Within this article, Flavio Monti delves into the goals he has achieved whilst being a parkour practitioner. He also goes into the parkour philosophies and mottos that he lives by.
As a consequence of the experience that you have gained in parkour, what goals have you achieved so far that you are particularly proud of?
The Adapt Qualification
The first goal that I would say I am most proud of having achieved is the second level of the Adapt Qualification, as well as having had the good fortune, and the honour of having taught full-time for about a year in London in parkour courses and “Parkour Generations” events. However, I think I should add that these correspond only to mere stages that I have achieved.
Relationships & Experiences
I believe parkour teaches us to appreciate things that have a more procedural nature, that is perhaps less clear-cut and graspable. Among these, is the importance of building very strong ties with unique people and fantastic communities, even across the border, demonstrating that parkour is also a powerful tool for social aggregations.
This is justified by the fact that the experiences and challenges that are experienced through parkour are often paired with high levels of emotion, which strengthen and accelerate the process of generating interpersonal ties built with other practitioners who share our challenges, labour, suffering, pain as well as, fun, joy, and achievements. So, I would say the most important thing I received from parkour are the experiences. Experiences that are sometimes priceless and, even if it was possible, I would not trade them for any other experience. Clearly, the experiences are not only valuable in themselves, but they are also valid for the character, the skills and the bonds they are able to foster among those who experienced them.
Self-knowledge of one’s movement & ability
What I can appreciate most among the achievements of my past practice are primarily a more accurate and profound knowledge of myself (in an integral sense: both of the physical component as well as the psychological component), and secondly, the ability to face difficult situations (in everyday life) through a mental structure that interprets them in terms of challenges from which (regardless of the outcome, overcoming or failure) would allow me to acquire new awareness, growth, and improvement.
Finally, I cannot deny that the ability to know how to move, thinking beyond walls and barriers conveys a sense of freedom that perhaps everyone should experience at least once.
That is very interesting. Since you have a strong philosophical influence in your way of thinking and in approaching your practice, what would you say is your philosophy of movement?
At first gaze, this can seem like a very simple question but one that if taken seriously and in-depth is actually a very complex one. Assuming that a movement philosophy should be a more or less intricate constellation of concepts and values, capable of acting as a theoretical guide for our practice motor, I feel compelled to point out that it is also closely related to a more general philosophy of life.
Indeed, the movement to some extent permeates many, if not all, aspects of our lives. In some cases, it assumes a more contingent role, but we certainly cannot say that it does not exist or that it is irrelevant.
Physical Well being aids our mental wellbeing
The use of modern technologies makes the motor component in our lives less and less necessary, but certainly, it will never cease to be an integral part of our existence.
This is because we are beings endowed not only with a mind, but also with a body and, fundamentally, the latter creates the condition of possibility of the former. Also, mental well-being is closely related to physical well-being and requires at least a partial dedication to physical activity.
Between the two components, the physical and the mental, there is a certain inseparability, which we have tried to break, from a theoretical point of view, through the cognitive sciences of the second half of the twentieth century. However, these efforts were not successful, and what is left in more recent years is more room for a broader theory of cognition, which highlights the relevance of the entire ‘body-brain’ system to explain cognitive functions even at a higher level, such as mnemonic, reasoning skills, language, decision-making, etc.
From this short (perhaps too short) theoretical parenthesis it is possible to understand that motor skills are essential for a good life (tout court). Therefore in the same way that I believe that you should never stop studying and learning (in the more classical context), I also believe one must never stop moving and discovering aspects, qualities, and abilities of one’s own corporeality.
Parkour, which is the motor practice by definition, is a very powerful tool we can use to learn, not just movement but also transversal, risk management, fears, emotion, humility, acceptance of one’s limits, the importance of failure, the importance of self-esteem, self-respect, and beyond that the sense of community, lateral thinking, the ability to enter the so-called “state of flow” (mental phase in which absolute concentration is in force) and likely much more. Over the years I have ended up developing a personal philosophy of parkour and movement rich in concepts. Therefore, to cut it short, I will provide here only a few short sentences that I think maybe emblematic of my thoughts.
