Interview with Sebastian Foucan

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The original source of this interview is no longer available, but it is reproduced in full here. This interview took place in 2004.

Q – Hello Seb thanks for taking the time out to talk to us in depth. Let’s start off with the beginning. How old were you when you first started parkour?

Seb – How old? Erm 15 years old.

Q – And who was with you. Was it a big group or was it just a couple of guys?

Seb – A few of guys. You had Yahn Hnautra, David Malgogne and Frederic Hnautra. When I started to practice, the first basic parkour, these guys begin before me.

Q – How many people in total?

Seb – Oh, 5 or 6 of us.

Q – Did you meet David Belle through parkour or were you friends already?

Seb – No no no, at the beginning my friend was the brother’s, the younger brother of Yahn Hnautra. It was my friend and after I met David. But my first friend was Frederic – hello Frederic.

Q – Why did you start doing parkour? What was the idea behind it?

Seb – At the beginning it wasn’t like now, it was for move and practice and practice a sport. Just practice sport. And you have a kind of like child’s play, like a game. Yes, like a game, and I started to practice this kind of game with them. It was just like a small parkour like game. (Jumps about). The first time it was very very basic.

Q – What was the atmosphere like at the time, how was the vibe?

Seb – Erm, very friendly, good atmosphere, like a family, like a family because of Hnautra’s family, it was a very good family because in their house you have a lot of people they come in their house, you have a big gathering, and their mother cook for everybody.

Q – Sociable?

Seb – Yeah yeah, the whole thing, all of them, very, very friendly. One big family.

Q – How often did you train at the time? Every day?

Seb – Erm, no, no no, at the beginning, not every day. Not for me. Because I hadn’t realised the potential and erm, it was too small for me in the beginning. It was just a play around sometimes, just maybe a four or five times a week. Always after school.

Q – At what stage did you decide to turn it into a more serious discipline as opposed to just a game?

Seb – At the beginning, practice sports, in the group, it was always serious because we have a culture of sports in France, a sports culture, physical training, everybody like this because we like always moving like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Lee, sport sport sport, big sport, we have always a kind of competition with the young guys, who is the best, like this, and for training it was always serious, serious, but we didn’t have everybody serious within the group.

Q – What was the opinion of your parents? And other people around you?

Seb – My parents? Ah, no problem, it’s very confident because my parents knew everyone and it’s cool guys, not bad guys, not trouble makers.

Q – What about other people – the public in general?

Seb – The public, for them we are kids, you know, you have the same thing near your house, you have kids but you know, you don’t really see them.

Q – In the early days, what were the first real techniques, which were the first that you guys really developed?

Seb – The first techniques arrive with the first obstacle. In Lisse, you have some kind of obstacle and you have to adapt and the first technique arrive like this because we never try to find a particular technique. The obstacle give us the technique. For the tic tac, the Dame du lac, you have a how do you say, you have the wall like this, a floor like this, and you have another wall and to jump across the gap you just tac tac tac tac like this (claps his hands). Very simply. It’s the same for when you practice pk, it’s always the same view. You walk or run and you arrive (looks around himself) oh and oh, and oh (gets animated) oh yes, how can we move here? Oh like this ah, me me me, ah, look at me.

Q – Can you remember the first technique that was really technical, that was quite difficult, the first one that was like “Woah”, one that you had to really work on and put a lot of thought into?

Seb – The first techniques that you need to be focused on, was the precision. You simply on the bar, just precision the first. and after you have combination. But first it was precision. When we begin to to do the precision, we are always in our mind thinking about precision, when you jump.

Q – One of the things that’s in all the videos and that’s really prominent is the big roof jumps and the gap jumps. At what stage did you start doing these kind of jumps? Was it important at the time?

Seb – No, big is not important! because of your physical conditioning it can give the opportunity to do big jumps, it’s not you, you’re looking for big big big. It’s your feel, you feel strong and you feel good, and you say “I can do this”. Now it is different because a lot of us were saying “Where, where, where is the big stQf”. At the beginning it was like this but not now. We are never looking for big big big now.

