Spirit of the Free Runners

One of the best things about writing features is the people you meet. Following my article on TokyoTattoo, I met Ash who was at the time working at the studio. His lifestyle hobby was Free Running. I could help myself but to find out more about this sport that is increasing in popularity across Gloucestershire.

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Waiting for Ash and Dom outside Starbucks on a Sunny Sunday morning. I’m approached by a back flip in the air and a perfect landing in front of me. I will need more than coffee to keep up with these guys.

Ash 24 and Dom 24 started free running at the age of 12 whilst at school, after being told by the school to stop it they didn’t start again until they were 19 and Dom was shooting photography for a college project. Following watching Jump Britain they decided to practice and take this up as a hobby, but the hobby turned into lifestyle for them both.

So what’s Free Running? Free Running is the art of expressing yourself without limitations of movement. The philosophy behind it is to express yourself fluidly. It was started by Sebastien Foucan who used martial discipline and added acrobatic movements to it. It has become a few international events such as the Red Bull Art of Motion and used in the popular video game Assassin’s Creed.

Now they are teaching in Cheltenham, Stroud and Bristol with an age range of 8 – 46. ‘Kids are always jumping and climbing, it’s natural. But there is more too it’

You will see Ash and Dom between Stroud Rush skate Park and Rush in Bristol. They discovered the Bristol Park and later found it burnt as an act of vandalism, since the rebuilding and the session’s available crime as dropped by 60% in the area. ‘The biggest reward is seeing someone achieve something new’ the guys speak passionately about the community and how Free Running is now a family to them. ‘As its community based, everyone should get involved’ it’s always been about getting people involved and getting the rewards. It’s a chance to release and learn about yourself. You learn from yourself and each other. It’s not all physical it is about friendships.

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Dom continues to explain that ‘Most of the people involved have had family issues or problems within their lives, with the groups they become family and people start to come out of their shell, you then start to have a different outlook on life.’

So what are their sessions like, Ash explains that they can train for 4 hours and meet up with different people and learn 10 new moves in an hour. ‘Come rain or shine, we adapt to the environment. We experience different things and new places give new ideas. It could be a different surface or texture. The architecture can change everything.’

When I ask the guys what is your favourite place in Cheltenham to practice they can’t tell me but you will often see them in Montpellier Park around the band stand. So I wonder how to do the locals and the police feel about this? ‘We get on well with the Police, they know that we are respectable and we did shock them because we are polite and make conversation instead of giving them grief as most do’ The police have a good relationship and understand the group and encourage them with their development

The future for Dom and Ash are clear they want to teach in schools and get better awareness. They are starting promo videos to show training and learning. ‘It’s not just all about the performance’ It’s not a competitive sport, unfortunately it will be commercial. But we have to ensure people don’t lose the passion.’


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