Parkour was closely connected to a story – my story. shows and interviews.didn’t give a damn about Parkour. I just couldn’t. I only got some rest when I slept. At night. Parkour was only starting to be known and people had already lost its true meaning. When I saw how they behaved. To me. Talking about him or me wasn’t my thing. My father was the word and I was the action. as if the discipline had been developed by each of them. none of them had had his training nor mine. But very few indeed knew or understood the origin of it all. the fathers of some of them were sportsmen or in the military. Some went even as far as saying that their own father had taught them Parkour! Of course. I made a mistake not telling the whole story of my father and what Parkour meant to me deep inside. I felt like they were taking a hold of the origins of Parkour. I knew it had taken me three years to perfect such or such jump and they acted as if they could perform it overnight. For many young who joined Parkour or journalists coming for interviews. And when the media started getting more and more in touch with them. I was just David. all they wanted was fame. I let them do their movies.
I’ve been to schools teaching martial arts. we know your stuff. It was a way to chill out. Some came and trained with me for years and did get the spirit of Parkour. but no one ever did it Parkour style. but no one has ever developed a technique to move about your surroundings. it doesn’t bother me. skate boarding or even climbing walls. I realized after a while that they didn’t do the things I was looking for in Parkour anymore. to cross urban obstacles the way I have developed it with my father.existed and since the mists of time. doing a bit of athletics. it was baloney. I wouldn’t have developed Parkour. Then they moved on and created their own structure and went some way with it. just for fun. gymnastics and martial arts. they didn’t have the same mindset anymore.everything the young liked at the time – but I personally thought it was useless. on the contrary! Even when we drew apart with friends who had come to train with me. break dance. It turns into a show and that’s not what Parkour is about. Sure. you must be glad that Parkour is acknowledged and developing… I don’t refuse Parkour to develop. a freestyle spirit. and none of the students knew how to do what I did. street sports have developed like BMX. it looks good and spectators love it but with saltos and other nice figures. This is great for the development of our discipline. man. I didn’t want to waste my time working on a salto like this or that because I knew in a real life situation. During some trainings. I’ve been around the globe and never found anyone telling me: "Hey. Everywhere in cities. I would just be David Belle. Not even in India. to relax and unwind. 45 . like a soccer player who is going to do a somersault after scoring. After watching some participants. public shows or movies. If it hadn’t been for my father. But still. it was going downhill. the movements are not the same anymore. we’ve been doing it before! Nobody. Sure. basketball. Man has always moved around in his environment. but that’s it. But others didn’t understand Parkour at all. Some brought a fun side to it. like Stéphane Vigroux who created Parkour Generations in England. after the Parkour. When I was training with some friends. they sometimes put all their energy working on something freestyle . I’m not saying I didn’t do acrobatics myself – I did – but it was after training.
It’s useless and virtual. their arrogance spurred me on to do even better and show them how much I liked this discipline and how I did it. they soon realized how hard it was and that it was really my thing. go outside and move!" To me. I have to admit that it was also a mistake to put some acrobatics in my first videos but when I did those demos.I wouldn’t have time to do it. it was to ignite a spark and have the young start thinking. When I did acrobatics. it’s an achievement when someone feels like going in the street. We should be motivated by the love of sports. It looked like I was having fun doing it but truth was I did it for a specific reason: I was working on the basics. climbing. no matter what you do out there – as long as it’s for a good reason. Those did Parkour for wrong reasons. Hence their failure. jumping. 46 . the public got confused and started mixing it all up. they couldn’t cross obstacles. It is very important to me to put an emphasis on the fact that Parkour is no sport of nutcases jumping over buildings and taking insane risks to show off. I was improving my perception of space and distances< When others trained with me. "Hey. that’s what really matters. working out< It’s so much better than staying inside three hours playing video games. But with what was being shown by freestylers or acrobatics lovers. Actually. I don’t know why he’s doing it but he makes me want to put my sneakers on. not challenge or competition. I was actually training in depth. They wanted to be stronger than David Belle instead of doing Parkour for themselves. Some felt frustrated because they didn’t succeed right away. Others were upset because they felt physically stronger and yet. but they had a tendency to forget that I had repeated the movement five hundred times before. Go outside into the real world. Some didn’t understand why I could do things they couldn’t.
Even if it is kind of crazy to jump from one building to another. It’s almost in spite of me that I dealt with danger. this is kind of crazy. If I were insane. What do you rely on when you jump very high? Luck. It’s as if someone wanted to learn boxing and was stunned because he got a broken nose. On the contrary. at some point. huh?" No. And the only way is through practice and self-confidence. I would already be in a lunatic asylum.DANGER Do you get excited by danger? No. all the years of training to get there. shouldn’t come to Parkour. Others call me insane with a death wish or other things like that. I told myself that. In my head. I had to be ready. I know what pain is and it is not something I’m looking for. I know what I’m doing. You don’t come to Parkour thinking there is no danger or risk to be hurt – there is. what it feels like. I don’t stop in the middle of a jump thinking. I’ve been hurt all over my body and I know what it feels like to have a broken arm. Those who don’t want to get a bit hurt. the help of God or your physical abilities? I believe in my work. When I manage a difficult jump. "Hey. it helps me be even more confident and accurate with my movements. I know about the speed and energy I have to put into a successful jump. To overcome that. it never excited me. height. people congratulate me as if I had achieved something impossible but the truth is. I flirted with it just to know what it felt like. a bit like someone who’s going to get cut to know what it’s like. you have to protect yourself from that craziness. who don’t want to have scratched hands. I know the steps I went 47 . I was even very uncomfortable with it when I was a kid – danger or void. a wheelchair or dead because someone insane isn’t afraid of anything and is not aware of danger and could jump from just about anywhere. They don’t see all the previous jumps. At the beginning I may have lacked experience or maturity but I have always been very aware of danger and the risks I was taking. should anything happen. But I have the notion of distance. it’s all about work. but not necessarily looking for pain.
I look ahead and information come on their own. you have the energy and the dynamics to keep going right away. I feel a transformation. When you jump. I know I went through them all and therefore I am confident. And that’s also what Parkour is about: managing to develop the instinctive reflexes of your body. How do you do to gauge the danger or know if a jump is possible? Focus and observation are very important. The body knows how to protect itself instinctively: when you fall.through to get there. If you move according to what you have in your head. You don’t think about it: you just do it. let your mind go and your body follows. I flex and move a bit forward. now. you mentally get to it and the movement has to follow – basically. you have the instinctive reflex to put your hand up to protect yourself. a guy who is standing a bit backwards gives his opponent the information that he is scared but if he puts his head down in his fists 48 . You observe the obstacle. as if a veil in front of my eyes and my brain was lifted: I can see lines and distances in my head. When you jump. It’s pushing forward the natural response of the body… Absolutely. your movements lose energy. in every sense of the term. the aim is to get back on your feet. you put your arm forward and when someone tries to punch you in the face. run and jump again right away. The aim of Parkour is to never suffer. you are already focused towards the next obstacle and when you roll on a landing. When I get ready for a jump. In a boxing fight. I can encompass everything in every direction like a chameleon. As soon as I get started. If a guy thinks that he is going to stop right after his jump is going to let his guard down and get hurt. I don’t need to ask myself: "Ok. you move fast and well. how far is that jump?" I know it from the data sent by my body. Movement in Parkour is a matter of attention. And it’s those dynamics that prevent you from getting hurt and have impacts on your body. You should not forget that Parkour is a sequence of obstacles. I don’t stand still and upright. I have a very accurate and efficient vision thanks to Parkour. On the contrary. your movement is better. both about myself and my jump. If you stop running in the middle of it.
It’s being stuck at some point and thinking to yourself. I take a risk so when I tell my body "Do it. you get your first big sensations when you reach a height where you know you can break your leg or. such jumps that you could break yourself. Mum. Can you have fun even with a small jump? Absolutely! I can have fun doing Parkour one foot off the ground as well as thirty or fifty. You learn to cross a lot of obstacles when learning Parkour but you must be aware of your abilities and your level." It’s seeing an obstacle from a distance and realizing that you can cross it with some practice. It’s like giving a four-wheeler to someone used to driving a compact: very soon. if you miss. "Hey. Like automatic piloting." By dint of training. cross rivers. you start thinking "Wow!" but this is when self-confidence and work come into play. It’s the same with my body. I know I can 49 . I saw guys who were not 100% into it.and moves forward. but the kid has to answer: "I know what I’m doing. It’s not height but the way that matters. get off the road and go on small dirt paths. he’s going to ask himself "What can I do with it?" And soon he is going to understand that he can go out of his urban setting. jump!". I know I have all the data and I know exactly what I’m doing. I reached that maturity and was able to tell my mother: "Trust me". Little by little. Jumping involves taking decisions. I know I can jump from one roof to another without falling. It’s being in one spot and tell yourself you can reach that other one in a specific amount of time. there is no other way out. In Parkour. And I know myself better than you ever will. if I went this way and then that way. he’ll be able to encompass the capabilities of his car and he’ll know where he can go with it. I can understand a mother’s worries when she sees her kid doing Parkour and thinks he’s crazy and going to fall. it’s a real proof of maturity: with a jump. You have to be there in Parkour. You have to know yourself thoroughly before you reach such heights. Of course. not only does he give the information that he is ready to fight but he also has a better stance to perceive things and anticipate his opponent’s moves. In front of a huge gap. now I know exactly what I can do with it. they jumped but there whole body or mind wasn’t to what they were doing whereas it should be exactly the other way around. maybe there’s a way out. Thanks to Parkour.
