Is there a story you would like to share?

I was hesitating to drop this personal story. I am always aware I could hurt someone’s feelings or so. But I think each reason for practise is personal. Some need to prove something to the self. The fact is, we all interact on totally different levels.

When I started squatting, it was after 9 years in Parkour and straight after separation with my ex-girlfriend. I will save you the story about that relationship, I will tell just “this is how you learn to back someone”.

When I went squatting, it was to extend philosophy of “impossible”. I don’t know many people in here I think, hardly anyone knew me before my transformation. The weakest, with curled back, glasses, diction disfunctions, child of an alcoholic. I didn’t have friends. I wasn’t “cool”. I was drawing for whole days, knowing I can afford hardly anything. Here, in Poland, we have german prices and ukrainian salaries. I was escaping home. I was sad. More books I read, more aware of something wrong around I was.

My first pk team… I loved guys for the passion. At some point there were about 22 of us. But nor for long. Lack of time (“I need to go for a beer!”), energy (“but I like smoking!”), knowledge (“my back used to be like this for my entire life!”) made us fall apart. Then we created first ever polish sports club that treated about Parkour.

And here I am getting towards important things.

Lack of any knowledge and any older practitioners made people that jump a bit further think they are better than anyone. I am doing this for 12 years now. I used to play basketball before. I had to become stronger, more endurant, more jumpy. I started Parkour trainings, because I have learned that is training method that could improve any skills. Other, non-sportive skills were waiting for their order at that point.

I got supported from Parkour Generations. Some say they wanted to use me. Some say I was fit for this crew. The fact is, while my other colleagues were like “come on , just jump”, they were happy to give me tasks, put some responsibility on me, finally I git involved as a coach, when we realised I can explain, show, break other person fear. For me, who comes from total darkness, it is relatively easy. In 2013 Adapt was hard I have heard. I missed 0.04% to get 100%.

Squatting was real school. I knew who I am. That time I wanted to learn. I knew there are people who already don’t want to deal with money anymore. We built from what we found. Ate what we got. Helped local communities. Involved many people in different activities. We turned some homeless guys into serious artists and any other kind of activists. After 5 months I found I am on constant holiday, that was time to get back and help my mom. During ghat 5 months I did 2 big workshops in Poland. That’s how my country learned there is someone who actually can push stuff forward.

Unfortunatelly, after coming back many people were like “who da fuck you think you are?”. This is how I got separated from the scene I had built. Biggest gatherings, shows, tv interviews, but never any dirty business – no shit ads, promoting any organisations or activities I wouldn’t agree with. When I found what honesty actually is, I started transforming – my back got straight, shoulders strong, my belly went back, even my sight got improved. I got rid of most of toxic behaviours and stopped being where there are still present (yep, that includes my closest family).

I knew I am not going to force and push between ones that haven’t experienced what I did. I seem crazy for many. Regardless, I run my own academy, set from A to Z by myself. I still keep high standard and I often see people are not ready for this, but ones that are, come back stronger, more confident, they get healthy in less than two months! All of them – rich, poor, kids, adults, sportives and non-sportives. I teach performers and actors. I run school classes now.

I was opposed to polish federation, as competition was “the only” to be presented. And there is about 5 fairly working academies around my country. Now I got that nice feeling when that association (I honestly don’t know if it is official now) got opposed fig. We are all growing up and see easy ways are to trap us.

By all this I am trying to say, Pakour is way more than just a performance. I know we tried to promote it as a sport (which is a huge promotion from ‘spiritual’ ones), but for me, despite I can fairly call myself “an expert”, term “training method” suits better. We can improve literally anything this way. And I proved you can survive, create and have fun without sacrificing yourself. So far none of “big sports organisations” succeed. Examples? Motor sports – ads of energy drinks and ciggies. Football? Everything that is bad. The most fair disciplines about advertising are lifting competitions, as performers “don’t do anything spectacular”, and we live in world of constant show and instant gratification.

