Here is a video that recently surfaced of David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli in Austria! Unique in its filming, location, and style, this video is a testament to the wide reaching variably dynamic nature of Parkour as well as the longevity of its founder who, at 37, obviously still doesn’t miss a step.
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What follows is the video transcript of a fantastic interview with David Belle called “The World is a Playground.” At the time when we published the interview about 5 months ago we called the video, “…one of the best interviews ever conducted with David…” With the video transcribed and the text posted below you can now read and study the words of the founder himself. If you would like to view the video please click here.
David Belle : The World is a playground
Hello, I’m David Belle, actor, choreographer and also behind the Parkour movement.
Parkour is a real training method to face obstacles. It’s to be strong to be useful. The goal really is to train thinking “what can I do with it”?
In real Parkour, there’s no flip. The goal is to keep it simple, efficient and to train movements in which you trust.
When you’re learning parkour, everything in front of you is training. When you start, during the first two or three years, you never stop. Day and night. Every time you see something you’ll get interested in climbing it, because you know that’s when you’re building your training. Then, with time, when you’re pretty much done everything there was to do, you calm down and see what’s left. At that point, it’s really “the feeling”, it happens that I don’t train at all for three weeks or one month, two months and then for one week I’ll train day and night.
Movements are simple. Cat pass, arm jump, precison jumps, saut de fond [jumping off high stuff], I’d say if you really wanted to know all the different techniques. But Parkour is a mix of them all. You should train sauts de fonds to train your thighs. Precision jumps to help focus and be able to land on a small rail. Focusing is really important. Then, running to build stamina. Parkour is a mix of them all.
Doing Parkour is pretty much forgetting those paths socity traced for us and making our own. Even though people say “Don’t go there, you’ll get hurt”, we’re adults, we know what’s dangerous. Take a little kid, tell him not to do something, he’ll do it. But put him in front of a big gap: he’s not stupid, he won’t jump.
When I’m on top of a building, it’s just like is I was on top of a mountain. I don’t look at the mountain, I look at the sky and I’m comfortable with that height. I could be on a roof or on a big rock: it’s the same for me. It’s a quest for height, for freedom, to take paths no one else takes, were nobody else has been: that quest is what makes Parkour interesting.
The wrong way of doing Parkour is to impress, it’s not a sport where you jump off things and show people you get hurt and you don’t care. No. The goal is to end up in good health, to respect your body, respect others, and not to move with a group showing yourself just because it’s new the crazy thing around.
My brother is a fireman, my father was a fireman too and my grandfather was a fireman for 32 years. So, it’s in our family. It’s a bit for them too. My father went to Vietnam, then went with the firemen and thought me this art. I made it into something more definite: Parkour. The goal is to become more and more confident with their body and for that, Parkour is only a complement.
My advice to young traceurs would be: it’s normal that when you’re 15-16 you want to be someone. But when you’re training Parkour with passion, if you’re good, people will notice you. Don’t go around saying: Hey look at this new move I just got. No. We used to say: if it’s good, we’ll tell you. Do it for yourself first. If people like it or not, who cares? As long as you feel good doing it. Now if with that spirit people notice you then good for you. But you should do it for yourself.
The official website of David Belle is coming soon!
For a long while now DavidBelle.com has been a dormant site. But there is finally activity on it that indicates that the website will be up and running soon. Check out the site, see for yourself, and spread the word!
Parkour is a method of training which allows us to overcome obstacles, both in the urban and natural environments.
It’s a weapon in disguise. We train… and when one day we encounter a problem, we know that we are able to use it.
It can be the art of flight, of the chase, of helping someone with a problem, something ordinary. It happened to me that I’ve had to climb up to the second floor because some guy forgot his keys. It’s stupid, because he’s right there. He knows that his window is open. He doesn’t have his keys.
He says to me, “Can you… uh…”
And I’m like, “Of course,” and I climb into his place just to open his door. And if he was able to do it… Well, it wouldn’t have been a problem for him.
I believe that the end result of Parkour is to become entirely autonomous in life. And to be able to say all by yourself, “Well this here… I don’t have the distance, but I’ll train for 15 days, drilling 50 jumps in the morning and at night. In a month, I’ll have it.”
That’s knowing yourself. Setting goals and attaining them. Because if we don’t have goals, we’re just floating in the wind and we don’t know why we’re moving. And when we have found a reason for what we’re doing, even if we move into other areas that are not Parkour – artistic areas or in life – well, we will already be in the habit of finding meaning.
