The story of "FIG-Gate" is the story of how the APEX International 2017 in Montpellier was announced and then shortly fell apart and was cancelled. The resulting announcement can be seen here: http://apexmovement.com/blog/apex-intl-canceled/
Below was a living story of the unfolding events and different perspectives shared by many people brought together to inform the community.
For those not following, it emerged in early May 2017 that Apex International, the Mouvement and the Federation International de Gymnastique had been collaborating in order to formalise a new sport known as ‘Obstacle Course Sprint’ – the name and format coming from Apex International. Based on Parkour, but named differently.
My place in the story was as a polarising voice very much against competition in any form, but for the sake of clarity and in order to inform the rest of the community I brought together the positions of the various different groups, quoting where possible and parsing or analysing as I could to as unbiased an extent as I could muster.
Apex International, The Mouvement and FIG. In their words
The FIG position
The FIG's decision-making bodies gave their in-principle approval for the inclusion of a new FIG discipline based on obstacle course competitions.
The FIG expects to include two formats of competitive obstacle course events in the new discipline:
- "Obstacle Course Sprint" is an against-the-clock format.
-"Obstacle Course Freestyle" is based on performances that will be judged.
For the organisation of these planned competitions and initiations, the FIG has partnered with the Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l'Art du déplacement via its President Charles Perrière (FRA), as well as with the APEX School of Movement (USA) and JUMP Freerun (NED).
Throughout the inclusion process of the new discipline, the FIG is being supported by the Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l'Art du déplacement, established in 2014 by the cofounders of parkour to better lead the practice.
"The collaboration between the Mouvement and the FIG aims to ensure there is a positive link between obstacle course competitions and the original practice of parkour, by definition a non-competitive physical activity. The appeal of one is able to lead to increased interest in the other, and vice versa," said Charles Perrière.
The cooperation between the FIG and these various bodies comes even more naturally as several FIG national member federations, like the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Federation via JUMP Freerun, offer parkour activities, while some organise obstacle course competitions up to the national championship level.
The above is from a Press Release
Important things that stick out from here:
FIG claim that Parkour is non-competitive and would instead use a new term – Obstacle Course Sprint. This is the same position as Apex holds.
FIG are working with The Mouvement,
An insight into the thoughts of the president of FIG can be seen here:
At the Executive Committee meeting in February we have decided, that we want to develop this activity as a discipline of the FIG. Of course, we will not reinvent the wheel. We are working very closely very closely with the founders of parkour. There are many groups around the world who do parkour, so we will invite all of them, we will tell them what we want to do, and we will invite them to cooperate with the FIG in order to develop this discipline into a sport. At the moment they are not organized. Their basic spirit is to be free, not to be organized. Yet they want to have competitions. But if they want to do competitions, obviously they need minimum rules and environment to make attractive competitions. I'm sure the FIG is the international federation most qualified to further develop parkour.
Publicly, Mouvement has said very little. The two things we are sure of is that Charles Perrière. (Original Yamakasi member, recently co-authored a book with David Belle) is the current President and that Mark Cooper is presently acting as the public face as one of two administrators and has contributed his position.
The second administrator is Florian Busi. Many of the founders, including Sebastian Foucan, Chau and Williams Belle were involved in the Mouvement for a very short time but are no longer involved. Laurent Piemontesi is not involved.
Mark has commented a little – here’s some of the most important details (I’ve cleaned it up slightly)
“It is not possible to have recognition for a standalone international federation for non-competitive parkour. The great work done in getting a non-competitive definition of parkour recognised in the UK simply cannot be replicated internationally.
At the international level, recognition begins with membership of GAISF (ex SportAccord). The first criteria in the definition of sport for GAISF membership is that it must be competitive.1 WFPF have applied to GAISF for membership and to WADA for Code signatory status.
The only blocking mechanisms under GAISF are rivalry with another applicant or conflict with an existing GAISF member. The Mouvement would have had to start putting on competitions to make the rivalry angle stand up and no collective of founders was about to do that. The conflict angle requires an existing GAISF member to say "actually no, that's what we do". And the existing GAISF member that could do so in the most credible way is FIG, given there are several FIG members (Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, etc.) that offer parkour and obstacle course competitions.