Q – I’m trying to understand your way of thinking. What was it that changed you from doing precisions and tic tac’s to making you go up on the roofs to do big jumps? What was it that pushed you in that direction? From doing small technical and efficient stQf to going up onto the roofs for all the big jumps?

Seb – Erm yes, but erm, whenever we just stay on the ground. Because at our school we have a roof and we climbed it. Always we were at the Dame du lac. and the first time we climbed the Dame it didn’t bring us big joy but when we climbed it we were saying “woah, look at this jump, woah”. It’s like this….we always see in the front of us a big jump.

Q – Was the Dame du lac there when you started parkour? Was it already built?

Seb – Yeah. Always. Before us the dame du lac was there.

Q – Was that an important place for you to train? Did it play a major role?

Seb – Yes, very important.

Q – At the time, when you started parkour, what was the aim or vision of the whole pk thing? Where did you aim to take it, what was the general idea?

Seb – I have no idea? For me when I started I don’t have an idea I don’t have a personality I don’t know where is my way. I am like every kid and after I speak with David and we speak about our dream. Our dream like if you can fly if you can dream like a kid you imagine if you can to touch the wall and you know blah blah blah (waves about laughing). And David speak to me about his father you know , his father was a good athlete and he told me that you can do anything you want to do. I asked him if I can to meet him. After I met his father and he explained to us the discipline and how you… it was very interesting because his father, when he speak, he speak like you don’t have limits you know like, it’s very important for me this kind of vision because he opened for all of us our vision because we were in our dreams, ‘yes you can do boooom, you know like dragon ball Z you can do rrrr’ it’s a dream for kids, but he try to explain to us you can do what you want if you train seriously if you have a good discipline if you have time if you have moderation if you have determination if you have something blah blah and you need to train train train train. and for me it’s one of the one of the piece of my personality now, one of the pieces of the jigsaw, it’s not what I explain to you yesterday it’s not just one person, da da da, this is one of my pieces of my guide.

Q – Everybody reads about the start of parkour and it’s always David Belle and Sebastien Foucan. What is the true story?

Seb – To explain, I don’t really want speak a lot about David’s father because I have respect for him and now he’s no longer here. I remember he say to us, don’t ever speak about me. I remember this, and nobody ever speak about him but when he died a lot of people speak about him like a revondification. It’s a part of me, it’s a French word sorry. it’s like erm when you have something and it’s mine, it’s me, it’s just for me, he taught just me, you know. and at the moment you have somebody and it’s just me and you never speak with him and it’s for me. My relation with David’s father is personal and it’s a part of me. If I speak about him I always speak well about him because he give me a lot of good messages. I can’t speak all the time about this for respect but David knows that I don’t like now because you have too many people speak just about David but for me you had his father and you have David. For me it’s very important thing you know and for me after that everybody brought his piece, inspiration of feeling you know. When people say it was the co-founders, David belle and Sebastien Foucan, it isn’t true. There were more people, not just David’s father but other people as well. You always read in the magazine formed by David Belle and Sebastien Foucan. But for me, in reality, parkour was never invented by anyone, it’s always been here, you have parkour, a lot like now, you have technique because everybody brought a piece of the puzzle with them. But at the beginning you have military service in France and you have obstacles and you have parkour. Before David’s father before before before before, you have this guy, it’s a guy in the military, a famous guy in the military he find techniques to develop the body for life of sailors, yes, these men, he developed a technique ‘methode naturelle’ to develop his men physically. He travel a lot in Africa and he find indigenous people in the jungle and ah yes, they are strong and they jump and to find food they chase and oh oh oh, and they climb and after he developed ten techniques exercises to have détente, the long jump, you have high jump, quadropedie (walking on all fours), notation, nager swimming, climbing, lancer (throwing), rah rah rah, (mumbling his list) you have defence like fight. On the internet you can find all this. Methode naturelle, George Herbert. He invented the method. It was a long time ago. This is the origin of our discipline, the real discipline, nobody can to discuss about this.