All the questions that they ask me about Parkour… They ask, “Why are you doing this? What is the…” As though it’s hidden in the philosophy, or in the movements that you are working on.
But if you look at a monkey… If you were to stop him at the moment he ‘s in the middle of doing a jump, you press pause and then you ask him, “Why are you doing this? Why are you moving?” I think the monkey would answer, “And you? Why are you NOT moving?”
The thing that is really amusing, in the idea of urban Parkour, is when you realize that humans are moving on things that are not made initially for this purpose. Which is to say that the guy who built the little barriers on the sides of staircases to go this way or put this wall here, he didn’t say to himself, “Oh yeah, so he’s going to jump here, so this is at the right distance. Or maybe…” They build it and we came and found… the way…
Like a game… a game of society… A little… a little… You will look and see what’s possible, what’s not possible. And the more you look at it correctly, the less risk you take.
When you live an art – it doesn’t matter which – completely, inevitably it opens up on other things. And it makes you understand things about life. The right middle ground…
Because excess kills. Therefore… It stays with me…
My grandfather used to say that to me: “You need to use it and not abuse it.”
These are phrases that come back to me all the time. In those moments when I ask myself questions, I tell myself, “But this settles it. I’ve was told.”
You can’t be a jackass all the time. You can’t … You can’t play with your body like that. There’s a moment when you need to follow rules. There are laws of physics. It’s fine to say say, “Yeah, I’m not scared” but you won’t jump 10 metres (33 feet). You can’t jump 10 metres.
So you’re obliged to follow a kind of training… And it’s in training that you can say, “I feel good. I can progress past myself.” And know just how far you are willing to go.
I realize that everything that my father gave to me, and everything that I learned on the ground… I realize now that he didn’t lie to me. That he didn’t say to me, “Here, go on, David. You jump from there. Don’t be afraid. You won’t do anything to yourself. You won’t get hurt. And…”
He would tell me to be careful with what I was doing. He would tell me to not do just anything. And… Look… I owe him everything in the end.
It’s not easy when you have a child, to see him jumping from a height, and to stay stoic like this and say, “Yeah that’s good, but use your legs a bit more, because right now that’s not going to…” and give him advice. But now all that I see is, “Be careful!” or “You’re going to hurt yourself,” or whatever.
I’m under the impression that fear is passed on. We can teach courage, but we also teach a lot of fear. And we’re in a society… today, where everyone is afraid. Everyone double locks their doors. Everyone is stressed. Everyone is… How are we going to trust people like this?
And if today, the new generation learns things where they learn a little to have courage and to have confidence in themselves… These are the future fathers of tomorrow. So these people, when they are 30 or 40 years old, they’ll be 40 years old, but people who will have done Parkour and who will have learned these values. So they will pass on other things to their sons. Other than “But not that! Be careful! Put on your jacket, you’re going to catch a cold. No! Not there you’re going to fall.” Because by doing that, we might as well just lock ourselves in our homes. And then nothing will happen to us. But life happens outside anyways.
So if we have two arms and two legs, it’s for… It’s for… for it’s for climbing to go see what’s going on. It’s not for staying locked up, otherwise we’d just be like trees.
There is no stronger or weaker. What is actually important… You’re strong in the moment when you go right to the end for the cause you are defending. Tomorrow, you get into a fight or there’s a confusion, if your cause is good, you will always win.
Even if physically you lost. The guy physically beats you down and broke your legs, you say “Yeah, you physically beat me down, but I will always have what’s in my head. You can’t get into my head and change what’s in my head.”
If I tell you it’s like this and I’m sure of it, you’ll never move that. And that’s what’s important.
So, now, with Parkour, you can hurt yourself, you can do whatever… but it’s not because… Even me, personally, tomorrow, I could hurt myself doing Parkour… it could always happen… but I will always believe in the same values. Because even animals fall down. They take a spill. They… Except when they fall, it’s not concrete.
It’s really similar to martial arts. In the method of training. In the willingness to drill a movement or a technique. Yeah, you could say it’s tied closely to martial arts. I think it’s really the same philosophy, the same way of… of learning things…
To look at an opponent and to say, “Okay this guy, he’s much bigger, so I need to hit him much lower because this or that,” or “this guy looks pretty fast, so I’m going to try to…”
So by following the opponent, we modify our technique, we know where we need to be careful, whatever, if we going to engage in close combat or fight on the ground.
