David Belle – Je Saute De Toit En Toit

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 long jump, you press pause and the 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 realise that humans are moving on things that are not initially made 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 games 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 use 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 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 the rules. There are laws of physics. It’s a fine way to say “Yeah, I’m not scared” but you wont jump 10 meters (33 feet). You can’t jump 10 meters. 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 realise that everything that my father gave to me, and everything that I learned on the ground…I realise 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 wont do anything to yourself. You wont get hurt. And…” He would tell me to be careful with what I was doing. He would tell me to not just do 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 thats 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 to have a little 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 anyway. So if we have two arms and two legs, it’s for…it’s for climbing and 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’s 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. 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 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 are 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 can I catch myself. Okay there’s this.” Boom boom boom. It teaches you to look. 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 practised this 500 times beside, and in that 500 times I never bailed. Why am I now 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 the 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 doing all year? Didn’t you train for this moment?” “Yeah, but now I don’t know, because I’m paralysed 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. That’s all. 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 goes 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 twisted my ankle. I’m quitting this sport. It’s really dangerous.” 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 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 can get 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. We engage with someone and trust them, we are taking a risk. So the trick is be aware of it and live with it.

People 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 that you’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 a 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. So go on your way, if you were going to get bread, go buy your bread and go home. 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.