The ambassador of free running tells us why "It's good to have a good attitude."
Raise Your Game: What is free running?
Sebastien Foucan: Free running is an art. It's about expressing yourself in your environment, with no limitations.
RYG: How did you start?
SF: I started naturally by child's play. Me and my friend, we never thought we would create something, or decide to do something. We just did it naturally, and the important point is, we never stopped.
RYG: What makes you so good?
SF: I don't know. I think it's the 18 or 19 years of practising that have made me better. Good is a notion that we don't really have in the free running philosophy.
RYG: What skills do you need for free running?
24 May 1974
- Appeared in Jump London, a documentary about parkour and free running (2003).
- Appeared in Jump Britain, the sequel to Jump London, a documentary about parkour and free running (2005).
- Appears as Mollaka in the 21st James Bond film, Casino Royale (2006).
- Performed with Madonna on her Confessions tour (2006).
SF: You need a lot of skill. It's about co-ordination and imagination. It's about being powerful, having strength, stretching. It's about the natural skills of the human being. It's very demanding but it gives you so much.
RYG: Is mental attitude important in free running?
SF: Yes. It's very important in different ways. It's very important when you're practising. I consider myself an ambassador of my discipline, so it's good to have a good attitude to show free running in a positive light.
RYG: When you look at other people free running, what do you look for?
SF: I like to see freedom in the way they practise. They should look like a child when they practise. For me it's not like a sport, it's more like an art. I feel it's close to dancing. When we started it was like child's play. For me this is the most skilful you can be - to be like a child. This is what I really admire.
RYG: Is it important to relax?
SF: You learn that through your practising. You learn how to be relaxed and to be less tense. It's very important.
RYG: How important is practice?
SF: You need to practise, practise, practise. It's not about performance or being ready for a competition. It's more about being very natural in what you're doing. It's not about learning, it's about relearning.
I believe that we've forgotten something and we have to relearn it. When we were children we would do something, and then because of society people say 'Don't do this, don't do that, stop doing this, stop doing that.' We have to relearn to find the kid we have inside of us.
RYG: What advice do you give to young people so that they can improve their skills?
SF: It's hard because we are all the same but we are all different. We have different rhythm and different levels we perform at. I don't like to teach everybody in the same way. I teach each kid differently. I look at them almost like a doctor. I see their weaknesses and their skills and I try to work with it.
RYG: Your English is very good, how did you learn English so well?
SF: I learnt English after we filmed Jump London. I wasn't very good at school because I wasn't interested in it. I was the type of kid who was always dreaming. My passion drives me to learn. This is how I learnt English, because the English audience understood the core of my philosophy.
I had private lessons at a school, so I was learning all the time. When I arrived there the teacher said 'We don't speak French any more, only English.' That's how I learnt English. Now I have a lot of English friends and they help me to keep practising.
RYG: Do you need to be dedicated in order to succeed?
SF: Yes, it's about dedicating yourself. What's also important is that you're driven by passion and love. Love and passion give you positive energy. If you don't have this it's like you don't have fuel to drive you on.
RYG: Safety must be very important in free running, what do you teach people in terms of safety?
SF: In terms of safety, it's important to have a guide and someone to watch out for you until you're at a level where you can do it alone. I compare it to children playing. The parents must be around all the time to make sure they do the right steps. It doesn't avoid the fact that sometimes they'll fall down.
Our society likes to have a 100% safety record, but that doesn't exist anywhere in the world. It's important to teach kids to be clever and to see the danger in front of them, where to be focused on. Free running is not about showing off, it's more about doing things for yourself and understanding what you're doing.
RYG: What can we learn from free running?
SF: You can learn so much. Firstly there's the physical part. You can learn about co-ordination. It's about refining yourself through the body, spirit and your environment. It's very important. In our society we're disconnected with our environment. We're disconnected with our body. We just use our legs to go to work and that's it.
We have sports with rules that say 'You have to kick the ball, you have to run,' but free running is about using all your skills to develop yourself. It's a fantastic discipline for that. It's also a discipline that will teach you the way to make the right choices, to be dedicated, and to overcome obstacles.
RYG: How important is diet and fitness in free running?
SF: It's important. You need to understand the basics of nutrition. You don't need to think too much about food. I try to find a harmony in my diet. I'm not really strict. I try to live my life and I don't eat in extreme ways. In France we really like food. We take our time and it's a big part of our culture.
RYG: What have been the highlights of your free running career?
SF: Working on James Bond and working on the Confessions tour were huge. In my life every day is a highlight. I try to live in the present moment which is what free running is all about. It's very important for me to enjoy every moment. This is my daily routine and it gives me a lot of positive energy.
RYG: How did you get involved in the James Bond film?
SF: They heard about my work as an ambassador with Jump London, and they had a character in the story who fitted very well with the discipline of free running. They contacted my agent and said that they'd like to meet with me to discuss their ideas.
RYG: What was it like?
SF: There are no words to explain it. It was a great experience on every level, in terms of meeting interesting people, in terms of working as an actor, in terms of working with stunt guys. I met so many people and it was huge, not only to be on TV and say 'That's me,' but it was huge on every level.
RYG: How much work did you have to do in preparation for the James Bond film?
SF: We prepared for three months. We did one month in the Czech Republic and two months in the Bahamas. The Bahamas was really hard (laughs). It was a lot of work. You get to work with the best people in the business. You have to maintain a high level of performance. I remember working very hard on it.
RYG: How was it to tour with Madonna?
SF: It was a fantastic adventure, to meet Madonna and speak with her. She was a very nice, normal person. I have a lot of respect for her and how much she trusted me. It's a show, so it's about a team effort and trying to amaze the audience. As soon as she decided to invite me on the tour I felt that I had to repay the faith she had shown in me.
Being on tour was amazing. She's a very disciplined lady. She's very spiritual, and I liked that because we could speak about energy, and how everything is connected together. That's linked with my philosophy.
RYG: Tell us a bit about the free running academy?
SF: I'm working to do an event in the UK and I'm trying to develop my free running academy around the world, to increase people's understanding of free running. There are different forms of free running developing, so it's important to give my vision and my free running philosophy to the people.
RYG: Is it important for you to challenge yourself?
SF: We all need to be positive, because it produces positive results. It's hard to live in this world. Negativity comes, but we all have to try to transmit positive energy.
RYG: Can you tell us more about the idea of child's play?
SF: If you look at some playgrounds they're for people aged three to 12. What happens when you get to 13? Every country has problems with teenagers in terms of vandalism and gang fighting. They have so much energy to use.
My advice is to never stop and keep moving. We need to have places where people can expend their energy. The body communicates. It tells you when it needs to move and when it's tired. You can see that when people are at parties, that they need to move.
We all have to play, from the age of one until we die. Life is about circulating energy. As soon as you stop moving and playing, you start to die. Free running can show people what you can do when you're connected in terms of your body, spirit and environment. A lot of people sit in front of computers and do nothing. Free running helps you to continue to grow and to move. It's about opening yourself up to your environment.
You've got to work on your talent, and you've got to believe in your own ability.
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