I see ones defending Montpellier show, I can hear voices about “progression”. From my perspective, it is like we were trying to exchange one illness for other. We are here to encourage each other, not to prove that “I am the best”. Noone is! How would we compare? What are the standards? Better start conditions? Cleaner life? Longer legs? Power of the worldwide community lies in unity and different skills of different people. I have passed stunt school. My notes were so high I got into stunt crew instantly. I see no reason to tun around screaming “I an the best!”. That is what you supposed to hear from your students, you know.

I think our miscommunication and lack of trust comes from lack of specific experiences. I did everything I could to see if I can fully trust myself and what are situations Parkour would be really useful. You’d need to see me getting squats, without using any help, any tools, in the middle of the day. Laurent reminds of ethics often. Some people are not honest against themselves. Some do everything to please parents or other people. Some get asked – you train for so long and you get nothing? I understand motivation of some. After all, when you jump, you are alone.

Some people don’t get sense of “we start together and finish together”. Some get pissed off because people around think slow. Some get this mad they shut people down instead of opening them. And some are constantly surrounded with friends that have no issues, they only want to jump. And use the opportunity, when cannot create anything in their own.

When it comes to Adapt, I think that is the best accessible tool I have experienced. I have heard a lot about it, money issues, trust issues. Have heard Yamakasi hate PkG. in fact, it makes people meet, learn and give the responsibility, and that is why I want it in Poland. I don’t mind “competition” when it comes to other schools. Yep, capitalism, yep, something, but or we create, or build ourselves to get sold to someone that is going to exchange us when we are tired/injured/old/independent. Parkour/ADD as a tool to build the better self, right? We can base on personal experiences.

I’d be happy to see “ethic commision” or something. Trust is not easy to gain. I see no reason to trust anyone that only gives money. Personally, if I wanted to be a prostitute, I’d chose classic way. Much love you all!

An experience of urban exploration

This is a story of an urban exploration adventure I had with parkour people, going to the top of a big bridge in NYC.

The way up was exciting but very safe. We had to a little easy beam balancing and climbing when we realized we were on the wrong side of the freeway to reach our access point and then some very simple and unexposed climbing. After that it was a night hike, ascending a metal staircase that was almost a ladder. With every level we climbed, past crisscrossing girders and huge cables like harp strings, more of the city revealed itself. At the peak of the stairs, we climbed a ladder that went through the center of a dark, vertical cave of metal in the ceiling. Through that cylindrical hole we emerged into a dusty metal box of a room with no lights and graffiti covered windows. I thought we’d reached a dead end, but then saw one side of the room was lit by moonlight filtering through a space big enough to climb through. We pulled ourselves up through that gap and then squirmed out a porthole window into the fresh night air on top of the bridge.

I tested the ground beneath me to see how strong, how slanted, how dusty it was, how far in each direction until the world dropped away. Then, satisfied that I could relax and enjoy, I let the panoramic view of the city wash over me.

My first impression was just a mass of twinkling lights: shimmering reflections on the water, the massive yellow moon low on the horizon, and clusters of dark geometry implied by shining windows. The bridge commanded my attention below like an epic, sci-fi version of yellow brick road. I felt like Spider-Man up somewhere so impossible, where in my peripheral vision a red light flashes intermittently to warn away airplanes.

Then the epic scale of the human project around me really hit me. I had read that day that 8.5 million people live in New York City. To see the length of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens; mountains of metal, hundreds of docked ships that carry cargo from around the world so the city can subsist; to see cars pass by underneath each with a driver going somewhere important to them, and in every direction more windows into someone’s home or workplace than I can count… to then realize NYC is small compared to places like Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai… to think about how transformed the human experience is in these huge cities on a millennium timescale… I felt the scale of it like a thrum in my chest. It hit me with a visceral power that I don’t think I would have get if I’d been in a crowd of tourists on the top floor of the Empire State Building, although I can’t explain why.

I settled into a good vantage point facing Manhattan and the nearly full moon. The members of our little group navigated their experience of this epic, transgressive moment: one friend challenging himself to experience the height with more risk and exposure; a couple of us balancing the desire to preserve with photos against the unfiltered “authenticity” of raw experience. We chatted about the view, about why people are so drawn to vistas, and soon we were just joking around like we might do anywhere. I realized I kept forgetting to really see what was around me, but there’s only so long I can sustain amazement, and sometimes it’s nice to just chat with a background view.

