On Competition & Collaboration: A Rebuttal

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:

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.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

As of May 13th, 2017, APEX have cancelled their event in France and have ended their collaboration with FIG.

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

This is an important step in the fight against FIG, but this post was focused on APEX’s specific statement RE competition. The outcomes of their event in France are no longer relevant, however, some of the confusion, contradiction and ambiguity of their original statement (in my opinion) still remains. 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…

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.

The North American Parkour Championships (NAPC) are run by Sport Parkour League (SPL) and Brandon Douglass has been an athlete and podium finisher as well as a commentator.

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 want 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…

And personally…

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:

(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”)

Conclusion

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…
    vs
Amos: We have been titling these events “obstacle course competitions” not “parkour competitions” for years.

I also forgot to add this tidbit:

3 Replies to “On Competition & Collaboration: A Rebuttal”

  1. Strong support for this mode of thinking and discussion—doublespeak is much more dangerous than either a pro- or an anti-competitive stance, and you raising these objections in this form not only clarifies your own view, but also gives APEX a chance to make a more nuanced and subtle point, if they want to.

    Additional strong support for the inclusion of counter-comments directly in the tail of the post.

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