Dan Edwardes, founder of Parkour Generations began his training in 2001 and has been active as a professional parkour traceur since 2004. He launched his business in 2007 as a vehicle to transmit, protect and teach the philosophy and multiple benefits of parkour training. To help people fulfil their potential as human beings both physically and psychologically. This goal has not changed in the last thirteen years and is set to continue to shape new members in the future.
“We had experienced the incredible power of parkour in our own personal development,” Dan explains, “And we wanted to share this knowledge and method with as many people as possible and to make parkour accessible and more inclusive.”
THE DISCIPLINE OF PARKOUR
The roots of parkour have been around for a very long time, being that it draws on ancestral, natural human movements, but in its modern form it is a product of multiple influences from military obstacle course training, athletics, martial arts, acrobatics, strength practices and everyday play. Those who practise parkour, known as tracers or traceurs, aim to get through complex environments from one point to another, without any equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Often referred to as “free running” it has made appearances in video games and films to demonstrate acrobatic skill in an urban environment.
While today there are parkour academies and training studios with equipment that can be used to train and learn in a safe environment, parkour’s origins lie in urban concrete jungle gyms.
One of the notable characteristics of traceurs is that they can navigate an urban environment quickly and determine the fastest way across it. Scaling what seem to be unscalable walls and clearing what should be unjumpable gaps between buildings. They can leap from rooftops and land on solid concrete and carry the force of an impact through a forward roll and just keep on moving.
STRONG BODY AND KEEN MIND
The physical benefits of parkour speak for themselves. Five minutes of parkour can include running, climbing, rolling and leaping, all usually at a sprint. This is a uniquely effective way to develop musculature, strengthen ligaments and joints and increase cardio vascular health.
Additionally, and perhaps fundamentally, parkour encourages people to look at their environment in a different way. This gives them a deeper appreciation for the urban surroundings but even more than that it teaches important skills such as problem solving, taking action and most importantly having confidence in yourself and your convictions.
Dan has trained in parkour and martial arts for over thirty five years. He is also an avid sky diver, motorcyclist, hiker, runner and urban explorer who loves climbing, rugby and reading. One of the most active people you’ll ever meet he’s proved to be a bit of a polymath, having published two books of his own and now moving into writing screenplays for movies and TV. All while running an international community of free runners.
“There just isn’t enough time in the day,” he says, “It’s a pity I still need to sleep really.”
Dan blames his highly active lifestyle on the fact that he has a highly active lifestyle. It is an upward spiral that he can’t get off of. According to him, when you’re fit, healthy and have hobbies that challenge you both physically and mentally you get addicted to constantly improving. You always want to be better than the person you were yesterday. Making the person you will be tomorrow someone you really want to meet.
THE PARKOUR EXPLOSION
When Dan first founded Parkour Generations, he could not have imagined back then that they would become the world’s first and only multi-national parkour organisation.
The launch in 2007 was also a perfect time for parkour as Youtube was still a young platform very populated by amateur videos that were impressive, exciting and original. Parkour was something fresh for the platform and many videos at the time became viral. This did however mean that a lot of people who did not know what they were doing, were trying things that were well beyond their capabilities and hurting themselves in the process.
“It needed an official brand that people could follow and work with,” Dan explains, “And something to inspire and motivate them to continue to practise and improve.”
Things have certainly changed since those early days. Parkour Generations has since achieved recognition for parkour as an official sport in the UK, with 100,000 practitioners in England alone, according to a 2019 survey by Sport England. They also have bases in the USA, South America, Asia and across Europe.
“Obviously teaching is our core business,” Dan says, “But we have applied parkour in multiple fields and industries, leading us to win the Canary Wharf Business Partnership Award in 2016.”
Dan explains that their main applications for parkour are quite varied and have grown over the years as new opportunities have presented themselves.
- Coaching – Parkour Academy classes, workshops, seminars and events
- Schools – delivery of the Parkour For Schools Programme worldwide
- Education – the ADAPT Qualifications are now the global certification for becoming a parkour coach, delivered to over 3000 coaches across 40 countries.
- Fitness – the Parkour Fitness Specialist certifications are accredited by NASM, ACE, AFAA and more, helping fitness pros and personal trainers introduce parkour into their own programmes to help their clients move better.
- Performance – movies, TV, stunt work, product launches, live displays, openings, theatre productions and more.
- Parkour Design – designing and building parkour facilities, both indoor and outdoor, for developers, local authorities and schools.
- Parkour Tactical – training the military in urban terrain navigation, functional fitness and exfil/infil work
- Penetration testing – testing secure facilities for weaknesses and security issues
- Consulting and Corporate Team Building – applying parkour to teams and groups to help them develop a growth mindset and start overcoming problems and thinking differently.
- Retail – parkour clothing and training equipment
His business may now be international and taking him to far flung places but initially Parkour Generations was an education drive aimed at helping people understand what parkour is. Demonstrating that it was safe and useful and important for children. Then it became a matter of having enough professional, skilled coaches and athletes to provide for the huge demand for coaches and traceurs that they encountered.
“Now the challenges are about expanding into whole new areas,” he says, “Creating new applications, and also protecting parkour from the attempts to appropriate it by organisations like the International Gymnastics Federation!”
There are 80 staff directly employed worldwide and they run a thorough Professional Development Programme for all of them. This includes coaching education, core skill development, professional skills, communication abilities, and more.
“We believe in constant growth and personal development and creating a culture of coaching throughout the organisation,” he says.
WHO IS PARKOUR FOR?
There is a misconception that parkour is only for the young. But like all activities it is entirely dependent on the person doing it. Dan, who’s experience includes parkour in all of its forms as well as many martial arts knows that age does not need to exclude you from an activity, even one that is as fundamentally physical as parkour.
“We have family classes that start at 18 months,” he says, “And our oldest traceur is currently ninety one years old. Remember, it is as much a mental state of seeing a target and reaching it as it is a physical exercise.”
He explains further that parkour calls out to the inner child and natural mover in all human beings. It’s simply how we are meant to be using our bodies, to run, jump, climb, crawl, swing and roll. This is a powerful form of expression, nourishment and enjoyment for all human beings.
“It’s incredibly liberating and changes your perception of the world and your environment around you,” he says, “Opening up your city to you and connecting you to a fantastic, inclusive community.”
Not a man that does well with just sitting around, Dan has many plans for this year. They will be taking a lot of training online to provide more access to people around the world and are building new Academies and parkour facilities in London and internationally. Also, they are instigating a number of great social enterprise partnerships with groups like Plastic Patrol and No Car Day in London, and their Overcome, SheCanTrace and Leave No Trace Initiatives.
“We are very focused on using parkour and the amazing community to better the world around us in every way,” he says, “You just need to jump at it.”
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