Dave Sedgley Interview

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Reposted from American Parkour

Some know him, some love him, and a lot of people disagree with him. He’s Dave Sedgley, chairman of the BPCA (British Parkour Coaching Association), former moderator of parkour.net, and a strong community voice for the discipline both in the United Kingdom and around the world. Read on to hear his words on non-competition, what the BPCA stands for, the early days of Parkour, and what the “spirit” of Parkour really is…
Interview By Gabe Arnold

APK: Let’s start with the basics: Who are you, what´s your name? Whereare you from? Where do you live or work now?

Dave: I’m me! A guy living my own life, following my own path.My name is Dave Sedgley. I grew up and currently live in Sheffield,although I also lived for a time in Manchester.

APK: How long have you been a practitioner? Where/when/how did you getinto this crazy thing called Parkour?

Dave: I started practising Parkour about six years ago. I missed the original showing of the Jump London documentary because I simply didn’t have a tv but managed to tape the repeat at my parents house. I watched it a couple of days later and then at least once a day for the next fortnight, because it was really the first time I’d seen anyone challenging popular social understanding. I was on the walls outside my parents house immediately, exploring this new approach to the environment, and a week or so later when i was back home I got on the internet and found a couple of other people in my city (Manchester) who were also trying to get started.

APK: If you don´t mind, give a brief history of your training. Where have you gone, who have you trained with, what are some noteworthy milestones in your past?

Dave: When I first started training at the start of 2004 the UK community was very small and we all had to travel to meet people in different areas or else never meet another practitioner. I travelled a lot morethan most, and in my first 6 months of practising travelled to everywhere that I knew had practitioners, including all the major cities and many smaller towns that also had Parkour practitioners. I met lots of great people, probably the majority of the practitioners at the time in the UK, and it was lots of fun as it seemed we were all learning together as equals.

It was lots of fun as it seemed we were all learning together as equals.
By early 2005 though I started to get a sense that not many practitioners in the UK treated Parkour as a serious discipline, so I started to look elsewhere. A friend who was a casual practitioner suggested I should go to Lisses, so the two of us went, at Easter 2005.

On the first day I found a small community of practitioners who casually devoted their lives to the ideals of Parkour. They welcomed me into their group, which was beautifully simple. They respected people who worked hard and laughed at those who tried to pretend to be more than they were. David Belle was universally respected, but it was just a normal thing for him to stop by and train with us for a while. Certain others weren’t so respected, and I learned a lot about the relationships between the various groups from people who had grown up in the middle of it.

The main thing though was the entirely different perspective they had there. In the UK people were claiming to be dedicated by saying they trained three times a week. In Lisses I was talking to people who trained three times a day, and talking about others who trained more as people who “take it seriously”. They were all a lot more capable than anyone in the UK, but none of them felt the need to seek fame or fortune through it. To them, Parkour was a personal discipline, not a public one. It helped you get stronger, not rich or famous. I spent 5 days in Lisses and it re-defined my Parkour forever.

I went back to Lisses three more times in 2005 and early 2006, and gradually watched the scene there change. There were an increasing number of foreign visitors each time, and the sentiments seemed to be those typified by the ‘Pilgrimage’ documentary. Lisses was a tourist attraction; a rite of passage. People went there to say that they’d vaulted the same railing that David Belle had vaulted, rather than to train and learn.

People went there to say that they’d vaulted the same railing that David Belle had vaulted, rather than to train and learn.
There was no real chance of integration. The tourist attitude was completely alien to the locals, few of the foreigners could speak enough French to order a pizza never mind talk about Parkour, and there were just too many of them. By 2006 the old Lisses community had completely disappeared, driven out by a never-ending series of large tourist groups. The local practitioners simply couldn’t train there during the summer, and therefore I stopped going too.

Those were my first and most important experiences of Parkour, and it’s a great shame that those experiences no longer exist there.

More recently I’ve spent a few days with Erwan, who I met in France in 2006, training both Parkour and MovNat. I also had a great couple of weeks in Austria last summer, meeting a fantastic group of practitioners from all over Europe.

Basically though, since 2006 I’ve not travelled as much. I’ve made it to a lot of the large gatherings in the UK (and organised several of them myself) but since I gave up my office job that October to concentrate on Parkour I’ve not been able to afford to travel abroad so frequently. I’ve increasingly realised that Parkour is in danger of disappearing altogether so I’ve concentrated on trying to preserve it by spending my time learning how to teach it to others.

APK: For many in the community you´re a relatively unknown name, but you were influential as a leader on www.parkour.net. Discuss your time there, what made it different, things like that.

Dave: I was actually only a staff member on Parkour.NET for about a year. Jerome did ask my group to merge with the original international community that developed into .NET but we turned him down as wewanted to keep a separate local identity. Looking at how the Cambridge community suffered as a result of being absorbed, and how NorthernParkour has thrived, I think that was probably a good decision.

