Yo Nico! We’re glad to have you on the team and I’m excited to sit down and have this chat with you.
First of all, who the fuck is Nico Vanhole?
I’m very happy to be part of this team. So many talented people!
I’m from Leuven, a small city in Belgium known for its beer: Stella Artois. It’s a student city so the best training spots are located around the university. It’s just a small city, but I love the spots in here. I used to do gymnastics and it was fun, but that was it. Parkour is more a passion to me. It taught me more about life than my education did. Besides teaching and training, I host a kids tv-program called Helden. Me and three friends go out and have a good time building cool stuff and playing outside. The program encourages kids to go out and play and explore more. It’s a good fit with what parkour is all about.
Let’s time travel back a bit to the beginning of your training. What got you into parkour?
I’ve started parkour through the Yamakasi movie. I thought they were all stuntmen back then until I saw a video of David Belle training. Later that week we decided to try it ourselves.
At the beginning, it was no more than struggling around and copying techniques from the internet. I’ve been training for 12 years now. I still know the date where I did my first jumps: on the 19th of February 2006, a cold but sunny Sunday. We had no clue what to do except jumping from high stuff. There were very little tracers in Belgium back then so we had to figure it all out ourselves. Still thankful to Philip Van Ees AKA Chaos who gave us some technical advice through the internet after one year of “training”.
Since a few years we are coaching for our local circus school, Cirkus in Beweging, and that became my main job. We’ve got almost 600 students subscribed to our classes from kids to adults and I’m teaching almost every day.
Since one and a half years we’ve built our own place in Leuven. It’s a cool project, with the parkour gym as one part of a bigger project; Hal 5. Hal 5 has its own bakery, restaurants, a bar, some small organizations, a coffee roaster, and so much more. It’s located in an old train depot near the station of Leuven. Next to the parkour gym, there is the Primer Academy. This place was started by one of my best friends and colleagues, Jasper. He organizes high-quality power sessions for individuals and groups. He also takes care of a group of tracers like myself who are interested in power training to get more explosive and avoid injuries. He’s doing an amazing job and his approach motivates me a lot to train harder and get better at parkour.
What does a typical training day look like for you?
Sometimes I don’t have any plan what or where to train. Other days I know exactly what I want to work on. I’ve got a list of certain jumps or combinations to work on, but it’s only sometimes that my training is guided by that list. I prefer to train with one or two close friends. I always take time to do a nice warm-up and start with small jumps until I feel that it’s time to step up the game. I love that moment; the moment you feel physically and mentally ready to take on any challenge you think you’re capable of doing.
I like to work till I start losing energy and I’m satisfied with what I did that day. If I have enough time, I like to do some stretching after training.
Ever since I began training, I’ve had a love for space and how we can use it creatively, and it seems that you also have a similar desire. For example, your wallspin precisions and use of movements in intricate spaces to change directions. It’s just a hunch, but I feel that the architecture of Leuven may have played a role. What led you to develop a style that heavily focused on the creative use of space?
I think that Leuven has some small, nice spots, but there aren’t that many really good spots. I think when you visit the same spots a lot, you have to get creative. I’ve always been interested in training technical, awkward stuff. There are always certain moves that I love doing for a matter of time. For example, that thing where you throw yourself backwards from your hips. Wherever I train, I look for places to try those moves and I’m always looking for variations on new moves. I’m very into foot swings at the moment.
You mentioned your power sessions with Jasper, what does that training look like, and do you do any other conditioning or cross training in conjunction with parkour?
When I’m training at Jasper’s place, I’ve got my own, individual schedule that I have to complete twice a week. It involves a lot of weighted squatting, deadlifting, bench press, pull-ups, climb-ups, explosive exercises, some stability training (and now I’m looking to my schedule), box jumps, lunges… After every few weeks, we do testing and Jasper rewrites my schedule. I also like to go climbing or running sometimes.
As a movement coach myself, I’m always interested in why others became involved in the educational aspect of parkour. What did it for you?
In Leuven, many people started to get interested in parkour, so we decided to start some classes and teach them in a safe way. At the start, these classes weren’t organized that well, but it was all fun and friends! After a few years, the circus school approached us and asked if we wanted to teach for them, so we did. I also did my studies to become a sports teacher. I like the fact that you make people move and that you can motivate them to do so, besides the classes. I believe that teaching can make you a better athlete.
What about food? What typically goes in your body?
I became vegetarian a few years ago. Since then, cooking and food in general have become so much more interesting. I have discovered so many new things since then. I like to eat healthy but it needs to be balanced. I cannot say no to cookies!
Would you rather: eat and drink burger and fries – yes, you do get a solid meal of burger and fries alongside your equivalent meat/potato smoothie, or would you rather keep your vegetarian lifestyle but eat like a cow, grazing on grass and nibbling on soy bits for a week? And yes, you have to eat it from the earth with only your face.
Very difficult one! I prefer eating healthy for most of the time but eating only grass from the ground is too much. I’ll go for the fries.
Outside of parkour, like, you know, the rest of life when you’re not training, what are you up to?
