I spoke to Dom about his big tumble to his face in China last year, as well as a few other notable bails he's experienced. We get into his general mentality towards training and failing, and what goes through his mind when he's preparing for the worst.
A couple of weeks ago at the time of writing this Dom put out his bail-reel 'King of Parkour Fails'. To loosely coincide with that release I thought it would be cool to ask him a bit about some of the crazier moments in that video.
In my opinion there's no one else who takes a hit quite as well as Dom, so he's probably one of the best authorities when it comes to this topic. Check out the video below incase you haven't already seen it. And I hope you enjoy Dom's insights!
So, what IS it like to fall onto your face from several meters in the air?
Falling on your face from several meters in the air is... exactly like it sounds. I mean it all happens pretty fast, and it’s pretty scary. And… you fall on your face so it hurts!
There was like a moment where you place your hand on a stage and kinda push, which looked like it might have absorbed some of the impact. How aware were you of what was going on while it was happening?
Honestly, when I was falling I just remember that when I came down for that drop I kinda wasn’t in the flow state - I was kinda distracted by everything that was happening. I was thinking “Oh this is going really well, this is cool”, I just wasn’t in the state of mind that I should have been. So I oversent my speed for one of the drops, and then I put my hand down and I thought the reverse would catch me onto the next level… but it turned out I was too far to my left of the course, so I ended up tumbling down.
The only thing I remember from falling was actually; if you look carefully there is a microphone stand in the back of the shot, and I remember just kicking that out of my way, which I think ultimately sent me down face first, because I didn’t wanna get impaled.
Do you think your body’s instinct to do that, came from your parkour training, or do you think that’s primarily just general self-preservation / bodily intelligence?
I think ice skating was a huge factor in helping me fall well. One of the old school traceurs, Ish who runs Novel Ways Clothing, he mentioned to me very early in my training that “You have spectacular fails, but you always come out kinda scot-free”. I think that’s from awareness of my body, because I’ve been training with movement for such a long time, but also I guess it’s just a bit of luck!
Did time feel like it was going slow or anything? What was the weirdest thing about it all?
I definitely didn’t feel in this particular fall in China, the time slowing down. It was all so quick. But I think that was due to exhaustion as well, from coming out of the huge drops. A lot of the other times that I’ve had bails it has kinda had that slow motion feel to it - where I’m like “oh no, it’s happening!”, and then bang, it happens.
I think the weirdest part about the China fall was just that it all happened so quickly, and then I got up to finish the race - I thought I was fine, and then realised as soon as I put my hand down to get up that I was in a lot of pain from my hand. That’s actually what stopped me, it wasn’t dizziness or unconsciousness, it was just that I was in pain from my wrist. So internally I was like “Oh, I’ve gotta stop I’m probably pretty fucked up”.
You seem to handle ‘shock’ pretty well, have you always had a hardiness to you or did you have to develop that?
I definitely wouldn’t say that I’ve always had a hardness to me. I definitely learned resilience through ice skating and falling a lot on the ice during practice. Also from the hard yakka of being a garbage man. But at the end of the day I think I come off pretty lucky, and that’s why I handle the shock so well… I come out of it and I’m like “Oh, I’m relatively fine… I’m not dead!” so that helps.
Ice seems hard as fuck… did you take any big knocks in your figure skating days?
Yeah as I mentioned, ice is very hard! And when you hit it you don’t scuff yourself up as much as slide - so there is like a safety to it where you don’t get the grazes and scratches, but man… I hit the ice so hard so many times. I had to see physio at a young age to realign my pelvis because I’d always land on one hip as you come out of the rotation, and just have unbalanced hips and a misaligned pelvis because I just bashed it into the ice. And like tailbones, slaps, and all sorts of things - I even stabbed myself with my ice skate once… that was pretty fun.
Can you imagine taking a knock that would seriously change, or at least test your mentality?
I dunno I never really thought about taking a knock that would seriously change or test my mentality, ‘cause these knocks that I’ve had have been pretty serious and they came out of nowhere... and then I was fine. It’s just really about looking at the silver lining, and truly believing that you can get back to full health.
I was talking about this with Jason recently - about his foot. He was saying that a lot of people in that position feel like “Oh, my ankles are done, my knees are done”, but Jason fully believes like me, that you can fully work it back up to full strength even if you’ve done damage to it. That’s what the human body does, it heals!
What’s the worst bail you’ve seen in person that wasn’t your own?
I’ve been fortunate enough not to see not to many crazy bails in person. A lot of the bails that stand out to me over time are just shinnings… massive shinnings!
There was one special occasion where luckily he wasn’t too hurt but one of the guys from… I think he’s from Iran, his name was Daniel-something, and it was at a jam in Hamburg. Anyway there was a big frontflip inside a gym that everyone was saying I should do, and I was thinking “it’s a bit big, and I’m not really feeling up to doing a big frontflip right now”, and then this guy was like “Yo, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do this front flip Dom, just for you!”. I was a bit hesitant, but he did it anyway. He slightly overrated and knocked his head on the floor, and rolled out just like… laying on the floor. That was pretty intense to watch, but luckily he ended up being fine, he was just all like “What happened? What happened?”.