Eventually, it felt like time to come down and go to bed; at this point it was about 4am. We went back through the window, through the gap, down the ladder cave, down the winding, steep stairs, and did our little bit of climbing to cross back into the boundaries of everyday life.

Thoughts on the 2017 Art of Retreat

This weekend I attended The Art of Retreat in NYC with many of the community leaders, business owners and athletes that have been directly responsible for the growth and progress of our young sport. Collecting my thoughts will be difficult so we’ll see how this goes.

I thought I was attending the event to discuss with others how and why we should form a national governing body for the American communities – after the first day of governance discussion with Eugene Minogue and Victor Bevine it became very clear to me that the solution to our communal plight does not lie within what others have done in the past, but rather within the parameters that are unique to the American market. While it was good to hear an international opinion ultimately the formation of our governance (or decision against governance) must come from the hearts and minds of American athletes and business owners that understand that nature of our capitalist democracy. This much you probably already knew.

In my opinion we cannot expect to grow in a calculated way as a national sport if we remain unorganized. It has been invaluable for each region to define its own marketplace and practices but I believe in order to grow exponentially we must level the playing field and start getting better about transparency of business practice and research so that all can benefit where few have prospered. In each region people are blindly having to make the same mistakes and jump through hoops that older entrepreneurs have already navigated – and we have the power to change that. By each organization and region investing in a governing body that is dedicated to the preservation and innovation of our sport we ensure peer review instead of monopoly.

There is of course the American sentiment that a government was made to get in a citizen’s way but we have the power to formulate and structure any system that we want. When the Founding Fathers and the members of the Constitutional Convention met to decide secession from the British Empire they were not purely reacting to foreign oppression, they were using foreign oppression as a focusing device to ensure a future for American citizens and businesses. They did not expect to topple the British Empire but merely to ensure that the future of our nation rested within the hands of her people. We do not have the power and resources to defeat FIG if they have their mind set on putting parkour in Olympics, but we can control the growth and innovation of the American communities through spreading out the workload so many have contributed to in order to strengthen our sport nationally by investing in young entrepreneurs.

I see the culture of excellence Brandee Laird Rene Scavington and Dylan Polin have instilled in their communities and it excites me for the future generations of our movement. I look at how Justin Sheaffer and Caitlin Pontrella can organize an event and I see a young athlete learning how to host a jam or event in their own community. I listen to Alice B. Popejoy and Craig Constantine efficiently facilitate discourse and communication that could improve every business in this nation’s sport. I witness the example set by entrepreneurs like Dan Iaboni Ryan Ford and Amos Rendao emulated by the current and next generations of our sport and with a concentrated effort on all our parts I believe we can develop a system that enriches our current businesses and emboldens our other community members to contribute to the marketplace with all our support.

I am still learning my role to play in all of this but I am convinced that I can use my ability to communicate to bridge these companies and communities together. I am humbled by the opportunity to learn from each of you and I look forward to the future we will craft together together. You have all inspired me for the better part of a decade and I am dedicated to returning the favor. When I think about this sport I am filled with nothing but pride and admiration (besides chronic knee pain). Thank you for your support and love as always.

009 – Interview with Chris Keighley

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Episode Summary

Chris Keighley helps me muscle up the strength to understand challenge. We discuss its rewards, hazards, and how it can be a powerful tool for personal growth from day one. He shares stories from behind the scenes of the 1,000 Muscle-Up Challenge, and talks about finding challenge in more mundane activities, like building a tire tower at the Gerlev International Gathering.


On the 1,000 muscle-ups challenge

Craig: The 1,000 Muscle-ups Challenge is infamous and if you haven’t seen it we’ll link the video in the show notes. A lot of people I think mistake that as a suggestion for a way to train muscle-ups [00:00:30] and that’s clearly not what was going on. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Chris: Yeah, basically we have stupid ideas lots of the time. This particular stupid idea happened … It’s genesis was in Brazil as an entirely innocent, after-dinner conversation, where I believe Blane, Dan Edwardes, Stephane Vigroux, and Bruno, who was the actual Brazilian, and the reason the guys were out there, having a hypothetical [00:01:00] debate over whether one would prefer to do 10,000 pushups in a day or 1,000 muscle-ups in a day.

