Regardless of how you feel about the recent FIG comp, it’s important for us here at Parkour Entrepreneur to hear all the perspectives of our community, not just the ones we agree with. While we don’t condone these athletes decision to compete with FIG, we use this opportunity to hear their voices and educate us all on what the FIG is going on. We reached out to as many athletes as we could and these are ones that chose to answer.
Christian Harmat – Switzerland
“I see Parkour in my own vision as the coolest Olympic sport of the near future.”
As a kid I dreamed I was like David Beckham playing in a huge stadium like he did. After I stopping playing soccer and started parkour, this dream pretty much lost all of its fire, only a tiny flame stayed alive inside of me. So I was very surprised to win the 2009 parcouring speed comp since I wasn’t specifically trained for it. But of course I felt very happy and proud of myself.
In 2011 I had the chance to compete again in Berlin again, but this time I injured myself on mats while warming up for the final. That was the last speed comp that I knew of for a while. Since I really enjoyed the time there meeting new people, I wanted to get back into contests and learn from other nationalities. Then the Art of Motion called me and I was shocked! Wow, so cool!
So I made my way through a few style comps, but I never made finals because my way of movement isn’t really suited for that event. So I lost my motivation and dropped out. Then Hop The Block came up and I was happy to see more events like this again! But I straight hit the podium after a hard way back from two ankle surgeries on both feet.
When I saw some of my best friends in China, I asked Kamil and Paulo if I could be involved too. It somehow worked out, and the whole shitstorm went around me. I didn’t really realize what was going on with FIG and I even reposted the We Are Not Gymnastics post without knowing why everybody was posting it.
I just wanted to be part of the community again! Was that so bad? I felt the power again from my early beginnings, the fire! And when I heard that their intentions are the Olympic Games, I was like wow! Can it actually come true? My old dream to walk in such a stadium for an even cooler sport than soccer?
Hell yeah! Of course it felt amazing at the first event in Japan, meeting all those new people and old friends. Free trip. Prize money above every other competition. I got 3rd place. What more could you want? Maybe to win again like in 2009?
When Montpellier came the organization just seemed to get worse and worse. The committee was there, but they pretty much got ignored. I tried to tell myself this shit happens sometimes, that to create and implement such a new platform for parkour is not made in 7 days. To make it really good it will take a few years.
I decided to stick to it as long as I felt well about the events. And of course as long as I have the chance. I’m 27 years old and I have maybe a bit more than 10 years to improve on my skills. I will still be able to develop parkour in my city and country but never again to be recognized as an accomplished speed athlete. So I ignored the fact that half the committee left. My friend Kamil, Steffi from Paris, Alexandra, I can understand them leaving, putting in so much effort for nearly nothing must be frustrating.
But I strongly believe that it’s gonna happen, Parkour at the Olympics! No matter what so much hate is gonna flow, and then I wanna be on board and not off board and wait till it gets better by itself. I wanna put in my style, my true parkour I learned and I also don’t want it to be a sprint course forever, that would destroy the sport even more. So I think there is a chance that sprinters would takeover the comp when it is bigger. For now we competitors just complain face to face with the creator of the structure design. Even if it takes ages, it’s worth it to me at least.
I don’t wanna let it go, and just let it happen, not as long as I can be a part of it. The prize money and the power of the FIG is obviously also a big motivation to go. Some athletes do Hollywood movies, some TV shows, some Circus, some Theatre. But I honestly missed having 5 Art of Motions a year so I could see my friends around the world more often! And even get paid for it sometimes when you catch a good weekend! So that’s the reason I go to the events right now.
I see Parkour in my own vision as the coolest Olympic sport of the near future. Until 2024 it still has time to evolve on course set up and the rest. I’m not afraid.
Valentin Dubois – France
“I know who I am, I know my demons. I know how to deal with jealousy, anger, etc, etc. That’s why I chose to compete because it was the next big challenge I could take.”