Q – Media interest, why is the French media so negative?

Seb – Because they have their own goal, their own subject and when they arrive they don’t come looking for what they have in front of them, they are like, “OK I have a subject and my subject is a city with a bad boy and blah and come on ah yes and you are a bad boy, you are in a city and you are a bad boy”, – no no “ok you have a nickname?” no “a nickname, alors, it’s black super boy.” Ok, no it’s for me it’s like this, you have some people a small group are good, but we have made a lot of things for nothing, for nothing. Not serious about the discipline.

Q – Was this frustrating?

Seb – For me yes this was very frustrating because in France a lot of people don’t have vision. We have the vision for us, we always think the discipline will grow up and it’s a big big big discipline.

Q – It’s useful for getting positive exposure though surely?

Seb – Yes, eventually I would like to teach, I would like to explain what is in my heart.

Q – The commercial interest, when did that start to happen?

Seb – It’s the same time with the media people. When you have media you have movies blah blah blah you have everything arriving the same time.

Q – The Yamakasi film. Why didn’t you and David want to get involved?

Seb – (spits on ez) For the Yamakasi movie, I wasn’t with them before because I played with them at notre dam du paris,

Q – That was a stage show, a musical?

Seb – Yes. I split at this moment, and after…

Q – Why?

Seb – For me it’s not my goal. Like for now, For me I need to develop my discipline. I was a little bit younger and naïve. In my heart I would like to not prostitute the art, you know, I would like to, I would prefer to be somebody looking for us to develop our discipline. It’s just you jump jump jump like a clown, it’s a picture in my mind, ah fwoar, rubbish.

Q – You split with those guys and the Yamakasi film came after?

Seb – Yes.

Q – And after that?

Seb – You have a war about this, I was lucky.

Q – Was David still with Yamakasi guys?

Seb – No, he split after notre dam du paris and then after he had another problem with them.

Q – What was the public interest like after the film? Lots of kids taking up parkour?

Seb – Wow. It was huge. Because Luc Besson (Yamakasi director) is an intelligent person, an intelligent business person, and he has his goal and he would like to make a movie for kids, and he achieved it. And after that every kid in France speak about Yamakasi. Oh yes, I jump, I am Yamakasi!

Q – And did people start doing parkour because of it?

Seb – We had people do parkour before. Before because you have media, yes there, we have made a good representation, a good explanation and you have for me the true people, they did parkour. After Yamakasi it’s another kind of people, it’s just “I jump I jump I jump, just like the movie, I’m on the roof, just like the move”. It’s another kind of people.

Q – People died trying to copycat the film stunts. What happened? How many?

Seb – 2 people.

Q – How did they die?

Seb – Because they play on the roof like Yamakasi just like the movie and roofs are not safe and very high.

Q – What was the media like after that? A backlash?

Seb – Just once a person called me and “are you interested in an interview about this”. Normally I’m like “yes” but it’s not my fault… it’s just my discipline. I haven’t done the Yamakasi but I’m an ambassador and it’s an obligation. I speak “yes, no be careful, it’s not what you have you have soul? Soul? See? You have soul, in you watch it, it’s not reality.” But I realized just me it’s always the same, just Sebastien who speak, but the other guys..? I don’t know. for me it’s very important

Q – Did the parents of the kids sue Luc Besson?

Seb – I don’t know. For my part it was just to explain be careful.

Q – Ok, moving on…..the French scene, the community, how big is it?

Seb – I don’t know. No idea?

Q – It looks to us like there’s no real scene there apart from a few small pockets of activity.

Seb – It’s frustrating, we don’t’ have a structure, always the same, ten years it’s the same, stupid. For me it’s , we need to have a federation, a structure. To bring everybody together like Urban Freeflow has done.