My main thing besides parkour is drinking coffee, a lot of coffee. I also like reading books, training other fun things like slackline or bouldering, spending time with the girlfriend (also involves a lot of coffee), building things in our parkour gym, taking pictures and urban exploring, biking, traveling…
What do you feel you’d be doing with your life if it wasn’t for parkour?
I was always interested in filming so maybe more in that direction instead of teaching. Maybe I would have become a gambling addict with six kids from five different countries, I don’t know. I guess that parkour gave me a fun life with lots of variety, so very thankful for that!
I hate to do it, but as someone with former work experience in gymnastics, what are your thoughts on the FIG situation and their attempts on world domination?
I think we can talk about this for hours, but I’m not sure if I have the right or enough information about this topic. Parkour is nothing that should fall into the hands of people who don’t know enough or don’t care about our community and culture. I worry about the fact that some people from the parkour community worked closely with FIG and now got out because they don’t agree with them. To me, that’s a signal that FIG is not doing any good. I also don’t understand why gymnastic federations from all over the world took the decision to make parkour part of them. This decision should have been made by our community. It’s all about money and politics, I guess. But I’m afraid that they will never care about everything that’s behind parkour.
If money was not a factor, and both opportunities presented themselves, would you continue teaching or work as a performance artist on commercial projects and Hollywood films?
I did both (Belgium television, so, almost Hollywood) and loved them both. I hope I have some opportunities for both in the future because they’re both really interesting. But if I had to make a choice, I think I would go for teaching. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to make so many people move.
Speaking of work, what career opportunities do you feel will exist within parkour in the future?
I think more cities will invest in parkour playgrounds, so designing the parks would create job opportunities. Clothing design, teaching (maybe also in schools), more jobs in the media sector. I think there are a lot of professional options if you’re working hard through parkour, but you’ll have to be creative.
If you could travel and train anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Maybe Mexico, the spots and community there look sick and also the nature there looks amazing. I also love burritos and I’ve never been to Central America.
Who are some of your favorite athletes to watch, and is there anyone who you feel most people don’t know about but should?
Damn, so many people! I’ll start with Geert and Tom Meeusen, the guys I train with almost every day. They have amazing control and creativity.
So many people from the Danish community, maybe my favorite place to train on earth; Lavdrim Elmazi, Carl Hertz, Thomas Amled, Oliver Thorpe, Julius Hjerno, Elias Zimakoff. All different styles!
Other people that really inspire me: Callum Powell, Andi Woehle, Endijs Miscenko, Nate Weston, Eric Moor, Luis Alkim, Kie Willis, Daryl Stingley, Tim Champion, Cosmin Marius, Max Barker, Joel Eggiman, Alex Schauer and so many more.
Special mention to the teams that are really pushing the sport and community in so many different ways: Storm, Storror, Motus Projects, GUP.
Definitely some incredible movers in there and some that I’m not familiar with, but will definitely have to check them out. You also mention some people that inspire you, so what about inspiration? What all inspires you?
Seeing other people move always gives me inspiration. This could be from people in real life, on Instagram, Youtube, or another amazing documentary. Teaching also leads me to new ideas or variations. Some kids have amazing, crazy ideas. I like to teach with an atmosphere where everything is allowed as long as it’s safe to try. Architecture also gives me inspiration. Music is also a good source of inspiration and motivation. Some songs make you want to move.
I feel like we’ve had enough serious conversation, so I’m just going to hit you with a few random questions – literally whatever pops into the brain first.
If you were like The Wonder Twins, aside from the fact that Zan can only transform into forms of water, what object and what animal would you change into?
I would transform into a leopard. Running that fast should give such an amazing feeling. An object is difficult, maybe a camera.
Rails or ledges?
Rails. They give you so much more satisfaction to land on.
If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Bring It On from Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, but if you ask me this tomorrow I will probably give you another answer. Maybe tomorrow it’s Little Sister from Queens Of The Stone Age. Any good rock song with a cowbell becomes brilliant in my opinion. But now I’m cheating for this question.
What is the most interesting situation that parkour has led you to?
No doubt it was my trip to America with the Storrors, Joel Eggiman, Jesse Peveril, Josh Hill and Ryan Houchin for Chaps On Tour USA. Every day was another adventure. I guess visiting America now might be boring after that experience.
Who would win in a fight: every ant or every human?
I found a page on the BBC website where they compare the weight of all the ants to all humans in the world. Apparently, all humans still weigh 10 times more than all the ants in the world. And weight is important in a fight, so I guess humans. But I would hate it to have seven kilograms of ants crawling on me.
What is one book that you believe needs to be read and a film that deserves to be watched?
Book: Explore Everything, an amazing book about urban exploring, such a good read!
Movie: Any Alex Honnold documentary (and I haven’t seen Free Solo yet).
Ramen or udon?
Ramen, never had udon so I don’t know.
What is a good color palette to paint my studio?
Yellow and white. I like bright colours in an interior.
Anything else you’d like to add or say to the world?
We even talked about colour palettes so I guess we talked about all the important things in life. I’m very interested where parkour will leads us to in a few years. Just keep enjoying jumping on and off walls!
Photos and video © David Jacowbski.
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