Viewed in this context, it becomes clearer that FIG is empowering people who have given most of their lives to parkour in order that they might protect the original definition of it. This is clearer still when you consider that FIG is only also working with those who very much insist that competition involving artificial obstacles be called something other than parkour however much youth appeal the latter term has.
Not surprising that FIG should have a bit of trouble getting their heads around the language, and its very understandably been very upsetting. But FIG seems to be getting there. The form this all could take should be clearer, as FIG mentions in its press release, within a few weeks. Then people can take it or leave it on an informed basis”.
The above is from a Facebook discussion
Mark is claiming that the Mouvements motivation is to block the World Freerunning and Parkour Federation from becoming the recognised body by having FIG create something similar enough to Parkour to object to WFPFs inclusion. This protects the word Parkour.
I should admit at this point that I, as one of the longest practicing members of the UK Parkour community – hadn’t the slightest clue who WFPF were before I started doing this research. If asked to guess I would have said that I think they’re a clothing brand who drink Red Bull and do flips.
WFPF are the main partners for Red Bull’s Art of Motion competitions and sanction many ‘Parkour’ Competitions across the US. They also sell clothes, provide instructor certification and have an IPF. An international Parkour Federation.
The only information I can find on this is as follows:
“In 2013, WFPF founders created the International Parkour Federation (IPF), a non-profit to advance the philosophy and goals of parkour worldwide. IPF has been recognized by WADA and has an application pending with Sport Accord, the international federation of governing bodies. In 2014, IPF partnered with local athletes to help raise money and awareness to start a parkour school in Baghdad, Iraq, giving Iraqi parkour athletes a safe place to train. In 2016, along with local partners, IPF was instrumental in the creation of the Asia Freerunning Parkour Union, headquartered in Antalya, Turkey with the goal of advancing the sport of parkour across the continent of Asia. In partnership with WFPF, IPF now has competitions in development with organizations on four continents.”
WFPF do not seem to be close to gaining recognition for a myriad of reasons. While they claim to be creating an international federation, their ‘Affiliates’ section is just a list of youtube channels and facebook pages (many dead). They also do not seem to have much official support outside of the USA. While WFPF are clearly attempting to assume the role of an international governing body, this does not seem to be something that is likely to imminently occur.
Apex Movement have said a lot in a long and in depth blog post signed off by Amos Rendao, Brandon Douglass, & Ryan Ford. Anyone who doesn’t understand the upsides of Competition should read it with an open mind.
Apex do not believe that Parkour is a competitive sport and wish to protect that. They are however, also motivated to make their Obstacle course Sprint (OCS) format a success.
Apex argue that they have always been about movement, not just Parkour and they have never purposefully advertised their competitions as Parkour, rather competitions that anyone can choose to compete in.
“APEX School of Movement has never been just a parkour organization. Although that’s our main focus, we house many movement arts under our roofs. We strive to be inclusive, and we’ve found that the crossover and mutual inspiration can be very powerful.
This isn’t opportunist semantics because this has actually been our stance since almost as far back as 2012. You’ll notice that we titled the event the “APEX Invitational” for a few years and then “APEX International” instead of something along the lines of “Parkour Championships.”
Although inspired by parkour training, OCS competition format isn’t fully representative of parkour, and we see certain downsides and dangers in labelling it as such, Our goal is to take this form of obstacle coursing and grow it in a way that it pulls in interest from multiple sources, highlighting powerful combinations of background training methodologies. Of course parkour training will be an essential tool, but we also want to make the space to see other training styles from track & field, speed climbing, etc. come to the forefront and show us where weaknesses may lie in the present studies of efficient movement in the real world.”
Further, they are not interested in letting FIG or anyone else abuse OCS. It is their baby and they are protective of it.
“We’re not giving this to FIG in any way. They’re simply one of multiple supporters for this one event at the moment. We look for win win relationships, and if there’s any abuse or corruption on their end, we have absolutely no problem walking away from that relationship. We are anti-parkour competition for all the reasons we stated (respect to the founders, misleading future generations, etc.) and we also don’t want to see the misappropriation of parkour and skewed presentation that often happens when it’s handed over to profit driven corporations and misinformed media. We believe OCS will be an interesting solution to take all the positive elements we’ve found through our obstacle course competition format and put that forward on the world stage as we further protect parkour from the seeming inevitable conversion into competition for the sake of institutionalization.”