Q – Did you once have an organisation?

Seb – Yes I have an association but just in the paper. But in reality, I never had a with me a guy with energy to work for the discipline. Always in their mind “what is for me, where is the money?”

Q – Did money play a big factor in causing the split?

Seb – Yeah yeah yeah yeah. It’s simply you have money it’s finished because everybody has their own goal.

Q – How did you feel at the time with the money splitting every body up?

Seb – For me it’s not a problem, because for me I always wait for a company or something that have a big, you know, project to develop something. For me alone I can’t develop something if I have a possibilities but the other guys they “I want to do this”. It’s their life, you know.

Q – You had the Nike sponsorship thing. Was that before or after Yamakasi?

Seb – After.

Q – You were still with David at the time?

Seb – No. I don’t split with David, just a friend, like a friend. But we are not in group. David always have his own goal at that moment it was to make movies.

Q- After all the politics and stQf, you went to New York, you Stephan and Jerome is that right?

Seb – At the time, me, Stephane, Jerome and David (not David Belle), and we go back again but just Stephan me and kazuma.

Q – The New York experience. What was the idea?

Seb – Nothing, for example, at the time we had an agent to find work. We had a big problem with this agent and we speak about our problem. This agent for example we have lots of contacts, and this guy says “it’s my contacts and it’s all finished now”. He didn’t work well for us so we asked for the contact details but he ran off with them. We had very good contacts in the States but they were all gone.

Q – So again you’re frustrated. Did you go back to France?

Seb – Yes.

Q – What did you do from there? How did jump London happen?

Seb – I tell my friends now we are in control of our own lives, the route is communication, we start to make a website and to regain contact and after that we are contacted by the guy from jump London and he say “I have David Belle and we want a movie and rubbish”. And after he contact me and I’m like “ah yes it’s ok” and we meet and “oh yeah” and he is “I want to know more about the philosophy and me I say “ah!” ok, at this moment “ok, ok ok, I come to work with you”. And this was the first step.

Q – How long was the whole process?

Seb – Ah, I don’t remember exactly. 5 months maybe?

Q – Fun?

Seb – Yeah, but hard fun.

Q – Strain on the body?

Seb – Difficult? Yeah, very difficult for me, because my power was very low. My brain was ready but I had a knee injury problem.

Q – That was tendonitis?

Seb – Yes. Jump London was a real fight for me, a real fight to show somebody what we can do.

Q – Were you aware about the explosion in the UK? When it aired we had lots of people come to Urban Freeflow. Were you aware of what was happening?

Seb – Yes, always.

Q – How did you feel?

Seb – Very happy but frustrated again because we don’t have a good matter for communication. We are nearly there, but at the same time we are far away, we are very frustrated because we have made something and we can’t continue. And for me it’s fooooo, frustrated frustrated frustrated.

Q – The first time you saw us was at the electric storm when you were scouting. What did you think at the time when you saw Blake running towards you like a crazed groupie?

Seb – My ego was happy. Aha! Sebastien Foucan! For me I was very happy for my higher goal because I can keep the contact with my discipline with the movement we have created;. And I can move in my movement. Because to grow up and I’m not here and I am Sebastien Foucan. I’m in the (noises) this is my whoo. And before I met you I have seen the skateboarders at Southbank. The woman we were with was calling me but in my mind I have translation from English to French going on while talking to you guys. Very confusing. And when I saw you guys blah blah blah blah and in my mind is going crazy trying to keep up, like a message, ok ok, I understand. and she was “come on lets go” and I was like “no fuck you!”

Q – After that we hooked up the PK7. 130 people. Must have been good for you to see. Was it a shock?