it’s impossible to drop it. of course. when I was facing a difficult jump. huh?"» That’s why I preferred jumping alone or with people I could trust. Those who end up making great jumps have felt the urge to talk about it at some point because they are impressed themselves and proud. I was torn between the David saying. You must have an absolute faith in yourself or you can never go forward in life. no wind can throw me off balance. Parkour brought you here and you have to go across". the spring. You are being smart by knowing your level and refusing a jump and not follow someone who actually has the ability to do it. Can you decide not to jump if it’s too difficult? Of course! Parkour is also about knowing your limits. Someone who shows off and boasts all the time. you want to test him and tell him to show what he can actually do< And most of time. I know. I think. I know it. that’s kinda high and doesn’t look so easy. "I’m going to take it and put it right there". Nothing can twist or shoot me. ready to perform the jump that will change things. With Parkour. Sometimes. If I feel confident. but you have to walk away from that. If you drop the glass. you mustn’t play with your life. then there won’t be any problem. "It’s your way. Some people have a tendency to listen to their friends and get caught on a little game of going better than everybody else. It’s the same when I take a glass on a table and put it back: I don’t ask myself if it’s going to break or not. Without asking myself any question. That’s my philosophy. and the other David who thought. in order not to have peer pressure. "Well. And I have the same certainty with a jump. thinking about something else. if I’m focused and have the speed. when taking the glass. I do it. the strength. Guys who swagger and brag too much about Parkour may have to perform a jump to save someone one day and they will find themselves bloody 50 . If. And that’s when it becomes very dangerous. they make fools of themselves. you shouldn’t be looking for an outstanding performance. I have far more respect for guys who don’t show off and brag around and about. I’ve never overestimated my strength. it’s because you were not focused – you were talking.do it again. The most important thing is to be ready. It’s noxious and you mustn’t play with that. You drop things when you are not focused on what you are doing.
climb in a natural way. I jump because this is what my life is all about. Parkour is not about becoming a super hero. It doesn’t interest me. I made videos for producers and advertising agencies to give them ideas and have them want to work with me. I’ve had minor incidents little sprung ankles. There was a time when you typed David Belle on a search engine and nothing showed up. They do it for the show. If they had done it for a good reason. At first. it’s more about yourself. We know it can enable us to save lives should anything happen. but nothing too serious. Nowadays. With Parkour. it’s vital to me. I haven’t sustained a significant injury. for themselves and not for the camera disturbing their mind. And it enables us to surpass and improve ourselves both physically and mentally but it doesn’t turn us into aliens. not bluffing. you have to be real. Most accidents occurring nowadays are due to filming. No. If you get into filming or photography. like someone trapped on a balcony when a building is on fire. hurt knees. it’s 51 . They jump just for the camera. I may have triggered the whole thing by showing what I was doing at first but I didn’t w ant that. I didn’t want any photos or video. waiting for something to happen either. one shouldn’t feel invincible either… Of course. Parkour is not on the net. stitches. everything is out there. jump. Have you ever been hurt jumping? In twenty years. But those videos ended up on the net. It means you jump to show off and brag. it takes place outdoors. you already alter the spirit of Parkour. and it wasn’t my idea. it would not have happened. Once again. They know they are going to be on YouTube and they are going to be admired. I just wanted to train for the sake of training and not jump because someone was watching or asking me. There are even some guys who never jumped before but they are going to do it because they want to impress their buddies. And that’s when they fall. we are only human after all. But you don’t spend your life on roofs. It doesn’t teach you to fly or gives you Superman or Spiderman powers.stupid they can’t make it because the jump is three feet higher than what they are used to doing. It’s just a discipline enabling you to pass obstacles.
she was going to get in trouble! She couldn’t care less that I could hurt myself. I just told myself that I would come back at three am. Did you have problems with people living in the buildings? At first.just about self-awareness. And on top of it. five or six of us running. she is the one who tripped on a step< She didn’t fall but I still told her: "Watch your steps. when the guy was sleeping. People shouldn’t worry: when someone is doing Parkour outside. you can walk on no problem. I’m not a relative of yours. Like people learning to perform heart massage and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and they get their first aid diploma: they don’t feel like they have turned into doctors but yet. I thought that with all her years serving God. I was getting ready to jump from the wall of a church in Evry and she chewed me out. she kept on. Of course. saying that if I fell. Sir. for God’s sake! She. you don’t have anything to do here" and so on. Sister!" Had she been nice to me. I even found myself at odds with a nun. jumping< I often came across very hostile people when all I was doing was train in a positive way. Some people told me: "Get out of here. should have understood that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. he knows what he is doing. Most people out there are not necessarily aware of that. I wasn’t a thug going to tag the wall of her church. Some didn’t accept that I moved around in their environment. I would call rescuers right away. If I step back from your path. I stayed and did my thing regardless. I didn’t feel like talking and having to justify what I was doing. out of anybody else. One time. he can address Parkour practitioners. to improve. But here. 52 . they know that should anything happen. so it’s my own business…" But most of the time. they’ll be able to assist. Quite ironically. it’s none of your business. without anything else in my mind. she would have seen in my eyes I wasn’t bad. A nun. and I simply answered: "But I’m not disturbing you. I would have left. he knows the risks and acts accordingly. If someone has a problem. people didn’t understand what I was doing on their roofs or balconies. if I saw a little kid fooling around on the edge of a six-stories building. instead of caring for me. And it became worse when the group size increased and it was four. climbing. And if I break a leg.
being a cop means representing 53 . So they always ended up telling us to stop what we were doing and go play elsewhere. So I answered that if one day you have to run from a fire. to brag around. To me. For heaven’s sake we were not dressed in black wearing masks and carrying tools in backpacks! Jeans and sneakers were our only tools! There were only a handful of times when cops understood what we were doing and let us do it." and so on. wear a uniform or impose the respect they never got when younger. or go home because people were sleeping< We were not always aware of how late it was nor the noise we were making. Training with several people can be disturbing for the neighbourhood because of the noise when we make comments on our jumps or shoes slipping on the walls. There were fishy things going on next door but we were the ones they picked on when we were nice and never offended anyone. Most of the time. We naively assumed that people understood we were not thieves and just training. "What are you doing here at 3 am? You shouldn’t be out here. There was no exchange. They wouldn’t even look at us in the eyes when they asked us our ID papers. Most of them chose to become cops for wrong reasons – to carry a weapon. To them. if we were courteously asked to move on. we would. we were in our own little world. they just couldn’t make the difference between young who wanted to do fishy things and young who were training. And whenever cops got any interest in what we were doing. Cops have a big ego issue and they use and abuse their power when all they should be doing is protect the weak and needy. they gave us a hell of a bad time.And how did things go with the police? I have had my ID checked a million times – sometimes even several times in one night. The same questions regarding why we were out on a school night or why we were wearing jeans when we were supposed to practice sports always came back. And each time it was the same fuss. like. I have to admit that we sometimes had a rebel and know-it-all attitude that could get on the cops’ nerves. Gimme your papers. you won’t necessarily be dressed in sports clothes and you have to know how to move and jump with a pair of jeans. we were nu mbers only. our Parkour. Most of the time. in our bubble. We were so into our thing that we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. and so on. But cops didn’t respect us as human beings.
They get there right away. maybe one day I’ll save his daughter climbing to his balcony and he won’t even know it was me training the other night because he never took time to discuss and get to know me. with their sirens on and they are very aggressive. Did city councils or officials try to prevent you from practicing? At the beginning. we never encountered any problems with city councils or officials. well. We don’t do any harm and yet people are reluctant. we become paranoid and stressed out and it rubs off on every single one of us. And the guy who called. I’m pretty sure very soon will see sign popping up everywhere to forbid access to traceurs the way skaters have been forbidden from some places. but it’s not the case. 54 . all they hear is weird guy and don’t question it. Nowadays people don’t care about anything anymore and make judgements without knowing. I’m sure if tomorrow I invented a flying eco-friendly car. In France. So it is disturbing. and not play cowboy or the strongest guy on the block. it’s as if they wanted to prevent us from singing in the street! When I started Parkour. We are just moving around in a different way. I thought I was free. But other cities are considering forbidding climbing or jumping from some places. I couldn’t use or market it. people lock themselves in their homes whereas there are countries where doors are open and nothing is being stolen. Over here. a criminal or a drug dealer< What kind of a system are we living in where you see that some people can take us for criminals and shoot us just because we are running on a rooftop?! How is it possible that some people can’t even make the difference between a young looking for trouble and a young just practicing his sport? Do I have to wear a t-shirt saying I’m not a thief?! There was also the issue of how dangerous your sport is. we are taught to beware of everyone. Some cities like Lisses are in favour of Parkour because it brings an economical activity to the place and keeps the young busy.law and order and be modest. A guy walking on a wall has to be a crook. Today it’s different. The whole system and mentalities alike are so hard to change. It’s insane: they want to prevent our freedom of movement. without following the ribbon of asphalt laid out for the common run of people. When a bozo calls the cop telling them there’s a weird guy climbing on the walls outside.
