Parkour pioneer Sébastien Foucan: ‘I’ve kept the bullet Daniel Craig shot me with’
My personal style signifier is clothing that is comfortable to wear and I can move in, but that still means I look well dressed, which can be difficult to achieve all at once – I like to keep the overall look simple. And I always wear my watch, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, which has a boundary-pushing design I appreciate. I don’t want to be portrayed just as an athlete or a sportsperson. As an entrepreneur, I want to show that I’m not only muscle; I’m a brain too. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore self-winding chronograph, from £29,900
The last thing I bought and loved was my iPad. I love to draw and paint, and it’s got the digital-painting app Procreate, so you’ve got a stylus and different brushes. I like to experiment, which involves trial and error, so this way I can do trials before using up paper, which is great.
And on my wish list is probably an atelier. In terms of material things, I’ve got everything I want, basically.
I started freerunning with my friend in the late ’80s. School wasn’t really our thing, so we just followed our desire to play outside and create adventures, and we came up with this thing called parkour freerunning and then trained to get better. We created our own lifestyle.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is the shell from the bullet Daniel Craig shot me with [in Casino Royale]. I usually don’t keep much stuff but I kept that. I had to do a lot of training for the reaction to being shot – luckily, it’s never happened to me in real life. The funny thing is, we started with the end bit, so I began at the point where I’m dead and then they said, “OK, let’s start to shoot now.”
My favourite website is YouTube. I’ve got my library of videos of things I’ve saved for later that I’ll rewatch again and again. I’ve been watching a lot of videos of the South Korean cartoonist and art instructor Kim Jung Gi. He’s amazing because he just creates everything from his brain – he doesn’t do any prep.
My style icon is probably Lenny Kravitz. That might make me sound a bit old to some, but he’s just cool. He always looks relaxed and free, and he seems to like fashion too.
I have a collection of Marvel and Dragon Ball comic books. I try not to accumulate stuff because I believe in life we don’t go towards more, we go towards less, so it’s good to get used to not having too much. But I’ve kept the comics as they are such a part of my youth. It’s pure nostalgia because I know the story and the smell of the paper – it takes me back to when I was a kid.
In my fridge you’ll always find vegetables, pasta and almond, coconut or soya milk. I hate the word “diet” – I think it is the worst word ever created – but I do eat healthily. I avoid pastries and pizza, and I try to have vegetables as much as possible. I used to be vegetarian and vegan – I’m not any more, though I respect those who are.
The gadget I couldn’t do without is my Canon camera. I’m a visual person. Even when I move, there is a musicality, there is angle.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a manga book, to my daughter for her 13th birthday. Both of my daughters read manga, so I seem to have managed to pass my passion for comics to them.
And the best gift I’ve received recently is a Pentel Fude brush pen from Japan. It’s the same one used by Kim Jung Gi. It’s amazing because you’ve got the ink right there in the cartridge.
The objects I would never part with are probably my reminder coins. One was given to me by my friend Graham, who is also one of my students. It has “You could leave life right now” inscribed on one side. The other is one I made myself about 10 years ago from a piece of wood, and it has my Foucan Academy logo on one side and a cat on the other, made by pyrography. The cat is because I like this idea that no matter what happens, you will find a way to land on your feet. But if I lost them, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We’re here for a certain time and then we’re gone – everything you try to hold on to is like dust.
An indulgence I would never forgo is chocolate fudge cake. That’s my weak spot.
The last music I downloaded was “Alto Paraíso” by the ambient composer and instrumentalist Aukai. I listen to everything from hip-hop to jazz, but I’m very sensitive to pure instruments like the Japanese flute. I can listen to it for hours.
My wellbeing gurus are my two osteopaths, Alex des Monstiers at London Osteo Clinic and Roxane Borghini at Physio 4 Life, who I see regularly. I’m very picky with them. My body is like a Ferrari for me. It’s like a watch, it has to be well calibrated – so I have to take care of it. londonosteo clinic.com. physio4life.co.uk
The place I can’t wait to go back to is Japan. I went in 2006 and, on the train on the way to Kyoto, I remember seeing a lot of fantastic landscapes and villages that made me feel like I was travelling in a time machine. I grew up with manga culture and anime, so Japan is very dear to me.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a leather jacket. I used to have one but I damaged it while I was shooting a fighting sequence for a movie pilot, so I bought a new one. I was just walking around and found it. I’m not really keen on big brand names – I like to bargain-hunt in teeny tiny boutiques or places like London’s Camden Market.
I’ve recently discovered MasterChef. I watch both the British and the French versions. I could never understand why people watched it. Everything around food used to annoy me because as an athlete, I really disliked talking about losing weight, and I kind of developed this rejection of the love of food along the way. But through watching MasterChef, I started to appreciate food and the art of cooking.
The artist whose work I would collect if I could is van Gogh. The fact that he kept on doing it for himself, until the end, to me is true art – this idea that you keep on going even if nobody thinks what you’re doing is great.
A recent “find” is a greater awareness of our psychological aspect. I’ve been reading a lot around building confidence in yourself, trusting yourself and your gut. I was struck by the book The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday, which talks about how you can make obstacles work for you. Life is like Tetris because there is always something coming out of the blue, a new brick coming, and you have to try to make it fit. There was a time when life was quite stressful because I tried to fix everything and make everything run smoothly, and it never worked, but now, ever since I’ve realised it’s like playing Tetris, I feel happier when some things aren’t working.
The grooming staple I’m never without is Nivea moisturiser. I get dry skin very easily, so I need it wherever I go. It’s the one that has worked for my skin since I was young.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S Grover, who was Michael Jordan’s trainer. It’s a book about the mindset of a champion. Grover talks about how there is some part of ourselves we often reject, and how we can tap into this and control it. He calls it our “dark side”, which, when you think of it from a Darth Vader perspective, sounds negative – but the way he explains it, it can be a good thing when it’s controlled. For me, working on big sets and coaching athletes, it all makes sense.
My favourite room in my house is probably the living room, aka the Creative Room. I renamed all the rooms. There’s also the Nourish Room and the Zen Room… but the Creative Room is the best. It has whiteboards everywhere, so everyone can come in and write ideas. Everything is also low to the ground, so if you want to be here, you have to be on the floor, like a kid. That’s my Peter Pan way of thinking.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be an artist – or at least that’s what I used to say before I realised that, as a freerunner, I already am one. I don’t believe in luck but I think I’m one of the luckiest, because I’m doing exactly what I want to do, though it took me a while to get there. I worked as a firefighter in Paris, then as a fire-safety officer in Tour Mirabeau and later in the Opéra Garnier. When I went backstage and saw the dancers, I knew I wanted to live life as an artist.