Is there a story you would like to share?

Craig: So in every podcast episode, I try to get it to asking the guest if there’s a story you would like to share because, as I said often, the Parkour community is full of spectacular stories. And what I’m really interested in [00:30:30] is a story that’s special to you. So one that you’re passionate about. It can be an insight, it can be pretty much anything.

Max: So, there’s so many stories. I mean, I’ve traveled all over the place and it’s cool to think about those, but I think based on kind of what we’ve been talking about today, I’d maybe just like to talk a little bit about how I started training? Because one thing that I get a lot from people that I train with now is … They look at me and they go, “Wow. You’re not afraid of anything.” Or “This is crazy. How do you do that?” And they just assume [00:31:00] that it’s some genetic mutation. And I have like a twenty minute video that I filmed on my dad’s handi-cam from 1998 that’s on YouTube actually, of me talking to a camera. Setting up a camera and just talking to it for minutes about, “I’ve been trying this jump for days.” It’s like a two foot rail kong-pre. And people just assume that if you’re at a certain level, there’s no …

Craig: You’ve always been there.

Max: Yeah, exactly. [crosstalk 00:31:26] Oh, you must have started and you were just amazing. Or, whatever. [00:31:30] So I kind of would just like to share the way that I got into training because I think that it’s very accurate to the way that I still train and it’s kind of very true to … It explains a lot about who I am and how I train.

So my best friend Calvin, who was my initial training partner … We didn’t have a computer when I was a kid. I didn’t have a computer until I was fifteen. So we used to go to the library, hop on the computer. And one day we were there and we were on YouTube, looking at videos. And he just turned to me and [00:32:00] said, “Man, I saw this crazy news report the other night about some guy who could just jump on walls like Spiderman.” And I was like, “I’m not going to let you go without … You need to be more descriptive. What do you mean?” And he couldn’t really explain it. Him trying to …

Craig: No words, right.

Max: He was like, “It’s just like this guy. And he kind of would like jump on the side of a wall and then stick there for a second and then go to another wall. And then he could jump to little metal rails. It was crazy.” And [00:32:30] so I was just … I had no idea what he was talking about. I can’t even picture it in my head. And I was kind of like, “Jackie Chan?”

He was like, “No, it was way crazier. He would jump between buildings. Thirty feet.” And I didn’t know. And he couldn’t remember what it was called. So we went on YouTube and I was really into martial arts and stuff at the time, all kind of self-instructed. So I was like, “I don’t know what it’s called. Let’s just look for things.” So we’re typing in just whatever. Extreme stunts, things like that. And then [00:33:00] finally we typed in Spiderman guy jumping on buildings. And the letter P. Because he remembered it started with a P, but he didn’t remember what it was. So we typed in Spiderman guy jumps off buildings, the letter P. And the first video popped up was David Bell’s Speed Air Man. And then we start watching it and he was like, “Oh my God. This is it. This is it.”

Craig: Yep.

Max: And I was like … At the beginning I was ragging on him. I’m like, “Dude, how did you not … It’s some dude with tattoos flexing. How did you not be able to describe this?” And then as soon as the [00:33:30] action started …

Craig: Right.

Max: My brain was just like totally …

Craig: I have no words.

Max: Yeah. It was just mind blowing. I didn’t know how to compare it. There was no context for me. And as soon as I saw it, I was just like, “This is so intense. I want to do this. I do not know how the heck I would ever be able to start doing this because it’s just massive roof gaps.”

And I went to the playground right across the street. And I remember climbing up onto something like a fence. Four feet high, five feet high. And I was just like. [00:34:00] I don’t want to jump off of this. Nope. Forget that. I went down. And I was a gymnast when I was a kid, and I remember thinking, “Okay. Where can I start? That’s something that scares me, but will be in my range?” And I was like, “Oh, you know what? I used to love doing tumbling, like back hand springs. Haven’t done one in years. Let me see if I can do it.” And I had, probably for two hours, stood in a field and just tried to commit to a back hand spring. And I had never experienced that level of mental frustration until that moment. Because even as a kid in gymnastics, you [00:34:30] have a coach, you have mats. Progression, do it on the trampoline, do into the pit, whatever.

