Photography by Miranda Henderson
Generally regarded as the birthplace of Parkour; Lisses is the
home town of David Belle, Sebastien Foucan and the rest of the
It is also a bugger to get to. Before going I emailed quite
a few Traceurs who had publicised their trips there and asked
for help how do I get there? Any contacts? What should
With the sole exception of Kiell who gave me some good pointers,
I got no response. A little disappointing, to say the least.
So here is the quick guide
The Dame Du Lac
to Paris Gare De Nord.
Cheap if you book early enough in advance and go direct through
their website. Cost us £40ish each way. The Trip takes
3 hours plus an hour for check in. Take your own food and drink
the overpriced crap they serve is outrageous.
From the Gare De Nord you get a train to Evry Corcouronnes
this is not the same station as Evry! This is a dirt cheap journey
of around a fiver and takes about 40 minutes. The double decker
trains are cool, too.
At Evry Corcouronnes you walk left from the station entrance
and up to the Bus station, where you get a number 53 bus for
about 1 euro and head for the Dame Du Lac stop. Its about
six stops from the station and you get off just after a big
roundabout. From the stop youll see the sign announcing
Lisses. Youve made it!
Lisses is a quiet, tidy, clean, small town. There is a park,
an estate, a small shopping concourse, a school, and a public
library. There seems to be absolutely nothing for young people
to do. Which might just explain why they started running up
Having walked through the town and had a brief play on the major
sites, we encountered a local Traceur who spent the next four
hours giving me a master class along the guided tour route.
We failed to do a decent job of exchanging details, so I have
no definitive version of his name, but for the purpose of the
following well call him HA. My wife Miranda Henderson
took all the photos.
What follows is a hot-spot description, but it comes with the
following advice. We went to Lisses on a specific mission and
in relation to a larger project meeting HA was complete
luck and without him we would have missed a great deal. I would
recommend you only go to Lisses if you have a contact there
to show you around, and you go with a total respect for the
local residents and their property.
Its obvious when youre approaching someones
private residence SO DONT CLIMB ON IT! The last
thing we need is a locals only sign on the
edge of town
The First Jump
In what seems to be nearly the geographical centre of Lisses,
right outside the entrance to the school and between the school
and the estate proper is a courtyard area. In the centre of
this lies the First Jump. Three brick built and
concrete topped platforms form with their outer edges a broken
square, and with their inner edges a broken circle.
In the Jump London Documentary Sebastien Foucan tells us that
after school the local children would congregate here (they
still do). Someone would always jump the gaps between the platforms.
This was, he says, the first jump.
The size and displacement of the three platforms, the tree,
and a nearby lamppost all make for a host of PK possibilities.
Any vault can be achieved somewhere on the platforms, and their
irregular shapes allow a progression of skill to vault
first the narrowest and then the widest points. The three obvious
jumps are also graded there are three different distances
between the adjoining sides of the platforms, and an outer step
on one of the platforms introduces a fourth, much larger jump
from the outer step of one platform, over its width,
over a gap, and onto the next platform. The lamppost opens up
the possibility of a tic tac onto the lower or upper step of
a platform. The two heights are also perfect for training and
teaching palm spins. And finally the tree adds a whole other
dimension with many possible dismounts, and branch to
The Bollard Run
A stones throw from the First Jump is the Bollard Run at the
edge of the shopping concourse. 9 Bollards divided by a circular
planter and stationed between a large square planter at one
end, and a wall at the other. Simply very well spaced and a
nice height, width, and surface area to commit to a fast bollard
run. The precision jump onto the edge of the planter is reasonably
simple, the precision jump from the planter down slightly less
so, particularly if you ignore the nearest bollard and increase
the distance to hit the second one.
Hard to describe the emotions this humble emergency staircase
can conjure up in the heart of the Traceur. Featured in several
PK videos most noticeably David Belles Speed
Air Man these stairs offer a whole host of possibilities.
Obvious ones first: Straight jumps down from the two levels,
equally most vaults can be accomplished over the lower rail.
The higher is one strictly for the hard-core. Theres a
nice wall tic-tac at the side of the lower level. Rail to rail
precisions at both platform heights, lots of rail balances,
the theoretical rail to rail precision from the top to the bottom
level. Lots of balances are available. There is a nice straight
forward cat leap from the lower platform rail to the nearby
wall. I thought this was too far for me but was cajoled by HA
who said this was the first serious jump anyone in Lisses must
do when starting Parkour. Feels good to nail it. This jump can
also be done with a turn over on the rail, followed by a 180
degree cat which proved just inches too far for my current capabilities.