Craig: I think I would prefer to be absent that day.

Chris: It’s an entirely interesting and hypothetical conversation.

Craig: Or so you thought.

Chris: What harm can come from this? I didn’t get a say in this. I just get told about this I guess a few weeks later because during the course of this conversation Blane decides that 1000 muscle-ups in a day is clearly [00:01:30] less horrendous than 10,000 pushups in a day. And furthermore, he’s going to do it. At which point, Dan thinks it’s a great idea.

Great is probably putting words in his mouth. Dan is not willing to be left out of the idea at this point. If someone else is doing it, this is a great challenge. This is something to learn a bit more about yourself. Maybe you can do it, maybe you can’t. Let’s see what happens. Steph [00:02:00] agrees as well. Bruno, for his sins, also agrees to join in, and is a great help when we got around to the change a few months later, but probably spends more time with a camera than with a scaffolding.

Craig: Right. What is the big event? What is the big takeaway aside from having done it? I think you’re one of the guys who actually finished it.

Chris: Yeah. There were eight of us that decided to take this on in the end. Myself was number five. Andy Pearson, one of the other tutors from London, joined [00:02:30] in as well. Who am I missing? Jun Sato…

Craig: Oh, right.

Chris: He’s an amazing guy from Japan, who I think, over time some myths may grow up around this, but I’m pretty sure he delayed his flight so that he could stay in the country and do the challenge with us. Joe Boyle, who is another guy from London, coached with us, and he’s just a phenomenal athlete, especially when it comes to endurance and strength endurance challenges.

Craig: Right. He’s figuring out the pace [00:03:00] and how to get it done.

Chris: Yeah, well, I don’t know if he knew how to get it done or at least innately knew how to get it done, but he bloody well got it done.

Craig: A journey of 1000 muscle-ups begins with a single muscle-up.

Chris: Yeah, and then a second and so on and so on until you hit 1000.

Craig: Any particular takeaways from that other than you never want to do that again?

Chris: Which we will also return to. Yeah. Actually, it [00:03:30] is possible. We’re talking with some of the other guys here at the gathering about challenges and is it a challenge if you know you can do it before you start?

Craig: Yeah. I heard someone say, “It takes a special skill to set a challenge for yourself that you’re unable to do,” and at first I was like, “Well, no, I could challenge myself to climb Mount Everest tomorrow,” but to actually set a challenge that you would actually attempt that you are unable to do is actually tricky. It’s like breaking [00:04:00] a jump in a way.

Chris: Yeah, especially one that maybe you’re not able to do but you think there’s a possibility you might. In many ways, it is like breaking a jump. The jump won’t scare you if you can’t do it. Likewise, if you know for a fact you can’t do the challenge it’s not really a challenge because at no point do you have the intention to try and do it.

Craig: To commit.

Chris: The problem is you need something that is conceivable enough that you’re going to go in with 100% intention to try and get it done but far enough away that you don’t go in 100% [00:04:30] sure it is going to get done. The combination of it being pitched at that level, the guys that were doing it, and I suspect on certainly my part and a few of the other guys, a little bit of hubris.

Craig: I’m like, “He’s going to say hubris.”

Chris: Yeah. I think I realized somewhere in the middle of the challenge that I’d not necessarily bitten off more than I can chew but certainly stuffed a lot more in my mouth [00:05:00] than I was expecting. Then there’s all kinds of little moments throughout the day that made me think how much easier it was with other people around. I can’t say for sure but I’m 99% certain I would not have done 1000 muscle-ups that day if I’d been the only one doing it.

Craig: Yeah, what would the vision in your mind be? “I’m going to do 1000 muscle-ups in an empty …” it was basically like a gym. In an empty gym without any heat. It was in the winter. [00:05:30] That would be mind-boggingly demotivating to be by yourself.