So when you find yourself in front of an obstacle, it’s the same: “So what’s here? I’m going to grab there. But if I slip, where I can catch myself? Okay there’s this.” Boom boom boom. It teaches you to look.
It’s… It’s really the same… well for me… the same mechanism.
I think the fear will always be there. But there will be a moment when you will have the confidence, that right when you are about to do a jump, you say, “I’ve practiced this 500 times right beside, and in that 500 times I never bailed. Why am I now I worried that I’m going to fall?”
Because fear makes us lose our memory sometimes.
Like someone – I keep coming back to combat – the guy is there in his club. He’s done his drills all year. Hop. He made his display. One day he gets into trouble. There’s a lot of pressure. The other guy isn’t talking to him like his teacher because it doesn’t matter that he does martial arts, and he only wants him to know that if he doesn’t give him his wallet right now, he’s going to get messed up. And the guy, he panics.
You want to say, “Hey! Wake up! What have you been all year? Didn’t you train for this moment?”
“Yeah, but now I don’t know, because I’m paralyzed by…”
“Well you didn’t learn anything then. It’s useless.”
So I see it like that. So the training must be such that when you are in a real situation, you react right away. And the more you’ve trained in a situation that approaches reality, then the day you are confronted by reality, then there is no change. Because reality is when you’re confronted by reality.
It’s when you learn on something soft or whatever, that when all of a sudden… or you take hits in boxing gloves, and you think oh that’s a punch.
No! A punch with bones that go into your skull has nothing to do with that. When your head takes a shock and you no longer know where you are… Well if you’ve never taken a punch in your life, then you’ll never know what it is.
And I believe, there it is, it’s a little like that.
When you engage in something, you know the risks, and you aren’t surprised, because… “Oh yeah, it’s true. I tried Parkour and I twisted my ankle. I’m quitting this sport. It’s really dangerous…” You already knew. You already knew.
A hunter or a whatever, a guy from a tribe, he climbs in the trees. Of course, it’s happened that he’s fallen and torn himself up. But it’s like, “Yeah, but we have to go through there. If not, then we don’t eat. We have to climb in the trees.”
From the moment you leave your house it’s dangerous. When you go into the subway, it’s dangerous. You could be at the edge of your tracks with your briefcase. You think you’re safe. And here comes this guy who is running because his buddy is trying to catch him. He bumps into you and you fall on the tracks. You didn’t want to end up there, but there, it happened… At any point in the day…
So when you understand that… On the day that you’re supposed to go, you go. So right now do your thing, live your life and so stop living in fear: “Oh no! You shouldn’t do that because…” Or this guy, “No, I don’t have a car. I don’t drive because it’s dangerous. There are lots of accidents.” But then one day you’re crossing the street and you get run over. The guy who double locks his door so no one gets in, and there’s a gas leak and the building explodes.
There isn’t really anything you can do to protect yourself from danger or to avoid risk. Life is already a risk. Life is a permanent risk. We take risks all the time when we speak to people. When we engage with someone and trust them, we are taking a risk.
So the trick is to be aware of it and live with it.
People who are like: “Did you see? He’s on the wall of the school?” and everyone goes, “He’s not supposed to be there. Oh la la!” It’s people who are giving the impression thatyou’re doing something wrong.
But you’re like, “What’s the matter?”
If a cat comes along, or a bird sits up there, you’re not going to throw rocks at it. It’s a living thing. It has a heart beating inside it. Why then just because I am person and I can speak, well now you’ll say, “Oh you know you’re not supposed to be there, you know. What are you doing on that wall?”
Well, I don’t know. And you, what are you doing there looking at me? If you turn your head, in fact, and walk straight ahead, you don’t see me. I’m not inconveniencing you. So go on your way… If you were going to get bread, go buy your bread and go home. And… Why are you concerning yourself with my stuff? And when you talk to me and disturb me right when I’m about to jump, I’m at risk of falling because of you. Because you disturbed me to enter into this discussion. I’m concentrating on my thing. I look at you. I jump. Bam! I hurt myself. And then what do you do? Are you going to come and take me to the emergency room? So if it’s not… if what you have to say is not presently relevant to what I’m doing, keep moving.