Seb – Today I have the opportunity to say thank you for this because after so much pain, so much fight in my mind, with my power very weak and I always walk but I walk slowly in my mind. I have my goal but I’m not quite there yet.. But after this I regained a lot of energy because every body gave me their energy. I give them something and they give me in return energy and when I go back to France I regained my energy and for my mission, I’m happy, I’m ok. I regained my weapon, you know .

Q – From jump London we saw a huge surge of interest in parkour. We have a huge scene now. Can you give advice on what to look out for?

Seb – For advice for some kids I can tell them to be careful, take care when you practice the discipline because it’s a serious art and you can get hurt very easily, it’s for that we need to play but you need to play seriously when you play. It’s important to me to have a good head and respect your body.

Q – Are you aware of the parkour phenomenon around the world now? America, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, are you fully aware?

Seb – Absolutely. I’m very aware.

Q – You expected it?

Seb – Yeah yeah.

Q – In a perfect world, what would your vision of the future be?

Seb – My vision for parkour, perfect world for me, I have a big organisation and a good place in this organisation to work for my discipline to work for my … to follow my way and to work for the discipline.

Q – Indoor pk parks?

Seb – For me it’s good. Indoor, outdoor, in the subway, everywhere. A pk park it’s a very good for specifics. We need to have pk park. It’s like for the skateboard, without park, we can practice everywhere, but with park it’s very good for specifics, it’s good to work better for the techniques, for practice.

Q – Competition. At some point it’s going to happen. If big companies are going to get involved in parkour, they’ll seek to set up comps. Good or bad?

Seb – For me, it depends on what kind of competition. I can tell somebody it’s bad because you have … my erm… my heart to be free. And if somebody wants to do competition, respect your body and your heart and if it’s a show, make it a show for everybody a good show, with my heart you know. I don’t like competition. If in the future you have a competition maybe I will be like in the organisation. For my philosophy, no competition for me, it’s not very good. It’s a way for other people.

Q – If there was a competition, how do you think it would work? With skateboarding, they judge you on style etc.

Seb – Style, yes, style, rhythm, combination and fluidity, a lot of things like this. You have the public, the public, too and they applaud, for me it’s a good thing. And the technique too. And maybe these things change in the future because maybe somebody say “oh no it’s not like this for change” but for me it’s rhythm, combination and fluidity.

Q – When you see someone moving, what is pleasing for you to see? lots of moves or fluidity? Where do flips fit in? some people do lots of flips, what do you think?

Seb – For me, it’s not pk, it’s like… it’s about a show, it’s about acrobatic movement. It’s not a new thing for me. It’s beautiful to see but for the discipline for me it’s not finished. But if you spend too much time doing acrobatic movements you lose too much time to work for the discipline.

Q – When you look at somebody and decide that they are good or not, what are you looking for? Simplicity? The way they move?

Seb – For me it’s feeling. I look at the feeling, and if somebody follow his way, and if he just follow everybody else… sometimes you can choose to see someone who is very strong and a good showman and you have next to him another guy and he is nothing spectacular but you can to see he’s in the zone, in himself.. I prefer this, because he is focused, inside. I prefer to stick with this guy. What do you have in your mind? Because it’s with this kind of person… all of us have ego. with this kind of person it’s not good for the discipline the work. Hard work.

Q – What sort of advice would you have for a beginner on how they should train on how they should become good, to maximize their potential?

Seb – For me I tell them practice the basics and after take inspiration about.. it’s very difficult because it’s not finished. I don’t know with me because if it’s true because I have my vision and I follow my vision. And if I find somebody “ah yes I like” then come on we are a group to work the vision, follow the vision for the discipline. If we have a guy who wants to do some jump with no feeling… er it’s not a work for the discipline.

Q – Even in France you can’t train with everybody. If there was someone in America for instance who was dedicated, following the way but they couldn’t get to train with you, what advice would you give them, what path should they follow?

Seb – I would l have to tell them, when they practice they need to open their minds. Practice with the obstacle, not with the air. With the obstacle, always with the obstacle, and seek combinations.