Craig: Right. As soon as your stuck, they give you the … Here’s the wedge. Here’s the …

Max: Exactly.

Craig: Here’s the mental suggestion.

Max: So it was fall and I remember just piling a ton of leaves into a pile and flopping onto my back for an hour. Just like, “Okay. This is the worst that could happen.” And I’m basically just jumping up into the air and landing on my neck. Like, “Okay. I can do that and I’m safe.” Finally, my buddy Calvin’s like, “I got to go. I got to go. My mom needs me home.” And so he had to leave. And I was like, “I don’t want to do [00:35:00] it alone. ‘Cause I might die and no one will know.” So I finally committed to it. I did it totally fine on my first try. It was perfect. And I was just like, “Of course. That’s how it would happen.” And I just remember that mental process was really crazy. And there was still a moment that I didn’t know where to go after that. And then … This is what I told Blane when I met him, when we were hanging out in June at American Rendezvous.

I remember, I was scrolling through videos. I saw an old Cambridge video which I watched. [00:35:30] Training in summer of 2006 training in Cambridge. And then I saw Blane’s Excelsior video and when I saw him do a rail precision and stick it.

Craig: Yeah, it’s like … Did they freeze the video [crosstalk 00:35:43].

Max: My brain literally was like, forget everything else that I’ve seen. If I can land on a rail and stay there, I will be happy with my entire life.

Craig: The meaning of life is a stuck rail pre.

Max: To me, that was just like the most amazing feat. I didn’t [00:36:00] know it was humanly possible to have balance that was good enough to do that. And so I remember in June, I went and told … I was like, “Blane, yeah. When you did a couple of those rail pres in the Excelsior … It was literally life changing for me. I saw that and I was just like … I didn’t even think a human being could do this.” And he just turned to me and he was like, “Well, I think you’ve got the whole jumping to rails thing down since then.”

Craig: You can move on to something else.

Max: So … It’s funny, ’cause to me, I look back to that story and I have pretty much the exact same [00:36:30] approach. I was a wuss, figured out a less wussy thing to do that was still scary. You know, managed to commit to it after a long time, got it really easy on my first try, and then decided I didn’t like flips and wanted to do rail precisions. And that basically sums up my entire Parkour experience since then. So that’s ten years of Parkour training in a nutshell.

Is there a story you would like to share?

Craig: Thomas, is there a story that you would like to share with us?

Thomas: Yes, Craig.

Craig: Good, because I thought you were going to say, “No.”

Thomas: It’s funny the weight that comes with the phrase, “Is there a story you’d like to tell us?”

Craig: Right. What’s the statute of limitations on …

Thomas: Yeah, exactly. Right?

Craig: [00:25:30] In Arizona there’s a law –

Thomas: Motorcycle racing and … Right

Craig: I know, right. I miss those days.

Thomas: So, I’m a Chinese medicine doctor. I’ve been doing it forever. I spent a lot of time in my life, professionally, learning everything I could about western medicine, and everything I could about Chinese medicine, and trying to figure out everything I could possibly know about doctoring at this very [00:26:00] high level. Although I would always tell people that I was doing it because I wanted to be good at it, I was really doing it because I wanted to be smarter than the smartest people I knew in the field. Then I would spend my time trying to check in and see. So, I’d go hang out with really smart doctors or people with IQs over 160, and I’d hang out with them and I’d like test my knowledge all the time to see if I was keeping up.

And [00:26:30] I spent all this time in my life going around testing myself and other people. I ended up in this constant state of judgment of like, “Am I smart enough?” and “Are you smart enough?” And I would do both of these things. And I became really close with a local doctor here in the Lehigh Valley named Kristin Reihman, who’s amazing. She’s a family medicine doc, and we ended up doing a lot of training together in Lyme Disease. I would hang out with her and we [00:27:00] would talk about life at the hospital, and in private practice, and what’s it like for her to practice medicine, and all the sort of limitations that kept showing up in her life where she couldn’t do the things that I would do in a treatment room because the law was so strict around what a medical doctor could or couldn’t do.