Chris: As with more legends, I did hear tell [inaudible 00:05:39] one of the second-generation guys from Lisse in France … He either did 1000 or did 600 or 800, or some phenomenal number, but on his own in a playground on a fairly thick bar. Just did three, walked to the other side of the playground, did three, and … [00:06:00] Yeah. It goes to show the challenges that those guys would do to find out what they are capable of and to build what they were capable of.

On the value of challenge

Craig: If I remember correctly it was 14 and a half hours. Why would anyone want to put themselves through not necessarily that specific challenge but a challenge of that magnitude in general? What’s the potential payoff?

Chris: To learn something about yourself. Modern life doesn’t give you many chances of seeing what you’re capable of.

Craig: [00:06:30] Opportunities for growth.

Chris: Yeah. Seeing where your limits are. Yeah, I didn’t get better at muscle-ups that day for sure …

Craig: I think the quality went down.

Chris: Yeah. It was three days before I could do another one. I came out of it knowing that when things got really awful I could still keep going. Then when things got really awful I still had a bunch of great people around me that were able to [00:07:00] either …

Craig: Understand the viewpoint maybe?

Chris: Yeah. Also, I don’t know if it was inspire me or motivate me or just that energy kept me going. I wasn’t doing it because other people were there watching. I didn’t care what they thought of me. That was not the boost I got from having other people around. It was just other people in the space either going through the same thing or supporting us and bringing us cups [00:07:30] of teas.

Craig: Yeah, there were people helping.

Chris: Or doing their own challenges in the background or just staying awake, in the case of my, now the strongest Keighley, but at the time a much, much smaller, younger, and weaker Keighley.

Craig: Right away what comes to mind is where did you learn that lesson originally? You weren’t born with that lesson. Where did that come from? How did you learn that that was a good way to seek growth was to seek these kinds of really big challenges?

Chris: I [00:08:00] think that probably … Look, I can’t pinpoint when I came across that as a very specific, “Ah, this is eureka moment of this is the mindset I want to adopt”. I think it was a gradual influence of probably people and training over time. Guys like Stephane Vigroux when they were coaching in London and coming up with, “Yes, we’ll do some wonderful technical movement training” and we’ll just do some physical training but as a more common way [00:08:30] of just making yourself stronger.

But then just all these little challenges, whether it was stories of the challenges that they used to do … That’s how Stephane [Vigroux] started. He went to learn from David and he was just some scrawny little teenager. David [Belle] would be like, “Oh, go do 1000 pushups.” Steph would go away and do it and come back like, “What’s next?”

Craig: Then you’re on-call for seven days and whenever I call you or text you you do it immediately, right?

Chris: Right. The influence of those kind of people and probably the training they had coming [00:09:00] up as they were learning about disciplining themselves of … Yeah, this challenge is going to give you more than just the training of the challenge.

Just over time I’d see good guys like Steph [Stephane Vigroux] in London…

Thomas Couetdic… [otherwise known as] Thoma Dubois… was also in London…

Kazuma. Kazuma came and taught with…

It wasn’t even Parkour Generations as it was in the very earliest months. But, I’d say parkour coaching as it was in the first [00:09:30] three or four months and then eventually Parkour Generations.

For sure, Forest [Francois Mahop] and Dan as well.

A very strong ethos of both tough physical challenge but as a way of building you mentally as well as physically. I never went in search of that. I think it was definitely I went there to get stronger …

Craig: Slow discovery process that you realized, “This really works”, right?

Chris: Yeah. Both, “I want more of it” because [00:10:00] when you succeed in a challenge that you’re not sure about the sense of success and achievement is almost infinitely greater than succeeding in a challenge that you knew you’re going to do. I don’t think I was ever chasing that high but it certainly gives you a very strong feeling of pride in yourself and what you can do.

Craig: Right. Self-validation.

Chris: Yeah. I don’t know if I’d necessarily characterize it as validating it myself as [00:10:30] much of almost like a pleasant surprise about yourself. It’s like, “Ah, actually, I can do this.”

