London-based Dan Edwardes is the CEO of Parkour Generation. He talks to The Industry Leaders about his path from reading Japanese and History at Cambridge University, to bringing Parkour to thousands of people worldwide.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
By always choosing the more challenging road and following my passions and interests and trusting that I would be able to find a way.
My youth was spent in training in the fighting arts and immersed in stories and heroic fantasy. I read Japanese and History at Cambridge University, then lived in Japan for five years to study swordsmanship. After that, I lived in London, where my love of Parkour's fledgeling art became a vocation and a career. I was fortunate enough to be part of the forging of the industry as a whole as myself and two other founders created Parkour Generations.
What kind of work does your role involve?
My role today involves whatever is necessary, which I think is really at the heart of all leadership. Whether that's deciding and delivering the organisation's overall vision and direction, or helping sanitise our facilities during the Covid-19 era; whatever needs to be done, no matter how micro or macro, is where a leader must always place him or herself.
What gets you excited about your industry?
In little more than a decade, we've taken Parkour from a handful of practitioners worldwide to the fastest-growing lifestyle sport in the world, with more registered practitioners in England than judo, skateboarding or triathlon. The rise has been meteoric, and it's incredible to be part of that.
The power of Parkour is that it's simply the development and refinement of your natural movement; it's about discovering and unleashing your innate physical and psychological potential. Parkour is accessible to everyone, can be practised anywhere without any specialised equipment, and brings about the vital 'flow state' regularly during practice. I've seen it transform the lives of tens of thousands of people worldwide, which is truly awesome.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
"If in search of peace, you travel, you will not find it. Sit and wait, and peace will come to you."
One of my first teachers in the martial arts told me this when I was around 12 years old, and it had a profound impact. It reminds me not to 'seek' or look ahead too much, but to remain present in the moment, enjoy every second of the journey, and learn to strengthen my resolve rather than my ambition.
What, or who inspires you?
My friends, always. I'm lucky to have found and remained connected to incredible people who live with such vibrancy, intelligence and passion that they force me to run hard simply to keep up! The conversations we have always lead me to new learnings, new challenges, new knowledge, and to strive for higher standards.
Beyond that, the great figures of history and even fictional heroes and legends inspire me to be better than I am. Whether they lived or not, the standards such ideals set are always good to aspire to.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
I'm fortunate to be tied into the network of leaders, coaches and experts within my industry of Parkour as well as the wider health and fitness industry. I teach and often speak at events worldwide, which means I can keep apprised of new developments and new information.
I also like to attend conferences, seminars and even tangentially related events to find new inspiration and make unexpected connections.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
There are too many to choose from! But our approach is always to choose the harder path, precisely because we know we will grow more by doing so.
If I was to single out one very daunting challenge, it was when we had nine weeks in mid-winter to prepare London's first indoor Parkour Academy in 2013. A team of 8-10 of us worked round the clock, often sleeping in the facility, to get it ready for opening day in February, having never done anything like that before. It was a very steep learning curve and a huge gamble, but it paid off, and today it's one of the most famous Parkour Academies anywhere in the world.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I would do my best to find out who it belonged to and return it to them.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I love movies and am very happy to watch something new or re-watch one of my lifelong favourites. Having a good meal with friends, training, reading, writing stories, and roleplaying are all lifelong activities that restore my energy and keep me balanced.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
That it maintains its upward trajectory and that the practice remains authentic. It's my hope that the amazing benefits and knowledge found at the heart of parkour training continue to be available to those who would seek it out, and that it avoids too much dilution as it grows. Perhaps a romantic and idealistic notion, but hey - it's a wish!
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
So many great books have helped fashion who I am. If I had to single some out, I'd say:
Or, every fantasy novel by David Gemmell!
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via any of the following:
*Looking to level-up your leadership skills? Check out our article on the best self-help books for business leaders and entrepreneurs.
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