The reason why I choose to go to the FIG events is because I saw it coming from afar. Basically when the first competition was announced in 2017 I saw all the drama with APEX pulling out and many athletes pulling out and many people criticizing the FIG. I saw something happening that I saw happening again and again in the parkour world. What do I mean by that? I mean that time and time again we had faces, where the community (the majority of the parkour practitioners) were against something. First it was coaching. For example, in France if you would coach you would be kind of a sell out because you’re not supposed to make money with parkour it’s supposed to be learned by yourself. You’re not supposed to coach it’s against the “nature of Parkour”.
Then it was parkour clothing.So people were against parkour clothing because you’re not supposed to make business out of parkour. Because if you want clothing for parkour you just go to the cheap sports shop and buy any sports goods and that’s what you should buy. Then it was parkour gyms. If you trained in a parkour gym you were going against the “nature of Parkour” because parkour is supposed to be outside, not in a gym. You shouldn’t do parkour in the gym. Then it was parkour events. You shouldn’t pay money to do parkour at an event. Then it was competition, etc, etc. So we have things like that every three years or so that’s a new thing popping out and people are against it because it is against the “nature of Parkour”. It was also a camera. At some point filming yourself was against the nature of parkour because you’re supposed to be in the moment and just let the moment go and you’re not supposed to show off what you’re able to do.
So I saw all of this coming and I was thinking is it really different from everything else? And yes and no. Yes, it’s different because what gymnastics is trying to do is create a monopoly where there is a free market. By that I mean anyone at the moment can build their own parkour gym if they want to and make a great work. In a way gymnastics has said that people can do whatever they want, but they’re still going to be a major competition in the market of parkour. And probably an unfair competition because they have so much money that they right away can do Olympics style competitions with 3 phases inviting athletes from all around the world and paying for everything. So it’s an unfair competition if you look at NAPC, it’s a small business that’s been growing little by little and they don’t even have a budget to pay for the athletes they invite to get to NAPC.
But is the hate going to last and are people really going to fight for defending the “Real Parkour”? I don’t think so. I think it’s already fading. I see that people are not hating as much. For example I didn’t get any hate messages this year and last year I got a few. But this year I got one message of support and one message of hate. So people are starting to understand that gymnastics involvement is going to happen. And while there is bad there is also good, mostly for athletes I think. Now let’s go back to why I decide to participate in 2017. When that whole drama happened I said okay, put me in, I don’t care about what anyone is saying, I don’t care about the judgments. I am an athlete. I want to compete. I want to become World Champion. That’s my goal. I want to go to this event it’s just going to be a plus for me.
Do I think FIG Gymnastics is a good thing? It’s a great thing for athletes. They’re able to pay for competition fees like traveling. They can pay for your food once you’re there. If you are top 3 you get a lot of money. We’re talking about 6,000 Euro for first place, 4,000 for second place and 2,500 for third place. So that’s a lot of money for someone like me that lives with his mom. I survive on social welfare and a few parkour jobs here and there. Having this opportunity is a big plus for me since I dedicated my life to training.
Then the second part. Is it good for the community? I don’t think so. I think at the moment how FIG are running things is not good for the community. They are handing keys to people who have nothing to do with parkour. The ability to open parkour classes, they are giving them a legal legitimacy but not a real street legitimacy. Now any gymnastic coach can pretend to coach parkour, like that’s how it is. In France I am being contacted by random gymnast guys and they want like my help for x or y thing. I just don’t know them. They are not parkour people. What I mean by parkour people is someone that’s been training for a long time. They know the history of the sport, they’re part of the community, what I call the community is the overall majority of those that train and go to events, whether it’s a competition or gathering, et cetera, et cetera.
So that’s what gymnastics seems to try to do. I’m not inside the whole detail but that’s where it’s going. They don’t seem to care that much about the value. The proof is the first thing they do is organize a competition. The core value of parkour is not being the best in the world. The core values of parkour is about being a better human being, being grateful to the people who surround you, trying to progress everyday to become a better person, a stronger person, and not trying to be better than x, y, z. Like me I’m competing now after like 10 years of training because I know myself. I know who I am, I know my demons. I know how to deal with jealousy, anger, etc, etc. That’s why I chose to compete because it was the next big challenge I could take.