“Discover through movement“
With a double meaning: discover the world and discover yourself. I will just say that parkour for me is also an exploratory tool through which I discover new places, reinterpret and reassessed previously known places (a phenomenon that can also take place collectively and create real urban or environmental redevelopments in general), meet new people and with them new cultures and social realities.
“Learn to move to be free“
The ability to move is one of the most powerful tools that a living entity can possess. However, being able to move corresponds to only a partial form of freedom. In reality, knowledge is the first phase of the process that opens the doors to true freedom. Therefore, moving to be free also means using movement in particular as an instrument of knowledge, primarily of oneself.
“Be strong to be useful” and “To be and to last”
The two famous mottos of parkour, or of a way of understanding parkour (the original form of it). These relate to physical force developed through discipline aimed at the service of utility which is the crucial point in order for the energy that we spend during practice to not vanish into thin air. It is a rather generic saying, and it can be described in different ways. You can be strong and use that strength to help someone who needs this resource. Such as a family member, friend or stranger in need of help.
The strength which I refer to, however, is not necessarily physical but coincides with all the capacities that parkour is able to enhance and refine. Therefore, both emotional and thinking skills can become essential resources for someone else as well as oneself.
The second motto intends to put the potential of the practitioner in the present moment on the same level as the practitioner in a future state. The idea is that it is our duty to avoid sacrifices of our future skills to excel or perform better in the present. As a fellow French teacher and practitioner said: “I don’t train for the next jump, but for those of ten years to come” and, I would add “and for all that will follow”. The principle is therefore to implement a type of a structured practice aimed at lasting possibly a lifetime, and therefore it must respond to principles of sustainability. Definitely subjective sustainability but, also social sustainability which translates into creating and maintaining a socio-political context suitable for the practice. For example, respecting the places where you train and the communities you train within.
“I move therefore I am“
Without a doubt, an essential component of our being is mental, but the existence of a mind needs a door into the world. The body precisely represents this opening of the mind to the world, first of all through the organs of meaning, and secondly, through the means of all the motor apparatus.
In fact, we can all agree that an organism that perceives without thinking, perceives in vain; but an organism that thinks without perceiving, what can it really think about, other than meaningless propositions?
Furthermore, a thinking organism that perceives without being able to act, or interact with what it perceives (the world), can we really say that perceives and thinks in a non-vain way?
Intuition would lead us to say no. This is because perception and cognition acquire meaning only in the sight of the action, and the body is exactly that component of an organism that allows us to give sense to that thing that we are intuitively and intimately pushed to consider the most important aspect of our subjectivity: mental life.
We can summarize the latter concept by saying the following: “cognition without action is in vain, and action without knowledge is empty “.
Therefore, for a good life, it is necessary to cultivate (especially the inner dimension of it) as much of the sphere of our cognitive abilities as that of our perceptual and motor skills (sensorimotor). Refining the latter undoubtedly means giving value to the cognitive facet and to actively contribute to our mental well-being. This is why I believe that the practice of a holistic discipline such as parkour, can be extremely useful for anyone, regardless of ones’ sporting ambitions.
View on Competitionism:
Unfortunately, the original form of parkour is now becoming a niche since it is being absorbed by mainstream culture, which has returned parkour to us entrenched by categories such as ‘competitionism’, annihilating a good part of that positivity that is related to parkour. I use the term ‘competitionism’ to distinguish it from simple agonism.
While the existence of a simple competitive dimension does not preclude in principle the coexistence with almost all the repertoire of the beneficial characteristics of parkour (albeit certainly with some compromises).
Competitionism entails the total reduction of parkour to a competitive practice, therefore to the destruction of all processes that I have briefly described above and that differentiate it and in my opinion ennoble it, compared to other motor practices.
To follow Flavio Monti on :
To Follow Chiara Fabbri:
Pictures & Videos from Flavio Monti or his Instagram: @Flow_mounts
©World of Parkour 2020