Name one thing all of these companies have in common:
Urban Freeflow. American Parkour. The WFPF. Take Flight Apparel. Red Bull. 3Run. Team Tempest.
They all make money from parkour.
Name one thing all of these people have in common:
David Belle. Sébastien Foucan. Ryan Doyle. Daniel Ilabaca. Luci Romberg.
They all make money from parkour.
Profiting from parkour is not a bad thing. It is not against the tenets of parkour. It’s possible to make money from parkour without being unfaithful to its philosophy.
People need to eat. They need to pay bills. Traceurs are no exception to this rule. It’s a fact of life that everyone needs money. Money requires a job. A job requires time – time that could be spent training. Alternately, if you spend a lot of time training, that leaves less time for a job and therefore less money.
We’ll use Chase Armitage of 3Run as an example. He’s been training for 12 years. Assume he trains an average of an hour a day – which is a very conservative estimate. 12 years times 365 hours a year equals 4380 hours of training over the course of his career.
Let’s go on a brief flight of fantasy. Assume that Chase had spent 1,000 hours learning to code. Or to weld. Or to be a plumber, or truck driver, or any other traditional job. He would still have 3380 hours, at $10/hour (conservative estimate for a skilled job), for a total of $33,800 he could have made. Instead, he chose to use that potentially profitable time to hone his skills until he reached his current world-class level.
Anyone who practices parkour knows how much sheer time it takes to become a highly skilled traceur. If you devoted that time to anything else even mildly productive, it could – over time – be worth a good deal of money.
Instead of taking the ordinary job, Chase decided to be a professional freerunner. He (and the rest of 3Run) get paid to perform. They deserve to be paid for their skills, the same way any stuntman or performing artist does.
We have established that it is okay for individual traceurs to profit from parkour. What about companies like American Parkour, Urban Freeflow, Take Flight Apparel, etc.?
Each of those organizations serves a purpose.
Take Flight Apparel sells parkour-branded shirts – and traceurs want to buy parkour-branded shirts. There’s no problem with that.
American Parkour sells shirts, puts on performances with their team of athletes (The Tribe), sponsors other athletes, hosts forums, deals with legal issues, and more. The WFPF is similar, though it’s a smaller organization on a worldwide scale.
Red Bull sponsors certain athletes, as well as the Red Bull Art of Motion. The AoM is of mixed value – the athletes get to train on a usually amazing course with peers whom they would ordinarily not be able to meet. But the AoM also promotes competition and big crowd-pleasing (dangerous) tricks, neither of which are good for parkour. Not to mention the kids watching who now equate parkour with Red Bull-fueled gainer full twists.
Urban Freeflow is an example of a parkour company gone bad. This is not the place for a complete exposé of UFF, but on the shortlist of bad things they’ve done is…
- Mistreated their sponsored athletes to the point that some left (Tim Shieff, Paul Joseph).
- Attempted to turn parkour into a true competition (Barclaycard Freerun Championships) – to which none of the world-class 3Run chaps were invited.
- Attempted to rename freerunning to “freestyle parkour.” The worth of this is debatable, but it’s generally acknowledged that UFF is at least partly to blame for the parkour vs. freerunning confusion.
- Turned their formerly parkour-only YouTube channel into a bodybuilding-only channel – because UFF founder EZ felt like it.
APK and the WFPF have so far done well by parkour. UFF has not. Red Bull is debatable. Take Flight is of mixed value. They were at the center of the DavidBelle.com scandal, the Parkour.com scandal, and founder Adam Dunlap miffed his chance to explain everything (like why he owns so many domains). However, Take Flight’s Facebook page is extremely active, always sharing new videos, and often giving away free shirts.
Companies that look to profit from parkour can only be judged on a case-by-case basis. They can neither be condemned nor advocated wholesale. Most seem to serve a legitimate purpose – as they must in order to make money – but how they serve that purpose is just as important.
There is another kind of profiting-from-parkour company left to deal with: the parkour gym.
The Tempest Freerunning Academy in California, Apex Movement in Colorado, the Fight or Flight gym in Minnesota, the Monkey Vault gym in Canada, Jump Squad HQ in Australia, etc., create a problem at the same time they solve one.
The purpose of these parkour schools/gyms is simple: to give both experienced and newbie traceurs a place to practice/learn parkour in a safe, purpose-built environment. Teaching parkour is certainly a laudable goal and one I wholeheartedly endorse. However, teaching parkour in a safe gym environment has both positive and negative value. On one hand, it’s a recipe for quick progression and overcoming of fears. On the other hand, you may progress too fast, to the point you either neglect the basics or overestimate your abilities when you do train outside. I’ve seen far too many videos of kids doing 720 corks on a trampoline, yet not having the strength to do a climb-up or a 6-foot precision. I’ve also received a growing number of emails saying, “I can’t do parkour because I don’t have a parkour gym nearby!” Guess what? Neither did David Belle, or Daniel Ilabaca, or Chase Armitage. Neither did I. Neither do most of my traceur friends.
In the 2+ years I’ve been training (admittedly not long), the basic starting advice for newbies seems to have changed from “Check to see if there’s a local parkour group near you,” to “Check to see if your gym offers parkour classes.” Again, this is of mixed value; it’s certainly safer and more encouraging for the newbie, but training on purpose-built obstacles is not the same as training on the unforgiving concrete on which parkour was born.
Parkour gyms serve a useful purpose, but – like all good things – they must be used in moderation. It’s up to the individual practitioner to decide how much he/she wants to utilize a parkour gym; it’s up to the parkour gym to decide what it wants its instructors to teach students about outdoor, “real” training.
Athletes deserve to be paid for their skills. No contest there.
Business whose products – whether it’s clothing, shoes, instruction, or training facilities – are needed or wanted will stay in business. Marketing, PR, and the way it treats the parkour community at large is what marks the difference between a good parkour business and a bad parkour business.
Profiting from parkour is not a bad thing. How it happens is what makes the difference.