Freerunning Around the World with Ryan Doyle
Ryan Doyle‘s journey to becoming a World Champion freerunner, award winning filmmaker and actor started in Liverpool, UK. It began with his practice in martial arts that led to his vision to integrate action into media. Whilst studying at university he stepped onto the acting scene and from there it has taken off. He has appeared in a number of feature length films and created his own award winning video series “Travel Story.” By way of freerunning, Ryan is able to bring action into media in a unique way. Jumping, flipping, and rolling from heights without mats or safety equipment adds a new level of excitement to his films. When he isn’t travelling the world, you can find him in at his hometown creation, the Airborn Academy. At this facility anyone can learn the techniques of freerunning movement. We had the chance to interview Ryan, below are highlights of our conversation.
Compared to the majority of us, you live life a little differently. When did this passion to do things your own way occur?
R.D.: In 2006 I produced a short action film that was entered into the National Student Film Festival. However, I could not attend the festival because I had signed up to compete in the National Extreme Tricks Battle in a different part of the country at the same time.
That afternoon, after winning the tournament and becoming a national tricking champion, I received a phone call telling me I’d also won the National Film Festival. Two national titles in the same day. I knew my future would involve action-media, I just didn’t know whether it would begin in front of the camera, or behind it.
IN THE PHOTO: Tony Hawk & Ryan Doyle PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Doyle
Can you tell us about what initiated your interest in freerunning and if there is a specific person you can attribute this to?
R.D.: I was a fearless child who loved action movies. I quickly learned about gravity and its consequences, breaking my first bone in my arm at 3 years old doing a front flip. Throughout my teenage years I was a dedicated martial artist to the discipline KUK SOOL WON. My instructor was a tough little man but brilliant at inspiring us. By combining his teachings with other urban sports like break dancing or capoeira, I could see similarities and cross-overs within the movements. One discipline didn’t seem enough if I wanted to master “movement” itself so I explored all aspects. It set me free knowing that I was a part of a global community of like-minded individuals.
I respect artists like Jackie Chan, having the ability to move, he has physically done everything. He is like the “Godfather” of freerunning which became this undiscovered treasure of unthought-of movements. It was very early days when I started to explore some of the movements that occur regularly in videos today. Different moves with different styles were created and named by a handful of athletes including myself. My experiences allows me not only to be a voice in the Parkour Freerunning community but to present possible opportunities and be living-proof that a career pathway in this is possible.
When you step into something new your job doesn’t exist until you create it.
When did you decide to make this a career or did it come naturally? It seems like your background in Media TV Production was a solid platform to begin exploring filmmaking?
R.D.: It was a hobby until I graduated, then opportunities presented themselves to me. If you love your job then you never work a day in your life. As a teen I was lucky enough to have many friends with the same interests. I chose the best available paths to help me get the experience needed. It wasn’t enough to just perform the action, I wanted to be able to capture it also.
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You have acted in and produced a number of films that revolve around freerunning, how do you think those films have changed the global community of freerunners? Or anyone who is generally interested?
R.D.: I believe my youtube series, “Travel Story” inspired a lot of freerunners to travel and meet each other. Many other freerunner’s travel series came out after that one.
The majority of my work only introduced the sport to people from the MTV series, “Freerunner” the movie, it was like “quick, get anything out to represent because we have a lot of catching up to do compared to other sports.” There was a lot of empty spaces to fill. There has been a definite reflection on the image of a freerunner, it sometimes scares me to have influential powers, but through my experience comes the confidence to make decisions in developing the definition of a “freerunner.” I built Airborn, the largest urban-sports & freerunning academy in the UK, for that very reason, so I can help it grow, and to be honest I am learning more movements than ever now from the community! The community has helped and inspired me a lot.
Is there anything specific you want to express to the world through filming and photographing your journey as a freerunner?
R.D.: Movement is limited, we haven’t found that limit yet. As a freerunner, I hope the main message I can contribute to that title is expressed through my work, I am only one example of freedom of movement.
You are one of the founding athletes for the World Freerunning Parkour Federation (WFPF), can you describe what your hopes are for the future of your sport through the WFPF?
R.D.: My hope is for the WFPF to open new innovative training facilities all across the USA and internationally.
You are also a member of a group that started the Airborn Academy in Liverpool, is this how you are giving back to the community? How do you see the Airborn Academy affecting the community locally and on a larger scale?
R.D.: Yes, I felt I needed to return home and finish what I stared. Since the opening of Airborn, Liverpool’s community has grown incredibly and still is evolving. It’s epic to see the community coming together and training in Airborn, helping each other on perfecting moves and tricks.
PHOTO CREDIT: RYAN DOYLE
How would you compare training for freerunning to more traditional sports such as basketball, football, baseball?
R.D.: For Baseball, etc., they are all sports governed by rules and limitations, while freerunning is more of an art. Yes, we can compete, but that is not what its about. Freerunning is a foundation to any other sport. Once you understand yourself, your aerial awareness, your body and what it can do, then your ready for anything. Skilled sports people with freerunning foundations are proving this point all over the world.
How has traveling the world to perform affected your outlook on life?
R.D.: It has effected me in a way that I cannot express very well with words. I would recommend everyone to take the leap of faith at some point and just go travelling. You learn new communication techniques and see how other people achieve their goals which, are related to their environments. We all have a chapter to fill and discover adventures.
Given the current global changes in our environment, how has that affected your work?
R.D.: That’s the beauty of my work, the more they update our surroundings, the more possibilities present themselves. Soon I will be checking out some new amazing structures in Kazakhstan.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Doyle
Are you directly involved in any issues or philanthropies?
R.D.: Yes, some Freerunners that push the boundaries are perceived as physically superhuman. They are winning “Ninja Warrior” in the US and UK, and they make the best kind of stunt doubles. There is nothing they have to prove anymore; the most efficient exercise you can do is the one that teaches you how to understand yourself and how to simply move. Superhumans exist. There is a secret global army of urban ninjas growing fast, crawling all over your cities, every night, on every continent, their leaders meet secretly, and not all of them go public with their skills. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out. I like to leak clues in my videos. (laughs.)
If there ever comes a day when you decide that freerunning is over for you, what might be your next undertaking?
R.D.: Freerunning will never be over for me. I enjoy acting and I know one day my body might not allow me to be as action packed as I once was, but I’m building up a pretty good profile. You can expect to see some epic action in cinemas this year with the new release of Warner Bros new action scifi “DXM.”