On using challenge as a way to grow

Craig: You’re very experienced as a tutor. I know you normally teach the adapt level two courses and you’ve done tons of teaching sessions all over the world. But I don’t know what percentage of your students are day one beginners. The question that I have in the back of my mind is, at what point does really big challenge … Is [00:11:00] that something that’s a really good tool for people? Can you really do that from day one if you find the correct challenge? Or should you start with small challenges and go scale them up as you find your feet?

Chris: Yeah. Well, obviously, the scale of the challenge is going to be entirely dependent on what people are capable of because the really big challenges are the ones that are either just out of reach or in your last 1% of reach. Whether it’s day one or day …

Craig: 1000.

Chris: [00:11:30] Yeah, 10 years, 20 years down the line. It may evolve over time. Like the challenge in 20 years may not be as great in number as the challenge on four or five years in but how far it is out of your reach there will always be a challenge in that zone. From the beginning it’s probably more a question of how people respond to challenge. [00:12:00] Someone can be on day one and respond to challenge really well and if they try something and it turns out, “Ah, I’m not yet capable of it” …

Craig: They also learn something, right?

Chris: Oh, yeah. It’s still a very valuable experience but some people will take that a little bit more at face value and some people may need challenges a little bit more in the yellow zone that are going to be difficult but are definitely achievable just to help them understand the merit of those ideas and help them feel [00:12:30] empowered through those challenges rather than beaten down by them.

Craig: Can I actually be training without their being the presence of challenge?

Chris: I think you’d be missing out on a huge element of the discipline if that were the case. It doesn’t have to be a crazy physical challenge like the muscle-ups because …

Craig: Yeah, I can’t do that every day.

Chris: Yeah. For some people, balancing on a [inaudible 00:12:56] for 10 seconds … Like if you fall off after five seconds, get back up. [00:13:00] Fall off after three, fall off after six. You spend an hour trying to balance for 10 seconds without falling off.

Craig: That’s a challenge. Yeah.

Chris: Absolutely, and a much greater challenge than just a strong guy banging out a couple hundred pull-ups for the sake of it. You don’t know if you can do the balance, right? That’s when they’re in their top 5% … Let’s dial it down from 1%. We don’t want to be quite so much in the stress zone the whole time. The genuine uncertainty of, “Can I do this?” Because that’s how you discover [00:13:30] something. If you knew that you could do it anyway you’ve not discovered anything.

I think you don’t always want to be like this. It can be a very stressful way to train if every session is, “I’ve got to challenge myself in a very demanding way.” But I think the way we learn or get better at almost any human skill is through challenge. It’s applying it. If you’re cooking you don’t stay cooking toast for 20 years.

Craig: Right. You need to move the bar, right?

Chris: Right, but [00:14:00] every time you move the bar you’re like, “I’m going to try something that is more challenging. Can I raise myself to meet that bar?” The people that make the most progress will be the ones … Not necessarily I’m saying they’re the best guys but the people that make the most progress will be the ones who are willing to change themselves. Where that end point is will change from person to person, but their personal growth will be defined to some extent by how much they are willing to encounter challenge at the right level for where they are physically, [00:14:30] mentally, experientially.

On finding challenge in more common activities

Craig: We’re here at Gerlev [International Gathering] and this is your sixth time here. You’re an old veteran at this. Elsewhere we have been discussing with lots of people what’s great about Gerlev… and you guys built a tire tower and we’re talking like large tractor tires. I don’t know how they even lifted them let alone stacked them. That thing must have been 20 feet high. When they were done they had a leaning Tower of Pisa. People hanging off of it trying to keep it upright. I was off [00:15:00] elsewhere and I looked around and I’m like, “Oh, a tire tower. What?”

That was an interesting challenge. I’m sure somebody said, “Hey, we should stack the tires” and then off you went but what was the value of it? It looked like a ton of fun and pushing it over was awesome too. Was that a challenge? Or was that just you guys having fun?

Chris: It certainly felt like a challenge because … It was a challenge of many, many, many challenges because at the beginning it was just, “let’s stack some up.”

Craig: Yeah, [00:15:30] where’s the biggest one? Put it down.

