The video opens in grayscale, a striking contrast with the upbeat music and hopeful message of Rea Garvey’s “Is It Love?” I watch as a young man comfortably stands on the ledge of a tall building. Watching him framed against the grayed-out sky, he seems fearless. The concrete buildings around him, rather than being obstacles, raise him to new heights. A few minutes later, with effortless grace, he runs and leaps over the railing atop another high-rise building and lands firmly on his feet. Impressive! Those were eye-popping and memorable images of Jay James—parkour professional athlete, model, and musician.
Most people would probably agree that James has the same infectious allure as other sporting greats like LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Nevertheless, as fascinating and skillful as James is, he is just as humble. And from the moment he begins to speak, he is engaging, thoughtful, and forthcoming. We sat down with James to discuss his many talents and interests, chief among them parkour.
The Parkour Aficionado
To understand Jay James, one must first understand parkour which is gaining a lot of traction worldwide. Coming out of France in the late 1990s, parkour developed from military obstacle training. This acrobatic discipline requires its practitioners to move efficiently through their environments in the quickest way possible. Consequently, parkour athletes are more body aware and often show improvement in their proprioception. In this sport, your body is your greatest weapon. This is a philosophy that James, like all parkour professionals, takes seriously.
Parkour is not for the average person, so it comes as no surprise that James is not your average man. From a young age, James had been interested in Japan’s pop and visual culture, particularly anime and manga. This interest led to his practice of martial arts, particularly Ninpo, Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, and Capoeira.
While parkour seems to be a natural path for James, he had one wall to scale before any other: his fear of heights. “When I was a little kid my biggest fear was a long fall ... got rid of that,” James states. To do this, James put parkour philosophy into practice, changing his outlook on the ‘wall.’ This diligent tracer recounted how he had climbed a tree and refused to come down for approximately 2 hours while he “retrained his brain.” Smiling, James adds, “Some of the things I feared have become my favorite things. Like snakes and long falls. The greatest things are often on the other side of what you’re afraid of. Just what you need.”
In his late teens, James had the opportunity to train with the Japanese parkour athletes in Japan, on a trip sponsored by his parkour mentor. He was the only American in the group, and he appreciated the opportunity to gain valuable insights and build his parkour skillset, while having the pleasure of celebrating his birthday. James describes his first trip to Japan as a “mind blowing” experience.
His second visit to Japan, with Kat Marsh and the British rock band Bring Me the Horizon, gave James another chance to train with the Japanese parkour athletes. James recounted with enthusiasm how he stayed in a capsule hotel during his third visit to Japan - about a month after having returned to the states when he received news that he had booked his first TV gig in Tokyo. This opportunity took him back to Japan for a third time where he was able to get a taste of what it meant to be on screen, as a guest star on The Toppa Fairu - American Police: The Fearless Hijackers – a preparation, no doubt, for the big screen of his dreams.
In 2013, while in college, James got the break he was hoping for when an agent found him. In true parkour spirit, he left college and moved to Los Angeles, where he worked on several film and media projects. After completing his projects, James returned home to finish his degree, before leaving again for Los Angeles in 2016. With his raw talent, James has gone on to amaze viewers while playing roles in films like Left in this Mag MV, Watch the Leaves MV, The Chase, and Birds Eye Parkour, to name a few. Some of James’ television work includes My Carolina CBS17 News Parkour Lesson, World Chase Tag USA 2020, Professional Parkour Athlete 2017 WRAL News, and The Art of Parkour 2010. In addition, he has appeared in several commercials— The Greatest Showman, Carl’s Jr, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Lay’s Potato Chips, Nerf, and Overstock.
Blazing the Trail for Others
Since 2012, James has spent much of his time building his brand Rahyz Cary Fitness. Founded in Cary, North Carolina, the name itself is homage to his hometown, and the philosophy of his branding is rooted in “Rahyz,” which means to ‘rise’ above all. The name is manifested in the company’s emblem, which is that of a “legendary spirit” – a shapeshifter – that signifies adaptability. Rahyz Cary Fitness offers three main services: coaching, event performance, and film and media services.
So, how did the COVID-19 pandemic affect such an on-the-go man? As expected, the pandemic did not slow James down. A man of big ideas and execution, James spent 2020 planning the opening of his new Ninpo Bugei dojo and Parkour park, Rahyz Cary Fitness Training Grounds (www.RCFTrainingGrounds.com). While the facility has been under construction for a few months, James is planning the grand opening on May 1, 2021. Rahyz Cary Fitness Training Grounds is already off to a bright start, offering Ninpo classes with James and Sensei Ismael Rodriguez, a former Genbukan certified instructor and head of the Niji no Hashi Dojo. All ages and skills levels are welcome.
The Soulful Musician
In 2015, while doing a project, James tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). He knew recovery would take some time, so he wanted to do something that was meaningful. It was during this time that James purchased a guitar and learned to play and sing to pass the time. Today, when he’s not backflipping off buildings, participating in parkour tournaments, or teaching, James can be found creating music. He describes his music as “passionate and sensitive,” and added, “Every song is like an entry in my journal.” Writing songs and performing serves a way for James to release his emotions and thoughts, as well as push for awareness and resolution of issues. He currently has three new musical projects on the horizon - the first being his new upcoming single “Antidote (feat. Zarutt Malai & ek0) - Jay James”.
If you find yourself wanting to embody the Rahyz “legendary spirit,” be sure to check out James’ clothing line. To support James and his music career, check out his singles “Watch the Leaves” and “Left in this Mag,”available for purchase on iTunes and Google Play, and streaming on all major music platforms like Apple Music and Spotify.
Follow Jay on Instagram @JayJamesRahyz. Learn some new skills and level up at his dojo, the Rahyz Cary Fitness Training Grounds: www.rcftraininggrounds.com.
Visit Jay James at www.jayjamesofficial.com.