David Belle throws in the additional challenge of the horizontal
180 but hes 20 years further along his practice than me.
HA used the upper level to practice pull ups, walking his hands
up the bars there. I could hang on, but didnt have the
strength to pull up from there without using the adjoining wall
for foot-purchase. The large gravel floor surrounding the lower
level and the grass at the back of the upper level make for
perfect soft landings and PK roles.
HA took us to the back of the library where he gave me some
finger strengthening exercise. If ever proof was needed that
Parkour is not just about spectacular rooftop jumps; this is
The aim is very simple. Make it all the way along the face of
the building without touching the ground. This includes crossing
the gap jump (takes a little cat but is a welcome break from
hanging off of quarter inch ledges by that point). It took me
almost to that point to realise that there was a lower toe ledge
too, but by that time any hope of me doing the fourth face was
gone. I made three of four faces before my fingers cramped.
The wooden structure was used for under-bar pull ups, and for
balancing practice. Using the rails at the top for squats as
well build precision in the balance, as do the posts around
the end. The two benches make a great place to practise gap-jumps,
first with a run up and then from standing. The sprung chair
is another balance tool, and the nearby building the perfect
height to learn wall runs and PK rolls.
The Avenue and Subway
Down the avenue from LEscaliers there are a variety of
trees which we had assumed were un-climbable, despite seeing
HAs prowess at the First Jump. The nearby posts were good
for precision jumping, and an adjoining gate became the station
for a vaulting lesson. One thing that really struck home here
was the inventiveness of the Lisses Traceurs. Everything that
could be used was. The nearby subway entrance proved too high
for me to make more of, and was ignored by HA when we returned
there with him. This doesnt mean he wouldnt use
it probably just that he could see I wasnt up to
The Subway and Beyond
On the other side of the subway is a nice long chain of boulders,
well placed to jump from one to the other in a sustained run,
occasionally utilising a tree branch. The long low bollards
are also good for this we saw a great selection of different
bollard styles around Paris. The four gates near this field
also make reasonable vault and turn over practice, but arent
The Parc du Lac and around
More random collections of boulders, and lots of childrens
playgrounds (though age limits are marked on them). Picnic benches
are great for Kong vaults. The fence is used for a specific
fence based move very beautiful and very difficult.
Dame Du Lac
Its impossible to say too much about this remarkable sculpt.
It seems from the faded sign and the actual surface of the structure
that the Lady of the Lake was intended as a rock climbing practice
there are lots of old-school hand and foot holds, and
a few hooks ratcheted in that look as though they once took
Its easy to see why there is now a six foot fence around
the structure modern health and safety standards being
what they are but the pointlessness of the gesture only
reinforces the self-policing angle discussed earlier.
Best not to do this without a local on your side.
The Dame has to be the bench mark for all usable architecture
not only has the Dame looked down on the best Parkour
ever achieved often on her face and by the Lisses based
Traceurs but she must now stand as the international
symbol for Traceurs everywhere.
There is something remarkably reassuring about her. Without
sounding too mystical and my intention is quite the opposite
one feels nurtured on the Dame Du Lac.
There is something in a name of course, but the curvature of
the Dames face as well as the essential structure and
its composite parts have a great femininity. The textured face
is also comforting under the hand it is not sheer, but
brushed and there are many hand and foot-holds in addition.
The edges can be walked up reasonably easily. The front structure
which juts out from the face has a tunnel like entrance one
can climb into and up through onto a squared ledge. From here
one can tic-tac (or if one is David Belle wall 360 or even 720)
across to another sloped face, which forms one side of the rabbit
run working up the Dames face.
The three finger like structures on the left side of the face
can be climbed onto easily, and can be jumped down to from a
ledge about 4 feet above the upper finger. Another platform
rises above the first, and this can be gap-jumped from the top
of the rabbit run. The whole is topped by a third platform reached
from the edges.
The trip to Lisses was an incredible eye-opener for me, and
I think would be for anyone serious about Parkour.
There is a remarkable condensation of obstacles into a very
small area, and if you can get into the Lisses mind set youll
find more and more with every step.
Since returning Ive felt that my level of ability has
taken a huge leap forward. 4 hours at the birthplace of the
art form with one of the Lisses based Traceurs has improved
me more than the previous six months of self-initiated training.
In the Jump Britain doc Kerbie remarks that having gone to Lisses
he now knows what hes looking for whenever he goes out
training and there isnt a better way of summing
up what you get back from the pilgrimage. You go to find something,
and come back knowing what to look for. And if we are to learn,
we first have to learn HOW to learn. Maybe thats the best
thing you can ever know.
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