Free running is all about blazing your own trail, and few people in the parkours community personify that spirit better than Ryan Doyle. We catch up with him to find out more about what makes him tick.
How did you get into free running in the first place?
Back when I started it didn’t even have a name… I was just the crazy kid. I combined gymnastics with martial arts to create multi-level movements. I was influenced a lot by Jackie Chan and that helped me to develop my style of parkour.
You studied TV, photography and web design at university. Does free running with its massive web following make the sport a natural fit?
Hell yeah, it’s like everything I’ve ever learnt is somehow contributing to everything I’m doing right now. It’s like fate knew all along. You have to understand that the “Ryan” you see in the video is a performer, a re-creation. We do take after take until we get it right. It’s one thing to make the movements, but it’s another to capture it perfectly so others can appreciate it.
Free running seems to be part sport, part art and part philosophy. Do you need to be in a certain state of mind to do well?
Yes, but a lot of the physical side is just mental geometry and common sense: practice makes perfect. Kids are always putting me on a pedestal like I’m something different and asking me questions like “what food do you eat” or “what exercises do you do” but I really don’t have any secrets.
I’m just a normal guy, who has just as many issues as the next. It’s how we deal with those issues that affects how we apply ourselves. The mental side is just accepting what has happened and what might happen and move on with a happy attitude, when something goes wrong. Or when an obstacle pops up in your life: come to quickest solution to overcome it. And don’t have an emotional response first… I think it’s more difficult for girls to do this than guys.
So have you ever been star struck yourself?
Nope, I don’t really get star struck. I’m not that kind of guy; I’m too laid back. I respect people if they’ve worked hard to acquire their status… but I never place myself beneath anyone.
Where’s the most unusual place free running has taken you?
I’m going to the Aztec and Mayan pyramids in July. That’s pretty epic ☺
What’s the best city for free running?
Dunno, because haven’t been to them all. Every city has its hotspots, and everywhere has something new to discover.
Which martial arts provide the best cross-training?
I probably wouldn’t limit myself to one particular style. Wu-Shu Kung Fu is the most acrobatic and flexible. And Capoeira explores a lot of creative movements. And Kuk Sool Won from Korea is good for discipline.
You have a black belt in Kuk Sool Won. What makes it different to other martial arts?
Kuk Sool is a full system hitting every aspect of martial arts: grappling, hand strikes, kicking, breaking, joint locking, pressure points, defence, weapons, animal stances, meditation, conditioning, healing and discipline. It’s a way of life, not just a hobby, the things you learn will have a positive impact on the rest of your life.
You were badly injured at Red Bull Art of Motion. Does that play on your mind now?
Not at all, I fall, learn from it and I still move forward, ok I learned the hard way, but the lesson still got learnt. I can pull double corks with ease now.
How do you fill your time when you’re injured?
There are still other parts of the body I could work on, parkour is all about adapting. So I won’t ever stop, even when I’m injured, I’ll just find something else break (laughs).
You’re also a stunt co-ordinator; what’s the best stunt work you’ve ever seen?
Some of the guys in Thailand really beat themselves up just to be in a movie, it’s crazy. Tony Jaa is a great action star from there, check out his stuff if you get a chance. But I still can’t take it away from Jackie.
Do you listen to music while training – or do you need your full attention on what you’re doing?
I am so far behind on my music, I need to catch up. I use music for motivation but I can’t really do my thing with headphones swinging round my neck.
If you could, what do you listen to?
Anything from now to neo-classical to rap, whatever’s hot really and usually that’s what other people have recommended to me. Eminem usually gets me in the mood. The guy’s a genius.
If you weren’t free running, what would you be doing?
I dunno, I’ve been flipping since I was seven, I never found time to be anything else. But whatever I might have been… I’d be the best at it.