I found myself spending time with her talking. And I remember, specifically, [00:27:30] sitting with her one day and we talking about Lyme Disease, and we were talking about medicine, and healing, and the whole process of how bodies, and people, and sprits all change, and she looked at me and she said, “Why do you spend all this time trying to show me what you know?” And she just caught me totally sideways, like “Why are you doing that? Like, you’re brilliant.” “But I’m just curious.”

And she was being [00:28:00] completely honest, and I said, “Oh, you noticed that.” And I started to talk to her about it, and she said, “Yeah. I think that,” she said, “You know, I think you’re brilliant. I think you’re incredible, but I think you don’t need to, I don’t think you need to do that,” and it was so interesting because she’s a very like gentle, giving person, and it was somehow, she gave me this permission to just accept [00:28:30] myself for who I am. Somehow that just flipped the switch in my brain, and the second she said that I realized that every place I’d been testing I was trying to be good enough, and then get someone to tell me I wasn’t bad. The second she did that I think I let go of like thirty things I was trying to do that I didn’t actually care about at all.

Craig: Crossed those right off.

Thomas: Including western medicine, which I was like, “I don’t actually care that much about western medicine.” I really don’t. And I [00:29:00] was like, “and that’s fine,” and I just got so free in that moment. And I mean, I can’t thank her enough, because it literally was, like for whatever reason in that moment in time, she just turned the key and this giant cage just sprung away from me, and all of a sudden I could be free to do anything I wanted to do, the way I wanted to do it, and that was great.

I want people to know that what you are, and who you are, and the way that you move through [00:29:30] the world, is the best way that you can be, and the less time that you spend trying to get some authorities approval, or run away from some fear of who you wish you hadn’t been in the past, or what you hadn’t done, or who other people thought you were, the more you can let go of all those things and just be you, the freer you will be and the more amazing you will be.

Is there a story you would like to share?

Craig: Okay. And we’re kind of hinting at there’s a bunch of stories. So I’m going to do do this now. So, we like to ask everybody, is there any particular story you would like to share? So everybody has stories and there are millions of stories out there in the Parkour world, full of spectacular, literally spectacle things. But I’m interested in finding things that people are passionate about, because the people who don’t do Parkour [00:20:00] don’t understand even the mindset that we’re coming from. So if there’s a story that you would like to share, about Parkour, about hustling in Scotland or whatever, I would love to hear it.

Jonny: We could definitely talk about hustling in Scotland because those are some interesting stories too. But I feel like we’ve gotta talk about breaking jumps, since that’s kind of what led us here. And of course, the first one will always be the most memorable. [00:20:30] So, when you first start training, you think you’re breaking jumps, right? Because you’re a foot off the ground and you’re jumping four feet out, you know.

Craig: I’m scared, yeah. I’m scared. I’m doing it! Stop pushing me!

Jonny: You’re terrified! But it doesn’t compare to the first time you really break a jump. And what I mean is one where there is a degree of uncertainty and something could go terribly wrong. So I was at a birthday jam [00:21:00] for a friend of ours. We were all just kind of moving through the city here in New York, from spot to spot. Just one of those training sessions where you’re just looking for stuff along the way.

And three of us broke off to go use the bathroom in this one park. And that turned into a session, of course, you know, on the bathroom. And then we ended up up on the roof and there was a jump across essentially, like an entrance gate. And it had wrought iron …

Craig: Nastiness?

