Welcome to another day of your parkour life. How was it?
A typical day for me starts out with coffee and parkour videos on YouTube. For all 15 years of my parkour life I’ve been subscribing to parkour channels here and there, and YouTube has a nice convenient tab titled “subscriptions.” It is here that everyones’ latest videos are shown and I try to make my way through most of them. People mostly only post on Instagram now, so this practice has sadly been dwindling with each passing year
I prefer to train in new places and areas that I haven’t been to yet. The sense of exploration and finding new environments to work with has been one of the most exhilarating parts of parkour for me since Day 1. But I also prefer to train with others rather than alone, so if I’m able to meet up with someone (or them with me) then it’s usually a location that works best for us. When my decision to train is more on the spontaneous side and I’m on my own, you’ll never catch me at a spot I’ve been to before. On days where I’m doing my delivery job, it’s not uncommon for me to quickly pull over and save a spot I saw while driving, a new exciting location for me to come explore someday soon. Every once in a while I’ll take time to stretch, but what I love more than anything is taking long, loaded-up baths at the end of long days with a glass of wine or a beer and watching a good movie or show.
What were the biggest obstacles back in 2005 when you started training that discipline called parkour? Did your gymnastics roots helped or were they an unnecessary mold? What was the biggest lesson from those 4 years of training alone?
I am so thankful for my gymnastics roots because it gave me strength, skills, coordination, understanding and confidence that I would never have had otherwise. It was an unbreakable foundation that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Entering into parkour was like a whole new world opening up in front of me. I was quite familiar and comfortable with the world I’d been residing in, but here was a brand new, foreign, and exciting world that stretched out with no end in sight. Oh yes, there was a lot of unlearning and relearning involved.
The first and best example was when I tried my first wallflip. I thought it was easy, it was just a backflip after all, I’d already done thousands of every kind. I went for it, and sure enough I rotated straight over onto both knees…on concrete. It was at that moment when I painfully realized I had a lot more learning to do, and that some of the form and techniques I’d learned in gymnastics were not always going to cut it for many of these new tricks. All the un-learning and relearning has been a fun and transformative process albeit grueling much more often than anticipated. Through it all I’ve learned so much about myself and how the laws of nature work. Many of the obscure and amazing moves I was exposed to right away were supposed to be impossible, but here there were people doing them with ease! My gymnast mind couldn’t comprehend a lot of it, but that’s what made slowly apprehending them one-by-one all the more invigorating. In fact, I find myself feeling like that all over again with all these young athletes doing double cork pres and inventing new tricks on a daily basis.
Back in 2011 doing my first kong gainer outside made me a total boss, and nowadays it’s hardly anything to wink at. I love seeing how much the sport is progressing, and how quickly too. It sounds odd coming from a gymnast, but accuracy and balance have been the hardest realm of parkour for me to contend with. Sticking precisions and especially anything involving rails has been immensely difficult for me to master. I was used to having to grit my teeth and muscle through everything—so movements that required finesse and a more restrained, delicate touch were very difficult for me.
Is it true that all the roots lead to two things: forum and Yamakasi?
When I started parkour I knew nothing of the Yamakasi, and I wasn’t exposed to the forums until several years later when I met others that trained. For me it was simply YouTube videos that got me into parkour and inspired my training. Russian Climbing was the first “parkour” video I ever saw. I had my gymnastics background and here was a new exciting way for it to transform and expand. Obviously Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan predate the Yamakasi, who are in turn predated by performers, jesters, and any earlier athletically adept humans all the way back to the beginning of time.
Movement has always been a part of our existence and pushing our boundaries and capabilities is just as ancient. How our species has evolved and developed, the technology we’ve created, and how we create the world around us has simply allowed us to come to a point where we can label effective and efficient movement as “parkour.”
To train effective and efficient movement is no new idea, and I think as convenience and ease become more available through knowledge and technology, it’s more of a foreign notion than it ever has been.
The Yamakasi rebelled against the livestock nature we as humans are headed towards, and it was a resonance felt by many others around the world. For me, a true parkour athlete is someone who explicitly travels around to move smoothly and effectively wherever they can, for no other reason than that. Simply to maintain the joy and art of movement.
You are from the generation that is self-taught. Do you think today is easier? Better? Or is what we do today a completely different discipline?
I don’t believe it’s a different discipline today than it was. We moved around because we enjoyed how it felt and we liked becoming more capable. No change has come to that. And even with all of their beliefs and philosophies, the Yamakasi can’t deny feeling like that either. Students wouldn’t be coming to parkour classes if they weren’t experiencing that as well. I think it is both easier and harder for the new generation.
Easier, because they have an endless amount of learning material through videos, tutorials, and documentaries. And not just the physical aspect of parkour, but the mental side too—with the philosophies and mindsets of different athletes all right there at their fingertips. And that’s to say nothing of this present world full of parkour gyms with experienced coaches to go to, starting as early as infancy if it pleases them. And yet, with a whole world full of aspiring athletes all working hard to be as good as possible, the skill level and attainable ability has just skyrocketed to nonsensical levels. With only 5 or less years of experience, there are hundreds of young athletes doing incredible stuff I’ve never even thought to do, or ever will do.
I view a 360 Kong Gainer Full precision as “after my time”, something I’ll never do. But here at the gym I coach at, I have a 13 year old who sees that as their future. To them, that’s what they’re working towards and what they’ll manage to achieve. The level of pressure must be immense! Especially with national and international competitions becoming more regular and constantly pushing the bar. While I have a side of me that gets bummed out from seeing such incredible skill that I’ll never be able to attain from athletes far younger and less experienced than me, I’m also extremely thankful that I’ll never have to deal with the kind of pressure that they have to deal with. For us back in the day, learning a palm flip or a corkscrew was the pinnacle of freerunning, but now those are just the starting points. As a simple A-Twist was my next exciting high-level trick to achieve, the forerunners of today’s parkour world have their sights set on two-step Wall Gainer Full-in Back Outs or triple frisbee gyros and whatnot.
Socialisation through parkour – something you can’t avoid or the best part of the discipline?
I have two ways I define parkour:
1. “The art of moving smoothly and effectively through a space” and
2. “A good way to spend good time with good people.”
Socialization and parkour have always gone completely hand-in-hand for me. Today I feel like my whole life started when I first met others that trained parkour, and ever since then, it is training with others when I feel most alive. Us parkour people, we’re mostly misfits in one way or another, aren’t we? Most fellow athletes that I’ve met have shared that same feeling of never seeming to truly fit in anywhere…and here all of a sudden was parkour to finally give them a home.
The friendships and relationships I have through parkour are the most authentic and satisfying I’ve ever had. I know there are plenty of athletes out there that train alone and prefer to do so. To them, with their profoundly different lives and needs, solitary training is what deeply satisfies them. I totally understand and respect that. It’s no different than what I experience in my own, different way. And I definitely enjoy a good solo sesh here and there too. I respect and admire every parkour athlete that is enjoying their journey and experiencing the satisfaction they need from it.
You do parkour for life. Is that a good life? Does that make the ends meet?
It is a good life. I’m doing what I love and who knows how many people I’m inspiring along the way. Even with some pretty significant injuries here and there I’ve never felt discouraged or deterred. Coaching is my main job, and paired with my other job it’s enough to make ends meet and I’d say I’m content. It seems there are currently a handful of options for a parkour career: Pioneering/Running a gym, coaching, acting/stunt work, running a clothing line, being a Red Bull sponsored athlete, or literally winning every single gold medal at every single competition that springs up. Mad props to Storror for making “being a team” a doable career too! In any of those categories, a livable wage is very difficult to attain.
Parkour is just not a big enough deal to actually merit a “make ends meet” salary. And I know many gym owners that have been bombarded by crashing tides of doom time and time again. I have to work an entirely different job on the side of coaching just to still be considered on the poverty line in America. I’m amazed by anyone that lives on parkour alone. Consider me fascinated and proud with how they manage to do it. If there’s any advice I have to give it’s this: don’t overdo whatever will burn you out. If you’re like me and too much coaching makes you burn out, then something’s gotta give and you have to do what you have to.
I know parkour is being considered for the Olympics and if that happened it would cause a huge change in the parkour world. Perhaps then, any job involving parkour won’t be quite as much of a deadbeat career—from competing as an athlete to the web design of an upcoming event .
Teaching parkour and training parkour – what is the ideal amount of each in a tracers life, and why?
I have burned out from coaching. It’s a deceptive little bugger. You love parkour more than anything so you think “what could be better than making a living by teaching parkour?!” And yet once you’ve started coaching regularly you realize there’s a bizarre difference between teaching it and doing it. It really is different. I’ve been to that place where you are teaching soooooo much that you don’t even do it for yourself anymore and the last thing you want to do in your free time is go train.
Read in the second part of the interview…