David Belle (born 29 April 1973) is a French soldier largely credited as the founder of parkour. He is also a physical educator, stuntman and actor. His military training and early athletic, climbing, gymnastic, and martial arts training acted as the foundations for the discipline he has developed.
David Belle was born and raised in Fécamp, France. He descends from a modest family in the suburbs of Paris. His grandfather Gilbert Kitten, father Raymond Belle, and brother Jeff Belle have been highly skilled rescuers in the French military fire service.
He spent the first 14 years of his life in Fécamp and later in Les Sables d’Olonne, a time during which he demonstrated a taste for action and fast movement. He excelled in athletics, climbing, gymnastics and martial arts. He was strongly inspired by his maternal grandfather Gilbert Kitten who evoked in him a passion for heroism and helping other people.
In 1988, at the age of 15, Belle left school and moved to Lisses, Paris to begin his national service. In this time he obtained his French national First Aid certificate and UFOLEP certificate of gymnastics leadership. He made close friends with a group of teenagers with a similar physical passion, who later became the Yamakasi (Yann Hnautra, Frédéric Hnautra, David Balgogne, Sébastien Foucan and Kazuma). After joining the fire brigade with aspirations of following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, he was temporarily discharged due to a wrist injury and did not return for personal reasons.
He later joined the Troupes de marine in Vannes, where he received a promotion, a gymnastic agility certificate of honour, and champion records for Regimental rope-climbing (which his father had once held) and the Essonne obstacle course. He has however said that his taste and love for adventure and freedom did not go well with the regimented life of the military.
Upon completing his national service he worked in various professions including a warehouse worker, security guard and furniture salesman. He then flew to India and obtained a Black Belt in kung fu. After his return he began promoting his discipline by filming footage of his capabilities. In 1997 the Stage 2 team (Francis Marroto, Pierre Sleed and Pierre Salviac) were shown a video and decided to create a film about Belle and parkour, in a series of his collaborations with ‘the speed-air man’, ‘catmen’, ‘la Relève’ and ‘les traceurs’. The word ‘traceur’ has since been used to define a practitioner of parkour.
Belle was first introduced to his acting career in a meeting with Hubert Koundé (La Haine), in order to discuss the success of parkour on the big screen. He then began developing his acting ability with the play Pygmalion, and has since been successful in obtaining a number of roles mostly in French films and promotions. Belle has been featured in promotional videos for Tina Turner, and Iam. He has starred in “Les gens du voyages” and “Un monde meilleur”, followed by “L’Engrenages” and “Femme Fatale”, as well as “Les rivières pourpres 2”, starring Jean Reno. After filming several more advertisements and promotions for the BBC, Nissan, Coca-Cola, and Nike, Belle was contacted by Luc Besson (director of Nikita, and The Fifth Element) regarding co-starring as lead actor with Cyril Raffaelli in the action movie District 13, followed by the sequel District 13: Ultimatum.
He participated to the stunts coordination for Babylon A.D., in 2008 and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
- “Louis Page” as Laurent (1 episode, 2000)
- Engrenage, L’ as Le créancier (2001)
- Femme Fatale as French cop (2002)
- Divine Intervention (Also known as Yadon ilaheyya) as Marksman1 (2002)
- District 13 (French: Banlieue 13) as Leïto (2004)
- Un monde meilleur as main soldier (2006)
- Babylon A.D. as the kid with tattoos (2008)
- District 13: Ultimatum (French: Banlieue 13 Ultimatum) as Leïto (2009)
- BBC One’s advertising campaign (2002)
- Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse (2003)
- Transporter 2 (2005)
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
- Cons (2000)
David Belle’s groups
- Yamakasi (former member)
- A practitioner of this modality calls himself a traceur, or herself a traceuse. Many parkour groups exist to promote the discipline, some choosing to do so commercially, others sticking to the more purist form.
- PAWA (former member)
- David helped form the Parkour World Association, but he stopped the group for lack of cohesion.