Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet Team Urban. For a person like me, not much familiar with urban sports, but still appreciating the beauty of the movement they are able to produce, it was a bit of provocation, enlightenment and joy. And you will know why if you read it until the very end.
But first things first – what is parkour? Parkour was developed in France in the late 80s as military obstacle-course training but it turned out to be one of the most popular communities of this century, which still remains a mystery to everyday citizens. Parkour is movement through a complex environment where you master efficiency and use logic to move faster and smarter. The point is to get from A to B through an urban area as quickly as possible, getting by obstacles. The people who do parkour call themselves athletes and they jump, run, swing, climb, vault, roll, craw and know how to land.
Team Urban or Parkour Kolding consists of three young boys, in their 20s: Asbjørn Guiganti, Sebastian Kjøller and Andreas Møllevang Jensen, all students, living in Kolding city. Knowing Vlad Huszti from before, the band’s project leader, we’ve managed to all meet at Bygning 5. We talked about life and watched the athletes do some crazy tricks jumping around. But it’s not just jumping. It’s art.
Team Urban envisions developing art within the urban movement:
”We would like to create art through movement. Parkour is a very misunderstood field due to its reputation. We want to change the perception that parkour is dangerous and childish, to the perception that it’s just another physical way of expression. Parkour practise sessions need to be experienced. Thus, we would like to create a big community where every student has the possibility to join us.”
In the very cosy room, after watching a short outdoor parkour session around the building, we had a good talk about their ambitions, challenges and dreams. And I found the answer to my main question: How high is high? This is how we started:
It was so exciting watching you jumping around, climbing walls, dropping off safe, doing backflips, vaulting over different obstacles and running towards the wall down there. How do you guys measure your capabilities?
Sebastian: After training for a few years, you automatically know how much your body is capable of doing. It is just a matter of repetition; if you know you can do this move (you can jump let us say 2m) and you are sure about that and keep jumping 2m, then someday you will jump 3m.
Asbjørn: It depends of our confidence. It becomes easy with time.
Who are the people behind the idea?
Sebastian: It is actually started by us three. ( Asbjørn Guiganti, Sebastian Kjøller and Andreas Møllevang Jensen).
Asbjørn: We have been training together for a few months, and we wanted to connect with something, and build something.
Vlad:I know Asbjørn from before and we met again at SDU. We talked about what we can do together to spread the concept to other people – because others need to see what Team Urban is doing. Then I met the three others and started taking pictures for their Instagram. We tried to spread the concept of Team Urban..
But normally artists don’t have the intention of being promoted…
Asbjørn: But we can see the advantages of being promoted, I guess. And if we get promoted, we get more resources to do bigger things and reach more people. It is like a circle…It’s a lifestyle.
For a person like me, who simply admire what you do, but don’t know a lot – could you please explain what you do and why?
Sebastian: Why do we do what we do?! I think that’s really a big question. I do parkour for other reasons than the others might. I do it because it makes me feel at ease, and makes my body feel really good. It helps me, cleanses my mind of bigger problems and obstacles in my life.
Andreas: I’m simply addicted. Parkour is in my head all the time. Like, right now… I am thinking: “What if I was smaller and could jump between these….?”.
Asbjørn: He thinks about that all the time!
But what about you, Asbjørn?
Asbjørn: Well, I’m French. Parkour was invented in France. In your daily life, you are always in the midst of doing things that may or may not bear any meaning, like sitting and watching Netflix – there is no objective. We faced many challenges so we could gradually get better.
Sebastian: You kinda become stronger every time, you break a barrier in your brain.
Is it something that you master through time? How do you learn?
Sebastian: Me and Asbjørn have the advantage that Andreas is better than us, so we can learn a lot from him.
Asbjørn: We’re mostly self-taught. But parkour is individual. It’s an individual sport. We have our own capabilities. He can do things I can’t, but I can get inspiration from him – what he does and what other people in the world do. Just by looking at what they do, and trying it myself. It’s always a personal fight! You pass stages of difficulties and overcome them.
Sebastian: The way I personally learn from my mistakes is by videotaping them, then just sitting back, watching and thinking: “ok, maybe I have to be stiffer in my legs right here because then I’ll get more rotation”. That’s how I learn -.looking at it and trying something new that works better.
Asbjørn: It is also the initiator that push you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise think you could do. That’s how people start parkour – practicing parkour, we do things that we never thought we would be capable of doing.
Sebastian: We also have our own training where we do free wrest, but of course it is always more fun when you have the team with you. It gives you a boost.
Svetlana: Every one of us fears something… What are you afraid of?
Sebastian: I am basically afraid with every move I do, but I know my body can do it. It’s not that difficult, but that’s the barrier. When you have to do your first backflip you are so scared. But when you jump, you unlock something, you overcome the fear…you are not scared of it anymore.
You have to take a look at the posture and the eyes of a parkour athlete when he has to take a big jump because then he’s 100% focused on that one jump that he has to do.
Asbjørn: It is about discomfort. If you just go and walk on the streets, you do nothing, just passing from your home to the supermarket, to your bed, to the next day…No!
We look for things to actually challenge us, we push ourselves. It’s like survival instinct. It gives us adrenaline and it is a source of freedom!
Then, how high is high?