I never developed it hoping to please people and have them tell me. My father passed something on to me that can be useful and help others. we are still prevented from doing what we want to. politics and lobbies would not allow it. he’ll go on with his work. "Whoa. And when I see them again today. I know for sure. And then. If tomorrow the whole and entire world tells me that it sucks big times and it’s useless. they will tell people to ask around if there’s a Parkour practitioner to help out. your stuff is out of this world!" But deep inside of me. And even if we prove to be mature and sensible. and show them I’m not bad because I climb walls or jump from roof to roof. they have a smile on their face talking about Parkour and telling me all the good it did to them. They want to put fences around us like you would for babies in the stairs. put on some good music and go to India or China without even questioning it. I’m sure in the future when fire fighters are called for little matters like a cat in a tree. and that’s all that matters to me. Getting Parkour some recognition from the media can help. Parkour practitioners will be the first to help and rescue people. Even a small guy sweeping the street could climb a façade one day to save a kid if he followed the teachings of Parkour. I remember ten-year-old kids who asked me to help them climb on Dame du Lac. But it’s just be impossible because the system. as if nothing had happened and parents looking at him with a dropping mouth. I did help them because I was comfortable enough that I didn’t need to pay attention to my own movements and I could safely help them out. And for practitioners alike it’s also very beneficial. Starting clubs and organizations can also help parents and authorities feel more secure about it.It would be so nice. instead of waiting three hours in an airport to just take your flying car with your buddies. I know the value of Parkour. Is there a way to change things? I don’t know. People have to understand what Parkour is about. deep inside. 55 . because fire fighters have other more important things to take care of. that it’s not true. Some of those kids really got the bug and practiced for several years. I’ll keep on smiling because I’ll know. I often wondered how I could change this negative vision people have.
except that it’s politically more correct. They need to express themselves but they don’t have any way to do so. but it doesn’t make them thugs. the current situation is not going to change. As long as their environment doesn’t change. As long as there won’t be a solution to listen to them. People are racist but they hide their hatred and intolerance behind this suburb word. suburbs will remain areas of trouble. they are not going to change either. there’s a kind of racism and rejection in the word suburb . They respect others and urban structures and they help each other. The solution would be to raze it all to the 56 . to give them opportunities for a better world. It can also help them channel their energy but it may not necessarily be enough. when concrete buildings block the horizon. and it’s convenient for them. those Arabs".PASSING THE BATON Do you think the philosophy of Parkour can bring something positive to the young living in suburbs? We are already starting to initiate and train youth workers dealing with young with problems to Parkour. Media and people usually mix up those young – the majority – and a small number of individuals who wants to be heard and does damages. because that’s what is readily available and it’s going to be highly visible. Teenagers can understand a lot of things thanks to Parkour and it can bring them positive values. no matter their ethnical background. it’s another way to say "those Blacks. suburbs of big cities are usually underprivileged". but what does it mean exactly? To me. you know you can’t accept your situation. And things often get out of control because they have no other solution to be heard since they are non-existent in the public eye. "young from the suburbs" (in France. When you live in a cage. They have their own suburban way of talking. you already know that he is going to rebel. And as long as the outside look on them doesn’t change. There are suburbs where there are no problems except for a few punks who do not respect anything or anyone. Before a guy is even born into one of those dirty suburbs. When some people talk about "the youth from the suburbs". they wear suburban clothing. That’s why they burn cars. But most of the young people are good guys. There’s a common expression. Or they are going to break something because it will make noise and they will be heard.
If architects. – I think they would also become very angry and turn into "young from the suburbs". it’s just an instinct. The only thing I have to give is what my father gave me. If you have enough energy. I send him straight back home. If he only wants to do saltos and spins. Some guys dream of a career like mine without really knowing if it’s the right path for them or not. How do you expect the young to respect that? The place itself doesn’t inspire respect. any artistic job. If he wants to do videos or movies. "Would I want to live here?" . He comes to learn the basis. And when a young tells me he screwed up. Some even show up hoping I will help them out and pull strings for them to work in the movie industry.ground and rebuild it anew. He can become an actor. never mind. I don’t want to know. You don’t even think about it. I almost feel like telling him that he didn’t screw up. Suburban architecture was a failure from the start. They just happen to live there. It feels like rabbit cages< That’s an incentive to do stupid things. And the young are not responsible for those buildings.m. "Those young. then I tell him to do gymnastics or freerun – everything but Parkour. you just want to destroy those cages. How does it work when a youth comes to you to learn Parkour? The first thing is to figure out why the kid came to see me. I had to sweat blood and tears to find out what my path was. it’s the place that’s screwed up. you do it for 57 . Everybody says. they do this or that because of what it could bring them. why he wants to learn Parkour. an acrobat. or become a fire fighter or a rescuer. If there’s an aim behind Parkour. if they had just wondered. politicians and so-called smart people had thought about it before building those bloody concrete structures. then it’s not good. and that’s it. I try to find his real motivation. what made him want to move. they have to learn respect…" But did they respect us when they built those things? Nope. With Parkour. I don’t want to know what he’s going to do with it. And I’m sure that if wealthy kids were put to live in the suburbs in the same conditions – dirty hallways and elevators. When I teach Parkour to a young. stinking staircases and neighbours playing music super loud at three a. People are always driven by interest: they do such and such job because it brings them so much money. I always turn them down because I’m not an employment agency. then maybe things wouldn’t be what they are today.
how he lands and what his reflexes are like. if he masters the technique. I can make a diagnosis like a doctor with a patient. The aim of the game is that we all get to the end of a session. hips. And you have to forget about everything that gravitates around it because that’s what destroys the spirit of it. When young trainees come to see me and give me videos telling me to check out what they are doing. who fight and learn so much along the way. every link in the chain of Parkour. But if a youth comes to me and says he just want to train and learn to move his body in his environment. we just check his medical background – that he doesn’t have any problems with his back. I just can’t deal with guys who do Parkour because they saw videos on the internet and thought it was kinda cool and want to do even better. I can’t teach Parkour to someone who wants to make a lot of dough or be better than his buddies. Parkour is about training to be better. Sometimes. if he has self-confidence. To me. What I’m interested in is what the guy’s got in his head. to gain self-confidence and not to compete with others. My father would never have behaved like that. Anyone can start training for Parkour. I just take the tape and throw it away. But you can’t tell in advance who’s going to be gifted or 58 . there are only people who start from scratch. I even push him to see how he reacts. Every individual has to train according to his or her own morphology. then ok. being appreciated was better than a golden belt. When a youth comes to practice. except for a basic medical check-up. any broken bones and so on. I know from the start they will do Parkour for a couple of years and then move on to something else – skating or skiing< Parkour will be an entertainment to them but they won’t have understood the true spirit of this sport. heart. When I’m dealing with skilled athletes. To him. It give me an idea about his balance and how he moves. not the best. Not necessarily at the same time nor in the same fashion. but we all get there. in this sport. Are there any physical requirements to practice Parkour? No. if he has understood the principles of Parkour. I check his basic physical abilities. The principle of Parkour is to know what you are capable of.yourself and yourself only. like asking him to stand on one leg or stand on a small wall. I start getting interested. When there’s a newcomer. who will be able to understand every step. vertebras.
I’m not here to say. to say that they trained with David Belle. A tall guy may think it’s going to be easy because his size is going to help him reach the top of a wall more easily but a shorter guy will have to develop a true Parkour technique to reach the top of that wall. It’s an unavoidable rule. you have to do it at least three times to be sure you can actually do it. It’s the way that really matters. show me their way. "Poor guy!". Physique doesn’t matter in Parkour. Then. 59 . In other words. your abilities and your limitations. It got on the nerves of some guys who came training with me but that’s the only way to improvement. "Do this or do that". your own way of moving. go over what you’ve done before. When you come for training. Even if it means doing the same jump fifty or a hundred times. And he feels good. When you make a jump. Do it the hard way and stop lying to yourself. There’s no miracle: whoever is willing finds the means." The only advice I can give is train. your style. When a trainee’s got it all – the speed. Therefore he’ll have a more efficient impulse than the guy who just raised his arms. and train again.not. It’s an exchange. you’ll have to learn with your own technique. train. When a kid moans and groans and tells me he can’t do such a jump because he doesn’t have the right shoes. someone can manage a jump one time but it doesn’t mean anything. With Parkour. I’d rather see them move in their own way. Do you give a lot of advice? I give basic advice but people have to be able to develop their own technique the way I did when I started. not someone else. Guys shouldn’t come for me. When a young person asks me: "Can you show me how to do this?" I simply answer: "No. It can be luck or chance. he knows he is good at what he is doing and it shows on his face. the one who isn’t willing finds excuses. You are going to learn to be yourself. They have to go and look for what my father gave me. I often say. He erased his handicap thanks to Parkour. But when they see him doing Parkour. their way of seeing him changes drastically. people stare and say. And each time. you have to train. I don’t expect them to do exactly what I’m doing. I know of a very short guy who moves in Parkour in an incredible way! When he walks on the street. "Once is never". I tell him to give me his shoes and I do the jump. I am going to show you how I do it.
