At 26, Doyle is one of the most visible and active freerunners in the world. In 2007, the British native won the Red Bull Art of Motion competition in Vienna.
Fresh off filming a documentary about freerunning in Mexico, Doyle ended up in Los Angeles for a few days to relax, prepare for his next challenge and put his parkour talents to work in the city and at USC.
Parkour, sometimes called the art of displacement, is a discipline of movement aimed at getting to a destination in the most direct, efficient way possible.
Its cousin, freerunning, is sometimes criticized for being more “showy” in its use of spins, flips and other tricks.
But Doyle does not like the distinction.
“I like to think of myself as a freerunner that does parkour,” he said.
Doyle has been doing his brand of parkour and freerunning for 11 years and has competed professionally in freerunning for eight years.
Since winning the Art of Motion competition, Doyle has become Red Bull’s parkour ambassador and a consultant for the competition.
Doyle’s interest in freerunning was a natural progression from childhood.
“You could say parkour found me,” he said. “As a kid I was always climbing trees and stuff like that. When I grew up, I took that along with my martial arts background and just went into parkour.”
For Doyle, parkour is more utilitarian than freerunning, but he says the two are intertwined. Doyle also stressed that freerunning is not random. Each run takes preparation, forward thinking and a strong awareness of one’s environment.
“It’s all mental,” he said. “I’ve mentally got to connect the dots to get to a goal. It’s the same in life. You connect the dots to overcome obstacles. People always look at someone doing it and think he’s crazy, but a lot of it is calculated.”
Freerunning requires a lot of concentration, and Doyle works to make sure he’s physically and mentally prepared for each move.
In fact, he says he worries more about not experimenting than about messing up or hurting himself.
“I’ve got to do something every day,” he said. “A flip or something, just to keep me alert. The word ‘dangerous’ is based on past examples. ‘Oh, this happened, so I shouldn’t do it.’ Well, I did this, and it worked, so it’s not dangerous. It’s all relative.”
This mindset was evident as Doyle went to work on USC’s campus on Wednesday, climbing, jumping, flipping and sliding over stairways at the bookstore, rails at Leavey Library, even doing flips off the statue of Traveler on Trousdale Parkway.
Even when he failed to complete a move, he was quick to shrug it off and try again.
“Every time I do something and it works, I’m like, ‘Wow,’” Doyle said.
This feeling is what drives his love of freerunning. According to Doyle, freerunning is so open to interpretation and different styles that the only determining factor is what each person brings to the sport.
“If you look at one guy do a flip, how do you know he’s doing it correctly?” Doyle asked.
Doyle also sees parkour as a way to help get people active.
“People want to be Spider-man, they say go buy the video game, twiddle your thumbs,” Doyle said. “If I want to be Spider-man, I go out and do it.”
But even with parkour’s growing popularity, Doyle isn’t concerned with getting famous from it. He is happy practicing what he loves.
“I’m not materialistic, I’m not religious,” he said. “I just want to live.”