VIDEO: Welling freerunner living the dream
PUBLISHED: 10:15 28 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:15 28 August 2013
Doctor, sports star, lawyer. These are the kind of answers you might expect to hear when asking a teenage boy what he wants to be when he grows up.
Becoming a professional freerunner is a little more unusual, but as soon as Welling’s Kie Willis heard about the discipline from friends who had seen a TV documentary, he knew it was something he had to try.
And it hasn’t worked out too badly for the 24-year-old. He has become one of the country’s best exponents of freerunning, a sport which evolved from parkour to enable more people to get involved.
Freerunning is a form of urban acrobatics in which participants use the city and rural landscapes to perform movements. The term was coined during the filming of documentary Jump London to present parkour to the English-speaking world, though there are differences between the two activities.
Parkour concentrates more on getting from one location to another by the most direct route possible, whereas freerunning encourages more aesthetic moves such as spins and flips.
Last week Kie gave a masterclass to England rugby union international Ben Foden, and he is currently in Helsingborg, Sweden, where he will be taking part in an international competition.
So what advice would he give to youngsters looking to get into freerunning?
“Start slow and stay low. It’s very easy to injure yourself and you should only do things which you know are in your physical capacity.
“Being sensible is the place to start and you’ll soon pick up more complex manoeuvres.”
Freerunning fact box
Freerunning is described as the art of expressing yourself in your environment without limitations.
It started in 2003 and was developed as a more inclusive form of the discipline of parkour.
The founder and creator is Sebasten Foucan.
It has featured in two documentaries - Jump London and Jump Britain, the second of which influenced Kie Willis to take up the discipline.
Kie has used the flexibility he has developed during his career to perform stunts for a variety of commercials and has also appeared on Top Gear’s Live Show.
But it has been hard work reaching the top. The Park View Road resident said: “For years I worked a range of part-time jobs as I looked for sponsorship contracts and the opportunity to make it a full-time profession.
“I did anything to make ends meet – I worked in Primark, did nights at Tesco and worked as a door-to-door charity salesman. But it’s been totally worth it seeing the end results. Never give up on your dreams.”
How did another international sportsman in Ben Foden pick up the skills needed to be a successful freerunner?
“Ben picked it up quite quickly,” said Kie. “We were quite limited in what we could do because his people didn’t want him to get injured before the new season but he had the basic strength and flexibility you would need.”
Kie has won three international competitions, most recently the Jambo Speed Challenge in Italy in June, and he is insured for £10million.
When he was a teenager he did athletics and a variety of other sports but he only heard about freerunning when he was 16 after his friends raved about the Jump Britain documentary.
He said: “When I first started I wasn’t sure it would turn into a career, but I had a real knack for it. I got my first sponsorship contract in the last year of college and this convinced me not to go to university but to concentrate on becoming a professional.
“Broken down, freerunning is not that complex – it’s about overcoming any obstacle in your path. I don’t do any special gym or weight training. I practise as I compete in competitions which are a direct application of my training stunts.”
To find out more about Kie visit kiewillis.co.uk