The reason why I compete is for that. It’s for this big opportunity that I can train even more, compete against very strong people, get even better. It’s really a kind of way to live what I love. Because at this moment many people complain about the FIG event but if you want to reach the level that there is at the comp, not everyone is very famous and not everyone is super good but there are some really good athletes over there. Like David killed it, I was really surprised. He killed it at this comp. Chris is also good. Phosky is really good, he has proven it at Hop The Block. So there’s a great level of parkour practitioner over there. And so if you want to win those events you need to invest time into training, you’re not just going to win like that.
Do I support the FIG right now? I’m support them passively. I mean I’m supporting them actively because I am taking part of the events. So because of me they can use my image and have some type of legitimacy. But I don’t like the way things are going. And also, it’s a bit of a cheap argument but it’s quite true. By being inside you can change certain things. For example we have meetings with the people in charge of the commission. And I open my mouth I say “No, this is bullshit, we shouldn’t do that, no no no”. And so by this way I can influence where the things go. I’m not going to say that I’m there for the community and to help the Parkour because I don’t think this is where “Real Parkour” is.
I am there first and foremost for my own interest and because I want to become World Champion. That’s it. I’m not shying away from it. I’m not scared of being judged for it. I’m fully aware of why I am there and I’m not going to play the ostrich by saying it’s for something else.
Stephania Zitis – Australia
“A long time ago people hated competitions, now everyone is counting the days till next Art of Motion or Air Wipp.”
At first, I jumped on the hate train like everyone else – around when the first competition happened in Montpellier in 2017. And I sort of just left it at “FIG’s bad” and didn’t really go any more into it.Until a good friend of mine invited me to The Fise World Series event in Chengdu 2017. Of course, I was hella excited. It’s pretty much what any Parkour athlete dreams of, an all paid for trip to travel, meet other athletes and jump on stuff.
I was thinking this was going to be a really great opportunity, until I realized it was held under FIG (aren’t they the bad guys?). I asked a few people I trusted and was really conflicted as some said things like “FIG isn’t so bad, it’s a great opportunity, go” and others said “it’ll ruin your life, everyone will hate you”. A lot of people online also seemed to have no idea why they were saying “Fuck FIG”? It all seemed to be fueled on a maybe. But no one actually knew what this meant for Parkour from my perspective.
I decided it would just be best to attend for myself and to get my own perspective and maybe share this with the community. It did not seem so bad, sometimes. And other times it really seemed like I was wasting my time. I stayed for so long because I believed we could really make this whole thing into something really good. And we didn’t just go there to have fun, we had a lot of meetings and discussions with FIG members and President Watanabe – so we felt like we were being included and had a say. But by the end of 2018 I felt very ignored. When Kamil and Sasha and the other commission members quit I had given up on FIG.
Then I was invited to Chengdu Parkour World Cup 2019. I said no 3 times, I caused a massive fuss and sent a lot of emails and messages to FIG people and other athletes. Somehow my friends convinced me to come back, to give it one more shot because apparently it was better now. So, I’m like “Fine, one last chance”. And I’m actually really glad I went. When I first attended my plan was to come back with all this information and answers – but I never had any “real” ones. Just “this guy said this”. It’s definitely still a work in progress, but for the first time I really feel like FIG can actually co-exist and even work together with the Parkour community.
It really looks like they are only interested in the Olympics – so they aren’t gonna come in and take over our gyms. And I think the more actual Parkour people we get in on it the better it’s going to be. Us being present has already made some changes such as adding bars to the course, making the obstacle height limit higher, changing the arrangement of the competitions and also non-pk related things such as better organization, e.g. not getting our flights the day of travel, actually getting picked up from the airport on time, actually having our own doctors onsite (not the event ones).