Chris: Yeah, then it quickly became both a … Not so much a mental challenge of, “Can I push through this?” Actually, let’s do some physics and engineering here. How do we get these lighter tires, as we got further on, up significantly greater and less stable heights.

Craig: Yeah, the whole thing was swaying and some of the people at the top they had to have their feet 12 feet off the ground easily. That was three people high.

Chris: Yeah, well, the people at the top [00:16:00] seemed to be much more comfortable than the people at the bottom. I don’t know if that’s because we were cushioning them or just they had significantly less idea of what the angle was like.

Craig: Or how hard the asphalt is.

Chris: Yeah, it was … Phillip, one of the guys I believe from Parkour One, certainly from Germany, just had a little challenge for us, which was, “Let’s do this.” As with all challenges, it started out, yes, as a bit of fun [00:16:30] and then you hit the point of, “Oh, how do we do this?” The moments of, “There’s lots of boxes around. We can use the boxes to stand on to get the tires up there.” The box making the challenge easier.

Craig: Do we need that? Can we do without that?

Chris: Samson, another one of the Parkour One guys, made a very good point of once we got the final tire on was how much less satisfaction we’d have got if we brought the boxes in to do [00:17:00] so. Not like it would have tainted our achievement but it would have lessened the achievement.

Craig: There are a lot of parkour memes and one of my personal favorites if you’ve ever trained with me … If you haven’t, please find me, I would love to train with you. One of my favorites is gapping and if you haven’t seen this and you haven’t done it it makes no sense. It’s basically trying to squeeze through the smallest space that you can possibly squeeze through. Then, “That was too easy. Now do it backwards” or upside down or if it’s a ladder, squeeze through the top [00:17:30] rung. Those kind of things. My first question is, is that the same sort of challenge? What are your thoughts on why are we drawn to that?

Chris: I think as with anything else if you choose the right hole it’s exactly … For some of the guys who have done it it’s been as hard a challenge as probably anything else they’ve done. I tend to find it a bit easier. Just in the sense that if my ass fits through the rest of me gets in.

Craig: [00:18:00] I’ve noticed that I’m getting a really good eye for spotting gaps that would be challenging and interesting for me and I know, for example, if I can get my shoulders through then I fit through. Everybody knows which part of their body isn’t going to fit through and which direction … They look at that and they spot those distances and things that are really easy for you might be impossible for me. It draws you in the same way that spotting interesting jumps do. You know that’s just possible [00:18:30] and I really should go over there and do that and then off goes someone.

Chris: What’s the longest you’ve seen someone to get through a gap successfully? It doesn’t have to be successful. One gap, how long were they there for?

Craig: I don’t think I’ve struggled for more than 10 minutes on a particular one. It’s probably about the longest I’ve ever seen.

Chris: 25 minutes was the record in 35 degree heat. I think got halfway through, came out for a bit for water, came back to his hips for a water break, didn’t come out of the gap. Two or three people were standing over him with his [00:19:00] hands creating shade and space. Chau Belle coming across and looking very unimpressed that we were doing this whilst he was teaching around the corner.

It was one of the real challenges of the day. Can we do this? I think in the split second he maybe didn’t understand what was going on and just saw some people messing around. Yeah, one of the hardest things we’ve done. And scary in the sense that, at least the way that I do it … If my bum gets through, [00:19:30] the rest of me will go but I may need to exhale quite a lot.

Craig: …and which ribs are attached and which are moveable?

Chris: Can I get through it quick enough or do I have to do the world’s shallowest breath halfway through before I can keep going? That’s always an interesting one of just, absolutely zero air left in your lungs and then trying to shuffle your way out.

Is there a story you would like to share?

Craig: One of my personal passions is collecting people’s stories. I’d love to just hear whatever you have that you’re passionate about.

Chris: [00:20:00] Lots of little moments from within the muscle-up challenge that we were speaking about. Spread throughout the day a lot of people that got involved who weren’t necessarily expecting to get involved. Khiel [aka Andy Day] actually stayed and originally I think he was just going to do 100. Just his own personal challenge of seeing if he could get there. Then he got to 100 relatively easily and quickly.