a kid trapped somewhere< It’s as if this emergency state enables me to unlock something in my brain and all of a sudden my vision of the surrounding environment is altered. When I was training for Parkour. a bit like mothers who find an incredible strength to rescue their child when there’s an emergency. I will just go for it. even if he tells you he’s not afraid. I make him do a precision jump one foot off the ground and he has to 60 . something about to blow up. if he finds himself one day with five pit bulls chasing him. When a guy stops and asks too many questions about where to put his feet or hands. Laziness sometimes prevents the jump but most of the time it’s fear. I alone take the decision.the spring. I have a more acute perception of things. finding good reasons to do it. I believe a beginner won’t make big jumps right away? Absolutely no. instead of talking about that jump for an hour like he just had. I can tell him that. I won’t really be eager to go. Motivation is the key to everything in life. I will still kick his ass. then yes. But if my mother is being attacked right behind that guy. And so there’s an instant connection between their willpower. Talking about difficult jumps and fear of void. a relative to rescue. I’ve already been across the obstacle. A fire. the technique – he can do the jump. he won’t think twice and will go for it. You don’t take someone thirty feet above the ground right away. To motivate a guy. what kind of technique should be used to overcome that? You can fight fear by putting yourself mentally in an emergency state. If I have to fight a big guy with no good reason. They don’t think about it when they do it – they don’t ask themselves if they are going to be able to do it or if they have enough strength or if their child is going to die< Their only thought is to rescue their child. My strength is multiplied. their energy and their actions. The same applies to Parkour. I can see ways that others don’t and fear is gone. Training has to lead to an instinctive reaction. I came up with a million stories to surmount difficult obstacles. That’s how I work. And he can be the strongest guy in the universe.
Some are readily accessible and can make you believe you made it through. if he has the stamina to do the jump. It’s not a contest. I went with my father’s advice – I had a mental guide in a way. And when you can hold it for three or four minutes and feel comfortable with it. There is no magic nor miracles in Parkour. If not. Sometimes you can find yourself in Parkour hanging with one arm so you have to train to face that but you are going to start hanging with one arm six or seven feet off the ground. 61 . I’m filming! You’ll see. Nowadays youth should be able to get over this ego problem and stop being like. he should be talked out of doing it. I realize now it’s better to be with someone. And it doesn’t matter if you didn’t manage a jump another friend did. see if their friend has the right spring or not. You have to work and get tough. with a perfect mastery of all the physical elements and outside factors like wind. In the end. You have to listen to your body and don’t let others influence your judgement when they push you to jump but you don’t feel like it. I’ll do a great montage so just jump!" It’s absolutely stupid and reckless. those who have been training the way I have for ten or twenty years. without pondering for hours. You have to go through that with Parkour and never move on to a more difficult level before you are absolutely sure you can do again the same previous jump." I’m limping but I’ll still do it". It should never be forgotten that Parkour offers different levels. Practitioners have to look after each other.repeat it twenty times. What matters the most is to do it step by step. Can a practitioner train on his own? Doing Parkour alone is dangerous. you can increase the height little by little. You’re dead or in a wheelchair. You sure don’t start with pull-ups one hundred and fifty feet off the ground! If you fail after twelve pull-ups. When I was a beginner. you must be able to perceive those elements without difficulty. the same previous movement. I am extremely cautious with chance. then I know it’s for real. The only thing you’ll get out of it is a cast for weeks or worse. rain or even oil on the ground. But if the guy can do it twenty times in a row. you’re done with. as well as a level for experts only. I saw guys who had never done Parkour before take their camera and tell kids: "Go ahead and jump. Everyone can score a basket or throw a knife on a target once by chance.
But a fireman who jumps to rescue a little girl caught in a fire won’t say a word and won’t get a bonus for doing his job. volunteers and so on. One day. With my brother Jean-François and other Parkour followers we try to organize things properly but it takes time and. In general. And I was even recently asked by a SWAT team in Belgium.Parkour teaching is underdeveloped in France. fire fighters often ask you for advice… Absolutely. Are you trying to do something about it? It’s hard because it requires a lot of coordination with many things. city halls. It could be used for national or international seminars or even for the movie industry to give stuntmen training in Parkour. It also requires training structures to teach basics and nothing is really suited for that at the moment. I personally won’t teach large groups. Another way to gain recognition is to prove the usefulness of Parkour. My hope is to convince sponsors and patrons to help us because only them have the means to help and support the development of a sport like Parkour. For instance. My experience with Parkour might enable fire fighters to be even more efficient in their job but that’s all. I’m not interested. many people. I often go to the Fire Fighters Squad of Paris to give advice to young firemen. above all. What matters to me is to know that thanks to Parkour. one day. many public institutions. it requires money. My wish is to see it develop especially among professions involving danger. And I’m not bragging about it. I have far more respect for jobs saving lives than jobs where guys strut about in a suit and tie. he’ll cry like anybody else. I have a deep respect and I don’t show off because a young fireman may jump less far than I do but he saves lives on an almost daily basis. I met some of them in the movie industry like Luc Besson who offered a piece of land on his site of Saint Denis (north of Paris) to build up a structure dedicated to Parkour. When I go to lecture the firemen of Paris and talk about my work. districts. a fire fighter might be able to get out of a dangerous situation or catch up a ladder if he slips. a 62 . I would like to set up a big training centre. A guy can only be so proud because his company has two hundred employees and a good turnover but the day he goes bankrupt.
and probably better than I did or ever would do so I had to find my own professional path. there is no time to do it in the army. And when someone bragged about achieving the obstacle course. soldiers were more motivated to go to the local bar than back to the gym to train some more. to prepare someone to jump from a height without a cord. breaking the regiment’s record in rope-climbing the same way he did. It’s when people like that ask me to teach them Parkour that I think what I’ve done and what my father taught me has become meaningful. I just think that I didn’t want to live my father’s life: he had already done it all. It’s the same thing with a boxer who always fought with gloves and another one who fought bare fist on the streets. I didn’t feel anything glorious about it. Even if he looks physically less apt because he didn’t spend hours doing push ups. then it’s worth it. he’ll be stronger in his head and that’s what really matters in the end. it was nothing. I couldn’t feel proud about crawling in a pipe under a road because compared to what I had been doing back home. While I was doing my military service. 63 . I realized that my father had already done it all. he knows he has a real strength in him. Compared to my Parkour training. because I never had the drive. It takes time.lieutenant told me: "If Parkour can save one or two of our men. If a guy jumps once without safety features." It will bring them more self-confidence. I remember turning the lights of the big gymnasium back on in the evening and training rope-climbing on my own. he might fail on his first big jump because there will be no safety harnesses or ropes out there and he’ll completely freak out. What about you: have you ever considered joining the fire fighters or the army? No. When I was with the fire fighters. steps. more freedom of movement and maybe remove some stress and they will be more efficient. I told him it was bullshit and should he find himself in a real warlike situation. And most of the time. in the army or with the firemen. When I was walking in his footsteps. army felt like an amusement park.
People ask for my advice and expertise to set up a scene. is this a childhood dream? Not really. I went through heaps of jobs where I was asking myself what I was doing there. I feel that I have found my place in acting and choreography. The job that I thought was cool when I was younger. it’s my domain. I can help and it’s the best. Before I got into film.DISTRICT 13: THE REVELATION Is the cinema/movies an achievement for Parkour? I’m not sure yet if it’s an achievement. I know why I am here today. and film is without a doubt one of the best solutions to this desire of freedom. that would have pleased me. I told myself all my training was serving no purpose. When I was looking at a security screen sitting on a couch for 8 hours. I always answered: “I want to live”. was working for travel companies. I don’t have to do a big jump for them to prove that I’m David Belle. or that put me in a permanent state of stress. I didn’t search for a job that would necessarily earn me lots of money. I wanted a job to be harmonious with who I am. But one thing was always clear: I couldn’t picture a career that forced me to do long hours of study. Travelling to different countries on the other side of the planet. I feel my training in Parkour finally brings the goods. but serve to keep people dreaming. 64 . like medicine. visiting the best destinations and tasting local delicacies. They have confidence in me. but doing movies is the best thing that has happened to me in relation to Parkour. When I was little and was asked what I wanted to do. my way of being a wanderer and not fixed to anything. I tell myself that I am lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. I know why I am in a movie or why I get called upon to choreograph a section of an American production. Becoming an actor. I take great pleasure in working: if people are getting frustrated trying to work out how their actor is going to be able to move across the terrain or how to include this or that element in a scene so that the character can do some Parkour. Even if movies aren’t essential to the running of the planet. But in film. I didn’t have a career in mind nor a strong urge to work.
