What did you see in Parkour, and in Denmark’s ‘Street Movement’ organization?

Craig: In the parkour world, Gerlev is best known for hosting its annual international gathering. Parkour’s presence and level of integration at Gerlev is unique. What I want to know is, what did you see in Parkour in Denmark’s Parkour organization Street Movement? What did you see in Parkour that caught your attention and sparked your interest in bringing Parkour to Gerlev?

Finn: Okay, that’s a good question because [00:03:00] it changed my life and it changed the strategy for Gerlev Sports Academy. It all happened, well 9, 10 years ago. I was watching a television program and in this television program, it was a national program where a lot of young people were what demonstrating different kind of skills. Then they should select the best skill, so that kind of program [00:03:30] in the television. I was just accidentally, I was watching the program and there I saw four young men, or young boys. They were in the 18, 19s. Then they were doing something they called free running and Parkour. I was looking at the guys and they were doing all that kind of challenging each other to jump easily from A [00:04:00] to B and to put it together as a show, as a presentation.

Then you have to understand, I’m a former gymnast. My life has been gymnastic. I was educated as a gymnastic teacher here at Gerlev, and when I was watching those guys I said, “This is, for me, the new happiness of doing gymnastic movements in a way which has not been destroyed by [00:04:30] some strictly rules about how the skills had to be done.” So I was… In fact those four guys they won that program.

Then I got in touch with those four guys and then I said, “Well, I’m the principal here at Gerlev. You may know about Gerlev. I would like to hire all four of you to be teachers here at Gerlev,” and they [00:05:00] said ‘yes’ because they were young and they had never been in touch with a sports Academy in that way, and now suddenly some crazy person asks them–

Craig: They found an advocate, right.

Finn: They find the situation where he wanted to them to visit this please and teach our students their way of moving, and it was absolutely funny. Those four young boys, they had not so much teaching experience, [00:05:30] and then you know, this Gerlev is in fact an old educational institution. We are founded in 1938. Those guys, they were climbing on the walls and on the–

Craig: On the buildings, right.

Finn: On the buildings and [crosstalk 00:05:49]-

Craig: You’re thinking, “What did I do?”

Finn: Yeah, yeah. No, this is absolutely, this is not good. Then I need to find out if this has something value. Then [00:06:00] after one year, we were talking and I said, “I’d love to continue this but we have some problem with the buildings. How can we do this?”

Craig: We need something for you to work on.

Finn: Yeah, and then one of the young boys, and I have to mention his name because–

Craig: Absolutely!

Finn: –because that guy is exactly the one who is in charge of this program you are visiting, Craig, here today, is Martin Kallesøe. He was one of those young guys and I asked him… or, he suggested [00:06:30] if we do some kind of drawings about some of the best spots we know from Europe and put it together in a very concentrated field here in Gerlev and then we build a pedagogical park where all this concrete and rails, and so on–

Craig: Yeah, yeah. The ideal example of each thing.

{ Note: The Gerlev Parkour Park. }

Finn: Exactly, so what happened, and this is in fact a scientific fact, [00:07:00] it is that at that time when I said, “Yes, let’s do that,” even, it was pretty expensive at that time but I believed them, so we built the first Parkour park in the world, because it was a park designed to teach for pedagogical reasons and not just for doing, but also to learn how to do it and, at the same time, understand the philosophy behind Parkour. [00:07:30] They are places where they have been practicing Parkour in Europe or maybe even in the states before, but it’s the first time that we created a park strictly for that reason.

Craig: Especially with that mindset. There are places where people have built Parkour places, but they’re set up for challenge. They’re set up for, “These are the kinds of technique things that we want to do,” and when you get to the one here at Gerlev, you realize, “This is a teaching [00:08:00] space.” It’s like coming into a gymnasium, only it’s obviously outdoors. It’s a very interesting space.

Finn: The funny part was that when they made the drawings and we put a lot of concrete and all the neighbors, they were saying, “When are you going to finish that building?”

Craig: It’s a three-story hulk. There’s a husk, there’s windows, there’s columns of walls. People who do Parkour see it and we immediately recognize the potential, but it looks like you quit halfway.

Finn: Exactly, [00:08:30] but we did that and I made one decision. You have to understand that this institution, Gerlev Sports Academy, or Gerlev Idrætshøjskole, is in fact very much strongly based on gymnastics, but I was on a crossway. Even [though] gymnastic has been my field. I was educated here. I was a young student here, returned back in the [inaudible 00:08:56] system teaching gymnastics. I returned for eight years [00:09:00] to be teacher teaching gymnastics here at this spot. I went to the University teaching gymnastics for 20 years and then I became headmaster. Then after two years, I decided to quit gymnastics at Gerlev, and instead of gymnastics I wanted to bring Parkour, the full potential to be the main subject together with street dance. I find [00:09:30] that the street dance, which became part of the Gerlev curriculum at the same time as I changed the philosophy about, “Well, I’m not fighting for getting gymnast. Now I’m fighting to get Parkour-interested young people,” and we have been doing that since, now for 10 years.

Craig: One of my impressions when I first got here was I looked at the facilities and I thought I knew where I was, and then when I started to move around in the space and they took us for a tour, and I realized [00:10:00] that the institution has this long history of there’s pictures on the wall of all the different classes. You can just see that this isn’t simply a school. There’s a lot more going on here that somehow the administration and the teachers and the students work together and live together. You read this place cultivates an individual responsibility, but then when you talk to the students who are here, you can just see that in them, so the English would say, “The proof is in the pudding,” [00:10:30] and it’s just patently obvious that Gerlev is accomplishing its goals.

Finn: Thank you. May I-

Craig: Absolutely.

Finn: It explains a little bit about because it’s even difficult to explain to the Danish politician what this kind of school is, so I fully understand if you have problem to try to grab it and to explain to young American, so it’s really … I fully understand because we are fighting really [00:11:00] to have the politicians-

Craig: Get the Danish to understand.

Finn: You see, before 20 years ago, a lot of the politicians in the parliament, they would have been students themselves at similar schools, but now the politicians in the parliament is very, very few of them, so they really don’t understand the personal developing which is happening in a place like this, and how we [00:11:30] are trying to create the feeling of how to reflect about your life, how to reflect about your society, how to reflect about how your sport is part of this society, and how we are influencing, and what good we are doing. We are, absolutely we are struggling to give the politicians this understanding, but they are nervous if they are [00:12:00] making too much-

Craig: Too much of a radical change.

Finn: Yeah. Then they are afraid of their voting and so on. My point is, I just changed a little bit because I’m traveling the world. I’m traveling, I’ve been doing this my whole life. In fact, I’ve been traveling the whole world doing gymnastics. I have been performing and I have been coaching all over the world. When I’m visiting universities trying to explain the students about what is Gerlev, really [00:12:30] I’m facing this again and again and again, but I have one sentence and I would like to share that sentence with you because in that moment I know I crack the students, and I’m saying:

Could you imagine that you are starting at an educational institution and we have no examinations? Then all the students [00:13:00] thinking about the next examination, the next examination and, “I lost two and I got only this mark,” and so on, and then you are here, you have an institution where the students are staying up to 10 months, from 4 up to 10 months, they decide, but we have no examinations. On the other hand, I tell them, “We may have a much stronger examination because if you don’t show that you want [00:13:30] to be here, if you don’t show that you want to develop yourself, then you are … There’s no reason for you to be here.” Then we say, “It’s maybe a better idea that you are leaving,” so that’s our way of having an examination.