Jonny: Yes. On either side. So you had to jump up [00:21:30] and over these kind of wrought-iron spikes and then clear them to get to the other side. And there was just like a stone pillar that was, I don’t know, two feet squared or something? It was a very small landing spot. And it was a good eight, maybe nine feet up in the air. And I had never done anything like that before, you know. I was still very, very new. But I was with a friend of mine who I trusted a lot. I trained with him a lot, and he’s not one of those macho dudes that wants to just push you to do bigger and better stuff, but he felt [00:22:00] like I could do it and he was like, “Hey man, do this jump with me.”

That’s all I need to hear. I’m like, “Oh, you’re gonna do this jump? All right, I can do this jump.”

Craig: It’ll make you feel good.

Jonny: So I’m standing there looking at it. He’s looking at it. He goes for it first. And then I’m standing up in the spot and I’m looking and I’m just immediately imagining all the things that could go wrong. And at this point, we had been training for so long in the park that there was all the parents and the kids and everybody had been watching us. So now I have a full, captive audience and they’re staring up [00:22:30] at me. And I’m like, “Well I can’t not do the jump now, right?”

Craig: Maybe if they moved closer they would be a crash mat if something went wrong.

Jonny: I was kind of thinking about that too, but in the worst case scenario, where I’m like, “Now imagine I miss the jump and I land on, like, a five year old kid. This is actually the worst day of my life. And I’ve got a hundred witnesses, on top of that.” It almost doesn’t get any worse, right? So I’m standing there looking at this jump and then all of a sudden these two gung-ho cops come peeling across [00:23:00] the lawn of the park in the car with the lights on and everything, as if I’m some kind of legitimate criminal. And they come to a skidding halt, errrrt. Right in front of me. They jump out. “Get down from there!” And I’m like, well there’s only one way down, I’ve got to make this jump right now.

Craig: …so dodging bullets!

Jonny: So I do the jump and I completely black out in the air. That’s the craziest part, was I don’t remember anything until the landing. I had this moment where I was just 100% autopilot. [00:23:30] I make the jump. I hit the other side. I take the drop, I’m like, “Let’s go!” The whole crowd is cheering for me, all the parents and the kids, everybody. “Yeah!” And I’m looking at the cops like, “You can’t seriously be mad about this, look at this. These people love me.”

And then they start trying to find out what I’m doing, why I was up there and everything. And I’m just grinning from ear to ear like a total maniac. I’m barely even paying attention and I’m like, “Wait, did you see what I just did? That’s what I was up there for. I [00:24:00] went up there to do that jump.” And they’re trying to figure out if I was trying to like break into the bathroom or, you know. I don’t know what they think I’m trying to do from the roof, right? With the door open.

Their questions made no sense to me and I must have looked like I was high on something, because I’m just, I’m in full ecstasy, you know? I’m so bummed I have to share this moment with these two cops right now rather than my buddies or the cheering crowd of parents who were absolutely in awe over what just happened. So, whatever, we talk to the cops, they realize that I’m just a totally [00:24:30] harmless weirdo.

Craig: Crazy individual.

Jonny: Yeah. They let me go. And that high lasted for two or three days. I came home, I couldn’t shut up about it. I’m talking to my girlfriend. I’m calling my mom. I’m telling anybody that doesn’t care. They’ve got to know. I’m posting on Facebook about it. It was, it was absurd. But I had never felt more alive in my life, and that’s really saying something. Because I was in a coma for a week, you want to talk about feeling like you’re alive, come out of a coma [00:25:00] you feel pretty alive. This dwarfed that. I felt… I was like, “This is the meaning of life right here, is to have these moments.”

Is there a story you would like to share?

Craig: [00:19:30] Okay. Going in a lighter direction, I’ll give you an easier question afield. So, is there a story that you would like to share? The global parkour community is filled with amazing grand stories, but I’m wondering if there’s a more personal story that you’d care to share? Perhaps a memory that makes you laugh? Something that inspires you or reminds you of your parents or your friends or someone who-

Adam: This is a story that to me describes the grit of parkour, which is something that I think lacks [00:20:00] sometimes in the parkour community. People miss the grit element. I’m going to see if I can describe it.

I was taking my ADAPT Level Two course, not my assessments, but my course. The course is a fairly gruesome five-day process. Basically it has two purposes. One is to teach you a bunch of stuff that hopefully you will benefit from in terms of coaching and exercise methodologies and everything you need to do to be a coach. [00:20:30] The other half of the course is just designed to kick your ass. That’s its only purpose, whether you’re 100% prepared for the course or whether you haven’t prepared at all. It doesn’t matter. It’s going to be hard not matter what you do. They designed it that way, and that’s a good coach. A good coach would see someone and go “Okay, they’re good, but I’m going to find this way to push them.” That’s what’s going to happen if you take that course.

So I was taking that course, and we were working on one of the physical conditioning elements with the course that we were going to be assessed on at a later point. It was sort of like [00:21:00] a practice round. What you have to do is you have to hang in a cat position on the wall, and you have to traverse across the wall. I don’t know the numbers exactly. It’s either 15 or 30 meters one way, and then the other way, and with a climb up in between. It’s just a lot of grip strength and whatever.

Grip strength has never been my strength, Craig. Anyone who trains with me knows that’s something I avoid with every ounce of my willpower. So I dreaded it a little bit, but I got in the cat position, I went all the way down the wall and did the climb up in the end, and was like “Okay, I’m more [00:21:30] than 50% through my strength, and I’m less than 50% through the drill, but I’ll give it my best.”

So I’m coming back, and what I hadn’t shared yet is that the guy who was leading the course informed us that if we fall off the wall and we hit the ground, and this was maybe a 14-foot, maybe 15-foot wall, so when you’re hanging off the wall, you’re still 10 feet off the ground, and it’s more than you want to do although you won’t die. So he tells us that we have to do 50 pushups is we fall. So nobody wants to do that. We’re in the middle of a course, [00:22:00] nobody wants their arms blasted. We’re all tired as it is.

I’m about halfway across the wall and my bent arms become straight arms because they’re giving out, and the grip of all of your finger becomes the grip of half of your finger as you move down the knuckles of what can last anymore. I’m thinking I’m not going to make it, and I’m sure they can see that, and they’re going “Come on, Adam. Do it.” And I’m like “Ah.” So I keep moving, I keep trying my best, but I decide mentally that I’m not going to let go. I’m just not going to do it. I’m going to hold onto that wall. So I’m going and [00:22:30] I’m going, and I’m hanging on the wall with everything I have, and I feel my hands start to slip, but mentally I engage. I’m like “I’m not letting go of this wall. I got to finish this challenge.” So with every ounce of my strength I press and squeeze against the corner of that wall, which is a rounded wall by the way, making everything worse.

So I’m really gripping with my fingertips as I go, and as though someone had my by a rope from underneath, I yank off while holding onto that wall with as much strength as I possibly can. So [00:23:00] I fall all the way to the ground, “Ka-thump,” down on the ground, onto my feet, and then onto my hips as I just collapse onto the ground. My fingertips now are bleeding because I really tried to hang onto that wall as much as I could.

On top of that, I had a shoulder injury, subluxated shoulder which is like a partial dislocation, that I’d been very slowly letting heal. Well, I didn’t do a good job of that. The shoulder gave out as I was holding on because I really had mentally decided not to let go. [00:23:30] So, everything except gravity listened to me. My shoulder listened to me, my fingertips listened to me, but gravity didn’t listen to me. So it yanked me off the wall. My shoulder was in pain, my fingertips were bleeding, and I decided to go ahead and do 50 pushups on one arm, because what was the other choice?

I enjoyed those pushups. It took me a while to do them, but I was proud to do them because I felt like I had given it my all, and it was a good metaphor for me for what parkour training is like, which is [00:24:00] it’s inevitable that you’re going to fail. If you’re not failing, then you’re definitely doing something wrong because you’re supposed to find your limits. There are parts of it that are going to suck the whole way along. You’re going to have ripped hands, and you’re going to maybe get injured in a small way. That’s a perfect possibility, but you’re going to grow. You’re going to learn something. You’re going to get stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. All those benefits are going to come along with it.

