written by Meghan McKenna
The Google search looked like this “What is Parkour?”
A noun “Parkour is the art of using effective and efficient jumps, vaults, climbing and swinging to conquer obstacles. The idea is to not be controlled by your surroundings …”
It was the first time, (well maybe not the first), but it certainly feels like the first time even now. A time that the boys were telling me about something I had never heard of. They were asking if they could “do Parkour” and shouting to each other “look at this Parkour Brody!”
I asked my husband if he knew what was. He knew, answering that he had done it with his younger brother, Matt when they were kids. I thought “how come he never told me about that?”
Anyway … from then, and that was in April of 2016 to now, it’s been Parkour mania in our home. I say that with a smile and at times a pause of breath making sure they land safely off whatever they’ve climbed up and jumped back down onto.
The best part about the boys enjoyment of it, is that here in Thailand is one of the only Parkour indoor gyms and it just so happens to have moved out of the city and into Bangna area making it an easy and safe place for the boys to visit and actually learn the art of it and join other children as well.
I met Julien when the boys began attending classes at the Movement Playground in September. From then to December it was small talk during pick up and drop off. I sat down with him to share his story, to hear how The Movement Playground came to be and I’m left feeling nothing but admiration, gratitude and respect for him and his vision. It’s moving my two eldest son’s choice to spend their free time here in such a positive, body and soul strengthening atmosphere.
First things first, Julien tells me, is this. The why, why the Movement Playground? He has three reasons and that’s the very first thing he wants to know. First is Movement. People, moving what ever you do, your body is designed to move, so move your body. Second reason is, he’s giving back, this is his paying it forward. A shy boy who was not large in body and big on socialising he found this to be the largest life impact on who he is today.
He’s giving that back to any and all, sharing and showing his values of courage, discipline and a finish what you start, motto. The last, is the impact to your every day life. It’s that you may have to overcome a challenge or taken a risk on an apparatus that then leads to you, on Monday morning at work, speaking up. Or taking on a project you may have otherwise not believed in yourself to do before, and now you felt that you were capable of being successful at it.
Parkour came out in the early 1990s. It is one of a kind. Julien suggests “Jump London” as a great documentary to getting the history on all that is Parkour.
“It’s not like running, or lifting weights. It’s fully focused, its a mind body connection, Julien says, “this isn’t like going for a jog with your friend and being able to talk while you run. You can’t talk, you have to focus and pay attention to your exact move with your body on whatever you are going to land on or hang on.” He goes on to say “it engages the mind, forces problem solving and fear management.”
Julien had the honour of being taught by one of the 8-10 founders of the group, 25 years ago. He and two brothers born in France, spent their years together as boys growing up, climbing up and jumping down, and across anything they could find in the outdoors. Creating, practicing, challenging each other with the power of Parkour and the quest to find challenges to grow as a human being.
The passion and values were inside of Julien as he began his working career in general business at an insurance company, to do the work his hard earned degree had showed him. Soon, as this happens, his inner voice lead him back to his brothers and his ultimate quest. That voice reminding him of his truth, his body, moving and not sitting behind a desk, selling.
One of his elder brothers opened the first Parkour gym in London. Shortly after that he went to Thailand where the family had ironically been holidaying together for years, and opened the first Asia Parkour studio. A while later Julien’s second older brother joined in Bangkok and then the calling for Julien to join came, and he to found himself in Bangkok running and coaching in the gym. For boys raised together with a younger sister who is also involved in the business with marketing and graphic design it is certainly a Parkour of generations for this family.
As it goes, things shift and after 5 years, various studio location changes Julien’s older brothers next move to Dubai and France, running their own gyms. Leaving him, as the brother in charge in Thailand. The move to a new location, and a new vision. The vision and change for someone who has a visual and focused mind such as Julien came with a mental obstacle and not a physical one.
The Movement Playground, a Parkour based programme with a goal to impact lives in different ways. Julien says he has kept the value of his vision, he is the guardian of the original spirit of what he believes in.
The classes offered at the gym range from Ninja Warrior, mobility training, and the feeding the new craze of Spartan racers with the ability to train and practice for the upcoming events. They hold classes, camps, workshops, personal training, private events and extra curricular activities at 7 international schools around Bangkok.
The energy in the gym is strong and focused. One might look at the equipment and think the children or adults would jump around and be silly on the apparatus. It is not the case as I have seen a quiet calm amongst my highly energised boys. The coaches are beside them, reminding them, to go slow, think carefully of your foot placement. Focus the energy. Keep your mind present, they say.
The repetitive process that is used is how they train the body, teach the muscles, support the decision making and fear management.
The age to begin is 6 for Julien’s gym, based mainly on safety. He says anyone any age can get out there and try, but he has to be careful of safety and liability. “When they are young, it enhances the children reaction to control your body when you feel fear and to react in time”. I can’t tell you how many times my children tell me “Mom, I can do it, I do Parkour.”
The Movement Playground typically has kids and adults of all ages at all times. When you are finished with your class you’ll leave with the biggest gift Julien says, “something you did for yourself and by yourself.” There is no ego, you pushed and got yourself to a better or higher or stronger place than you were before you stepped into the gym.
Which in many ways is what Julien embodies right now, no ego, a new space, adapting throughout the challenges, shifting, growing with the same moves in a new movement with an exceptional quest.