Who are you?
I am Paul Gray, 36, from Johannesburg in South Africa. CEO of Parkour South Africa, Director of Concrete Foundation Crew Parkour Academy (CFC), parkour coach, and personal trainer.
How did you get into parkour?
I was first introduced to Parkour through an old school friend in 2005 but only started training seriously in 2007 at the age of 23. I watched Jump London before heading out for my first session. We started the training session with a warm-up and I learned the precision jump and lazy vault. Everything was going really well and I was having fun but nothing had stood out or seriously appealed to me. Then my friend said I should learn the Kong Vault. I thought I was ready, I felt I was ready, I looked ready (despite my stomach doing backflips and having to control my breathing). Standing several steps back from my obstacle, which was a rail just higher than waist height, I launched myself forward with as much confidence as I could muster. I jumped. I flew for a split second. My hands grabbed onto the rail and . . . didn’t let go. I had instinctively clamped down onto the rail with both hands, my toes caught the rail and I swung head down into the railing. I hung there a few seconds thinking that if I let one hand go I would slide to one side and land on my feet. That’s what I wanted to do. What my uncoordinated self actually did was let both hands go and I dropped straight down onto my head. Six stitches and one week later I was back at training. Despite falling on my head, that feeling of freedom while flying through the air for that split second was enough to capture my imagination. In that split second, I saw I was capable of far more than I thought. That was the start.
How have you been involved in your national community?
Despite starting my training so late I was still one of the first practitioners in SA, and so have been involved from the beginning. I helped bring together and lay the foundations in South Africa and I oversaw and was part of the formulation of Parkour South Africa. Through PKSA I have helped grow our community from one province to the next by bringing in coaching courses and encouraging the growth of teams, academies, and parkour gyms.
Why are you invested in Parkour Earth?
Having seen the development of our discipline from ADD to Freerunning to our common understanding of what Parkour is today there is a need to gather, store, grow, and share knowledge of our practice. The Spirit of parkour has developed into a culture and system of training that is unique to our modern environment. We have all formed a common identity through our practice and more and more there is a need to share and exchange our experiences. Through an international organisation like Parkour Earth, I hope to help grow our shared knowledge base and increase experience exchange to create a rich and healthy movement culture.
Unfortunately, there is also a need to protect our new cultural identity from unscrupulous, envious, and greedy opportunists. An organisation such as Parkour Earth, created between national federations with clear democratic roots is the organisation I trust to guide parkour to its best possible future.