Jean Renau and Marion Cotillard. he coached lots of actors like Anne Parillaud. I was beside myself. there’s 15 days of auditions and then they choose the candidates. you don’t notice the set. When I got my letter of acceptance. Here at least. I had lots of trouble feeling comfortable on set: they told me I was good.What is your favourite thing about working as an actor? Film gives me the opportunity to flourish without having to fight and it also gives me the chance to evolve as a person. How could he know that I would be capable of learning all these lines off by heart and deliver the lines perfectly on camera in front of all these movie people on set? It’s like he was setting me a challenge. I would have been happy with a non speaking role just to work with him. Then finally I started to enjoy myself. that you’re part of the story. I was humble and worked as hard as all the other students. expressing myself on camera. There’s a moment when you start to get the role you are playing. I started to understand what it is to act. I didn’t have to do one single jump for them to accept me and I was happy because they could see some potential in me. I said to myself “he’s crazy. but I felt ridiculous. Being an actor. Did you take lessons in the beginning? I took classes for a year with Pascal Emmanual Luneau at Pygmalion Studios. the camera or the crew. At this moment. it was like a new beginning. When Luc Besson came to see me and told me he had a role for me in a movie that might interest me. he doesn’t even know me!”. For me. it was absolutely necessary to have this basis and it gave me a good understanding of what it is to be an actor. une fille ”. I didn’t consider myself anything special because I’m David Belle “the Parkour master”. you know that you’re really in your character. To get into this school. the heroine form “d’Un Gars. but here I had to go further. In the beginning. to be assessed by the teachers and the other students. allows me to erase the blockages and frustrations I had from being locked up at school and saying nothing. I was in their classes at the same time as Alexandra Lamy. I was 65 . like someone who does a simple forward roll and is told he’s an amazing acrobat. sometimes I felt like I was on trial. It wasn’t easy to get up in front of everyone. In my eyes. But in the end. that you’re playing your part.
When I got to the shoot. It’s not trying to impress or to do it perfectly. Your first film was with Brian de Palma. It was my heartfelt desire to give to the screen all my years of hard work and to leave a trace. I find it magnificent simply doing what it must to get across a river or up a tree. When I see an animal in the field or the forest. it’s when you’re believable. that’s when I realised that there was Brian de Palma and Antonio Banderas. Thereafter. I was under less pressure. I played a very small role as a French policeman. Do you find similarities with Parkour? When you’re rehearsing for a movie scene. the less you seek to appear. everything was done so that I could grow and improve in this environment. I wanted to give them the most authentic Parkour scenes. it gave me confidence to be able to do what I knew I was up for. It doesn’t ask itself if it put the correct foot in the right position. In film or in Parkour it’s the same: one who is good is one who leans toward the natural. I really wanted people to believe in what I was doing. The performance is not screaming your lines louder. it was simple and beautiful. They didn’t do a fancy trick to get the story across. I couldn’t believe it. The funniest thing was I didn’t even know which director I was auditioning for. 66 . I can’t say they didn’t give me a chance. Femme Fatale. I thought it was crazy to find myself on set with Banderas.very happy that I went. as though this was the last chance I had to show what I could do. the more you exist. For district 13. you’re trying to make it natural and believable as the character you’ve been asked to play. it just does it naturally. I pretended as though it was the last film I would do. you’re not practising to make it perfect. What’s beautiful in Parkour is when you see a person do a movement and you know they did only what was necessary to make that movement. that’s a rather encouraging start… For Brian de Palma’s film.
I’m coming from Parkour and discovered the medium of film where people try to make me believe that all of a sudden I’m really important. they make you believe that you deserve more and you can gain much more. No doubt. you could have done yourself”. It’s hard because everyone is playing the game in this industry. when he asked me to take out the rubbish it was because he was busy making dinner. these people aren’t calling you. you’re all alone. they don’t know who I am. It depends who I’m working with. that I’m a great person. I sensed that straight away. like my father are rare to find in the film business. I knew instantly what an opportunity it was and he quickly understood who I was. He’d tell me: “What you just asked that assistant to do. I need to feel out who I’m going to be working with. he would slap me. My father was never lazy.The film industry isn’t necessarily the best place for someone who seeks to be free. How do you manage to be at ease in this medium? I can't all the time. not because he was sitting down watching the TV. honest. and the risk of losing yourself in all this is high. In film.. They incessantly dangle the carrot in front of your face. It’s a network where you greet everyone and make small talk but you know very well that when you go home.“. you are surrounded by people who make you feel you have worth. He’s a man who sticks to his word. That touched me more than 67 . In this industry. for this reason we have a simple. including in the development of Parkour. He’s given me lots of advice on this career choice. who it is truly that I’m speaking to. When District 13 was released. They compare you to a known person and say: “What’s-his-name earned millions. I’m not sucked in. When Luc Besson gave me my chance. When they flatter you and tell you that your work is great. it’s tricky to maintain your authenticity. the thing that pleased me the most was the text he sent me: “I am sure that your father would be proud of you“. frank and direct relationship. I sense it still. Genuine people. I know that generally they are being false. If my father was here. I try to see behind the eyes. wheras they don’t even know anything about me. When I’m contacted about a job. The film industry encourages a spoilt child mentality because you are surrounded by people who take care of everything for you. I have a tendency to tell myself: “I never asked to have this life so I want to be well looked after“. I will be as loyal to Besson as I was to my father.. he has helped me and he encourages me still.
erasing them like the ancient wall of District 13. He called me back. I never broke anything during filming. Contrary to other Traceurs who said they had lots of potential. we find you again in the role of Leito for District 13. Leito has lots of things gravitating around him but he lives his life the way he wants. It has lots of bits similar to Parkour. He didn’t choose to be born there and he doesn’t want to be enclosed in this trap built by these men. I think my attitude upset Luc Besson in some ways. Luc promised me that we’d make a film together and he stuck to his word. nor the blacks. It was after all. We get to understand my character Leito more. more than people clapping at preview showings. The past shows that he doesn’t belong to any clan of the District. I felt that some of them wanted nothing to do with me and that our morals and feelings about Parkour weren’t the same. 68 . I remember an anecdote from the end of filming that has stuck with me. their psychology and relationships with others. What drew you in to the sequel? The film delves deeper into the main characters. which was released in 2004. The only regret that I had was that my father couldn’t be here to see all this and for Luc to say directly to him: “You can be very proud of your son“. the film produced by Luc Besson that brought your discipline to the attention of the general public? I was supposed to be involved in the film but things turned pear shaped with some other members of the cast. I preferred to leave and to not make the film. moving over obstacles. He called me back and we were able to make District 13. Lots of time went past but I was patient and it payed off. that wasn’t nothing. How come you weren’t involved in Yamakasi. Luc hugged me in his arms and said: “Ah! At least You are all in one piece!“. 5 years after the first release. not the Chinese.Ultimatum. or the Arabs. or the gypsies or the whites. we see more of how they operate in their day to day lives. Normally people fight to be in these productions and I left without asking for my dues. Luc Besson that said this to me. I felt that he understood how important Parkour is to me and could distinguish between truth and lies in this situation. that boasted that Parkour was their thing.anything else.
Patrick Alessandrin and Cyril Raffaelli who co-ordinate the combat stunts. Each of us went in our own direction since District 13 but we never lost sight of each other. We find a sort of suburban humour. 69 . who plays the cop Damien. Damian calls upon him as he has fallen into trouble and has landed in prison.. I am not anxious about my career in movies. It makes me laugh hearing certain actors always saying: “I have this and that coming up…”. the cop. with Luc Besson. we can give what’s within us. projects have landed in my lap.Ultimatum? This is determined by the preparation and the shooting. District 13 continues to be a ghetto drowning in chaos. With Cyril Raffaelli. that the wall hasn’t been brought down. 3 years after the end of their first encounter. without stress. It made me happy. his fight to separate it from the rest of the country. How do you prepare the choreographies for the action sequences in films like District 13 . Up until now. I like this way of functioning. we are actors responsible for our own characters. You’d think they are machines programmed to advance. He’s a man who listens carefully and lets the actors do their thing. How was filming? It wasn’t the entire same team as the first film but I adapted to the director Patrick Alessandrin without a problem.In the sequel we also learn more about some secondary characters like Molko. I haven't gone out searching for them. it was the same. Leito realises that nothing has changed. During the development of the film. The dialogue is closer to what we would say also. nor begging for roles or doing films for the sake of doing films. he continues all alone. He lets us bring our skills and he directs with them. We see better the life within District 13. We rediscover Leito and Damian. For him. The work is done as a team. I don’t want to be involved. the story pleased me because it also allowed for plenty of action and Parkour related sequences. Both of us have followed our own paths. I was happy for him that he worked on great projects like the sequel to Hulk. At the script reading. the different ethnicities and how they co-habitate and they have adapted to this hostile environment. played by MC Jean Gab’1.
so I’ll do it. 70 . and I decide on what is possible to do or not. I’m not going to kill myself or injure myself for a film that some guy is going sit on his couch watch. When we meet during the rehearsal period of the shoot. no one has forced me to do a jump. you’re no longer facing the obstacle alone. where I’m going and how I’m going to do it. the director. whereas I would have smashed myself for a film that may be excellent but that isn’t going to revolutionise the world in any case. we discuss the best way for the person to accomplish the scenario described whilst using the principles of Parkour. they decide on the set. No one. It’s just a film. I feed off of their energy and concentrate on the promise I made. I don’t do it. just a movie. He’d watch it once or twice and his life would continue. I think about the way myself and my partners are going to do the movements and how the displacement can translate into the setting. We try stuff out. there’s the camera. I said I'll do it.Luc writes the scenes with brief instructions like ‚ the character exits the room by escaping through a window and across the rooftops ‛. If I’m not feeling it or I’m tired. The most important thing for me is to put all of my energy into those jumps. I can do this jump ‛. Even if it’s a film shoot. And no amount of euros could make me change my mind. It’s a question of respect. There’s nothing that is imposed or fixed in the choreographies. into my scenes and to make a film that isn’t going to suffer from the comparison to American films. Film brings you a new parameter. the crew: how do you keep your concentration without being distracted? I don’t risk being distracted because I’m doing it for pleasure. In any case. I’m the one who chooses and decides for each jump. the story to tell. I’m doing it for pleasure just the same as if I was training. The production. If I really don’t feel it at all. So I do it. I try things out and suggest other ideas. I keep this in mind. When I think about a Parkour sequence. The essential thing is that it is spectacular. I have a tendency to make want to make it realistic but I also have to make it spectacular because it’s for a movie. This is then refined during the shoot: in terms of choreography. the director. And I know also that in preparation and during rehearsals that I gave my word to the producers and the director in saying ‚ yes. We adapt to the set or the set adapts to our movements.
