Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Interview for Urban Runners

I was recently asked by Ixek from the Urban Runners team in Mexico to do a written interview for their website, so i thought i'd post it here too, here it is :

Introduce yourself (name, age and how long have you been practising Parkour).
My name is Thomas Couetdic, i'm 24 and i'm from France. I've been into Parkour for about 8 years.

How did you find Parkour?
At the time when Yamaksi was coming out in the cinemas, i saw by chance a short documentary about Parkour on television (stade 2) and was hooked by it ! I new from that moment on that Parkour would play a major role in my life. In those days, Parkour was nonexistant on the internet and it took me a few months to find more information about it. I managed to get in contact with some of the guys training in Lisses (the only experienced practicioners at that time) and they invited me to come over and train with them. They told me in advance that it would be hard, and it was, but that's exactly what i was expecting. I would have been very disappointed if they had been just a bunch of guys randomly jumping around, with no discipline and no objectives, but it wasn't that and my motivation to get stronger grew as i discovered their incredible abilities.

My first training sessions in Lisses opened my eyes and gave me some guidance for my training. I would then go back home (in Tours) and apply what i had learned, so most of my training was done alone, which was hard at times but well worth it in the long run. And just every now and then, i went back to Lisses to boost my progress a little bit. If i didn't have money to pay for the travel, i would cycle the 250 km to there, Parkour was my biggest priority in those years and nothing would stop me from training.

What does Parkour mean to you?
My definition of Parkour is "utilitarian displacement" : efficient techniques of movement. My training with the guys from Lisses and the hours of conversation with each of them has made me realise the purpose of Parkour, and i've seen how it was created, the state of mind that triggered this whole discipline. I think that many traceurs nowadays forget to think about all this, they discover the visual aspect of Parkour and want to be able to do the same things, but that's only one dimension of Parkour, they don't try to grasp the original meaning of it, and i feel they miss out on the whole essence of Parkour.
I believe strongly in the idea that intention affects action : knowing why you do something determines how you will do it.
It's been said before, but practitioners should think deeply about why they train, what they search for in the end.

For my part, i've always been interested in outdoor life and adventure, which demand pure efficiency... You can't adventure yourself in remote areas or face critical situations if you're not efficient. You can't be strong, in the broad sense of the word, if you're not efficient. This is why i entirely agree with and follow the original spirit of Parkour, it has a depth that many young traceurs/freerunners completely miss out on.

What do you think about Parkour being related to the medias?
In the eyes of the modern world, Parkour is very stylish and fun, just what the media and advertising companies love, but that is not what Parkour was ever intended to be. Parkour is intended to be trained, not to be shown. Even though i personally take part in such things, because it's a good way to make a living using something i love doing, i'm very aware that it does not take me anywhere as a human being and therefore i never take it too seriously, my life is not there...

In which point do you think Parkour is and where do you think it will go?
The Parkour i've been describing, the one i practice, is not the one that most people train. It's like this now and i think it will always remain like that. It's not necessarily a bad thing as long as the original form of Parkour stays alive so that those who seek it may find it. That's the whole point of Parkour Generations (the people i work with), keeping it alive and accessible. On a personal level, i'd like to see Parkour applied in the field, by people who face critical situations on a regular basis, like firefighters for example. This would also be a good way to maintain the practice of efficient Parkour.

Which advice would you give to people who want to start practicing parkour?
Take your time and never give up. No fortress is impregnable, it all depends on the tenacity of the assailant. No matter where you start from, you'll always reach your goal if you keep trying. Some times are harder than others, but "is lost only he who gives himself up for lost", so never give up.

What do you think about separating parkour from free running or art du deplacement?
I've never really worried about how to call something. I use the word Parkour but it's just for the purpose of conversation. But if we can't even figure out the precise definition of a simple random object such as a chair or a car, then i think we can forget about defining Parkour ! This is because words will never grasp the pure essence of the very things they define. So Parkour, Freerunning, Art du Deplacement etc... these 3 things are different to eachother but the name you give them is irrelevant. Gandhi said : "In reality, there's as many religions as there are individuals" and in the same way, there's as many Parkours as there are traceurs, not two people in the world practice exactly the same thing. Names are only symbolic.
As long as people express themselves in what they do and find peace in it, that's all that matters.

What do you think about body and mind balance?
I think that both work in conjunction with eachother, but i would still give priority to the mind. The reason is simple, the state of the body fluctuates over time, one can be physicaly strong now and weak in one month or less, performance is a very temporary feat, but a strong mind lives on, even in a weakened body. What we learn through experience (and i make a distinction here with knowledge, which is merely the memorisation of information), we keep to the end and perhaps even after, and it affects us in a much deeper and durable way than what is only physical.
Over the years, i've come to focus more and more on the mind, adapting my training to it's development. For example, i try not to keep for later a jump i feel i can do now, because most of the time, keeping for later means waiting for the jump to be easier, and the easier it gets, the less the mind is solicited. This also explains why i never train in gyms : having obstacles that adapt to you only offers training for your body, not your mind, which is close to pointless in my opinion.

How is Thomas (appart from parkour what do you do, hobbies, what do you like doing, etc)?
He says he's fine haha ! I do a lot of travels at the moment (and as i speak, i am in the middle of one). I still love Parkour very much and i train it very often, but i think i've learned what it had to teach me spiritually. I've grown so much thanks to it and i am completely transformed compared to when i started, so now i broaden my horizons, i search for the next step in my growth, and i think i've found it in travels. I also try to share what i've learned with others who may find my experience of use, and i think i'll be doing this more and more in the future, i realise more and more the importance of sharing and giving.
On another level, i've also found a big interest in magic with coins and i spend many hours training it. It feels funny to start from zero again in a new discipline, but it allows me to measure the tremendous effects Parkour has had on me. I was saying earlier that what the mind has learned, it keeps, and this is a perfect example of it. I don't feel overwhelmed by the enormous difficulty of learning coin magic, instead i take it slowly and patiently, through trial and error until i manage to do things properly. It takes a very long time to learn but i know i'll get there in the end if i don't give up, smooth sailing on a big ocean i suppose...

Do you have any specific training routine?
No, i don't believe in routines though i did spend my first training years doing some. There's something reassuring about routines, because you can visualise precisely what you're doing and in which amounts, and everyone enjoys that kind of classification, it's very "academic", the brain likes it, but the human body is not meant to follow a schedule.
So instead i try to ask myself what my body and mind want to do and i go for it. I also often change my plans during the training itself, i really stay away from strict training programmes, it's much better in terms of motivation.
I do have a few exercises that i like to do every now and then, but that's about it, the rest is all spontaneous.

Anything, comments, ideas or advice you would like to share.
Nothing really, i just want to say thank you to you (Ixek) and your group for giving me this opportunity to express my vision of Parkour. Good luck to you and all the traceurs in Mexico !


Anonymous said...

very interesting interview, thanks

mrKaizen said...

I agree, very interesting, especially the mind balance answer.
Tks for posting the interview ;)

Dragan said...

You mentioned that you are in the middle of a trip.
I expect more news about that. Your previous trip through Asia was great.

Mat said...

what are the few exercises you like to do every now and then? :D

Thomas said...

A lot of muscle ups mainly, and a few other arm exercises...
I also do a lot of repetitions of jumps for the legs.