The biggest news in the parkour world at present are the steps being taken by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to appropriate parkour into their own gymnastic activity. Big news. It’s keeping me up at night.
My views on the situation are self-explanatory.
If you want more details on the situation:
- You can read up on it at John Hall’s blog over at Access Parkour.
- You can also read up on all the news articles/press releases at Inside the Games.
This particular blog is focused on providing a counter argument to APEX’s statement ‘On Competition & Collaboration’. Although I assume the statement is written to provide clarity, it only brought more confusion for me.
APEX said in their original statement:
- “We will continue seeking the support of organisations and groups in which we can build win-win situations that will grow the sport in a healthy way.”
- “We will strive to mitigate those downsides of competition and terminate business relationships if need be.”
True to their word, after deeming their relationship with FIG, FISE and The Mouvement to not be win-win or ultimately healthy for the parkour community (through the many discussions, posts, press releases and their own behind the scenes interaction with FIG) they have terminated their relationship and will host their event back on home soil in the U.S.A
The outcome of their event in France is no longer relevant of course and this is an important step in the fight against FIG, but this post was focused on APEX’s specific statement RE competition. I harbour no ill will towards APEX and value their support in preserving the sovereignty of the parkour community against FIG. However, some of the confusion I had about what I perceived as contradictions and ambiguities in their original statement is still interesting to preserve (in my opinion).
As such, the original post resumes from here.
Original Blog Resumes
I’d like to preface my thoughts by first saying that I’ve never met Ryan, Amos or Brandon in person. I have spoken to Ryan and Amos online a few times and think they’ve all done some stellar work in the parkour community, particularly in the US. I’m a keen follower of their work via Parkour EDU, I have Ryan’s book Parkour Strength Training, I love the way Amos moves, and I think Brandon is a great commentator (more on that soon).
From here on I’m going to contrast some of APEX’s statements with either a counter-narrative, something from their own archives that causes me to question their motives or are at least very confusing, or gives me cause for concern.
1. APEX says “We do not recognize parkour as a competitive sport”. They have also claimed that they haven’t called their competitions parkour competitions, but simply competitions with various events (i.e. Time Trials, Skills Challenge, and Style Battle)
Amos to Julie Angel on the Parkour Research Facebook page: “APEX School of Movement has never been just a parkour organization. Although that’s our main focus, we house many movement arts under our roofs. We strive to be inclusive, and we’ve found that the crossover and mutual inspiration can be very powerful.
This isn’t opportunist semantics because this has actually been our stance since almost as far back as 2012. You’ll notice that we titled the event the “APEX Invitational” for a few years and then “APEX International” instead of something along the lines of “Parkour Championships.”
However, APEX and its affiliates have also said…
- “Three APEX Movement athletes have qualified for the finals of the North American Parkour Championships tomorrow night. Dylan Baker and Dante Grazioli qualified for the skills competition. Dylan, Dante, and Brandon Douglass qualified for the speed competition. Dante and Brandon qualified for the style competition. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night at 6pm to see how they do!” – 2014
- “AMCS Coach Dante Grazioli is trying to get into a prestigious parkour and freerunning competition this year. Vote and share to help him get there!” – 2014
- “Don’t miss one of the biggest parkour gatherings and competitions of the year…” – 2014
- “Fort Collins Open Parkour Competition” – 2015
- “Apex Movement Parkour Competition in Colorado – Apex Movement West Hartford” – 2016
- “Thanks for the perspective Zac. Anyone else have any thoughts to contribute on the topic of equal prize money for men and women in parkour competitions?” – 2016
- “Get ready!! APEX Movement Boulder will be hosting its second youth parkour competition for ages 8 – 12 (all levels welcome).” – 2016
- “Attention teen practitioners! APEX Movement Boulder is hosting a parkour competition for ages 13 – 17!” – 2016
- “APEX Movement Fort Collins first ever Youth Parkour Competition!” – 2017
2. APEX says “parkour is not something you can win. There are no championships.”.
Parkour is traditionally non-competitive, and most training at present is undertaken that way. However, in the same way that we’re not having the “are flips parkour?” debate anymore, things evolve. There have been international parkour competitions since 2009. That makes it difficult to make a claim that it is “not a thing”. I think one can say it doesn’t have merits, but not that it doesn’t exist.
I’d also like to point out that next month APEX Denver is hosting SPL for an NAPC qualifying event next month.
3. APEX says “We do not feel that we have the authority to make claims on the “original philosophy” or “true essence” of parkour, and thus none of our arguments rely on such claims. However, the founders of our disciplines appear unanimous in that what they pioneered is non-competitive…. Now, this doesn’t mean there’s no room for evolution of definitions and ideas, but their vocal position on the matter should be respectfully taken into great consideration as a factor.”
Agreed. None of the founders personally wants to compete in parkour competitions, but if we’re going to respectfully take their vocal positions, should we not consider these quotes?
It [competition] is not as bad as people say
You have the right to go there.
I have no right to tell you what to do.
If someone wants to do competition, he’s got the right to do competition.
– Sebastian Foucan (interview with Tim Shieff)
- If people are happy because they do competitions, bravo.
If it makes you happy, it’s good. I have no problem with that.
I don’t want to ban competitions.
If some people want competitions there will be some competitions Everybody is free within parkour to do what he or she wants.
– David Belle (interview with Tim Shieff)
4. APEX have said “No rules, no touchdowns, and no referees mean no elites.” and “If you’re the best course runner in the world, it doesn’t then apply that you’ve reached the elite level of the international parkour community (spoiler alert, there isn’t one).”
