Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

From the post in the "resources" section:


Dear BApk members,

We would like to inform you about an upcoming event that may shape the public perception of our discipline. This may affect current practitioners in their daily conversations about parkour, but more importantly it will affect the mindsets of would-be practitioners, general public, media and authorities. If you have been with us for a while or have read through our documents, you already have a good idea how we feel about this. However, rather than preach to you we thought it best to give you the details so that you can make an informed judgment.

This month production begins on a MTV television series called "The Ultimate Chase" that will attempt to portray parkour and freerunning. As the title describes, the series will set well known practitioners (Danny Illabaca, Ryan Doyle, Oleg Vorslav) as well as lesser known practitioners (Brian Orosco) against each other on an obstacle course. "The Ultimate Chase" which will be introduced by a one hour special will feature both man vs. man and man vs. course events.

The show is the brainchild of a few entertainment professionals who formed the "World Freerunning and Parkour Federation" (WFPF) by signing athletes from around the world who were trying to break into the entertainment industry. Televised obstacle courses have been around for some time, but this rebranding for English audiences will take advantage of the popularity of the disciplines of parkour and freerunning. The WFPF claims their competition remains true to the philosophies of both parkour and freerunning which were founded and defined as non-competitive disciplines.

While their audience will consist largely of non-practitioners, the WFPF has worked closely with practitioners to form a palatable marketing strategy for the existing community. It is their position that competition is the inevitable future of a discipline which is practiced by tens of thousands world wide in a non-competitive fashion. While this may seem illogical, their position comes into focus when considering the money involved. It is virtually impossible to make money off of parkour in its current non-competitive format. It cannot be argued that a competitive format is more lucrative. This 'inevitability' stance has been trumpeted for the past several years only by those interested in profiting off the community (i.e.: Mark Toorock of APK, and Paul Corkery of UFF), but was shot down by a global movement which popularized such slogans as "Pro Parkour, Against Competition" and "Competition is not inevitable, it is just another obstacle!" To further satisfy the non-competitive community the WFPF claims all competitors will strive together in a communal fashion. However, they diverge from the community theme when they claim on their website to be a "Federation for the teams". The global parkour scene is not made up of teams, which are generally viewed as a means to further careers in the entertainment industry, but rather all-inclusive communities that foster the utilitarian parkour philosophy.

While the WFPF has taken a direct page out of the APK/UFF playbook, they are not collaborating with the two organizations since initial discussions turned sour. Both APK/UFF and WFPF camps claim the opposition is taking advantage of their athletes. Although some WFPF signees are rumored to be unhappy with their contracts, for those willing to partake in a competition labeled as parkour the partnership with WFPF seems like a step in the right direction in terms of safety. The industry professionals will be using the UFF Barclaycard competition as an example of what not to do. At the aforementioned event there was only one medic on site when an athlete was seriously injured, and required emergency treatment. The entire event had to be put on hold until the medic returned to a jeering crowd and uneasy participants.

Here is the first press release from the WFPF. Hopefully you feel we gave you some intelligent insight on this upcoming event, and can make more informed decisions about it.


I'm willing to do everything in my power to fight AGAINST this. I will be starting a group soon for this purpose. Stay tuned for more details.

Let's at least try to minimize the effects of this problem.

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Since I'm brand new to Parkour, I haven't yet acquired the same passion and outrage as seasoned Parkour practitioners to the possible exploitation of it all. However I am extremely familiar with the phenomena of corporations finding a way to capitalize on different arts. I am a serious hip hop head, since back in the early 80s - far before it was widely known to be associated with gun toting, bravado and mistreating women. From that time until now I've seen what the mainstream machine did to this artform. For many years, the sight of MTV (anything associated with MTV is trash - i thought MTV was music they even play music?) promoting this sound they labeled hip hop that has no flavor, with guys yappin their mouths with simplistic verses with lame tracks making millions off of garbage! I've always kinda felt like they stole our unique skill and unique ear that comes with those who are really in to this music, that I shared with a community of others who respected it and re-availed it to a population of people who don't really know what it's all about - nor do they respect the original art form which was all about peace unity and having fun.The present day "mainstream" hip hop sensationalizes the negative aspects of the ghetto that people tried to escape practicing the various hip hop arts. I see a real parallel here with Parkour. There was a time when I could go out and meet a fellow hip hoppa and not have to try and gauge where they are coming from whether or not they were posing or had a real love for the music because the simple fact that they knew about hip hop was enough. The same thing may happen with Parkour. It happens the with most arts that get commercialized! Know what makes me laugh really hard inside is when I'm walking through the mall and I see a 350lb guy sucking down a double cheeseburger wearing a Tapout shirt.

Now, there is a difference between hip hop and Parkour as the music business goal is to sell records... But not everyone that is in to hip hop is trying to get signed. Nowadays, hip hop is something that I still love inside, but it's not my identity because I am nothing like the people who come to mind when you think about today's hip hop.
Thank you!
Wouldn't have thought of such a valuable parallel, drawn by a quite different 'discipline'...

Maybe, after a couple of months of digging deeper, we are getting to the point that, while anything competitive doesn't really go along with "Parkour" per definition, it's not only 'commercialization' the problem... it's about the urge for 'consumerism' that a certain part of the population has (and is 'induced' in having... by media, i.e.).

