More Than A Job - Parkour coach Fagan Cheong: Soaring beyond the physical

More Than a Job

Whatever your chosen craft, vocation or profession, we all have work to do. In a biweekly series, Yahoo Singapore talks to individuals who have chosen unique, unconventional and distinctive careers. For some, it’s about passion. Others have a sense of duty. But for all of them, it’s more than a job.

With loud music pumping and the crowd cheering, Fagan Cheong performed a series of flips and jumped through a maze of metal pipes and landings in front of Takashimaya at Orchard Road. The 29-year-old was showcasing the fast emerging sport of parkour over the weekend as part of Shine Festival 2016.

Behind the flashy stunts lie a discipline that stresses on raising not just the physical but also the mental strength of parkour practitioners, Cheong told Yahoo Singapore. The parkour coach said a key aspect of the mental training is “fear management”.

“The fear management process is a real takeaway, how do you overcome irrational fears to work on things that you actually can do,” said Cheong, who is a founding member of the parkour community in Singapore.

He cited the example of a nine-feet gap precision jump to explain how the manoeuvre can help practitioners confront their fears. Doing it on land may be easy for a practitioner but the same nine-feet gap would appear somewhat daunting when it is elevated, said Cheong.

“How come if I raise (the nine-feet gap) to a height of two metres off the ground… it is still the same nine-feet, but the fear is there, the fear is real, it scares you and it’s a lot harder to take the jump,” Cheong explained.

“But it’s irrational because on the ground you already can do it.”

Jumpstart to a new career

(Video by Andre He)

Cheong picked up parkour when he was 17 after a friend showed him videos of the sport from an online forum. After practicing parkour for a while, he did not pursue the sport further as he had signed on with the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

But in 2012, after finishing his studies and his contract in the air force, where he worked in the ground-based air defence division, Cheong was looking to try something new for his career.

“I was in a new chapter in life. I signed on and I’ve cleared that, I’ve cleared my studies, where do I go now? I was just thinking (about) what am I good at,” said Cheong.

So he rekindled his passion for parkour and began taking workshops and courses to improve his skills. Finally, he took a leap of faith and completed his level one coaching certification course in Kuala Lumpur and began coaching in January 2013.

“I basically gave (parkour) a shot because I know that there are people coaching so I just wanted to try coaching to see if (a parkour coaching career) is feasible or not,” Cheong added. He has given himself five years to pursue his passion and career in parkour.

Cheong is now a certified head coach at the Art Du Déplacement (ADD) Academy Singapore. He has recently completed the second level coaching certification from ADD and is the only Singaporean with this level of qualification, which makes him the only internationally recognised parkour lead coach in Singapore.

Currently, he conducts three trainings a week on top of ad-hoc courses and demonstrations at events such as Shine Festival. His training packages at ADD are priced at $300 for 10 sessions, and for private classes, Cheong charges about $80 per session.

The philosophy of parkour

Fagan Cheong at Shine Festival 2016. (Photo: Stefanus Ian/Yahoo Singapore)

ADD emerged from the Yamakasi group, which was the original group of parkour practitioners from France. Cheong’s coaching is grounded on ADD’s values such as “To Be Strong, To Be Useful” and “We Start Together, We Finish Together”.

“What I’ve been telling my students is that if you’re strong that’s good. You want to get stronger and if you are, use that strength to help other people,” said Cheong.

While parkour is gaining wider acceptance and popularity, there are those who still consider it dangerous.

But Cheong said that the sport only becomes dangerous when beginners try it out on their own without proper knowledge or supervision. Some of these beginners may be fascinated by the more complex moves that they see on YouTube and want to do the same, he pointed out.

Ultimately, parkour is about having the right approach and attitude to gain control over the surrounding. “It’s not about all those crazy stunts on YouTube,” said Cheong.

“Parkour is an art of movement that encompasses overcoming obstacles, both physical and mental, adapting and interacting with the environment around us.”

Related:

Look out for the next instalment of More Than A Job on Monday, 18 July.