The enforced quarantine in Italy was not an obstacle to carrying out an interview with Flavio, and thanks to the online realm it was possible to explore his mental and physical approach to parkour.
Although his practice is a very sober one, based on the original form of ADD, and not as focused on some of the flourishes typical of the mainstream portrayal of parkour. His jumps and the style of his movement does not fail to awe. Flavio has broadened his “area of comfort” to an extreme variety of architectures, environments, and challenges.
The result is a very peculiar movement style, which sits in the balance between flowing elegantly and powerful movement. This balance can also be detected between his physical performance and his deep psychological and philosophical investigation into his own movement along with his way of perceiving the world.
Classic question: How old are you and how long have you been training?
I am 26 years old and I have been training since 2012 when I was 19. Towards the fall of this year, my practice will have reached eight candles.
What inspired you to train parkour?
Unlike (probably) many other practitioners, the beginning of my parkour practice was not marked by the excitement experienced from a particular scene seen in the first person or through web content (more or less viral). Instead, it was a rather thoughtful approach resulting from the analysis of the benefits that parkour naturally seemed to grant to those who practiced it.
Other Sporting Interests
My previous sports experience was very varied. Generally speaking, I have always been tied to the world of sports from a young age, and I trained with an intensity perhaps unknown to some people.
As a child, I started out as many others by playing football. I also practiced martial arts (in particular judo).
Later on, I did athletics for a few months, then I dedicated myself more intensely in judo, and finally, off-road motorcycling (trial and enduro), a passion that was inspired by my father during my adolescence.
A Key Decision:
Between the ages of 18 and 19, I made a fairly radical decision, as I decided to rethink my life from scratch. At the base of all of this, there lied the discovery of an ‘instrument’ that has truly shaped my character. After the scientific maturity (Italian final high school year exam), I decided to dedicate some years to the study of philosophy. That decision marked the (practical) abandonment of a set of passions, including certain sports, which I thought were less ‘authentic.’ My dedication was then directed towards new horizons which seemed more fundamental to me.
Later after having taken up the practice of martial arts again more assiduously, I met Marco Bellia, my first (parkour) teacher. He was the one who introduced me to this discipline by inviting me to take part in a session of free training, which soon became a fundamental part of my routine.
When I discovered Parkour, I thought that it represented exactly a practice characterized by the authenticity that I was searching for. I felt that beneath everything, the only relevant variable in parkour is yourself; everything else, from the environment to the equipment up to the presence of others, counts only in a contingent and secondary manner. At least, this is what I could grasp through a theoretical and external point of view, before experiencing it through practice. Let’s say that, at that moment, I had taken to heart the famous Socratic motto that reads “know yourself“; and in this sense, parkour was the most adequate representation of this, from a sporting point of view.
I realized almost immediately that at its base there was a constant internal dialectical process, which imposed on the practitioner the understanding of his limits. Then to build a path of growth aimed at overcoming these limits, and followed by an endless iter (Latin for the process) which eventually leads to new phases of self-exploration.
This mechanism is certainly not an exclusive feature of parkour. However, parkour is probably one of the physical practices where this process is particularly evident, exactly in the measure by which there are no necessary interactions and comparisons with others, therefore all the attention is directed towards ‘self-improvement’.
A Natural Practice
A fundamental feature of parkour, one which differentiates it from many other activities and the reason why I called it an “authentic” practice is that it requires nothing more than yourself to be practiced (a body and a mind). Parkour is one of the most natural practices that exist, and at the same time, it is extremely transversal in terms of individual skill, which involves and allows you to develop. In addition to working on various psychological capacities, parkour allows you to use the body in all its qualities and parts which is the only tool that we really have, and that goes beyond any social convention.
Parkour requires the use of every body-part, pushing us to use its mastery: from feet to head. It also requires us to use them synchronously and in a harmonic manner, in order to obtain a response that is not only functional but also efficient. This happens through the development of various motor skills such as coordination, precision, balance, speed, agility, strength, explosiveness, sometimes resistance and much more.
The mastery of the use of one’s body (immediately, i.e. not mediated by something else) is a condition of possibility, as well as a fundamental premise for the mastery of other potential activities characterized by material extension through the use of tools, as it happens in many other activities. In this sense, the concept of “authenticity’’, to which I referred to earlier to define parkour, incorporates also, to a large extent, the concept of universality. All these characteristics, I believe, are the ones that first lured me in, and then allowed me to experience this magnificent practice with great intensity. Later, several further reasons manifested, due to experience and having a deeper understanding of parkour.
When it comes to the practicality of it, what are some important points in your practice?
I often like to judge movements for their “adaptive capacity”. In other words, the property of a certain movement to be applicable, and play a functional role in the most diverse environmental contexts. Therefore, the quantity of movements I train is directly proportional to its characteristics.
Working on Adaptability
One of the key strategies to understand this quality, and to eventually expand one’s repertoire of movements (even if on an imaginary level), is to maintain a certain degree of variety of movement, and environmental training contexts. In other words, changing the spot as much as possible and searching for what is least familiar, will firstly help us to develop new movements. Secondly, it will allow us to perfect and develop greater adaptability of movements that we already know; and finally, by means of the two, we will be able to develop greater motor adaptability. This last feature, allows us to obtain greater general adaptability, and therefore to improve as individuals (where the scale of judgment adopted here is the biological-evolutionary one).
It is also necessary to recognize the advantages that the opposite strategy of insisting on training in a specific spot can offer us. Indeed, training in the same setting pushes us to use our creative abstraction skills to compute new movement patterns, which the environment offers, patterns that we might have not seen before.
Personally, I love to alternate these two approaches of training spots, depending on how I feel from the motivational point of view. When I am tired and not very motivated, a new spot can provide new stimuli. On the other hand, motivation and inspiration can often reconcile a discovery with new eyes of a spot that has already been experienced previously. This is obviously a questionable and personal approach.
View on Acrobatic Movement
From the notion that I prefer movements with a high ‘adaptive ability,’ it follows that I don’t spend too much time practicing acrobatic movements, although I recognize the merit of allowing the development of greater aerial proprioception. However, I believe that the effort and the risks that come with the development of acrobatic techniques do not tend to run in parallel with the benefits that they can bring from the point of view of the pure ability to move. In general, they are techniques that I tend to consider unnecessary, and that are suitable to develop only secondarily when you have already an advanced level of mastery over the peculiar techniques of parkour.
The current parkour panorama these movements have become very popular among practitioners, even those who are not particularly expert, since the means of transmission of parkour (which is through YouTube and the various social networks), mainly rewards spectacularity, thus leading to a greater diffusion of those styles of movement that have a strong media impact and which in turn are further shaped by the possible economic or social compensation that follows (all the more so as they adhere to these fees).
I believe this is the reason why ‘pure’ parkour is tending to be eclipsed by forms of a more exhibitionist nature, such as what we tend to label as “freerunning”.
Although the word “freerunning” originated from Sébastien Foucan as a simple English translation of parkour, it is undeniable that it was then adopted with greater prevalence to designate a more playful, free and expressive practice, which in fact corresponded to the declination that Foucan had in fact given to his own personal movement practice.
Having made these last clarifications, my practice is definitely more efficient and in the direction of what we would tend to call “pure” parkour (the David Belle one). However, while in “pure” parkour the predominantly exalted dimension is the physical and directly utilitarian one, in my practice there is also a great focus on the psychic sphere, and therefore I believe I have also internalized part of what is the disciplinary philosophy that has been mainly built and promoted by the Yamakasi who remained faithful to the term “art du déplacement.
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