I can’t have respect for them. certain actors should look at themselves and who they are. At some point. Can you have double for some scenes? For the Parkour scenes. I approached him because he was different to me. He knows he’s a good actor and he brings a real element to his characters. And they also found out that actors could also apply themselves to Parkour and even master it better than them. If I’ve done the jump once without safeties. I did! ‚. no. doesn’t boast. if I have to start again I give myself the opportunity to have a safety harness. This was the case with Cyril Raffaelli. But reality caught up with them. The only thing is I can put in safety measures either because I’m tired or because the insurance company demands it. we have to rise above this ego thing that pushes actors to prove they can do a real jump. Instead of boasting. Luc Besson respected that. Daniel Craig. It’s what makes me legitimate and I don’t want that taken away from me.We’re not here to prove that it’s real. They’ve had stunt doubles. They realised that it wasn’t that easy to fool the directors. I want to do them myself. they encouraged me to have my guard up because he hadn’t followed the same path as us. Certain Traceurs were wary of him. The only result from this is that the actor will hurt himself and hold up production for 2 weeks because he overestimated his ability. When I know this about them. he doesn’t hide the fact that he has a stunt double because he is honest and knows he doesn’t have to be ashamed of the fact. and we became friends. When a kid asks me if it was me that did a certain jump. Some Traceurs believed they could be the king of the castle in films because of where they came from and because they could do a few acrobatic tricks that no one else was doing. that they’re not idiots. 71 . He respected my wish to not have any doubles for District 13 and District 13 – Ultimatum. who plays James Bond. And it bothers me to see that they’re not honest about it. but I did just the opposite to what they told me. parading in front of the public and in front of journalists even when in certain scenes they’ve had stunt doubles. Other Traceurs can’t say as much. that’s enough for me. then I feel proud to say ‚ Yes.
Jerry Bruckheimer who specifically asked that I personally come on board to sort out the Parkour choreographies in the big studios in England. You’ve also been a part of shooting the next big Disney production: Prince of Persia. Because it’s based on a type of Parkour. it’s just a natural result of all the effort I have put into my training. I had no hesitation! Up until now in this industry I’ve continued moving forward without really looking for work or searching for opportunities. That wasn’t what I set out to achieve. this all came to me. I was able to work how I wanted to with my own team. I don’t even seek to be contactable or available. I set up a scaffold in a big studio and made a choreography with 6 or 7 guys. Because of this. people who I really trust. This makes me happy because without making any claims about my ability. but they managed to track me down via EuropaCorp. I presented my work to the American production team and the lead actor Vin Diesel. How did it go with him? For certain scenes in the film. For me. I felt comfortable being on set even though I was the little ‘Frenchy’ on a big American production. but the fact that it was coming from Vin Diesel and Mathieu. I get a phone call. The American producers were impressed and Vin Diesel even asked that I have a bit of dialogue in the film. they needed a choreographer to help them determine all the action and movement sequences. things just happen naturally without being forced. Mathieu Kassovitz researched Parkour and wanted me to work with him on the choreography for some of them. I was able to work with my mates. I could view all this as a gift from the gods but I also think that it’s not a coincidence if I am called upon for my skill set.You’ve worked with Mathieu Kassovitz on Babylon A. The collaboration was great. I was un-contactable at that point because I had left on a trip. It’s an adaptation of the video game known worldwide. How did you come to work on this project? The film Prince of Persia: Sands of time is directed by Mike Newell and has Jake Gyllenhaal in the leading role. It was the producer.D. suggestions are made. 72 . They called me a few days before filming because they were having trouble setting up these scenes.
seeing it will be worth it. the rocks could fall on these characters at this point…‛ I was totally in my element and my imagination. expose certain things otherwise you do a ‘Jean Claude Van Damme’ your whole life. From the smallest advertisement to the biggest movie. I didn’t have any doubts. in this direction. I had heaps of ideas. what interests me the most is action films but I’m not obsessed with Parkour or physical roles. then they know why ‚. He can be proud of what he does. And in this instance. like so. 73 . that would be a big change from working in faraway places of Serbia! Would you ever shoot a small name film that doesn’t have any Parkour in it? For now. working under the Caribbean sun. he’s worked on heaps of films and provided for his family but I am sure he would have liked to work with Robert de Niro or Edward Norton. to ease the tension I told myself: ‘ If they’ve called me. Things were done simply.You didn’t have any trouble joining a large American production with all the constraints it entails? Not at all. Who knows if one day I’ll find myself working on the next production from Jerry Bruckheimer. It was a very short but enriching adventure. At the start. In the end. I didn’t freak out about their big budget or their expectations. that didn’t change. I hope they were happy with my work. perhaps a small role on Pirates of the Caribbean 4 or they may entrust me with some of the choreograpy? It would be the ultimate. climb or fall that you’ll become a good actor. I could have been under a lot of pressure but I felt at ease because it was really something that I’ve mastered. It’s not because you know how to jump. then jump here. They included me in how they envisaged the scene and I explained how I could see the choreographies working on the set. open up. so the hero could climb up here. I was able to make my choreograpy how I felt it should be. I told them: ‚Is the set stable here? Ok. I’m very conscious that the base of cinema is acting. You have to know how to express emotions. even when I had a hundred strong crew around me or big Hollywood producers and the director of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
If I have a career like Van Damme. even if it came all at once. If I see my name advertised next to an actor of this calibre then I would have made it. you’re the best“ and I would be indifferent. I’m going to try to live normally as it’s the best way to stay true to yourself. In the end. The destabilising side of the film industry is the way in which we value a film. or to be told that I’m the best. I’m interested in acting with these kind of people and becoming a real actor who can be films such as ‘ Jean of Florette ‘ as well as ‘ Crystal Trap’. I was in awe of him and really happy when he complimented my work. it’s the novelty of it. I will. to always be ready when the camera was rolling because I never wanted a problem to because of me. In fact. girls didn’t notice me. I’m not expecting anything from films. You could yell to me: “Oh David. an important man. the fame? I think I can resist it today. a famous actor. My desire is to go to the end of the world and to the edge of myself and to stay true. So it’s not because I’ve made a film that I’ve developed some sort of charm or a particular talent. When I was in high school. I don’t want to be asked to do Parkour over and over for my whole career. Me. I had in front of me. you’re so hot. If things go well for you. this value is based on how many ticket sales the film makes as 74 . I worked at being an actor and I’m not looking for any other recognition. and that was no laughing matter. actors or technicians. In this industry I want to work with people who are genuine. I took my job very seriously. I’d accept the offer even if there wasn’t a single jump to do. do you think you can resist the pressures of the industry. he came to me with a project idea that he wanted to develop with me.names that are recognised as real actors. you’ll see me in more low key roles where you wouldn’t necessarily recognise me. I couldn’t believe it! I told myself it’s a win-win situation. the challenge that attracts me to do it. I don’t desire to be recognisable in the street. If I get asked to be in a small budget film and that it allows me delve into the character and really work on it. I think if I evolve in the film industry. You can only grow when faced with such greatness. The most important thing for me is to try to achieve my best. In District 13 – Ultimatum I did some scenes with Philippe Torreton. I’d have no regrets but if I can achieve other things. whether they are directors.
I 75 . If you take your kid fishing for a day. being an actor is to be a translator. in Madagascar I met children who had nothing. I’m under the impression that I make more money than before from doing less physical things and investing myself less. I try not to worry about it. But the young are fascinated by money because they think it’s necessary to live. I am here to do my job and they pay me for that! To me. However. At night. glory and money are things that fascinate youth. In my real life. rich or poor. telling myself I have achieved plenty of my childhood dreams and I shouldn’t complain or search for more. it costs you nothing but he’ll remember it for the rest of his life. it’s not because they earn 15 million bucks. But of course the system makes us think that we always want more. and we would go walking for hours in the forest. you end up in the cemetery.opposed to the work we have put into it. they are lead to believe that you need the hottest car and a starlet on your arm or you are nothing. in the film industry where they encourage this sort of lifestyle. it’s because they gave them a good time. We want the best fastest car. Later in life that kid will remember that his father bought him such and such and it was worth yadida. I’m not in competition with anyone even if I partake in the system. Myself. and because of them they felt some emotions. my rent and my holidays. Myself. If people say thank you to an actor. I have enough money to cover my groceries. We can’t complain about what we have. I saw poor families. I’ve seen happy couples that didn’t have a lot to live off. Whilst travelling doing Parkour. I don’t need Brad Pitt’s salary to be happy.. From the moment I have what I need to look after what little family I have left. For example. We long for this love. I only had moments like these with my dad. but in the end. he would grab me for a wander. I don’t have any doubt that I won’t need anything more. He told me about his life and I didn’t notice the kilometres passing. living in misery but always carrying a smile. to play a character and to respect this role. to cover my mother and sister. It’s not the case for a guy who is loaded but who is never there for his wife and kids and the only way he can show his love is to spend thousands on presents for them. but you ask him about the real moments he had with his dad and he won’t have any to recite.
