Exclusive chat with Red Bull parkour athlete Mohammed Al Attar

Exclusive chat with Red Bull parkour athlete Mohammed Al Attar

Also known as 'double trouble', the young freerunner is in India to judge the Red Bull Indus Trails

TOJ: Hello Mohammed, how does it feel to be the sole representative of parkour at the top most level from the entire Middle East region?

Al Attar: It feels amazing reaching such a professional level. Being a Red Bull athlete in itself is awesome and when you’re one of the only four Red Bull parkour athletes in the world it’s superb. Then you realise that you are the only one from the Middle East. Imagine how marvelous is that !

TOJ: What inspired you to take up this gravity defying sport. Do you consider Parkour an extreme / dangerous sport?

Al Attar: It’s actually who inspired me rather than what. My friend introduced me to parkour after I graduated from high school. He has been my inspiration. I owe him much for introducing me to parkour now that I have reached where I am.

TOJ: What are the qualities required to be a world class parkour athlete?

Al Attar: A humble person with a good personality, the will to always develop themselves and help others to develop. It is important to see the bigger picture which benefits the whole parkour community rather than only aim for personal benefit.

parkour 3
Image © Red Bull Content Pool

TOJ: Red bull. Can you tell us how you were spotted and selected by them?

Al Attar: It was in 2009 when I was in Lebanon for my first tv interview abroad. The next year, Red Bull-Kuwait contacted me through youtube about their plans to hold a local competition in Kuwait that was to be judged by Ryan Doyle. I stood 1st in that competition and ever since that day I kept in touch with Red Bull. In 2011, Kuwait hosted the Red Bull Art of Motion and I qualified to be among the top three parkour athletes in Kuwait to participate next to the pros like Ryan, Jason Paul, Tim Sheiff, Anan Anwar, Yohan Leroux and others. By the end of 2012, Red Bull moved towards adding me as their new parkour athlete from 2013. Today, i have joined the likes of Ryan, Jason and Pavel Petkun.

TOJ:  What do you say to parents preferring their kids taking up 'easier' or less dangerous sports?

Al Attar: Danger is everywhere; crossing the street, playing football or even walking down the stairs. In parkour, no one starts from the top level. Most people go step by step. For example, to do a three meters height jump you have to start with a half meter and go higher step-by-step. Parkour builds a strong relation between mind and his body. It makes a person trust the body and develop its abilities. That’s why I recommend to parents to involve their children in parkour at an early age.

TOJ: How do you overcome your fears?

Al Attar: I overcome my fears by trusting myself and by breaking fear into small parts. If I feel afraid of a jump I begin by asking myself a few questions. Is it the height? Is it the landing? Is it the difficulty of the flip? I overcome fear by answering the questions and erasing doubts.

TOJ: What makes a great place to parkour?

Al Attar: Any place is a good place to parkour, but I have my favourites like Failaka Island in Kuwait, the venue of Red Bull Art of Motion- 2011. The reason why I like it is because the island is abandoned and you can jump everywhere without getting in trouble with security. It also has great spots to jump and looks like a natural film set.

TOJ: Do you prepare yourself differently for a world class competition as compared to your everyday 'stunts'?

Al Attar: A world class competition is nothing but a big fun gathering where you get to meet new athletes and exchange experiences. The challenge in competitions is playing in a new environment and trying to master it so the challenge is basically between the freerunner and the course, not against another freerunner. I train the whole year for myself and for the different competitions. If the competition happens to be a freerunners main priority then I’m afraid he’s drifting away from the real essence of parkour.

Image © Red Bull Content Pool

TOJ: Is this your first visit to India? What do you know about the parkour scene in this country?

Al Attar: Yes, this would be my first visit to India. I knew several Indian athletes who live in Dubai, Qatar and other places, but I don’t personally know freerunners who are based in India. I think that given India's population, the parkour scene is considerably small and needs to grow. That is the main purpose of the upcoming Red Bull Indus Trails in Mumbai.

TOJ: How can parkour evolve positively and grow as a sport in the international scene? Is Ryan Doyle with his "7 wonders of the world" leading the way in the right direction?

Al Attar: Parkour is growing very fast internationally, however, it needs more presence in the Middle East. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see Ryan’s latest movie yet, but I know him in person and I know that his vision of parkour is right. Hopefully, he’s going to follow his vision even better once the new 'airborn academy' is ready.

History of ParkourParkour originated in France around the late 1980's , where it was developed primarily by Raymond Belle, David Belle, and Sébastien Foucan. The French word for parkour is "Le parcours", which is again derived form "parcours du combattant", the obstacle course designed by Georges Hébert, a former naval officer.

What is ParkourBefore we define what parkour is , let us demythologize what parkour is not. Well, its not about 'going from point A to point B in the most efficient way'. Neither is it about 'self expression and creative movement'. These are definitions that spawned from the culture and a bunch of debates that happened five years ago, attributing the labels 'pure parkour' and 'freerunning' to various styles.

The correct way to define is parkour is that its a movement discipline based on using only the body to interact with the environment and navigate one’s surroundings.

Ryan Doyleis an English freerunning world champion. Doyle's highly creative motion-flux combined with a martial arts background has made him one of the most accomplished and innovative freerunners in the world. Last year he performed at the Taj Mahal.

Jason Paulis one of the world's leading freerunners. He has won the Red Bull Art of Motion thrice, most recently in Yokohama-Japan.


 New Delhi, India