Jackie Chan - The Don
Jackie Chan - The Don
By Adam Sinicki
While I do a lot of jumping, running, flipping and balancing in my spare time, I wouldn't call myself a traceur per-se but rather a Jackie Chan tribute act. In fact I was once part of a team who called themselves the Jackie Chan tribute squad and we competed in a creative section of a Karate tournament. We came last but that's not the point.
What is my point? Point is that when you see Sebastian Foucaine and David Belle interviewed about their art they tell you that they got their inspiration from The Matrix and even Bruce Lee. The philosophy I can understand re: Bruce Lee and the Matrix, but surely their number one influence on the actual Parkour has to be old JC?? Jackie Chan was leaping between buildings, and balletically 'flowing' over gates, fences and walls long before Mr-so-called-Foucaine was even born. He used things like cat leaps and wall mounts before they had such names, and he did it all in a way that was in many ways more smooth than the traceurs today. And he was more creative too. For all intents and purposes Jackie Chan created parkour.
For the kind of 'flow' that Parkour guys always go on about, checkout the moves he pulls off in the first Police Story when he wants to get over a high fence. He's so graceful moving over them it's unreal. Or checkout his run up a wall using picture frames in Who Am I. Even more recently in his film Rob.B.Hood he manages to get from the top floor to the bottom floor of a building by jumping down between the air conditioning units. He does it all in one take and not before fighting on the balcony at the top. It's dangerous, mental, impressive and very Chan. Getting on for sixty he can still take almost every parkour boy back to school. For more, see him run along thin beams in Project A Part 2, or scale a brick wall using a wooden pole in the sides of the walls. Then there are the little deft moves he throws into everything he does. Check out Operation Condor for some impressive chewing gum catches (he bounces it off walls then catches it in his mouth), or look at Miracles for all his hat throws. The way he works his agility into the fight scenes is also mightily impressive. Jackie Chan's heroes weren't action stars as you might imagine, but rather silent comedians like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyed and silver screen dancers like Gene Kelly (in Shanghai Knights he does a fantastic tribute to Singing in the Rain). He admires technical skill and perfection and he does hundreds of takes until he gets it just right.
Towards the end of every Jackie Chan film though there is normally a 'big stunt' which is the set piece of the film and which is generally insanely dangerous to the point of being legendary. In Who Am I it is of course when he slides down the side of the glass building, in Police Story it's when he leaps down the pole in the shopping centre, and in Project A it's his famous fall from the clock tower. Any one of these stunts beats the jump across the Millenium Dome by Foucaine (no offence fella) for danger, creativity and skill. I used to try and emulate Chan with my own 'big stunts' which I used in my parkour videos and these included things like handstands from motorway bridges and climbs up huge poles to become a human flag at the top. Sure these were nowhere near the skill or danger of Jackie Chan, but they added something unique to my videos.
So traceurs - first of all hail Jackie Chan as your king. Then learn from him!
Think Like Sherlock Holmes