We have made it absolutely clear that we will not work with any of these organizations if words such as “parkour” “freerunning” “art du deplacement” “gymnastics” etc. are in the event title or refer to the practitioners as “traceurs” “gymnasts” etc.
Amos contributed these to Facebook conversations.
While the APEX founders stance seems clear, Damien Puddle from New Zealand Parkour collected a number of instance of the distinction getting muddied: http://damienpuddle.com/2017/05/12/on-competition-collaboration-a-rebuttal/
Ryan Ford has promised a further update from APEX soon but offered a short reply to Damien's piece.
APEX HQ solidified it's stance on parkour competition only recently as it became a more complex and controversial subject in the international community. However, we also recognize the free will of our students, athletes, coaches, licensees, etc. to take part in parkour competitions if they want to. APEX HQ doesn't currently call anything a parkour competition but if Rene wants to call it that, it's his prerogative. APEX and Origins can agree to disagree on the naming and still have a mutual respect for each other.
Ryan contribution this in a Facebook conversation.
The FIG-Gate argument condensed
The message is blunt and simple – let us take OCS forward and we’ll protect the word Parkour. If not, you are left with WFPF – an organisation who smell a lot like Urban Freeflow used to.
But, while FIG and partners are representing this as a dichotomy, with only two possible resolutions, there’s clearly a lot more going on than that.
Other players and their public contributions
ParkourUk’s CEO Eugene Minogue has been following the developments closely. Parkour UK issued an open Letter to FIG on the 31st March accusing them of “Encroaching and misappropriating” Parkour.
ParkourUK is a recognised sports governing body and argues that Parkour is a distinct and unique sport in its own right and not a discipline of any existing sport or activity.
While discussing this with Eugene he argued that the wider implications of FIG governing OCS is that it enables them to – by extension – govern Parkour.
The idea of FIG governing Parkour has quite wide ranging implications. Governing bodies have all sorts of levers and mechanisms of control. They can control the content of our qualifications, who can teach ‘Parkour’ Classes, the funding we receive and are the public face of the sport.
Funding is a huge issue, funding tends to move top down and as Damien Puddle discusses here - many other sports that have been subsumed miss out:
The IOC gives funding to the international federations that they recognise, that money is then passed from the international federation to the national ones and then onto their respective codes. This has created issues in New Zealand with windsurfing (under Yachting NZ / World Sailing in the Olympics), BMX and mountain biking (under Cycling NZ / International Cycling Union in the Olympics) despite all three of them having their own specific national and international governing bodies. The money given to the national bodies gets given either entirely or primarily to the sports that they deem more deserving or appropriate.
Eugene has confirmed that there is a direct line of communication between him and FIG and he is doing everything he can but has offered some recommendations to those wishing to help in the fight.
“Publicly supporting and vocalising Parkour UK position on the encroachment & misappropriation of Parkour/Freerunning by FIG, we are issuing a further response to FIG next week which will be detailed, robust and set out the legal basis. Parkour UK is also working with and actively support other Nations and their National federations such as Fédération de Parkour, New Zealand Parkour Association, Australian Parkour Association - well as support other nations establish National Federations to protect the sovereignty, integrity, cultural status of Parkour/Freerunning as well as the rights, freedoms and the right to self determination. In short, we - the Parkour/Freerunning must unite, become organised and be cohesive in our opposition to this encroachment & misappropriation. Unfortunately, local voices will have very little impact with FIG - that's why we need National Federations/NGBs and they must be united in their approach to present a string united voice for the global community!”
From a public Facebook comment by Eugene
Eugene basically asks you to support your local organisation and make sure they are supporting their national organisation and make sure they are talking to ParkourUK.
(This bit would be easier if I spoke French) The Fédération de Parkour supports ParkourUKs position.
I am adding the views of the various members of the original Yamakasi as and when I find their public comments
Charles Perriere is the current President of the Mouvement but has not spoken publicly since the announcement.