So, I’ve never been so happy to do 50 one-arm pushups, but I was because I knew that I gave it [00:24:30] my all. I knew that I didn’t give up earlier than I needed to. To me, that was a success, and it’s just a perfect put-together of what the parkour grit is like for me.

Is there a story you would like to share?

This story happens during an intense physical challenge, but it’s not about the physical challenge. It’s about the ability of parkour to bring people together, and to make really good friends really quickly. When I did my ADAPT level two course three years ago now, it’s a five day course that is a lot of physical training, as well as learning a lot about coaching. On the last day of the course, we’ve been going for four days straight, eight hours a day. Probably more than that. They tell us, “All right, get up the next morning, and we’re not going to go to the spot we’ve been meeting all this week. Go to this other spot on the other side of the city.” Which fortunately for me the course is in Boston, and I knew what was coming when they told us to go meet at Harvard Stadium.

The other participants might not quite have known what they were in for. But this a standing challenge in Boston to run up the steps of this massive stadium, that I had known about, and been like “Nope. Not interested. I don’t want to do that.” But they brought us over there for the last day of this course. So, we’re given the challenge of running the steps of the stadium. We’re given a time limit. We’re slogging through. None of us had ever done this before, so we didn’t really know how to appropriately pace ourselves.

There were 14 people on the course. All but one of which I had never met before. This was our fourth day. You spend four days doing that kind of intense training with people, you get to know them pretty well pretty quickly. Then having this stadium be the ender to wrap up our last day. Everyone is exhausted. We’ve all got different pacing strategies. But we’re all there for each other, and we’re there to make sure that everyone finishes.

We came around to probably two thirds of the way through the stadium. I don’t remember if I caught up to Evan or Evan caught up to me, but we crossed paths. After the initial sprint everybody falls into their own pace and we were pretty far apart from each other. We crossed paths with each other, and we’re just like “We’re sticking together. We’re going to make sure each other finishes this thing. We’re going to get this done.” I wouldn’t have finished that stadium without Evan, and Evan has since told me that he would not have finished that stadium without me. The fact that we were just both there fighting through that together having just met each other four days ago.

He has since moved to Boston and now coaches with us. We are fantastic friends. Just the fact that we can forge our friendship through that fight against all those stairs has been a really great experience that I have shared again and again with a ton of different people through parkour which is great. Another reason that I highly recommend that people travel as much as possible and go train in other cities with other coaches with other practitioners. Find those challenges, because that’s where you make your best friends.

Is there a story you would like to share?

There was a moment that just happened only a couple weeks ago, completely unplanned, but I think most if not all great moments in life are unplanned (except maybe babies, depending, but if that’s your case then good luck my friend :D)

After our regular Saturday morning QM, there were two events happening afterward; one group was heading to zip lining up in the Poconos and my group was taking a journey to Mordor up the mountain on the Applachian trail I believe it was called.

We had begun our expedition up once others met up with us, some new faces, some old.
Everyone was in good spirits, our shenanigans soon began as they always do. We played in this aqueduct slope (not sure what they are called but this makes sense to me so I’m gonna roll with it) found some snakes, threw rocks at each other, you know, the good times were happening.

As we moved on from the spot, right next to it, was a metal bridge or lookout over a large area of water (there’s probably a word for this and I know it’s not a pond but we can settle on pond for now). This metal bridge had a door you could access to get to the end of the lookout, but this door was locked so we settled on a mini challenge of a climbing up and walking to the end ourselves. It was an interesting climb on the side of the bridge, thin pieces of metal make for a very unique feeling on the hands.

Once we had gotten up we walked to the end of the lookout, and there is where I saw the jump.

A jump into the water from the lookout

A look over the bars blocking the way of the jump, you could see it was roughly 20 feet or so down. I had mentioned it to the group and so we had done a little rock test. Meaning we grabbed a rock from below the bridge and tossed it to the depths. The rock was swallowed up after a few seconds of fall time; clearly the water was deep enough for a human. So the next part…was to simply do it.

