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Running free: Sebastien Foucan - the Bond villain who 'Lived Another Day'

By James Masters and Olivia Yasukawa, CNN
updated 8:14 AM EST, Wed March 5, 2014
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
The man with the golden run
  • Sebastien Foucan is one of the most successful free runners in the world
  • He moved from Parkour to free running after becoming disillusioned
  • Frenchman appeared in James Bond movie and toured with Madonna
  • He has his own academy in London where he shares his skills and expertise

CNN's Human to Hero series celebrates inspiration and achievement in sport. Click here for videos and features.

(CNN) -- There are not many Bond villains who survive to tell the tale of their encounter with 007.

Sebastien Foucan is neither shaken nor stirred, although that's more than can be said for his character "Mollaka" -- who was blown to smithereens by Daniel Craig in the 2006 epic "Casino Royale."

Foucan has proved even more elusive than the acrobatic bomb-maker he portrayed in the villages of Madagascar, where he vaulted through jungle and a construction site, leaping perilously off buildings and cranes.

Rather than "Die Another Day," the career of Foucan -- known as the founder of free running and a developer of its close relative Parkour -- has taken off in a way he never dreamed of.

"Being in the James Bond movie was just amazing," the Frenchman tells CNN's Human to Hero series. "It was fantastic working on a big stage, fighting James Bond and having the helicopter shoot everything.

"Knowing that I've never done any acting, I didn't plan to be in a movie like this. It was just fantastic.

"For the discipline, I think it was a big platform and I think it just made free running bigger and bigger.

"It keeps growing. I worked with Madonna on her 'Confession' tour and my life changed at this point because I went from being a free runner, an ambassador, to something even bigger."

Foucan has come a long way since running around Paris as a teenager with the likes of Parkour founder David Belle.

Parkour -- which is taken from the French word "parcours" meaning "route" or "course" -- consists of being able to "move freely over and through any terrain using only the abilities of the body, principally through running, jumping, climbing and quadrupedal movement."

Foucan, while a keen student of Parkour in his teens, believed that the discipline was far too narrow and lacked a spiritual aspect.

Instead, he created a fusion of the art -- taking Parkour and a new philosophical approach to bring about free running.

"It's a lifestyle," he says. "There is no beginning, no middle and no end. It is part of my life.

"It's like a bird. When a bird wakes up, it's a bird, it's flying, and for me it's exactly the same thing.

"It's when I wake up, I am free running; when I'm sitting, I'm still free running. When I talk to you, I'm thinking about free running. It's part of me now, it's like walking."

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In 2003, Foucan finally decided to break away from Parkour after performing in London, where he now resides.

His belief that "all the world is a playground" gives him a feeling of freedom which he treasures.

"Parkour at the beginning was very one-dimensional," he says.

"It was very A to B, 'we shouldn't do this, we shouldn't do that,' which doesn't work for me as an artist.

"I really feel like I want to express myself. I don't want to have any limitations.

"Free running is known as using the environment and expressing yourself -- which means you can do anything you feel. It's part of you.

"You can do flips, tricks, swing, anything which is creative and feels beautiful -- it's more my way. It's freedom of expression for me."

While most of us would simply walk around our city or neighborhood by using the sidewalk, such an idea is almost alien to Foucan.

If there is a slope to slide down or a wall to run up, then he needs no invitation to perform some of the moves witnessed in that breathless sequence where he runs from Bond.

"As soon as I get outside, my mindset turns to free running," he explains.

"I use the whole environment and instead of just following a straight path, I do my own way of going outside.

"If it's just to jump, to perform, you have to be really focused on what you're going to do, where you're going to put your step, on your technique also because the surface is completely different.

"It can be metal, it can be concrete and there are so many elements -- sometimes you can have also people coming and walking past.

"You need to pay attention and that's what you're thinking about before you do a single move."

The expertise to be able to pull off the stunts which Foucan does comes after 20 years of training -- five to seven hours a day.

Those who want to apply need only a high level of flexibility, excellent spacial awareness, unparalleled sense of balance and the ability of Spiderman when it comes to jumping and climbing.

Yes, even those who suffer from acrophobia -- a fear of heights -- can have a go, says Foucan, who has coped with the problem since his childhood.

While his background is in track and field, Foucan is a keen rock climber, plays football and ice skates -- even appearing in a British TV show, "Dancing on Ice."

All these skills garnered from different sports help to provide new inspiration and ideas for his free running.

"Each time I look at the city, I start to see how functional it can be," he said.

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"It's normal to walk down the stairs, to go to a different place, but for a practitioner from Parkour to free running, it is important for us to see how functional the environment is

"For example, a slope can be something you can slide down and feel your balance. Stairs -- you can see how many times you can bounce down them.

"We have also got a technique that we call 'tick tack' where you use the wall to the side.

"The environment is like a computer game where you see a ghost of yourself. You picture a line or a route and you think to yourself, 'Can I do this path?' That is how I see the environment."

Free running has become more and more popular in recent years, with Fourcan setting up his own academy.

His expertise and advice is invaluable to those fellow thrillseekers who fuel their escapism through adrenaline.

But as Fourcan confirms, free running does come with a health warning.

"It is a very risky discipline," he says. "If you don't know what you are doing then you can hurt yourself and even die.

"Fear and risk is a perception and if you do something without knowing what you're doing, you're going to be in trouble, you're going to hurt yourself.

"There is danger everywhere. Whether you're taking the car, the plane, whether you are Olympic athlete, there is risk and you can hurt yourself.

"People need to know everything required -- dedication and a lot of practice."

Now 39, you might expect Foucan to be contemplating retirement from such an extreme sport.

That option is not even a consideration at this moment in time -- if ever.

"I see myself even more than an athlete," he says. "I would see myself as an ultimate athlete.

"In a sense, I'm closer to an animal, to my inner nature. There is no end of my career; you don't have a point where you go, 'Oh, now you're 29 or 30 years old and now you're finished.'

"It doesn't work like this for me. It will be forever, I will practice this forever until I die."

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