APEX have also said…
- “On August 7, 23 of the best athletes in the USA, representing 8 different states, competed in the first ever national parkour competition, the 2010 APEX Movement Invitational …” – 2010
- “Want to compete with some of the best Parkour athletes in the country? If you want an invite for our big national time trials competition next week…” – 2013
- “The North American Parkour Championships start in 2 hours. Want to watch APEX Movement athletes Dylan, Dante, and Brandon compete with some of the best?” – 2014
- “Check out some of the sport’s best athletes, including members of the APEX Pro team, compete at the North American Parkour Championships.” – 2015
- Good luck to our friend Nathan Weston who is going for the freerunning triple crown tomorrow in Santorini. He took home victories at TheAPEXInternational, NAPC, and just fought his way through the vicious onsite qualifiers at Art of Motion.
- Ryan Ford – “Congrats to my friend and APEX Movement teammate Dante Grazioli for earning 1 out of 3 male qualifier spots in the world for the most prestigious freerunning competition that exists, Red Bull Art of Motion in Santorini.” – 2015
- Dante Grazioli – “Parkour and Freerunning Speed and Style competitions with 2,000$ for first place!” – 2016
- Amos Rendao – “The international Parkour competition in Seattle was such a blast with the most talent I’ve ever seen at one of these things, most runs coming in within tenths and hundredths of a second. I ended up in 5th place which hardly matters in the face of all the new friends and great experiences.” – 2013
- Brandon Douglass – Comments in this video with Rene and Tom from SPL – 2016
5. APEX are fully entitled to change their opinions. We all are. At the start of this post, I linked to my previous post about the evolution of my own opinions on competition. However, regardless of their position (i.e. calling them parkour competitions or not), many people watching and even those participating see these competitions as parkour competitions:
- “I am so proud of my daughter, her persistance, determination and commitment as an athlete won her 1st place in the The Apex International parkour speed competition in Colorado this week.” – 2016
- “I am officially going to the APEX Movement International Parkour Competition and Jam in Boulder, CO.” – 2016
- “Registered for the qualifying rounds at the Apex International parkour competition in Boulder, CO.” – 2016
- “I got 3rd place in the Apex Movement Fort Collins Parkour competition.” – 2016
- “I did terrible on the 1st parkour competition I did at APEX Movement.” – 2016
- “Parkour time trials is something the Flux teachers first started playing with at Apex Movement under Ryan Ford’s guidance. Time Trial Parkour Competition at Flux School of Human Movement.” – 2016
- “Path Movement would love to thank all of the students that attended the Youth Parkour Competition at Apex Movement Boulder this past Saturday!” – 2016
- “Apex is making a huge statement by making their prize money equal for men and women in the parkour competition.” – 2016
- “APEX Movement Boulder put on a Teen Parkour competition tonight…” – 2017
(The long term repercussions of this particular point have the potential to be extremely damaging for the parkour community, because if FIG are the ones “buying” APEX’s OCS events, but everyone just thinks they’re parkour competitions, then FIG could eventually put marketing of “OCS” in the too hard basket and simply stick with “parkour”)
If you read APEX’s statement you’ll assume that they’re “opposed” to parkour competitions, but if you’ve read the rest of this post you’ll see that there are countless statements where they refer to their own and others events as parkour/freerunning competitions.
If they’re opposed to parkour competition, but are hosting a qualifying event for the North American Parkour Championships then there appear to be business motives.
If APEX continues to work towards their Obstacle Course Sprint – and whatever else comes – models in association with FIG, despite vocal outcry from many within the global parkour community, then there appear to be business motives.
I don’t know what’s going on inside their heads and what their true motives are, so don’t let my thoughts be taken as truth, but from where I’m sitting and the information that is available to me, I think they would have been more honest to remove the moral high ground/preservation of parkour pitch and instead said…
We like parkour, but we also like movement disciplines in general. Diversifying means we’ll get more people through our doors and because we’re entrepreneurs and we’re following the American Dream, this is a strategic business move.
Post Publication Editions
I’ve received further information after publishing this, but instead of editing anything original I’m leaving it all as is and I’m adding some clarifying points from some of the people I mention above.
From Rene Scavington:
Hey Damien just to give you a bit more info if you want for the article. We “SPL” skyped with Apex about hosting an event at their facility. The manager of Apex Denver (Vinny Fiaco) and I have been in talks for awhile about making it happen, but not knowing how the owners would feel about it. My understanding is that they are choosing to have a “no parkour competition” stance with their own brand, but will continue to support the parkour community that wants to have parkour competitions. They also aren’t getting any revenue from our event. They are donating the venue.
From Ryan Ford:
Hey Damien, I don’t have time to fully respond to this right now but here are a few other quick facts to consider. APEX HQ is our parent company that heads up the APEX INTL, APEX pro team, etc. Each school is independently owned and operated (licensees, not franchises) and therefore has a huge amount of room to run itself how it chooses. We support our licensees with lots of resources but they aren’t required to follow much in particular as long as they are running a safe and professional business (but most of them choose to use all the same systems, curriculum etc. anyway). APEX HQ solidified it’s stance on parkour competition only recently as it became a more complex and controversial subject in the international community. However, we also recognize the free will of our students, athletes, coaches, licensees, etc. to take part in parkour competitions if they want to. APEX HQ doesn’t currently call anything a parkour competition but if Rene wants to call it that, it’s his prerogative. APEX and Origins can agree to disagree on the naming and still have a mutual respect for each other.
From Amos Rendao:
This is one of the things that confuses me:
Ryan: APEX HQ solidified its stance on parkour competition only recently…
Amos: We have been titling these events “obstacle course competitions” not “parkour competitions” for years.
I also forgot to add this tidbit: