DeVille van Niekerk

DeVille van Niekerk might have been born and raised in South Africa, but he is pure Hollywood glam.  DeVille is a frequent traveler between South Africa and America and has rubbed shoulders with various celebrities in his vibrant and very successful career as stuntman, actor and teacher of parkour.  Some of his recent stunt work includes Of Kings and Prophets, Chappie, Kite and Black Sails. DeVille was also cast in the role of Lieutenant Hersey in Black Sails Season 3.

Despite (probably) having very good reason to be an elitist, DeVille is extremely friendly, down to earth and humble. He loves a good coffee (fortunately Cape Town has plenty!), a great book, spending time outdoors and he definitely isn’t afraid of heights. DeVille and his partner, Emile Sievers, are in the process of launching their own functional fitness academy, Evobility™. It is a total body development fitness system which draws from the principles of gymnastics, calisthenics, parkour, yoga, capoeira, quadrupedal movement and “animal flow” (DeVille is the only qualified “animal flow” instructor in South Africa). Evobility™ is primed to launch in 2017 with the grand opening of the Evobility Academy situated in Pretoria. When creating Evobility™, DeVille and his partner drew from the teachings of Georges Hébert in addition to the disciplines mentioned above.

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My workouts generally don’t feel like “work” outs – they feel more like an active play session where I’m challenging myself in as many ways as I can think. 

DeVille might be humble, but I’m certainly not humble about his love for Fria’s superfoods!! Bragging about it might just become my default conversation topic over the next few weeks!!! So now that he is in my debt (you know, because he is getting all of my healthy sprouted protein treats for free), I am taking full advantage and asked if we could do a quick interview so that I could get to know him a little bit better. Luckily for us, he was more than willing!!

Fria’s superfoods: DeVille Vannik. This is the name you use to introduce yourself as an actor and stuntman on various social sites. Is it because the Americans had trouble pronouncing Van Niekerk?

DeVille: That is definitely part of it, Fria. When I started working in the industry I adopted the screen name of Vannik under which all my professional work is credited in order to help maintain some separation between my work life and private life. And yes, the decision to make it more “user friendly” on the US tongue came from encounters with American friends who found it virtually impossible to pronounce Van Niekerk correctly! It did make for some hilarious moments though.

Fria’s superfoods: Your fitness brand, Evobility™, is based on various fitness systems, one of which you describe as “animal flow”. What should people expect when they join a training session that incorporates this movement?

DeVilleAnimal flow is a lot of fun and can be quite challenging. It incorporates quadrupedal and ground based movement, mixing it with various body-weight training disciplines. So basically you’re on all-fours and you reach, stretch, balance and flow from one movement into the next.

The emphasis is on multi-planar fluid movement. Animal flow develops mobility, flexibility, strength and endurance. But I can write you an essay on it and you still wont really understand until you see it. Heres a link to a promo video of animal flow performed by its founder, Mike Fitch. 

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I will forever be a student in the arena of movement and training, there is just so much to learn.

Fria’s superfoods: You list numerous disciplines that you have mastered during your fitness career: gymnastics, capoeira, martial arts, parkour, calisthenics, rock climbing……. Is there any sport that you are not interested in trying out at all? And any sport that you have tried out and just could not get the hang of?

DeVille: I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered those disciplines. I will forever be a student in the arena of movement and training, there is just so much to learn. But those are primarily the ones I have spent years honing. I would try just about any sport, but I can’t really say that I’d be keen to try out bull riding. I’ll leave the rodeo to the cowboys. (Fria’s superfoods – I feel very disappointed all of a sudden).

Fria’s superfoods: You taught Parkour and Freerunning at the world-renowned Tempest Freerunning Academy in Los Angeles. What was the best part of teaching and did you ever have the chance to work with any celebrities during your time over there?

DeVilleI am so blessed to have had the opportunity to become a part of the Tempest family. It is far more than just a slick freerunning gym where athletes from around the world come to train. It’s about a lifestyle and community that embraces overcoming obstacles and expressing who you truly are through your own unique movement and abilities. The support and encouragement from a positive community of like-minded individuals is an amazing feeling. It is the perfect environment to grow and come into your own. From the owners to the students, they are some of the most amazing people on the planet and dedicated to the growth and spread of this beautiful art form.

Teaching there has afforded me one of the greatest privileges one can ask for, both as a student and a teacher. To learn from some of the best athletes and movers in the world, and to help others discover their potential as they level up, becoming more confident and capable with each lesson. That is a wonderful gift that has enriched my life and has taught me so much about myself and others.

There have been a bunch of awesome people that have graced the mats and bars of the Academy. Steve Aoki, Ellie Goulding, Stephen Amell and Taylor Lautner all enjoy a bit of freerunning.

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…the type of training you do should complement your lifestyle…. The key to functional strength and fitness is that it needs to translate to real world application.

Fria’s superfoods: You obviously need to look after your health and your body very well being a stuntman. Can you tell us a bit more about what your training on a typical day would look like? Do you focus more on cardio or weights? And how many hours do you spend on training when you are preparing for an intense job?