Q – Apart from actually practicing parkour, do you do any other training to help with your parkour? Running, skipping, weights, stretching, do you supplement your pk training at all?

Seb – No weights, but stretching, yes, more more more, day after day year after year because it’s necessary. For the moment I don’t feel I need stretching but it’s just I know, you know, you have some people who have more age and give this advice. Stretching. But I follow. It’s not very hard to do stretching. Running too is very important. I practice running but it’s very boring. I practice running with pk. It’s less boring.

Q – For you parkour is about constant moving. A lot of people one move, one move. For you it’s about moving fast right?

Seb – Why somebody practice like this because they have the influence of skateboarding and the other disciplines. For that it’s always the same, we are like sheep. Follow your way. The way of the pk is to continue, not to stay here. It’s good to stay to develop the mechanics, like martial arts, it’s better, but it’s no the essentials.

Q – So for you the perfect run is about moving, just you, no bags, just run.

Seb – It’s perfect when you… when you run and you have an obstacle, you don’t stay here. Keep moving. When you keep moving, keep moving well, without restriction. For me it’s great.

Q – Do you train like this in France? Start here and just move?

Seb – Yes. For sure….Always!

Q – Does it take a long time to build to that level?

Seb – Yes. Big level yes, because it’s like everything, the horse. Dance horse. It’s an image, picture. That horse follow everybody. But for me always, when you think you are always alone. It’s a good way your are alone. It’s a bad way when a lot of people. It’s always for everything. Everything was invented when somebody was alone. It’s one of, it’s a key. It is a way.

Q – What do you think about media, magazines, videos?

Seb – It’s a balance, it’s good, the media is good because it’s our time, we have communication it’s necessary. I prefer specialist media or media that is really interested about the discipline the essence of the discipline, not the woooaaah. For example, I like some media for what they did for Urban Freeflow guys because the concept for Urban Freeflow for all the world to give a message to all the world very quickly, a good message, and if they need help they give some help. We don’t know if it’s the best help but there for moment they are the only person to give the good help. And for me when media are interested for this, this is a good feeling. If media are interested for “ah yes, I would like to watch a dangerous jump” that is rubbish. And for exclusivity, ah no.

Q – Have you had that in the past?

Seb – Yes, extreme jumps and like the city problems. “oh yes, look” you have a new thing against the city problem. No you have our discipline and speak about the discipline. Because in France you have a problem with politics in the inner city. When they make that… not all the media – but when “ah yes where is the city blah blah”. I don’t like caricature. I don’t like extreme, I don’t like that.

Q – How do you unwind after a hard day of parkour? How do you relax…..Do you have an outlet?

Seb – For me it’s different because my place, it’s different than the other guy. Me, I am a little bit in the extreme. My position is extreme because I’m gonna do events, I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do the good view about the discipline, I need to train more than the essential. If I stopped it’s kind of the ambassador role, I practice differently.

Q – How?

Seb – Just pk? No repetition. Repetition but combination. Less muscle. I don’t say no muscle, just less muscle and more like animals, no practice….more natural. It’s very difficult to explain because I train hard because I have a position and I should to keep this position. A role model. But it’s good, it’s good, I don’t answer your question very well.

Q – Do you go home, play playstation, watch videos…?

Seb – Yes, like everybody else, plus lots of rest.

Q – What’s your favourite way to relax?

Seb – Stay with my family. For me it’s the first point of relaxation. To be a good father, a good husband, because education is very difficult thing for the child, and when I have rest because I have a lot of time for my art, when I have rest it’s for my family and to listen to music, watch videos, and sometimes, it’s the same. Take some things for you.

Q – Your English has improved since you have been here. Do you think that Q have contributed to making your English better?

Seb – Yes yes, I have a censor now, because they learn to me a lot of very good words but it’s a big secret now.

Q – Let’s wrap it up here. Time for some food. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us……Much appreciated.

Seb – A pleasure my friend.