Have you ever heard of Parkour? If you think you could be interested in trying out this new and fun exercise in Bangkok, see what Asia Parkour owner Julien Vigroux has to say about it.
- Where did your passion for Parkour originate?
I’ve always been very active since I was a child; practicing football, running and martial arts. I took my inspiration from Japanese animation and super heroes (e.g. Spiderman) like many other kids. I was quite shy and introverted and doing sports was the best way to express myself; in order to say what I have to say.
One day, about 17 years ago, my older brother Stephane had the chance to be introduced to David Belle, the pioneer and co-founder of Parkour. We happened to live 10 minutes away by car from the birthplace of Parkour, a little town called “Lisses”, where David resided. Stephane started an intensive “internship” training with David. Soon after, my second older brother Johann started to train with Stephane and a few other people living in Lisses. They called themselves “Les Traceurs” (like the U.S. movie ‘The Tracers’). We kept calling ourselves this and today this term is still in use to identify a person doing Parkour.
Parkour started to become addictive, like a drug. Both my brothers would practice as soon as they had free time. The word ‘parkour’ was in every single discussion we had. They started showing me videos of David and I finally followed them during their training to see it with my own eyes. I was 15 then; the rest is history.
My first impression was that Parkour was reserved to a chosen few and that there was no room for lazy people or fancy moves – only warriors with a mind and a body ready to take on the requested physical and mental challenge involved. This sounded very much like a superhero description at that time.
Parkour was not visible on the web; it was not trendy and it was not something that could be done for a living. It was a personal quest, to reach your limits, to face and control your fear, to see what you can achieve and attain a state of freedom.
The Parkour motto was “to be strong and to be useful”. I came to realize the true meaning of ‘strong’ by seeing and observing all the first and second generation of Parkour practitioners. The training was composed of 70 percent conditioning and 30 percent movements. This is because first you must protect your body and only then can you move.
I saw true warriors when I watched them. I saw them as people never giving up and never complaining, even if the task was really hard. I admired their spirit to be strong and useful, to finish what they committed to do and what they started and to show discipline, commitment and passion.
I was three to five years younger than everyone else so it wasn’t easy to be a part of the group. However, I quickly started to observe them as much as I could and sometimes I would practice on my own.
I started to fall in love with Parkour very quickly and was very regular with my training. I found that this was an activity that helped me to face my fears, to express my full potential without any boundaries and rules because Parkour is essentially a self-improvement activity. It’s between you and yourself. I wanted to be strong, to be like the best, to be a “superhero” – but not only for the performance aspect, but primarily for the spirit.
- How long did you spend developing your Parkour skills?
I started when I was 15; I am now 29 and have never really stopped since.
I‘ve had my ups and downs because of my studies and jobs but I’ve always found a bit of time to go out and train. My two brothers have always been my best inspiration and my best mentors. My brother Stephane co-created Parkour Generations in the UK almost nine years ago. Parkour Generations is a company dedicated to Parkour education.
Seven years ago I decided to quit my job in France (believe it or not I worked in finance) and move to the U.K. to continue my training with my brothers and the team that they built. I spent two years in the U.K. and did my Parkour instructor level 1 (ADAPT certification). This certification is considered to be the first Parkour certification worldwide and is recognized by the U.K. government.
Protecting and reinforcing the body makes even more sense as we grow up since our bodies and joints get older and weaker. My training was oriented more towards pushing my limits and performance during my first 12 years of practice. Now I am focusing on my flow, my self-expression and sharing with people.
I’ve now started coaching and sharing the experience with people in order to make it accessible to whoever wants to learn Parkour and help them to find their individual way.
- What brought you to Bangkok?
After coming back from London, I stayed two to three more years in France. I was going from job to job. However, I had reached a point where I couldn’t work in finance anymore. I took some time to really think about my priorities and what I really wanted to do. Two things came to my mind, Thailand and Parkour.
I thought of Thailand because I used to visit every summer with my family since I was 14. I fell in love with the country and everything it offered me (culture, climate, environment, cost of living, lifestyle, etc).
I thought about Parkour because I had finally accepted that it was more than a sport, but a passion to me. I had to take my chances and go try to make a living with this passion. It was a big challenge and a huge obstacle to overcome for me. It’s never easy to put everything you’ve learned on hold and stop following what the system tells you to do; which is to study, get a degree and find a stable job. It was a new path and a new adventure that was full of risk and obstacles. But this is what Parkour was about during the past 12 years; to challenge myself, overcome obstacles and surmount all challenges.
Stephane opened the Parkour Generations Asian branch in Bangkok in 2011 and my other brother, Johann, joined him later that year. I came to Thailand with the idea to open a Parkour center with Johann but the task was harder than expected. I ended up coaching for Parkour Generations Asia, becoming CEO of the company and eventually owning my own company, Asia Parkour.