could also sit for hours in his tent. 76 . chatting till the early hours about the things he had lived through and to me. that is worth more than all the gold in the world.
lived in a shack. the right house and so on. When I was doing odd jobs. becoming an actor didn’t deserve that I fight for it. always changing. I know it won’t change people’s lives. I knew that I would make my life out of something easy and flowing. Otherwise. From the start I didn’t want to deal with a system that crushes you. including being completely forgotten and no one remembering my name. I seized opportunities to move forward but I couldn’t have stepped on people on the way to get there. I’m 35 and anything could happen. this desire for wealth that so many people in our society have today.END OF THE JOURNEY? When you first started Parkour. I’m ready for just about anything. I’ve always been like that. And if it hadn’t been for my relatives. I did it to reassure my mother and show her I could earn a living but I would soon get tired of it. I am aware that the things I do with Parkour and cinema allow me to make a living today but I also know that I don’t need to make fortunes to be happy. you didn’t really know what would come out of it. I know my destiny is marked out anyway. I never stayed very long. after twenty years. I would have gone to a small island. I feel like I want to go all the way as an actor and I still want to be involved with Parkour. I never had this desire to conquer from the start. Today. I think I would have become an outcast. I’ve already achieved a lot in my life and I want to use the remaining time to do things I like. At the moment. Parkour made me understand that if I wanted to stay in that system it had to be simple because I would never have the strength to fight through my work to have the right suit and tie. do you feel like you found your way? I don’t know. the right car. useful things like helping out the young. I could easily give everything up and find myself living on my own in a wood or a small fishermen’s village. always looking for something else. 77 . surfed all day and invited friends over for barbecues. it’s because it had to be that way. As soon as I cast my first stone. it sent waves and if positive things come back. I don’t necessarily think I reached an aim with Parkour. I would feel like I wasted my time. To me. my family supporting me.
not to show off. if I tell them about a jump two feet off the ground. he’s going to fix it – for fun. He runs errands. especially by creating training centres for the young. What I still have left to do now has to do with passing on. I did a lot of commercials – especially abroad – and I often pay attention to the product or the brand to make sure they don’t go against my principles and make sense somehow with Parkour. I want to show and put forward the useful side of the discipline one way or another. but don’t get me involved in that. It’s like a cook getting out of his restaurant going on with his life. I can understand the fun side of it and I can understand some people want to start Parkourlands on beaches like skate ramps. Some people expect too much from me.Are you going to fight to keep Parkour alive throughout the world? I’m a bit out of Parkour today but I know it’s here. of the value the media gave it. I will continue to have a deep respect for Parkour and I will do my best to try to make it stronger and give it more credit. visits friends but he knows he still got his talent inside. I did what I had to do and followed my training the way I had to. Do you think Parkour can go forward on its own. I also want to get rid of the business side of this discipline. And if a friend asks him for a good dish. I want those kids to understand what Parkour is truly about and be able to transmit that philosophy "be strong to be useful" as well. I was offered to do a commercial for a very famous chain of fast-food restaurants and the pay check was good but I declined. I try myself to be careful about what I do on a professional level. When TV journalists come and see me today. I don’t want to have anything to do with this business side. If young people have 78 . I want to do that for Parkour fans and followers. And I want Parkour to be like that for me now – sessions for fun and not thinking I got myself tired repeating useless movements. to show and prove to them that it’s a sport you can practice in the long run. I want to keep the simple and natural aspect of Parkour. without David Belle? Life itself is about going forward and I don’t need to be there for Parkour. I don’t want Parkour to be used just for the fun of it. they are not happy and always ask me if I couldn’t do it from the top of a big building instead "because it’s more visual" they say each time.
The rest doesn’t really matter to me. When I see practitioners getting caught by the bug. you can’t really blame him for smoking. And when I have to be fit for Parkour or for a movie. and that was when I realized I would never accomplish what my father had done – I wouldn’t go to war and I wouldn’t fight fires and save lives.understood the spirit of Parkour. The fact of watching young people put on their sneakers and move with the same energy I had when I left at night to go and do my jumps. I felt like I was breaking self-imposed rules and discovering a new world. And that’s what I actually wanted: to have this discipline acknowledged and developed. without trying to show off or anything. why I had given so much to Parkour. my way of thinking as well as my father’s. without me having any control over it. Some people don’t understand when they see me smoke today – they say I betray my own principles. I just enjoy the moment without even thinking about it. I ended up learning to unwind and finding a balance. the worst kind. when I smoke or spend a good evening with my friends. Some blame me for not being here anymore and not helping them during their sessions but my father wasn’t there behind my back when I was training. that should be enough. I knew I wasn’t fit for Parkour anymore and I felt almost guilty. he could run long distance and always be at the lead. It even developed at the speed of light thanks to internet. I slowed down with training and started doing things I had never done before like smoking. Then I wondered what was the use of it. Parkour has a life on its own now. But my father smoked two packs a day for years – no filters. that’s my biggest victory. Now. I think to myself that it was worth the years of pain and suffering of my training. I 79 . why I had accumulated so much energy. I sometimes feel overwhelmed but it also shows that I was right and my father’s teachings would lead to something great. And seeing what he went through. And yet. I felt as frustrated as a professional boxer who trained for six months and is eventually told that he won’t get to fight< I kind of lost it at that point. There was a time when I felt destabilized. Was there a time when you doubted yourself and the success of Parkour? I have had doubts but never to the point of giving up. I can be careful and I can get back to a strict healthy lifestyle.
I really started wondering what was the point of it all – what was the point in being good when your close ones are taken away the next minute. My grandfather used to say that excess is what kills a man. and I don’t feel like I am being in excess here! I think if I had kept such a strict self-discipline. I can allow myself a certain kind of balance – staying clear and focused when I do Parkour or my job in the movie industry. As opposed to what some may believe. I try to think about my father and what 80 . be happy and stop crying over my death because it is of no use. I don’t think God is going to punish us because we allow ourselves some good times. and having fun when I’m with friends or at home. I stayed by his side all night at the hospital right before he died. Today. I had to keep a clear vision and perception of things. He kept repeating: "No matter what you do as long as you do it well. what mattered the most was for me to be happy with myself and my family. I managed to get over this sorrow and not be afraid of death anymore by putting myself in their shoes so to speak. To him. When my brother Daniel died. I don’t judge people on their misbehaviour or their mistakes. no cigarettes. up above and I know I would like to see my close ones go on with their lives. when my grandfather and my father passed away two weeks apart. I think I proved myself and went through every step of Parkour so now. He couldn’t speak or move anymore but his eyes said so much< I could feel life leaving his face and body and I whispered in his ear that he didn’t need to worry." When he got sick. I allow myself a few cigarettes and a few drinks to unwind. that I had carefully listened to everything he had told me and that I would look after my mother. When something hurts me. I would be suffering today. Was your grandfather disappointed that you didn’t eventually join the Fire fighters' Squad of Paris? Not at all. I sometimes felt like I was dogged by life.personally had this long training period during which I didn’t allow myself anything – no alcohol. There’s a lot of pressure to deal with. I try to live for what’s right and good as much as I can but above all I try to live my life the way my father and my grandfather taught me. It hasn’t been easy to keep on with Parkour everyday without him and without my father. I wanted to keep a clear mind – everything had to be sharp.
who could tell me if I was on the right path. especially when he wrote: "The guard dies but never surrenders." That was his choice – he decided the time of his death. I was destabilized. I know he is looking at me – looking after me. he felt nostalgic and useless in the end. not to worry. How did your father pass away? My father decided to leave. he felt like he didn’t have anything left to do on earth and that he would do more harm than good if he stayed and suffered among his loved ones. there were many warning signs. I know my father is sending me invisible waves. He shot himself in the head.he would have done in such a situation – would he have cared for something so menial? He resets me in a way and puts me back on tracks. For instance. Looking back at what he had achieved and gone through. He is next to me and helps me. And it prevented me from going too far into Parkour. When something great happens to me. the only person that could have a straight opinion about what I was doing." he wrote me. I was losing my mentor. it felt like closing a book without reading the last ten pages. He had prepared me to that outcome with letters and asking me to hang on no matter what. It also enabled me to 81 . But very soon. When I think about his departure. In the end. yes. I understood I had to go on because there was my mother. my sister. I was. Even if he had prepared me with his letters. meeting Philippe Torreton wasn’t chance alone. I can’t help but think he helped me out – there’s no other way. broke. He never failed when it came to helping others but he failed in his own personal life. he spent too much time in his memories. I was mad at him for leaving too early – I felt like he hadn’t told me everything. people who relied on me. Not being active anymore didn’t help either because he had spent his whole life helping others every way he could. My father was handing that responsibility down on to me somehow. Were you mad at him for his decision to leave like that? At first. he’d even pick up cigarette butts off the floor to finish them up. he ended up alone. Living alone. "I’ll be with you more than I ever have when I was alive. that he would always be here for me.