I really discourage people from like… sending stuff for somebody else - just do it because you wanna do it.
You seem to have no problem just going for stuff! Does the thought of stacking hard cross your mind beforehand? or do you just go for it and see what happens, trusting you’ll be alright?
Rarely I will have the mindset going into a jump where I’m thinking about the potential fails, or the bad side of things. A lot of the time I just feel like trusting myself to make it, and you know… In terms of going for stuff it comes down to repetition of movement - doing it over and over again in a safe space. Then you’re like “Oh I can definitely do it outside because I’ve done it this many times before and nothing’s gone wrong, so why would something go wrong this time?”.
The other side of it is knowing how to fall - I’ve fallen a lot so I feel like I know how falls work, and what could realistically happen if it goes wrong. If you look at a jump and you’re like “I can save myself this way, or I can save myself that way even if it does go wrong”, that really helps with having a positive outlook. I can just go for it, and if it’s a bit messy the first time I’ll at least have overcome the mental hump of doing it. And then boom… the next one, or the third one is the one that ends up visually appealing, or the stick of the jump or something.
Does your confidence come more from trusting you’ll land what you’ll be trying, or more that even if it doesn’t go right it’ll be fine anyway?
It’s a 50-50 balance between knowing I’ll make the jump, and knowing that I’ll be fine [even if I don’t]. When it does go wrong: 90% of the time I am very very confident that I’ll make the jump, and then something stupid happens… as opposed to not believing that I can do it and then just doing it anyway - that’s something that I rarely do.
I’m usually pretty quick to decide if I’m doing the jump or not. If I see it, and I think like “Yes, I can do it” then I’ll either come back another day and work up to it, or I’ll work up to it on that day. But if it’s something that I can’t do, I’ll just say “I can’t do that - That’s unfathomable, or a bit to scary, or it’s a bit to risky for me to try”. But I mean that’s the best thing about parkour - those things that come up that you can’t do now, but you might be able to do in 5 years.
You took a savage belly flop to your chest in that event in Spain, but just got up and carried on your run! Did it hurt at all after the adrenaline wore off? Were you winded at all in the run?
So the big fall I had in Vigo was actually a pretty crazy experience. I opened up in the sideflip and instantly I knew I was too early… I had a moment of ‘Oh fuck!” in the air before I smacked the the ground. But then because I had rehearsed landing the double side in my head - when I first started doing competitions I literally was going through my runs 100 times in my head, mentally rehearsing them so much - so even when I fell, I had this thing where my body automatically just robotted to continuing the rest of the run. As I was moving the adrenaline started wearing off, and the body started to give out. I was like “there’s my toe, oh my back’s a bit sore” and I sort of just finished my run there.
But yeah it was really… you know in movies where someone gets hit by a baseball bat, or they get shot and everything’s like ringing and a bit blurry - it was like that! But I always aspire to be someone who can take being shot, or take being tazed. You know what I mean? You gotta be tough.
To be fair though the next two weeks I was fuuuuucked, I was dead, man! I couldn’t straighten my left knee all the way while lifting it - so I could straighten it on the floor, but as soon as I tried to lift it with my own muscles I would have to bend it just to get it off the ground, which was just terrible! I smashed my toe, I split my chin a bit… [Thinks to himself out loud] did I get stitches? Nah I didn’t get stitches, meh whatever! And I also had really severe back swelling around my lower back, I was walking around like Sebulba from Star Wars, it was crazy!
But then I somehow managed to compete in Santorini two weeks later and qualify, and compete. I just strapped up my toe and my ankle and was like “We’re good” [in a grunty voice] and then did big frontflips. The toe only really affected my power output, as opposed to impact absorption, because you can shift that away from your toes and towards the balls of your feet.
Last one! You seem so chill even when shitty things happen like your phone getting smashed - is that mindset related in any way to how well you seem to take bails? What’s your philosophy about all that?
I mean It’s always just easier to look at the silver lining, is it not? I feel like a lot of people out there focus on the negative things in their life, and that will be a big catalyst for bringing you down. I mean I get stressed out about normal things like everybody else, but at the end of the day life is gonna throw you curveballs, and life’s gonna throw you shit. You just gotta keep pushing.
I think it doesn’t matter as long as you’re fine, as long as you can get back to health. Just be happy with yourself, I guess that’s why now I’m content with doing what I’m doing, so any hiccups along the road aren’t gonna make me upset, or take too much of my energy because I love parkour, and I have that constant in my life, so I don’t have to worry about little falls. I’ll get back up, I’ll do more shit, you know? There will be more financial income from the sport eventually. It all wraps up into one thing.
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Massive thank you to Dom for sharing some of those ideas and stories! I'm hoping this 'Made of Tougher Stuff' thing can be a bit of a series, so please leave some suggestions of who else I should interview about their bail stories!
If you want to find out more about Dom's story, and his rise from garbage man to Red Bull sponsored athlete, you can do so RIGHT HERE.
Cover Photo Credit: Patrick Morawetz