Commercial ventures asses a 'need' of the market, find an untapped, underground resource (yesterday Hip-Hop, today Parkour...), repackage it, price it, relabel it if necessary, and dump it (often through 'garbage channels') on the market. That's pretty much what they are engineered to do...

Thus, the responsibility doesn't strictly lies with commercialism, but with the attitude of the individuals that have to decide to either become consumers (eventually 'exploited'...) or, instead be attentive, remain coherent and, when the need arises, raise a red flag and shout "FOUL!".

Then again, certain commercial endeavors, maybe valuable even within these very strict guidelines, and for sure THIS is not the place to discuss them; but everyone of us has thought of a better backpack, better wristsguards, a more equipped/available gym, a more sheltered space... so maybe another element to be monitored to evaluate the 'correctness' of the commercialization is looking at who benefits mostly (or exclusively?) from it.
Is the drive 'maximization of profit' or 'solving problems and getting something in return for ones efforts'?
I fully support this, competition will turn tracuers and trasueses against each other for a pointless victory
NEWSFLASH: one of the participants in the making of the MTV show, signed athlete of the WFPF, express himself about his decision and experience.
Read it at the resources thread, and feel free to comment it here.
I didn't really like how he called commercialization inevitable, and I don't think things are going to work the way he says they are.

I'm sure hoping they will, though!
These guys do know what they're talking about though. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and cross my fingers. I think he means (or at least how I interpreted it) that commercialization is inevitable, but we want to keep it small scale; ie only up to selling shoes or maybe slapping a couple logos on shirts. We'll see how it all goes though.
NEWS FLASH: MTV press release April 29, 2009
An extract: "Parkour is performed on any and every environment. Walls, cars, stairs, railings, rooftops and ten-foot gaps between five-story buildings, force runners to leap, roll, climb, vault and fly, using the obstacles in their way to increase speed..." read more>>
I am particularly troubled with this:

"World’s best Parkour athletes defy gravity, showcasing seemingly superhuman skills in an easy to understand competitive format."

What do we do about this?!?!?!

Nobody on SFPK or PKNA will listen, nor will MTV or WFPF, what the h3ll do we do?!?!

We can't just stand by and watch while parkour's philosophy goes down the drain!!!'re overreacting, man. Calm down, think of not what "we" can do, but what YOU personally can do. The rest of us are already trying our best to spread a good image of parkour and a proper understanding of it.The show will air, regardless of if we want it to or not, the best we can do is clear up misconceptions among the general public. That's what everybody at PKNA has been saying, you've just been nitpicking on their words. Everybody's on your side, you've just been rejecting their help much of the time.
...yes and no.
Alex has surely made a LOT OF NOISE, and sometimes that's what people need to get their heads up from staring at that curb they are trying to precision too hard, while some thug in a monster Hummer is almost running them over. :)

Suggesting to do what we are already doing is not the point, really, since it's not with regular means that you protect something you love (be it a Redwood, the American Dream, your next dog park, etc.) from extraordinary threats.

The fact that the show per se is unstoppable, it's not the point either, since I don't believe anybody had that presumption ever...

What would have been nice, could have been a common statement, signed by the vast majority of the communities nation-wide, positively restating the principles of parkour's practice, as developed in the last 10 years, condemning its spectacularization, traceurs idolization, and all the other nice things that have been boasted just about two years ago by the same people that either today don't care anymore, or want a piece of the pie, or just grew numb or silly about the whole issue...

Potentially, this reaction was meant to make all the different streams convert into something that we could all agree upon; instead, over the course of two months, just the threat combined with the appeal of this incumbent organization and it's "product" disgregated the little unity that there was in parts of the North American scene (that's where we are today...). Not the people voicing their (even strong) opinions caused that, but the instance in the first place, mixed with the lack of character of the community at large.

So, while some people may have indeed to calm down (also for their own sake), it's also true that coherence is not negativity.
And while we need always to practice what we preach, it's not that we can ignore the principles of what we practice.
I'd like to design a Pro-Parkour Against Competition shirt. Would there would be any interest?

My 2 cents on the topic:
I'm actually not against commercialization of parkour. (Parkour is one community that I believe can benefit from greater visibility.) I am, however, strongly against the idea of making it a competitive "sport." I don't think any traceur or traceusse kids themselves into saying "oh, pakour is completely safe!" It's not. There's no playing field, no teams, no set rules, and no safety equipment. We're already seeing people getting hurt because all they know about parkour came from youtube vids of practitioners leaping off of buildings. Parkour needs to grow in a way that can support and nourish enthusiasm. I don't think that a competitive attitude will do anything to make learning and practicing parkour safer for those with a budding interest. And if it can't be learned safely, it won't be learned at all. So, what happens to parkour then?

I actually really like Seng's comparison to yoga. It's a massive, money making industry that's getting thousands of people healthier (physically, mentally, spiritually), without pitting anyone against each other and pushing people to do more than their bodies are capable of. Why can't parkour do that?

Because yoga is uncool. ok, maybe, but still... You get my point. :)


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