Parkour.NET was (and still is) a unique Parkour resource. Jerome did a fantastic job bringing people together from all over the world and it was unquestionably the leading source of learning in the Parkour community while it functioned. There has never been, before or since, so many dedicated practitioners in a single community. Nowhere else has there been such freedom of discussion, away from politicalintrigue and vested interests. The discussions there were the foundation for almost all the Parkour understanding that exists now, worldwide.

Unfortunately, it demanded a huge amount of work to keep it running, and coordinating the different language sections proved impossible. Jerome eventually found his life heading in a different direction andwas unable to keep doing the work that was needed. Eventually he decided to take some time out to work out what he wanted to do, and passed on the admin tasks to a few of us he knew well enough. I’d methim a few times in Lisses over the past few years and we’d got on pretty well.

By that point it was a bit of a mess though, with troublemakers being allowed to continue to disrupt the forums and the useful information being buried by the volume of newcomers. It also coincided with a lotof established figures in the community doing a similar thing to Jerome and taking time away from the internet community, and the number of staff on .NET declined significantly. Despite that, we managed to hold on to a few people who knew what they were doing and for a while we managed to get rid of the troublemakers and make good information easily available to newcomers again. Jerome returned, we reset the forums and transfered the useful info, and for a while the English sections at least were great again.

Sadly, just as .NET was returning to normal, JF Belle decided to close it down. It was a crazy decision, and it may have been a terminal blow to the original practise of Parkour that existed only in Lisses and on that site. The worldwide community has only been going backwards since it closed.

It was a crazy decision, and it may have been a terminal blow to the original practise of Parkour that existed only in Lisses and on that site.
APK: Now you are a leader of your own organization, the British Parkour Coaching Association (BPCA). What is this organization?

Dave: I sent you a long piece on the BPCA not that long ago, so I’ll notrepeat it all again here. 🙂

In short, the British Parkour Coaching Association is an non-profit association dedicated to trying to ensure safe and accurate learning of Parkour for all.

The original group of 17 practitioners who founded the Association three and a half years ago were not necessarily the most famous practitioners, we were simply those who thought something needed tobe done to help practitioners. To that effect, we created the first standards and qualifications for Parkour coaches (from scratch) and continue to improve coaching standards and obtain insurance for coaches who meet those standards. Due to the necessities of helping people learn Parkour effectively most of our work takes place on a local level.

We want to stay absolutely true to the ideals of Parkour and our goal is accurate learning above all else. We are in favour of anything that helps people learn Parkour, and against anything that hinders accurate learning.

We are open to anyone who shares our goals and have invited many other groups and individuals to work with us, however it seems the idea of a democratic and open organisation isn’t to everyone’s liking.

APK: Why did you start this group? What plans for the future do you have with it, where do you intend to go?

Dave: The BPCA was set up three and a half years ago, in response to the complete lack of support available to newcomers and the growing number of people trying to coach Parkour without any understanding of what it was. This was, and still is, causing many problems for both new practitioners and the public perception of Parkour.

We will continue to work to help people learn Parkour until we get to a point where anyone who wants to practise Parkour is able to do so safely and accurately. At the moment we still have serious concernsover the standard of coaching by other groups and individuals in the UK, especially those who continue to operate without any connection to the Parkour community.

APK: You are also the head of NorthernParkour, a community in northern England. As the unofficial epicenter of PK/FR in the world right now, what is the UK scene like? Is Parkour accepted in the country, is itexpanding, changing, anything particular?

Dave: The Parkour community in the UK is divided into three fairly distinct parts. You have the media-based community, which views Parkour as a means to show off. You have the ParkourGenerations community, which consists of the immigrant French practitioners plus the people they have gathered to events based in London. Finally, you have the original UK practitioners, who are quietly practising in their ownlocal areas and are largely ignored/drowned out by the other two groups and the international scene.

The public are firmly in the media camp, seeing Parkour as an activity that involves irresponsible teenagers doing inconvenient acrobatics in public places. The authorities are split half and half between the media camp and the ParkourGenerations camp. It’s a coin toss as to whether they want to put Parkour everywhere, or ban it entirely. The practitioners are split fairly evenly between the three camps.

Overall, I think Parkour is becoming more accepted, but in a new version. By changing to fit Parkour into existing authority structures, it is losing the part that makes it different from otheractivities. If you start practising Parkour under the supervision of a coach then, in most cases, it will no longer involve following your own path, but a path that’s been decided for you by people who foundtheir own path a few years before you came along. You learn movement rather than learning from movement.

I think that’s a step backwards, rather than forwards.

APK: On the APK forums you’ve made your dislike of competition very clear. Since you have unlimited space now, care to detail your thoughts on the matter? Either related to Parkour or not?

Dave: The purpose of Parkour is to improve ourselves. I think there are two basic principles that you need to consider when thinking about competition.

1) We achieve more when we work together than when we compete againsteach other.
2) You choose your own path through life.

Rivalry doesn’t help anyone. Not all forms of competition encourage rivalry, but any that involve unequal rewards (i.e. prizes) do.

If you don’t want to exercise then do something else, there’s nothing stopping you. At no point in life do you ever have to do anything you don’t want to do. Everything is your choice, your life is your responsibility.

