The Alternative

I heard many voices cry out in terror and then suddenly get silenced. Or however the quote goes. The fact is there was a great outcry against parkour becoming another discipline of gymnastics under the Federation International de Gymnastique (or FIG for short), though it was for nothing as it was too late for that kind of action. Right now, after it became reality, it seems everything and everyone is silent. All the sharp quick-witted statements disappeared and turned into something different, either the excuses of those who are joining FIG, or the silent piping and thinking of the rest (I should point out that I understand both sides, as I understand the reasons, even though I strongly disagree with those who, to put it bluntly, sold out).

Parkour fell victim to our inability to organize ourselves. It fell victim to the institutionalization, this western cultural tool of control and maiming of any revolutionary idea that would prove too strong to be left living peacefully lest it becomes dangerous to the righteous life of freedom, democracy, obedience and oppression.

(It should be clear I‘m not blind to the shortcomings of democracy. It is, as I heard in some quote, the best political system we could invent, but it should be added that it is clearly still very far from even just being good enough.)

Whatever I write and however I mud up my own message, the one point I wish to get across, aside maybe from making us all feel bad for our inactivity and weaknesses, is that however bad it might be, it’s not the end, and there are always alternatives. That’s because FIG doesn’t own parkour. They don’t even control it. Nobody and no one can own or control any human activity of this type – a sport, a discipline… a movement…

What I mean is, whatever happens, out there on the streets people will still practice parkour they’re used to practising, just as others are playing football or baseball or (…), just as others are riding bikes, rollerblades or skateboards. They do it regardless of competitions, of major or minor organisations, regardless of politics. And so will we, if we aren’t doing it already.

Thanks to that democracy I‘m shaming, nobody can own parkour. That means there is always space for another alternative organization. Just as boxing is split between an amateur and a professional branch, parkour can follow a similar path. We can create our own alternative at our own pace and nothing can stop that – on the contrary, there are mechanisms that support it.

One thing I regret is a wedge this whole issue is (and is going to be) driving into our midst. I’ve born witness to the birth of division between parkour and freerun(ning), and later l’ADD. I’ve seen the attempts to create a freestyle parkour aka FRPK. I’ve lived through the births and demises of countless wanna-be-worldwide parkour organizations, be it official ones like PAWA and Mouvement, or unofficial like Parkour Worldwide. I’ve been trying to help with the bridge-building inside and between the community and communities, local or bigger, or at least I’ve secretly hoped and cheered for them to grow into something, whether they were some small teams, or the shot-callers like those from UrbanFreeFlow, Parkour Generations or American Parkour. I regret that, after seeing all the splits and fruitless attempts to mend them and heal them, it had to be that I get to be there to see yet another one. Yet another division, yet another reason for discontent in our community. And not because I see change as a bad thing. But because in those 30-some years parkour (and the movement arts in general) has been in existence, us, its practitioners, we didn’t change, improve, evolve at all, we are still the same quarrelling horde we’ve ever been.

But, to end on a positive note… as I said earlier, you are all as free as you were before these things started to happen. You are free to practice your arts and nobody can tell you that you’re wrong. It won’t be the same, since in the same way the first of us were struggling against misunderstanding of the common folk, the next of us are going to struggle against misunderstanding of a different kind. But we have prevailed, whether we tried to explain what our actions mean to us, or we gave up in order to focus on self-development. That struggle was an integral part of our identities, and it shall be once again. Unfortunate as it is, the force that is dividing us will make those of us who stand against it work that much harder and become that much stronger.

Because whatever has happened, as far as I’ve seen, they can divide us, but they can never divide us. And they never will. Forget the competitions, the organizations, the chiefs, the violence… Parkour will always live free through those who are free.

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