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The following is one of the most comprehensive and insightful interviews ever conducted with David Belle the founder of Parkour. In the interview David speaks extensively about a wide range of subjects including his transition from being a fireman into being an actor, training and learning Parkour from his father, and his future plans as they pertain to practicing Parkour and pursuing knowledge and activities in other facets of life.
This interview was conducted only a couple months ago after the release of B13 – Ultimatum, and was just recently made known to the public through the Australian Parkour Association. Special thanks to Raphael Koster for conducting the interview and Benjamin Mossé for translating it.
Why have you decided to move from being a fireman to being an actor/stuntman?
Firstly, after being a fireman, I went into the army. I was in the Marine Infantry. It was a coincidence I found myself in movies. It was not a vocation. Not something I wanted to do since I was little. What I wanted was to make my sport known: that Parkour become recognized. My brother showed my small videos to the media and they got interested; which brought me to movies. But acting wasn’t something I originally wanted to do. Now that I am in that field; I enjoy it and I am not going to waste the opportunity. If there are opportunities for me in movies, I will take them. Otherwise I will move on to something else. However, for the moment I am not thinking of making a career in that area. I was more than happy with the first District B13. It was already enough for me to be able to tell that to my kids. When I finished working on B13, I told myself: “Even if there is only that one, I am happy enough that Parkour brought me to do that; to be able to show Parkour to the public and make myself known”. For the rest, let’s not make plans on what is and what is not going to happen.
You’re talking as if you haven’t made any decisions by yourself, as if it just all happened by accident…
But it did all happen just like that! I never had any kind of strategy. I never tried to sell myself to act in movies. I never asked for anything. It all started with the documentary that has been shown on TV. From there I took what people offered. Even the last thing, Prince of Persia, I did not ask for that job, it is them who contacted me while I was filming in B13 Ultimatum. They called me like four times, insisting for me to work with them. I was working on another movie at the time so we agreed that I would work for them on my free days. Parkour is being integrated everywhere in movies now, as soon as there is a little race or a jump they use Parkour. We clearly notice it now, the jumps are different.
What are the differences between preparing yourself for stunts in a movie and your own training?
I do it about the same. Parkour, I am finished with it now. People are starting to get interested in that art, but me I have already explored it a lot. I also have a lot of interests in other things. When someone talks to me about Parkour I am not going to say “It’s too late”; most of the time I answer “You should have come when I was 20 years old. I was really motivated at that time! I was into Parkour every second of my life.” Now I could learn to play music, like the guitar or whatever; what’s important is that I want to learn other things. Parkour is not the only thing in life. People tell me “Parkour kicks ass, I have to do it!” I have interests in other things too. Parkour is a training method men should train because it helps you displace yourself in urban or natural environments and learning to adapt yourself to it. However, for me, learning to do stuff like cooking is as important as doing Parkour. Knowing how to repair a car, how to help someone who’s having a cardiac arrest etc. For me those are the basics of life. I am not like an old martial artist at 80 years old who’s always practicing the same punches. It’s even likely that the guy has never fought for his life and I would like to tell him “Stop punching, relax yourself, live normally; enjoy your life,” because there is too much rigidity when people focus too much on something. And I don’t want to end up like that. When you’re getting your first aid diploma, you are not going to be saving people every day it’s more “if something happens, I will know what to do.” I’ve always trained Parkour with the same mentality. So fuck people who tell me “Hey do a demo! or something…”, I never trained Parkour to perform or show off. To me, Parkour is something personal. It just happened to get popular. I’m not the one who put it on the internet.
Is the reason for your disagreement with the Yamakasi about them moving Parkour into movies and shows?
No. But when I really think about it, there is no issue with the Yamakasi. I only practice what my dad taught me. When you listen to them, they’ll tell you they do something they created themselves. And we all live at the same place. The group Yamakasi does not even exist anymore, everyone went away; now it’s called “Majestic Force thingy”. When it was Yamakasi they were like “We are Yamakasi, it’s the sport”; now they are moving towards PG Tips because this project is working well. And I ask myself, why is that? We had a simple sport, why does everyone want to give it a new name? “It’s like Parkour but it’s called Free Running style thingy…”. But it is Parkour! When you go in any other country around the world you say “I play soccer or volleyball”. The name of the sport does not change. So why change the name of Parkour unless you want to do some kind of business and be able to say “I am the creator of this new sport, exactly like Parkour except that you only jump on one leg”? Change one thing to say that you are the creator of something and be able to make some money from it. The goal of Parkour is not to make money or create a business. There is no financial goal behind it. Parkour should be taught to people who want to learn. If they don’t have money it does not matter because you don’t need any to do it, just a pair of good shoes and that’s all. Now people are like “Beware! The Academy is gonna open!” or “There’s gonna be a Parkour center bla bla bla.” But me, I learned Parkour outside! The real Parkour training is to be done outside. You can do whatever with your centers, put some mats down, but people will always end up going outside.