- How do you think Parkour benefits the human body?
I would say that there are two main benefits: physical and mental.
Parkour is probably the most efficient way to achieve fitness and live more actively. It is a natural, bodyweight methodology of training. No machines or sophisticated tools are needed, only your body. This is what our body was designed for. It is a complete sport and includes different natural movement patterns such as jumping, climbing, rolling, vaulting, running and balancing.
Contrary to other activities, it allows all fitness components to be developed at the same time, such as coordination, speed, strength, balance, endurance, power and agility. It is a great way to develop your mobility and flexibility as well. If you know about the Ninja Warriors concept, you won’t be surprised to know that all of the best participants are practicing Parkour. Have a look at what the most experienced practitioners can achieve and you will quickly understand the potential of the physical benefits.
Parkour is a task-oriented discipline. You face an obstacle or a situation, study the course and the risks and then find a safe way to overcome it. It helps to increase and develop your focus and your confidence by overcoming obstacles and controlling your fear constantly. It is a self-improvement discipline and helps you to reveal your untapped potential. It also helps you to discover or rediscover yourself and your own body.
Parkour is holistic meaning the body and mind have to work together. They have to be connected if you want a symbiosis.. David compared our body to a horse (body) and a rider (mind). If neither listen to each other then nothing happens. But when they are connected, self-expression occurs and as a result the message is delivered. The body and mind work better as a team.
The magic happens when you can apply the benefits of the practice to your everyday life. Imagine yourself approaching your life obstacles the way you approach an obstacle in Parkour. You open the door to a better you, to success by controlling your fear, to having a better understanding of who you are and what you can achieve. Lastly, you open the door to having more confidence and a better focus on everything you do.
- Parkour maintains a lot of success in the world of entertainment. How do you feel about people using Parkour for mainly entertaining purposes?
I understand that Parkour can be used for entertainment purposes as it remains a great visual marketing tool to promote and boost the image of a brand that wants to look younger and more active. It is also an opportunity to develop people’s discipline awareness and to give a chance to talented people to make a living out of it. When I personally disagree is when I see people working with unhealthy brands and associating those brands to the practice.
My personal opinion is that the majority of people practicing and performing are too young to really understand what impact their actions may have on the development and the perception of the discipline. There is a huge problem of not taking responsibility for their actions.
When you know that the essence of the practice at its creation was pure, holistic and healthy with a quest of self-improvement and being strong in order to be helpful, I get somewhat confused when I see some things happening in our community.
For example, how could you let an unhealthy brand like Redbull be a sponsor and showcase Parkour to the community at large? It’s killing the original essence of the practice and its development. It is only benefiting the media industry that is driven by profits only. Soon, these unhealthy brands will discover another sport that generates more profit than Parkour. At that point, they will drop it and leave the practice scarred and tainted.
- Do you have some advice for someone interested in Parkour training for the first time?
- One shouldn’t think that Parkour is only for teenagers or base one’s judgment on what is on Youtube as it does not always represent the true essence of Parkour. You can’t see all the work behind the scenes but merely the result of months and years of training or you’ll see poor and unsafe approaches to training or a lack of responsibility and methodology in their training.
- One of the greatest mistakes is to compare oneself to others. Everyone has a different starting point depending on various elements like sport background, relation with fear, vertigo, self-confidence, skeleton and bone density. There is no competition with anyone but yourself and no judgment – just a path to be a better you, having a better understanding of yourself, feeling more confident, revealing your untapped potential and living your life more actively.
- It’s never too late to start. Our body was designed to move and execute the basic Parkour moves like jumping, climbing and vaulting. We own a sophisticated machine (our body) and we underestimate it most of the time. So, yes, Parkour is for everyone. However, the training method and intensity have to be adapted to your individual body.
- Parkour is a self-improvement discipline. As long as you have fun practicing, have a rigorous open mind and apply all safety measures you will improve and enjoy all the benefits of the practice.
- If you are scared to start or don’t know where you should start, find experienced and dedicated people or trainers who are willing to guide you. These people can teach you the basic techniques, empower you to gain confidence, show you how to practice safely and help you find yourself within this new adventure.
- The best way to learn is to come and try it out!
- What is your best success story to date?
I would say my best success is where I am today in Thailand. It is the the place of my dreams, living from my passion, sharing it and being my own boss. I am glad I was initiated with Parkour at its early stages and happy to be 10,000 kilometers away from its birthplace trying to spread its original essence and encouraging more people to join the movement. We are meant to move.
Movement is life and life is movement. Be your movement.