Then kind of 300 was dawnign on him as a possibilities. [00:20:30] He stayed and kept going. I think he had to go to a wedding before he could get to that number, which is delightful and unexpected. Both company but the idea that he also learned something about that day, or, about himself that day.

My little brother, who now is an absolute monster, but at the time was a 14 year old kid … I don’t think any older than 14. Been doing parkour for maybe a year and a half. Something like this. He [00:21:00] decided that he was going to join in in his own way. He was very much doing one arm at a time muscle-ups. I think he made 120. I hadn’t even heard of a muscle-up when I was 14. I’m going to be biased. I’m always going to think that my little brother is special. That was one of those early moments of, “Ah, he’s something.” Then the fact that despite the fact that it took me 14 and a half hours, [00:21:30] and he used to have much more regular bedtimes, he refused to go to sleep until I’d finished. He stayed awake until I think it was half-midnight by the time I had finished. I think he curled up in a cardboard box at one point. Blane found him in a corner. Soon as I was done he was very much ready for bed.

Then me trying to fall asleep but being woken up because my forearm was cramping badly in my sleep. Trying to go [00:22:00] back to sleep with my mobile phone laying on my fingers to just keep my hand open and stop it from cramping.

Somewhere around the 770 mark I sat down for about an hour with no idea of if I was going to stand up again. It was really that … That was where my dark point kicked in of, “I actually don’t know if I continue from here. I don’t really want to stop but I actually don’t know [00:22:30] if I can”, or if it’s sensible to, or both. When I finally was like, “No, I’m going to try and do a few more” I just put the entire The Sickness album by Disturbed on, which is my favorite weight lifting album at the time, and for about the next hour just doing one muscle-up. Stalking around the room looking like an angry little emo kid. Eventually making it back to the bar, doing another one, and then just storming off again for a minute or two [00:23:00] and coming back.

Craig: Plus one, plus one.

Chris: Yeah. The very many cups of teas that people that people like Naomi and Tracy would bring us. The sad moment when I got to a point where to raise the tea to my mouth I had to sit on the floor, balance the cup on my knee, hold the handle with my hand, and use my leg to raise the cup to my mouth because it hurt my elbow too much to hold a cup of tea. [00:23:30] Realizing that I still had 150 muscle-ups to go. Those are the moments when it was, “Is it wise to carry on?” Because, if I can’t lift a cup of tea I don’t know what business I’ve got hanging off the bar.”

Craig: Of course, the obvious question is was it wise?

Chris: Hindsight tells me it was. I’m here. Everything is fine. Was it wise to risk hurting yourself? I don’t think it’s wise to do [00:24:00] it all the time. I think in this kind of occasion … For me, this is probably still one of the two or three biggest challenges I’ve ever done, in my life just in terms of the relentless … I don’t want to say darkness but the relentless struggle is harder. Anything else has been over in a much shorter period of time.

I think risking things very sparingly and knowing that you’re really going to come out … [00:24:30] If it was just to say, “Oh, I’ve done 1000”? No, it wasn’t worth the risk. That may have been why I started the challenge. Like, I started it to say I could do 1000 muscle-ups. Then the darker it got the more it was just, “Can I do this?” If I’d still had the mindset of, “Can I do 1000?” I probably wouldn’t have, because that wasn’t a good enough reason to keep going when it hurt.

And if it had been bad enough [00:25:00] I would have stopped. If it is, “I am definitely damaging myself”, no, that’s not worth the risk. If it’s just, “How does this feel? I’ll try another five. I’ll see what it’s like after that.” People bring us tea. Yao, being an absolute legend and providing very regular massages for those of us that were still trying to go. People like Blane just smashing away at a tire in the background with a hammer doing 1000 hammer swings instead.

008 – Interview with Andrew Foster

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Episode Summary

Andrew Foster shares his fascinating journey from his home-schooled beginnings in Ohio, Arabic studies, and living in Jordan, (including meeting and training with Danny Ilabac in Cairo) to facing the dark challenge of losing everything- including his purpose in life. Starting renewed from his lowest point, on a mountaintop in Colorado, he describes finding new purpose and direction, bringing him full circle to his home town in Ohio.