I really think the more people we get in on this the better – because it can be a really good thing if we get the right people working on it. There are already countries working with their Gymnastics Federations such as The Netherlands – but you’d probably have to ask someone from there for more details as I don’t want to say anything inaccurate. But from talking to some of the athletes from there – it doesn’t seem like their Gymnastics Federation is “taking over Parkour” or anything.
In short, I’m attending because I believe that with our help this will one day become normal and okay and good. A long time ago people hated competitions, now everyone is counting the days till next Art of Motion or Air Wipp. But those competitions don’t stop people from going to gyms or training in the streets. And I don’t think FIG will either.
David Nelmes – United Kingdom
“The main reason I still attend the FIG events is because I would rather be involved and have a voice inside and to be able to see what’s going on directly, rather than sitting at home and doing nothing but complaining online about it.”
At first I also jumped on the bandwagon and even posted against FIG, sharing what others had said without knowing much, just assumptions and worries. It seems like the community are against anything outside of Parkour coming into our sport, whether it’s to support us or not. When Redbull and other organizations started competitions there was uproar in the community. But it always seems to quiet after the hype dies down. People don’t seem to care as much as they make out at the start. At least not without evidence that FIG is causing harm to the sport, which is understandable.
Anyhow, so FIG actually invited me to that first comp with the cute skate park setup. They offered me good money and travel covered etc, but at the time I was still listening to all the hate online blindly, and I turned it down without thought. The money didn’t tempt me, as I’ve stressed many times that I don’t do this for the money. I work 2 full time jobs, working for myself and I’m happy and very comfortable with this.
Almost a year later, a friend asked me one day if I wanted to come to a competition in China. I didn’t actually realize at the time he asked, that it was being organised by FIG, but only that it was at a FISE event. So I accepted. A few days later I got some more info and realized it was FIG, but at this point the whole drama around FIG seemed to have died down and I realized I had no idea what was actually going on or their intentions, so I thought fuck it I may as well go and see what all the fuss is about directly.
When I attended this first comp I did not actually think that there was any money involved as there was none mentioned prior! I attended and it was an amazing experience and such a fun trip with great friends. The organizing by FIG was a bit sloppy and the setup was pretty basic, but it was early stages so I didn’t expect much. We all had a meeting with the FIG president and members, and they told us some of their intentions/plans and it all sounded fine to be honest. Seemed like their main focus is just to push the sport into the Olympics. Anyway so we all came back home and got a load of hate from the community. I don’t mind the hate, it’s just sad that the majority of comments are from people who have no idea what they’re saying, but are simply copying what’s been said by a few athletes with big names at the top. But I think that’s why so many people now appear to care less about the FIG situation because they are seeing that nothing bad is happening. (At least for now!)
FIG cannot change or affect gyms and competitions that exist and happen in Parkour. Which was a worry for most. FIG can only have control over the gyms and competitions they create themselves, but even then they are letting us athletes have a strong voice for what we want. We as the community have a lot more power than we realize. (Of course perhaps it’s all bullshit and they will turn on us when they have enough knowledge, but I am not so quick to judge like that. Maybe I’m naive, maybe not.)
We have already changed so many things in these competitions and educated them better about our sport. We are currently changing the judging system too, as it isn’t quite perfect yet. Then again neither is the judging system in some community run events, it’s a tricky thing to near perfect! It’s just a learning curve that will improve with time. The same as the setups. I find it quite petty when the community is mocking the setups because we have seen much worse in the community even in recent years. I know FIG has more budget, but it also comes down to the space provided, the equipment they are allowed to use etc, but the events improve each time. The main design of the course is (to my knowledge) actually done by Charles Perriere, who of course has a very long history in Parkour! Not some old gymnast guys like many seem to assume.
The main reason I still attend the FIG events is because I would rather be involved and have a voice inside and to be able to see what’s going on directly, rather than sitting at home and doing nothing but complaining online about it. FIG are moving forward with their competitions regardless, and I’d rather there be athletes there who attend and can make a difference (or try!) if anything was to go to shit, rather than someone who is there only to compete and would not care if FIG did things wrong. You can’t make change by sitting back and watching. I admire those who actually take action, whether it’s for or against FIG; but not those who simply comment #FuckFIG on my posts and then direct message to ask what it’s all about.