What necessity made you create Parkour?
It was my dad who taught it to me. I had seen and heard a lot of things he did as a fireman – he was a true legend. And I wanted to know his history. Either my dad was gifted and in that case I would never be able to be like him, or either he had trained to get that good and in that case he probably has something to teach me. I then realized how much training he had done. He trained like I never have done in my life. Compared with him I am a little kid who’s playing. When I think about all the physical training he went through I tell myself “Is that the price to pay to get that good? Fuck it’s really hard!” Many people pay to get trained, but I reckon if any of them would have trained with him only one day, none of them would have ever come back. That’s how hard it is. So many people try to train easy “Come do Parkour! It’s really cool!” But if tomorrow I made you do real training, you would end up crying. That’s what you need to know: you are going to cry, you are going to bleed and you are going to sweat like never before. I can’t lie to you about that. Now if you come telling me “Hey I want to learn Parkour, but go easy on me, I don’t want to push too much,” well go do something else! It is for warriors. A training method for warriors. It is not like “I want to learn how to fight; but please don’t hit me too hard because I don’t like it.” If that’s the case, go do something else! If you want to be a real warrior you have to go through hard times.
What use has Parkour?
Easy, we have two hands: it’s to grab things. We can grab things to displace ourselves. We can lift ourselves up. We can jump and run with our legs. We can swim. Instinctively you know you can do these things. When you are swimming you know it is in you. It’s not for nothing. You are not obliged to specialize in them, like become a climbing expert. You can still experience everything and I think that’s what life is about. Don’t close yourself to anything and think you have found the truth and understood life. Many people open their mind through different things like music and painting, as well as Parkour. How is not important. What is important is to open your mind because you gain some freedom through it. I think that when you train Parkour, you realize a bit more about what freedom means especially concerning society. It really opened my mind. But it does not mean it will have the same effect on someone else. What’s good for one is not necessarily good for someone else.
What is the freedom of Parkour?
After a good training session, and good physical preparation, we know exactly what we are capable of, and that we can evolve without being disturbed by others. Still respecting others, but not being disturbed by them. Now I often have to justify myself; particularly with cops. But on the other hand I understand them, when they see me climbing stuff they can think that I’ve stolen something. There are many difficult moments like that so I am thinking of moving to another country like Thailand or even the UK, anywhere where cops are not such a pain.
Even the UK?
Yes! Even if there are too many cameras over there. Cops know what Parkour is. Whereas in France they are being such a pain even though the sport was developed here. It has been 10 or 15 years since Parkour was first given media coverage in France and no one knows about it. I am always being asked the same questions over and over. When we are in the street, it is exactly like 15 years ago when it all started. This frustrates me because public perception hasn’t been evolving as fast as Parkour itself has been. If only we had the resources to really create something good, but we haven’t. At the moment everyone is trying to make it his own way, we are all going in circles; but it could all have been done a long time ago! I wouldn’t be surprised if the things I would like to do are only going to happen when I am 60 years old and I won’t be able to move like I do today. What I would like to achieve is something better; something really close to the street. Maybe just a place where we can gather everyone outside. I would like to create a foundation and we get 500,000 euros or even 1,000,000; with that I’d say “OK, Let’s invest all that money to make this sort of place for Parkour”. I won’t be like “OK cool, but I’ll take a quarter of it because I am the founder of the discipline”. No! I’m not going to even take a cent. If we get that money it is because people want a place like that. So we use that money to create this place and that’s it. When I think about it, with the money I made from movies and other things, same with the Yamakasi… if we had all gotten together, it would already be done. But instead, everyone did his own way, arguing over and over about where it all started, some who never wanted to admit that it came from one place; well we got divided instead of being united.
We are now in a “divide and conquer” type of strategy.