Shaun Woods does not believe in walking straight on a road, he would rather run, jump and do a few flips. An icon for free runners and parkour enthusiasts he travels across the world spreading the word about this trending fitness movement.
Tell us Shaun, what is parkour?
Parkour is a military-style training discipline that is geared towards complete body fitness. The core essence of parkour is to become strong, to be useful, to go from point A to point B in the fastest possible way. To do this, parkour enthusiasts borrow from varied sports including gymnastics and calisthenics.
How did you get interested in it?
While growing up in a small town near New Castle, Australia, I was always a sporty kid. At school, I would line up bins and jump over them, at times getting into trouble for that. At 15, already a big Jackie Chan fan, I happened to see an online video by David Belle doing parkour. Something inside me said, ‘if he can do it so can I’. But it was really a more personal incident that turned the tide for me towards parkour. I was at a mall with my girlfriend when she had a jaw-dropping reaction to a boy performing flips. To impress her I said that I can do that too.
Eventually we broke up and I learnt to do some good front flips. In my late teens I met Anan Anwar from Thailand and we started doing parkour together. With him I went to Thailand. It was a culture shock for me but eventually I liked the city so much that I would stay there for months and practice parkour on Thailand streets. We also started shooting videos doing parkour that got us worldwide attention as we posted them online.
What do you love about the sport?
I totally believe in the popular adage that “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”. Fitness is an integral part of my life and when I started doing parkour I started seeing the world differently, I started using my environment in a creative way.
Parkour also fosters quick thinking skills and boosts confidence. Unlike team sports, here your performance is in your hands and depends on your effort and energy.
How did you set up your company Team Farang and what does it do?
As more and more people started watching our videos we felt the need to go completely professional and earn a living purely doing parkour. Up until then I was working on construction sites on contract basis and was taking breaks to do parkour with my savings. Anan and I founded Team Farang (meaning foreigner in Thai) along with two other parkour enthusiast Rhys James and Jason Paul. The first venture was the launch of our clothing line – Team Farang clothing – streetwear conducive for free running in 2007 to 2008. Today we make content for YouTube, inspire people to take up the art of free running, we have a successful clothing line and a partnership with Bounce, the Trampoline Park.
What’s a day like in your life?
I travel a lot, so I am usually staying in a hotel. As being active is key to my existence the first thing I do upon waking up is to find a gym to workout. Alternatively I just take to the streets or find a staircase and do some jumps. I am also an ambassador for Bounce, so the rest of the day is spent working along with this partnership at the Trampoline Park, coaching kids and adults. I also create content for Team Farang’s YouTube channel. I love photography so in the evenings I am out capturing images of the city on my camera. The day ends with reading a self-help book or watching motivational videos.
Your most proud professional moment…
I am very thrilled at the way Team Farang has evolved over the years. We recently joined hands with the Bounce Team in Sweden to launch the biggest parkour park in Europe. Yet another professional high came when I secured second place in the World Parkour Championships held in Kuwait in 2014.
The scariest parkour challenge you have taken till now?
That would be when I did free running and parkour jumps and flips in the Ghost Tower, an abandoned building in Bangkok in 2014. I jumped from the 52nd floor of the building to another building. It looks scary on video but I was really calm while doing it.
How safe is parkour?
It is a misconception that we jump from roof tops and it’s dangerous. Although there is a risk factor, it is a calculated one because behind every move there are hours of training. You do so many repetitions of a move that you are totally confident before finally executing it. It’s like learning a language or a musical instrument.
How did you bounce back after your accident in 2015? Did you think of quitting Parkour?
In a grave motorbike accident, I almost lost an eye, broke both my hands and developed muscular atrophy in one shoulder. I was bedridden for months and flew back to Australia. I never once thought of quitting parkour and specially had a lot of support from the online parkour community. I started my recovery slowly with one push-up at a time, increasing it to two next day and 10 in a week.
Do you follow a special diet?
I believe in intermittent fasting, and while doing so do not eat a meal for 16 hours or so. If my last meal is at 10pm then I eat only at 2pm the next day. I follow the Keto diet, high on fat and zero carbs, it’s good for the brain and for longevity.
What brings you to Dubai?
In partnership with Bounce, Team Farang is bringing a series of free running events for parkour fans across the UAE. In these masterclasses we intend to teach participants the basics of parkour, help them improve their fitness levels and learn to challenge themselves to take on cool moves in a fun and safe environment.