Returning to nature; A critical piece of parkour

Craig: I want to talk about [00:17:30] the return to roots. Get into the whole-

Paul: Sure, Return to the Source.

Craig: Return to the Source.

Paul: Very briefly, I took a hiatus from my career in San Antonio. I was invited by Tyson to come out to Parkour Visions, and see how they run things, maybe open a gym at some point in the future in Texas, whatever was going to look like. I was director of member services for about a year and a half. Then I spent some more time there, getting to explore it, because I had been working a lot in the gym, and hadn’t gotten to explore the northwest. I got to spend a lot of time, especially [00:18:00] the end of that, with Rafe Kelley. He was former head coach, and one of the founding type guys from Parkour Visions. He now does Evolve, Move, Play, is what he calls his organization.

He was inviting me out to do more movement in nature. If you’ve never been in the Pacific Northwest, visit all the nature there. It’s incredible. It’s the most benign wilderness I’ve ever heard of. Just gorgeous, you can be in snow in the morning, and then skinny-dipping in the Puget Sound in the afternoon. It’s just pretty amazing. [00:18:30] He’s from north of Seattle, and Return to the Source is going to his father’s land and camping. It’s a week of going to different national parks up there, going to water, to rocks, to trees, cold water immersion, combative and roughhousing, climbing together, moving together, but really tribe. Creating a tribe of about 20 people-

Craig: Right, a literal retreat, where people are cooking together, and spending time together, and setting up camps together.

Paul: Absolutely, [00:19:00] and with a goal of exploring what humans evolved to be, or as to say what our ancestors experienced by being in nature, by being in the wild, by having this interaction with nature-

Craig: I always say rediscovering your birthright.

Paul: Sure, and experiencing what that does to you mentally, physiologically, physically. How you feel differently just by having been in nature. Then challenging yourself in a lot of fun ways as well. This [00:19:30] includes kind of culminating, and climbing up through a waterfall cave on one of the last days. It’s just a glorious … You’re overcoming challenges together, and exploring nature, and yeah. That was this past summer, June 2016 I went, and it was really incredible for me. It changed my relationship with nature, which is a big, big one-

Craig: That says a lot right?

Paul: Yeah. I had mentioned, as a kid I had been running around in the woods, but somewhere along the way [00:20:00] I did software development. Now I manage software development. I sit at a computer so much of my life, I had gotten … I nearly drowned in a river in Texas when I was three. So I had a point where I really kind of was very averse to natural water. So it got to a place where we were doing swimming in lakes, and being in rivers, and running down the river and things, and it was just a fantastic application of movement that I did. That I enjoy, but also really covered everything I’d learned in all my evolution in parkour, [00:20:30] and Capoeira. The social element as well, coaching even. It was really cool.

Craig: Most people’s perception of parkour, is that it’s an urban activity. People have taken the time to train, and to study, and to read will have discovered that actually has roots that go literally into the woods. What you’re just talking about with the Return to the Source seems to be something that I think people miss in their parkour training. There seems to be something missing there. If you’re only practicing [00:21:00] in an urban environment, there’s a piece.

Paul: Yeah, and Rafe would say that you’re missing the critical piece. That’s a big part of that. That is actually part of his mission, is to be teaching people how to rediscover the rest of the world. So the rest of the world is outside of our cities. I think that is totally understandable, if you were in an area, that was full of abandoned buildings, and that was the city you were in-

Craig: This is your natural environment, at least in the beginning-

Paul: That’s your environment, but movement [00:21:30] isn’t restricted to the context of the place you came from. For me, especially … In the same way that one of the things I enjoy now in parkour that I could not have in Capoeira is that I do Capoeira now between trees, or while balancing on rails, or somewhere that has environments, because it’s more interesting to me. That’s not where it, where it came from originally, I don’t pretend it was, but I’m applying those skills in a broader place. I feel that once you step out into other environments in the world, try rock climbing, try [00:22:00] trees.

Rafe likes to say, when you grab a tree, your hands get uniformly, unlike a bar, where you have calluses in one spot. If you’re grabbing tree branches of different varieties, and different thicknesses all the time, his whole head is a callous. It’s a completely different thing that happens. That’s fine I’m not trying to say that those are better or worse, just that there are other obstacles in the world, and when you interact with them, you have a chance to have new relationships, new conversations with your movement, and with nature, your environment, and the obstacles, which I personally [00:22:30] find terrifying, because everything is not square edges. Also, man it’s-

Craig: It really wakes you up-

Paul: Yes-

Craig: To the proprioception, to the spatial awareness.

Paul: Very much.

Craig: The majority of parkour that I’ve seen, I think people would agree when I say this, the majority of parkour is human beings running, using their hands but vaulting type of movements, flips and spins, but they’re moving over the built spaces. Or they’re moving over [00:23:00] rocks, and there’s a whole aspect of arboreal existence that goes back millions of years, and getting out into that natural environment … The first time you step under tree branch and brab it with your hand, your brain just goes, “Oh I know what that is.”

Paul: Yeah and you see, lachés are a huge thing, brachiation you’ll see on bar sets and things. That’s cool to train and there’s some really neat things that have come out of it, definitely, but when you get into a huge batch [00:23:30] of a tree that just sprawls over several square yards [crosstalk 00:23:33]-

Craig: Yards right-

Paul: And you’re able to, everywhere around you is a thing you can grab, that could take you, different area if you’re pulling or pushing. It’s an experience that, as someone who is enjoying and appreciating this movement art of exploration, parkour, whatever you want to call this thing that we do, this movement stuff, it’s nourishing, is another word you might use for it, because it’s like, “Oh yeah, I love [00:24:00] trying new obstacle movement because this is where I get to explore what the things I’ve trained in the urban environment, how do they apply here, and vice versa.” It’s just kind of like how do we, and again, I come from a very play centric background. In Capoeira, we play. No matter how were working we call it playing. So for me, engaging work is play. How do I play with this to become better at all the things, or whatever else my [inaudible 00:24:29] might be?