David Belle

David Belle was born on the 29th April 1973 in Fécamp, in the Seine-Maritime departement in Normandy. Descended from a modest family from the Parisian suburbs, it was in Fécamp and later in the town of Sables d’Olonne that David spent the first fourteen years of his life. Raised by his maternal grandfather, Gilbert Kitten (former Regimental Sergeant-Major of the Parisian sapeurs-pompiers military fire service), David was impressed by tales of heroism, and developed from a young age a passion for anything to do with action.

His father, Raymond Belle, raised as a young soldier by the French Army in Dalat in Vietnam, was also a sapeur-pompier of the Parisian brigade and an outstanding sportsman; he has been described as nothing less than a ‘force of nature’. Raymond was a very highly skilled rescuer, recognised throughout his profession, and has had a large influence on David’s life. (For more information on Raymond Belle and the Parisian military firefighters, see the French article “La fabuleuse histoire des pompiers” by Commandant Deroo, the curator of the sapeurs-pompiers’ museum in Paris; published in Editions Tallandier magazine.)

Surrounded by such a family of sporting heroes, it was only natural that David became adept at many of the more action-oriented sports such as athletics, gymnastics, climbing and martial arts. On a journey of self-discovery, the young David left school at 15 in order to devote himself to his passion for sport. But not just any sport; for him, sport had to be useful above all else. The strength and agility developed through sport must also be useful in life, as David’s father had often advised him.

Subsequently, partially to be like his father and partially in a spirit of youthful adventure, David would imagine scenarios where he had to use his physical abilities to escape difficult situations; scenarios where he would have to show strength and courage. How to get to a given place in order to carry out a rescue there? How to move so as not to be trapped? By acting out such scenarios, the agility of this intrepid youngster began to come into effect.

Running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, hanging from things, keeping his balance, surpassing himself, developing his self-confidence, being able to overcome obstacles so he could continue to advance… For David, all these things became an obsession. An obsession to release himself from all obstacles, constraints and fears, and to be able to go wherever he chose to go; achievements owing as much to mental development as to physical prowess.

Still aged 15, David moved to the Paris area; in particular to Lisses, a Parisian suburb near Evry. It was during this time that he would meet other young people who were to follow him (such as the Yamakasi, who David guided for eight years). Continually seeking more action, but aware of the accompanying dangers, David took and passed the French national First Aid certificate during the time of his national service. It was only natural that he would go on to join the fire brigade, and obtain the UFOLEP certificate of gymnastics leadership. Unfortunately, David went on to injure his wrist; he was discharged temporarily, but did not return.

The nature of the firefighters’ life was known by David since he was a small child; in addition to his grandfather and his father, his older brother was to join the brigade of pompiers. Even at this stage, though, David’s independent spirit was clear; upon recovering from his injury, he chose to join a regiment of the French Marine corps at Vannes. During this time he was successfully promoted, became the Regimental rope-climbing record holder and champion (just as his father had been), gained a certificate of honour for his gymnastic agility, and was first in the Essonne obstacle course championship.

Despite all this, though, David felt somewhat restricted by the regulated environment of the military. His love of adventure and desire for freedom was too strong: sport and the parcours (“obstacle coursing”) were his only real loves. Needless to say, the odd jobs that he had thereafter — warehouse worker, security guard or furniture salesman — did not satisfy him. He decided to leave for India in order to achieve a black belt in Chinese gong fu.

David always desires authenticity, or du vrai (“the truth”) as he likes to say, yet always seeks his own path. One can easily understand his worries at the time. How was he to live for his passion for a discipline still in its outline stages; a discipline partly practiced by soldiers as the “parcours du combattant” (military obstacle course), and by firefighters as the “parcours SP” (firefighter’s obstacle course)?

In the end, his art was to coalesce from a combination of many things. Things his father had tried out while still a young soldier in Vietnam; gymnastic training; overcoming fear of danger; concentration; the idea of moving to any given place without physical constraint; the feeling of freedom and being alive — there are some of the ingredients of “Parkour”.

Parkour has no regulatory federation, nor official clubs, nor competitions. It’s not about standardisation, or money; just the desire to practice the parkour, without formal rules but with a sporit of honesty and humility — and much work on self-improvement.

David had made some videos showing what he was capable of, artistically edited and set to music; it is from these that the first recorded images of Parkour came. It seems that the application of such footage is obvious: promotional and music videos, advertisements, action movies, shows and so on. If he continued, David could move further into the entertainment industry, where many prospects were available to him and where his determination to work and his need for creativity would be satisfied. It was necessary, however, for him to wait a little longer to achieve his aims.

It was to the Stade 2 team (Francis Marroto, Pierre Sleed and Pierre Salviac) in May 1997 that the first footage of David was shown. Thrilled by the footage, they decided to film a piece about David the following week. The rest, as they say, is history.

The goal was simple: by means of parkour, willpower and effort, to find his own motivation. David was to be involved with various groups: ‘the speed-air men’, the ‘catmen’, ‘la Rel?ve’ and notably ‘les traceurs’; the word ‘traceur’ has since been used to describe a practitioner of David’s parkour.

Meanwhile, again, the silver screen enticed David; but would cinema pass his Parkour by? To help ensure otherwise, he met with Hubert Kound? (lead actor in the movie “La haine”, directed by M. Kasowitch). Hubert initiated David into the arts of theatre, and helped him take his first steps in the medium of film. David still needed to improve; he continued his training with Pygmalion, and in time, discovered the world of acting.

He turned first to some promotional videos (Tina Turner, Iam and M?n?lik, amongst others). Later, he appeared in some TV films and short movies, such as the Hugues de Logardi?res film “Les gens du voyages” and the Igor Pejic film “Un monde meilleur”. It was not long before David made appearances in several feature films: the Franck Nicotra movie “L’Engrenages” and Brian de Palma’s “Femme Fatale”, as well as “Les rivi?res pourpres 2″ (Crimson Rivers 2), starring Jean Reno and co-written by Luc Besson. It was to be Luc Besson, after David had further proved himself in adverts and promos for the BBC, Nissan and Nike, who would give David his big chance: co-starring with Cyril Raffaeli in the French action movie “Banlieue 13″.

Some collected footage of David

REFERENCES

Original French biography referenced to David-Belle.com which no longer exists

FURTHER READING

  1. Wikipedia
  2. David Belle Blog
  3. IMDB
  4. David Belle: Parkour (Book)