Another very strong reason for going is admittedly because I enjoy the experience and I have a lot of fun being with my friends and exploring new places, making new memories. I do not go to win or make money. I do not even train or prepare for these competitions! I hadn’t trained for 2 weeks prior to competing, and as many who follow me would know, I party a lot and just have fun with my life. I don’t take it seriously to be the best or to win these things, and to clear things up – you ONLY get any money if you make podium. Not simply for attending. I actually lost out on a lot of money by missing work during the previous 2 competitions where I did not win, so for people to say I attend for money is hilarious. Money motivates some of us to go, of course, just not me.
FIG need guidance to do things right. By boycotting it will only lead them to do it wrong by lack of knowledge. Of course they want to make money from it, no shit. So does every organization running comps, events, selling clothing or making viral videos. It doesn’t mean they want to take our sport and destroy it or convert it into gymnastics, that’s a ridiculous thought and makes no sense. They see the potential in Parkour the way it is. Not as gymnastics. They want to benefit but so will we.
I understand that a lot of the community don’t want FIG to be involved simply because they don’t want the ‘gymnast’ tag related to Parkour – which is fair but the world won’t give a fuck. We don’t look at trampolining and think “gymnastics!” But FIG govern that sport and many others that we don’t even realize. Bottom line is Parkour will always be Parkour, NOT Gymnastics, and the world will not start to think that Parkour is a Gymnastics sport simply because FIG govern it. I don’t think anyway.
It’s easy for the majority of us to sit back and complain that we don’t need FIG when we have luxuries of gyms and Parkour parks in our cities, and wealth and cheap travel, and to let RedBull hold our biggest competition. Sure, it’s easy. BUT those people are not thinking about communities in Africa, Columbia, China and other areas of Asia and the world, who simply have nothing compared to us. Who cannot afford to travel to meet and train with their favorite athletes. Who don’t have gyms, parks or safe facilities to train at. The underrated talent who don’t have the equipment to make videos or travel to compete. These are the ones who will benefit the most from FIG to make their dreams come true. I’ve already met many incredible athletes from these countries who would have never had had these opportunities otherwise. It’s easy to defend this by saying “yes but we could eventually do it ourselves” but the reality of it is that we clearly didn’t have intentions of doing so any time soon, and the money going into Parkour isn’t amazing. I’ve seen so many gyms close down because they can not afford to stay open. So many events and competitions have died off because of no profit.
If FIG can create these opportunities for us and the communities who need it, WITHOUT bad intentions for us, then I am all for it. Until I see actual solid evidence of them ruining our sport, I will continue to attend the events. I understand a lot of people are upset that FIG didn’t communicate directly with the community, I also wish they did! But they are not used to doing things this way, they are very used to old fashioned professional & political ways and most sports do not have the type of close community that we do, so they wouldn’t think to speak to us direct in that way. They also probably didn’t expect such a retaliation! But that is just my opinion not necessarily fact.
Hope it gives a little more open mindedness to why some of us attend these competitions. We are not (all) here to go against the community or be selfish, we are all trying to understand this situation the same as you guys. We would just rather be involved than not. And who cares anyway what others want to do. It’s not selfish if they do wish to simply profit from doing what they love. Not everyone is born with a silver spoon up their ass and benefits. If you train Parkour for the reasons it was created, this shouldn’t affect you. Just have fun and do what you want to do.
And that’s wraps up another round of trying to figure out what the FIG is going on. Thanks so much for reading and being open to hearing the voices of members of the community who make decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with. Regardless of FIG’s role in the future of parkour we as a community get to decide right now how we treat those we would normally welcome as friends under any other circumstances. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s better to seek to understand. Curiosity is the spark that united us all together in the first place, and it’s what keeps us all coming back for more today.
*This article has been edited for grammar, length and language barriers.