It’s all about the money.
APK: What are your thoughts on the many other PK organizations in the world right now: PKGen, Urban Freeflow, APK, WFPF, etc.?

Dave: It’s all about the money.

APK: The first episode of PKVM, the Parkour Video Magazine, debuted online recently. Since it seems several of the staff members are also members of the BPCA, how much influence did the BPCA have on the final product? Were you involved with the project at all, or are you planning to be part of it?

Dave: PKVM originated with the same element of the UK community (referring back to the three parts of the UK community I mentioned before) and there is some overlap of of personnel but it is an entirely separate project from the BPCA. The BPCA hasn’t been involved in its production at any stage. Jason’s kept me informed on the progress but that’s been the limit of my involvement and I’ve yet to watch the finished product. At the moment I have no plans to be involved.

APK: Here in America, at least on the APK forums, weight training andstandardized strength training are highly encouraged. What are yourthoughts on the physical side of Parkour? What do you consider thebest way to condition and train for the rigors of Parkour?

Dave: I think the people that ask that question are missing the whole point of Parkour. Parkour IS the training system. Parkour is what makes you stronger. What kind of nonsensical training system only works for people who are already strong? It’s a media problem yet again. The only time people hear the word ‘Parkour’ is when it’s being connected to fantastic movement, but that’s not Parkour. Parkour is the training, not the end result. It’s the hours of time spent being tired, aching and bleeding, not the bit at the end when the vault has become easy. To physically train using Parkour you start with the movements you can do, and then make them physically slightly harder. Clearly we’re not all familiar with the variety and progression of movement, but it does exist if you look for it.

APK: Can the media (the collective television/radio/movie/etc. marketas we know it) serve any good for the community or Parkour? Or isthere simply little to no middle ground?

Dave: Yes, eventually. People need to hear about Parkour in order to decide that they want to practise it. The problem is that you also need to be able to give them access to all the information that they need in order to practise, and that’s what’s currently missing. It’s no good even trying to explain something to others if you don’t understand it yourself.

Right now, there are few enough people who understand Parkour themselves, and no one who understands how to help others learn Parkour. People currently learn Parkour by accident, not design.

For now, all the media is doing is pushing more people into a corridor with no exits.

APK: On different forums you’ve touched on your idea of Parkour and Freerunning not being different disciplines but really two stages of the same thing. Care to elaborate?

Dave: The connection is obvious once you remember that Parkour (or whatever you want to call it) is a training system.

Since Parkour is a training system we know we practise Parkour in order to improve, to help us get past obstacles of all kinds, whatever obstacles we encounter along our path. But the first obstacle we encounter is that of choosing a path. Our first challenge is working out what we enjoy, what is useful to us, what we want to do. We can’t decide to go in a particular direction until we know what directions we can take. To do this we need to experiment and try new things, in order to learn about ourselves and the options we have. If you were to use movement to do this it would involve trying movement of all types and varieties, experimenting to see what you were capable of and what you enjoyed. = Freerunning.

Again I ask the question, what kind of nonsensical training system only works for people who are already strong, in this case a strong picture of their desires?

Training systems start at the beginning. Parkour starts with exploration and experimentation.

APK: What is Parkour? To you?

Dave: Parkour is the Way of Movement. It’s the training system where youuse movement for self development.

To me, Parkour is the best method I’ve found to learn the most important lesson in life – how to learn. Confront your problems rather than ignore them.

APK: How is the community and the state of Parkour different or the same from the past? Is it better, worse, or the essentially the same now?

Dave: I think the community as a whole is a lot further from understanding Parkour now than at any previous point in the lifetime of the modern discipline of Parkour. The spirit is visible nowhere in thecommunity. It exists only in isolated individual practitioners, who are being forced out of the community as a result of this pointless fixation with the media.

APK: What are your plans or visions for the future? Or the future of Parkour itself? Expecting a long life of jumping over walls?

Dave: For my future, it is simple. I’m going to continue to try and help people. I firmly believe that movement is a fantastic tool for people to use to learn about themselves and the world around them, and Iwill continue to help people learn how to do so.

For Parkour, it’s not so simple, because it relies on other people apart from me. I think it will depend on whether or not people eventually remember the original spirit of the discipline.

APK: What is this “spirit of Parkour” you mentioned in your earlier answers? Can you put into words? And where or who, if anyone, embodies this spirit?

Dave: Parkour is a tool, not a piece of art.

It is embodied in the unknown practitioners, that you will never hear from…

..unless maybe you have a problem you can’t solve on your own.

APK: Any final words, comments, or tips you’d like to give? Anything at all!

A bunch of people jumping on buildings on tv is not Parkour. 50 people watching a teenager somersault over a wall is not Parkour. 40,000 Youtube videos of vaults are not Parkour. Lifting weights in a gym is not Parkour. Copying movements from young french guys is not Parkour.

Parkour is always difficult.
Parkour is always different.
Parkour is falling down over and over again.
Parkour is aches and bruises and sprains.
Parkour is success and failure
Parkour is you and the obstacle in front of you.