break away from my father’s path and find my own. After his death, I told myself that from now on I would move for the father of all fathers. I had the feeling that if God could see me in Parkour, he knew I wasn’t lying and I wasn’t a dishonest person. There I was, alone, training in the woods and I put all my love, all my energy in what I was doing, telling myself, "If God exists I know he can see me. Otherwise, I do it for myself and I’m also happy about it." I think that in the end, when we die, God takes our eyes just to see what we have done while on Earth, what we saw during our life and what we did, right or wrong. Is faith important in your life? I believed in my father before I believed in God. And when I lost him, I felt like my belief in God was even stronger because I realized all the love and everything my father had given me. To me, you don’t have one million options: God either exists or He doesn’t. And my faith makes me feel like God loves us so much more than a mother loves her newborn for instance. I can feel this force, this power. From what I know, God doesn’t expect anything from us – there’s nothing Man can do that God doesn’t already know. So following our path and believing in Him must be the only thing He expects from us. And to me, it’s useless to pray to Him to get something like money. To me, He already put everything we need on Earth for us to manage by ourselves – all the resources are here for us to survive and live. If people die of starvation nowadays, it’s Man starving them, not God. Human beings now want to play God – they claim natural resources for their own benefits and make other humans pay for them. The rules imposed by Man are not the right ones. In an idealistic world, the one who can build a house could trade his skills for the fruit and veggies of the one who can grow them and so on. That’s how the world should work but we tried to be smarter and we ended up deep in shit, all by ourselves. Today’s economical problems didn’t happen by chance. We had everything we needed to be happy on this planet but Man destroys and changes everything.
According to you, consumer’s society plays a big part in what Mankind has become… The system conceived by human beings created need: you always need to have the best equipment, the latest devices. Even if your DVD player works well, you need a smaller, more efficient one. You are made to believe that it is important and you end up thinking that you need all kinds of stuff to live. But truth is, you could easily go without it. Women are made to believe that they need such cream or lotion, same goes with men, and we end up with one thousand products in our bathrooms. When I’m in the jungle, I realize how useless all of this is. It’s totally unnecessary in our lives. And I feel like I could very easily walk away from it all to get back to what’s essential. Don’t get me wrong: I do buy things myself; but the minute I own them, they stop existing. I know it’s here but I’m not dependent upon it. If my DVD player works, that’s fine. If it breaks down, I don’t care. I don’t want material things to interfere with my life anymore. When I have money, I don’t want to blow it all because I know buying things always makes you want more. I invest my money in something useful like a house for my mother. And if I can buy a big house for myself one day, I won’t fill it up with useless objects or things that could tempt others. Space is to me the ultimate luxury. So if there’s a big garden, all the better: I’ll be happy. I’m not interested in Ming vases and five hundred year old stuff. I’ve been used to living with very little. Water, air, food, a shelter< Simple things bringing us back to what really matters. When you are thirsty in the desert, you don’t ask for a soda; all you want is water, just plain water. People kill themselves at work to get more trivial things when what really matters is life itself and being alive. When I am being asked what I do in life, I just answer: "I live" very simply. True happiness is when useless material things don’t affect you anymore. When I see a billionaire with four bimbos at his arm and twelve cars in his garage all upset because there’s a scratch on the hood of his BMW I can’t help but feel sorry for him. I’d rather take care of my close ones, of real problems that could actually affect my life. I’m happy when people around me are happy, when I can bring them good energy. A two-hour long conversation with a close one is enough for me to feel good. We know we had a great time together and we didn’t need any money for that. We
have to find happiness in ourselves. I can be loaded and go to the Bahamas; if I haven’t solved my own problems, I’ll be as miserable over there as I was when I was living in the suburbs. Nothing affects you anymore when you are feeling good with yourself. A guy can call you names, you won’t even feel like answering back. The other way around, if you are not feeling well, you’ll answer back and step into an unhealthy game of violence. I understood I couldn’t go anywhere with that dark side inside me – it could be destructive – even if trying to outsmart or be the strongest can give you a feeling of pride and power. But truth is, it won’t take you very far in life. And I want to thank my father and Parkour for that, because they opened up my mind and made me see society in a different way. I know I won’t change the world and I am not going to fight for that. I’m going to live a quiet life and I’ll fit in the system because Parkour brought me there but I won’t fight to stay there anymore than I fought to get there. How do you see yourself twenty years from now? If things keep rolling the way they do now and I follow my path, in twenty years from now I’ll be in a house on a beach, a small nest I won’t want to leave anymore and I’ll be peaceful, at last! I don’t want to be stressed out – I feel like stressed out people completely missed their lives. They are lost indeed. They pretend during daytime because they live their lives at 200mph from dawn to dusk, always rushing, with their cell phones. But when it stops at night and they are faced with themselves, they are completely lost. And they’d do anything to avoid that – watch TV, play video games, go on the internet – so that they won’t have to think. Very few people actually take time to work on themselves – turning off the phone and TV altogether and facing your own self. I have learnt to live on my own. I appreciate my friends, I love my family but when I want to break free, I can easily cut myself off from others. I can live disconnected from everything and face myself. That’s when true wishes and desires appear. Personally, I always go back to the same things: I want to walk, see a sunset, travel to China or elsewhere. Thanks to Parkour I can see things under a different light – I see them with more hindsight and attention. Some people will pass by a piece of furniture all their lives and never notice there was a secret drawer in it
because they never had the curiosity to look at it under a different angle. People are not listening enough to their desires and don’t go out of their daily routine enough either. If they want to travel the world, they should just do it, and not wait. Could you live a life without adrenaline? It’s been a while now that I don’t move for the same reasons. What matters in Parkour are the first steps – understanding the meaning of what you are accomplishing and telling yourself that there is more than one way – put all your heart in what you are doing – even something as simple as a walk in the woods. Don’t lock yourself up in one thing alone but try and discover other sports, other cities, other countries and open up to others. I don’t want to stubbornly stick to Parkour. I don’t want to be like an old 80-years-old Kung Fu master stuck in his black tunic and who wants the world to believe that he can still fight young practitioners the way he used to. I want to do other things. I don’t know exactly what yet but my only certainty is that I don’t want to end up my life counting the number of cars in my garage, asking myself which yacht I’m going to take or in which summer mansion to spend my holidays. My childhood dreams remain the same: have a little place for myself on this earth where I can stay on my own for four months if I feel like it, then move somewhere else for another four months. Parkour gave me that freedom. One day I’m here, in Paris, and the next, I can spend three months in Asia. I want to be a citizen of the world. And if I go to Africa tomorrow, I want to live like they do and not impose my Frenchy stuff – I’ll get rid of my sneakers and my jeans because I wouldn’t be comfortable with them in the jungle. I’ve learnt to adapt to my environment. That’s what Parkour is also about. So adrenaline or not, I just hang on to what is true and real because that’s the only thing I can relate to. When I go to a small village in the mountains, I can talk for hours with a little old man just sitting there watching his flock of sheep. And with Parkour or the movie industry, it’s the same: I’m always looking for the person who is going to tell me interesting things, who is going to make me want to do things, who knows new things, without forcing things or trying to convince me at all costs. And at the end of my life I also want to be a little old man,
My personal failures will be my own business. And I feel like I deserve all the good things happening to me today – I feel like it’s the reward for all my efforts. Even if I end up in the street tomorrow. It’s been over ten years now that this discipline is recognized throughout the world. from New-York to Tokyo via Rio de Janeiro." old" in the sense that I lived things. What is your overall feeling regarding what you’ve accomplished with Parkour? I feel pride and satisfaction. I can be forgotten. I feel good about myself – I can look at myself in a mirror – and I respected what my father told me. being successful. but the truth always catches up if you lied. thousands of traceurs just get their kicks moving in various cities and passing on their knowledge to new ones who also want to move. justify Parkour. I travelled. and I’ll have stories to tell and experiences to share with young ones. No matter what happens to me tomorrow. Today. I think after this book is over. I’ll stop talking about my father. I’m tired of having to justify myself. I’ll be satisfied because Parkour exists. What’s essential is that I managed to pass my father’s message on thanks to Parkour. I’ll leave him to rest in peace. Nothing can twist the truth – you can pretend at being the best. I don’t feel like I cheated to be where I am today and I feel proud of it. a well-deserved one. because thousands of people throughout the world practice it and feel good about themselves thanks to it. but Parkour won’t be forgotten. like a gift. 86 .
his generosity and our brotherly friendship. and to my brother who was the first to bring Parkour into the public eye. More generally thanks to all enthusiasts who believe in their flame and their humble determination. Thanks to the women who drove me to put my story on paper in this book and put a beginning and an end to it: Pascale Parillaud and Sabine Gros La Faige." It speaks to me and rings like a philosophy. his support and trust in my projects. Thanks to my little sister – I love you even though I don’t say it enough. I read one day a sentence that said: "Follow your heart and your face will glow throughout your life. Thanks to Mathieu Kassovitz for his friendship and the adventure of his movie. 87 . Thanks to the Belle family of Sarcelles – I was always welcomed and well fed there! Thanks to the Sables-d’Olonne and the 91 crews and my friend Vidda. Thanks to Parkour practitioners – may they pass the tradition down and practice this sport with pride. Thanks to my Dodo< (you know better< nothing happens by chance!) Thanks to Luc Besson for the opportunity he gave me.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank all of those who always believed in Parkour before it became widely known. Thanks to Cyril for his advice. Thanks to my mother who always supported me and often worried about me when I went out.