DeVilleMy workouts consist mostly of body-weight style calisthenic training with some resistance days peppered in. I like to mix up the various elements like explosive plyometric parkour style training, static or isometric work like hand balancing, levers and flagpoles, quadrupedal ground-based training like “animal flow” and capoeira with intense cardio and dynamic stretching attributes.

Some of my favorite workouts incorporate gymnastic strength on the rings as well as acrobatics that develop aerial awareness and proprioception. There are a lot of different puzzle pieces that make up a fully holistic training regimen. My workouts generally don’t feel like “work” outs – they feel more like an active play session where I’m challenging myself in as many ways as I can think.  Some days it’s more skills based than strength, other days I like to get the heart rate up and keep it there for a bit with full-body circuits and high intensity movement. And then there are those days where I focus more on movement challenges which require you to employ one or multiple disciplines and some creative problem solving to complete the challenge.

To articulate and apply your movement in unconventional ways tests just how adaptable and functional your body is. It’s also an excellent way to find your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

For me, the type of training you do should complement your lifestyle. If you like to be adventurous and explore the great outdoors, then train for it so that you can handle whatever challenges the terrain might throw at you. For instance, natural method training is the perfect fit for that. If you’re going to be picking up or moving heavy things all day then train for that. Build strong joints and ligaments, a solid core and use progressive loading and resistance training to build that supporting framework that will complement those tasks. The key with all of it though is diversity. 

Most – if not all – human movement falls into one of the following categories: walking, running, jumping, lifting (objects as well as your own body), climbing, throwing, balancing or moving on all fours.

Only when all these components are trained and developed in synergy, will your body function at its maximum potential; and the sum of your abilities will reach greater heights than partial abilities in isolation.

The key to functional strength and fitness is that it needs to translate to real world application. And since the things we encounter in our day-to-day lives are so diverse, it’s important that you develop that kind of all-round fitness and adaptability to any physical demand.

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Personally If I’m training for a particular stunt job I’ll determine what the action will require and then train the disciplines that will best serve that action. On average my training sessions last between 2 and 3 hours. And due to the nature of my work I can rarely train on a set schedule or routine, so training happens anywhere and everywhere.

It’s not a chore, it’s a lifestyle.

And in this lifestyle opportunities to train are everywhere. From something as simple as taking the stairs versus the elevator to more demanding challenges like muscle ups on the scaffolding over the sidewalk. Once you become aware of it, the world becomes your playground and your gym. And you soon discover you don’t need much to give yourself a good workout.

Fria’s superfoods: I have a really intense love of sweet things. That is why I started Fria’s superfoods – to still be able to eat something that tastes good, but without all of the bad stuff that goes with it. What is the one food that you just cannot say no too? And if I had to “healthify” a treat for you, what would you choose?

DeVille: Oh yes, carrot cake! My favorite. But Id also go for a healthy cake pop.

Fria’s superfoods: You are a celebrity in your own right. Have you ever had a stalker?

DeVille: I definitely wouldn’t call myself a celebrity, but I guess like most of us I have had one or two stalkers. But I employ all my ninja training to dodge them!

Fria’s superfoods: Your celeb crush? Have you ever had an experience where you met someone you really admired and made a total fool of yourself?

DeVille: Celeb crush, probably Jessica Alba when she starred in Dark Angel. But these days Katheryn Winnick who plays Lagatha on Vikings. She is gorgeous and a total badass. And oh yes, I have most certainly made a fool of myself in front of someone I really admired, and almost knocked myself out in the process. Good times. Keeps one humble, haha.

Fria’s superfoods: Describe your perfect holiday?

DeVille: Exploring deserted beaches, forests and mountains on an uninhabited island. Sleeping in a tree house, riding wild horses, swimming in the sea and living off the land.  Id eat raw fruit and vegetables, chow down on nuts and hunt game. I could happily be swinging around the jungle like Tarzan, looking for my Jane.

Fria’s superfoods: And then lastly, why did you want to become an ambassador for Fria’s superfoods?

DeVilleBecause I really believe in what you’re doing and this is the perfect complement to a healthy, balanced lifestyle as well as the more natural approach to training and fitness. Besides, once I tasted one of your delicacies I was so hooked! And like you, I also have a sweet tooth and I really enjoy a delicious treat. But my body just doesn’t perform well when it’s been stuffed with sugars, refined this and processed that. If you are an athlete your body is akin to a high performance sport car, and if you put crappy fuel in that car no matter how beastly the motor, it won’t run like its supposed to. When I’ve had some of your snacks before or after a workout they’ve been a perfect complement to the training. I never feel sluggish or bloated, I have sustained energy and best of all they just taste so damn good that I have zero desire to go pack away a chocolate bar or piece of cake.

Want to see more of Deville? Follow this link where he tells us more of his fitness philosophy.

Check out DeVille showing off his parkour skills in this parkour reel.  And his acting skills in this Positec commercial.

For more details, you can also visit his website!

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