Sebastian: I would say that 4 metres is high! When you stand at 4 metres and look down… that’s not fun! 4 metres is the highest I have ever dropped.
Andreas: My biggest drop is about 4m but I nearly killed myself. Technically, there is a jump called the “Manpower jump” – it is like a drop of 5m and if you don´t do it, you are called a pussy. So, I’m a pussy, because I haven’t done it since I don’t want to.
Where do you train? Where do you usually meet and perform?
Sebastian: We have a parkour park but it’s not really that good. It’s a really small baby park, for small stuff. You have the stairs at SDU, just beside the tunnel. That’s a fantastic place to jump around. Basically, around the whole city.
Asbjørn: We could use the whole city.
Vlad: The city decides for you!
Sebastian: The city decides what we do in a day.
Asbjørn: It is all about the time – sometimes we use our favourite spots, sometimes we want to explore new places. We don’t really have a plan, we just go with the flow.
Sebastian: Our training sessions are really really random. We could walk 10km through the city to train wherever.
Have you trained with more teams like yours?
Sebastian: Of course. We went to Copenhagen to train with TeamBliss – run by one of our old friends from Kolding who moved to Copenhagen. He also has his own team there. That’s actually the guy from our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prSq-RnTRXo&t=3s
Asbjørn: We could ask teams around Odense and Aarhus to come here and train with us.
Can we see you performing together with other urban teams? Do you support each other or do you compete?
Asbjørn: At Odense Jam, which you could say is one of the biggest parkour competitions around, there is a big breakdance competition happening at the same time.
Sebastian: It is not break dance! It is a break or B-boy.
Asbjørn: It’s very cool, it’s awesome!
But what is happening in Kolding then?
Asbjørn: Nothing! At the one in Odense, In contrast, during the jam festival in Odense, there is a huge competition, where parkour teams, b-boys and many more participate… and… there is pizza for everyone, in the end. No shit!
Sebastian: Not always – sometimes they work out something with Street Food in Odense. Here in Kolding, we don’t really have any parkour jams or skate jams competitions. But if we could make a place where you could host a bigger festival with skaters, break dancers, B-boys and graffiti painters, that would be awesome.
Asbjørn: We trained with skaters the other day actually. He showed them a fun video, a balance move…they loved it!
What is the city of Kolding doing in order to support teams like your club?
Sebastian: Kolding doesn’t really do anything, but we’ve got a jump at the Trampoline Park – they count on maybe making an indoor parkour park. We are probably going to have an indoor park there, the parkour team.
What other types of resources are you looking for?
Asbjørn: Camera tools. We have troubles filming each other because we’re the athletes and we need to film each other every time. So, optimally, we want to invite more girls, to have some more girl chat and motivation…so they can film us. 🙂
Sebastian: But one of the biggest things is probably cameras…If we had a cameraman just walking around, taking some pictures, some videos sometimes, that would be crazy. Because we would get so much gear, we could make free videos every week, if we wanted to.
Asbjørn: And even the winter, it was even harder because the cold made our phones run out of battery in 1 hour.
How old are you?
Andreas:: 18, 19 and 20.
And you’ve told me that you’re training 4-5 hours a day?
Andreas: Maybe more.
Have you thought about making a living of this? Producing branded merchandise or something else?
Asbjørn: You never know if your lifestyle can become your living…you never know
I saw your logo. What is the idea?
Sebastian: The idea is three buildings formed as SDU Urban. We have thought about the idea of making a living of this, but that’s really a big step.
Asbjørn: We have bigger dreams than just making money!
I think these are the happiest people in the world – who work with the thing they love to do and earn money from it.
Asbjørn: We need VR (vendor rating) first, a website…we have an idea about T-shirts…
Vlad:…which we can combine with AR (augmented reality). You can project an image on a T-shirt with your phone and see the image moving.
Cool! Where do you see Team Urban in 5-10 years?
Sebastian: I am seeing me, still jumping around.
Andreas: I will jump until I die.
Asbjørn: I think I am going to jump until my body suddenly shuts down.
Do you see yourselves still here, in Kolding?
Sebastian: It could give us a lot of opportunities…if the right people join the movement, then I think the future of parkour and urban sports can be really, really bright. For now, and probably for the next 5-10 years, I am still going to be here in Kolding.
After listening to you, I strongly believe that the people who attend your training sessions can learn a lot from you. Not only about jumps, but about freedom, mind, soul and values. What’s the message that Team Urban wants to send to the readers of slicetown.dk?
Asbjørn:: Don’t ever think you have reached a point of success! If you never expect yourself to become better than you already are, you never know what you can become. It is about improving, knowing what you can do and feeling alive.
Sebastian: For me, I can tell the people who want to come and join us, they just have to push themselves every time. If they push themselves every time, then there is going to be a bright future for them.
Andreas: For me, it is a little different. I think: ok, I am this good today, but if I am better tomorrow, I actually have made a lot of improvement. If I can just jump this much higher the next day, then I’ve made an improvement. That is what I am focused on. Not the bad things, but the good things.
“Movement is life. We are born into the world as screaming, squirming creatures and through movement we get “in touch” with the world… A great deal of our perceptual knowledge comes from movement, both our bodily motions and our interactions with moving objects”
– Johnson Mark, 2012. The meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding. University of Chicago Press.