Malik Diuof is a current member of The Mouvement but claims he only recently heard of the collaboration with FIG
Like all of you, I learned that THE MOVEMENT worked with the FIG.
The irony is that I am part of the MOVEMENT and I have not been informed of this decision, and I did not even receive an email explaining that THE MOVEMENT had the desire to collaborate with the FIG.
This decision was not made on my behalf. NOT IN MY NAME
Normally, such a decisoin should have been voted on by all these members and not only his president. It's an HOLD UP !!!As founder I am not against the competitions, I organized for 2 years (XTREME GRAVITY FRANCE and EUROPE)
I respect those who do not want to compete but there is also room for those who want to compete.
The real freedom is to have the choice.
But the FIG has nothing to do with our discipline.
So Mark I await your call to clarify this situation.
Malik posted this publicly on his personal Facebook
Laurent Piemontesi has been publicly sharing the phrase and hashtag "We are not Gymnastics". The phrase can be interpreted to mean that he is against the Mouvement decision to partner with FIG. I have also personally heard him express the sentiment that while competition is not 'His Way'. He respects those who wish to compete if it is 'Their Way'.
ADD academy, which is run by Chau Belle have also shared the phrase "#WeAreNotGymnastics. What did you expect?"
Yann Hnautra and Williams Belle have not said anything publicly. Although it is safe to assume they will side with Chau and Laurent.
Sebastian Foucan and David Belle have not spoken about this publicly. Personally, I would expect Seb to chime in eventually. David rarely engages with the community and is unlikely to say anything.
New Zealand's Parkour governing body supports the ParkourUK position.
On top of that, New Zealand Parkour has previously commented on the inclusion of Parkour at the Olympics and their CEO Damien Puddle has been to a Symposium on the topic. His summary is here:
The Australian Parkour Association (Who are not a governing body for technical reasons) have also sent an open letter:
The Fédération Internationale des Arts Du Déplacement are the 3rd 'International' body hoping to respresent Parkour. They are an NGO based in London and are sort of an offshoot of Parkour Generations.
The FIADD clearly being in conflict with WFPF and The Mouvement have backed the ParkourUK position
FIADD and its Member Organisations stand opposed to FIG's attempt to hijack the discipline of parkour and fully supports Parkour UK's letter of condemnation.
Taken from their Facebook page.
They also shared my article on competition. So I'm a big fan. Speaking of.
While the main argument discussed throughout this blog has mostly revolved around sovereignty, there's a second argument going on around the use of Parkour Competitions in general and their place in the sport.
Here are a pair of primers for you to read if you dont really know much about the argument at this point:
The argument is fairly simple and seems to boil down to two factors and how people balance them tells us where you stand.
The Individual Freedom argument is underpinned by the founders, by our philosophy and by a generally liberal approach to life. If I want to do competitions, surely I have the right. If you dont want competitions, dont engage with them.
The Knock-on Effect argument says that no matter how good and fair your intentions are, your participation in competitions and promotion of competition has wider consequences.
Here are some more links worth reading:
Ampisounds technical breakdown of the realities of competition in 'Freerunning' is worth a read so you can get your head around what people are actually talking about when they mention Parkour being in the olympics.
Tom Copolla is here arguing why competition should be embraced and how, especially grassroots competitions, can help the Parkour community grow.
Alex Pavlotski is one of a few Parkour academics around the world and his views make sobering reading for anyone who thinks there are no downsides to competition in our culture.
This piece from Yann Daout appeals directly to practitioners on why they don't need to participate in competitions and has many worthwhile arguments in it.
While an old piece, this analysis by Street Movement provides a balanced view of a group to whom the idea of OCS has appealed. Mikkel Rugaard has recently stated that his views have evolved since writing this article and has expressed a clear dislike of The Mouvements recent actions.
But, Hedge, you haven’t told me what I should Think!
And I won't. That's really not the purpose of this article. Now at least you can all go and shout at each other on Facebook about the right things.
Any and all inaccuracies or errors are mine and are likely down to uselessness rather than an attempt to deceive. Anyone involved who is unhappy with my representation of their views should get in contact and I will change or update so that it better reflects your opinion.