Simply. That was a funny word. A little this and that later, it was getting time to move on so that we didn’t lose the day for the rest of the hike. So I told the group that if I hadn’t gone by the time they descended back to the ground then I won’t do it.

Funny thing though. Josh had stayed behind to be my clothes retriever if I had gone (shirt off, no shoes or socks for water deployment) but as my comrades left me, I felt naked and alone. As if it was just me and this colossal boss I was ill prepared for, no upgrades, no party to back me up; so I walked away and climbed down with Josh and continued on our path.

The rest of the day, that jump plagued my mind. Thoughts simply invaded.

“I felt it, it was right there”
“If you don’t do it, you will regret it when you go home tonight”
“Why couldn’t I just let go”

On and on, a cycle continued through my head. I tried a couple conversations with some of the guys to distract me, but I just ended up losing what they were saying

The walk to the top felt long, it felt like a walk through my own little forest of doubts in my mind

When we reached the top however, a thing of beauty waited.

A view.

A simply nice moment of clarity, sitting on the edge of a mountain with those closest to you in life. Whom like you, want to be stronger for others just as much as they do for themselves.

I felt rich.

And like myself that day, Melissa was challenged with a jump on the mountaintop. A drop precision from one rock to another, a simple jump on ground level, but with the added height makes for a great challenge. In my head I told myself that if she made the jump then I will go back to the bridge and do it. I did not make this vocal because I didn’t want to influence her decision to make the jump.

Making the jump through your own resolve is stronger than doing it for a prize in my opinion.

She eventually made the jump and so my fate was sealed.

After some shenanigans through a cave which in itself is a story on its own. We headed back down to the cars and along the way, the thoughts started coming back, the only thing different this time was that I was not only one being invaded. Austin, Katie and Adam had expressed they would like to join me on the jump and so we made a pact to jump together no matter what.

I vocally expressed this promise that I will jump from that bridge.

Back at Rendevouz in Boston, Max Henry had taught that if you make your intention vocal, you have now bound yourself to it and must commit. I thought that was very interesting and helpful habit to keep, especially for me.

As the bridge approached I could feel the adrenaline kicking and my heart rate rising as I knew what was coming and what HAD to be done.

Like the rise before the drop on a roller coaster.

We climbed up and hopped over the bars and looked out to the depths below us, I felt stronger with others beside me ready to commit to the jump I once looked at alone.
As a collective I could feel what they felt.

And it was reassuring

Adam began the countdown from 5

4

3

2

Right about here we had leaned over leaving only our grip on the rail keeping us on the bridge.

1

Through my peripheral I saw them lean and found myself leaning with them

Finally

I let go

And let out a yell through the fall and entered the water

There are some memorable moments and I have too many to name with this crew, but this one was one for the books for sure

I found that
Fear is a choice
and that some challenges can’t be taken alone

Which makes sense because life would be incredibly difficult going through alone. I guess that’s why we have loved ones to share it with :).

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What Parkour Gave Me

The car pulled into the driveway of the Brookline Teen Center. There were people standing outside, looking cold. I noticed a sculpture made out of metal bars sitting on the fake green grass. The people were standing in a circle around it, and moving their arms in furious circles. My father saw the worried expression written on my face and said, “Ling-li, there is nothing to worry about. You’ll do fine.”

I sat there for a minute or so, working up the guts to get out of the car and join them. I had been getting restless at home and wanted something fun to do. After searching the web for awhile, I finally found what I was looking for: a parkour class near my house. I had always watched videos of people jumping from roof to roof and doing other types of parkour movements, but never thought that I could learn to do what they were doing.

As I got out of the car, the chilly wind whipped my face and left me breathless. I started walking toward the people and noticed that they were all males. They looked very intense and intimidating. There were seven of them and they all looked to be about 5’7’’ at least, and most of them had big bulging muscles. My heart was pounding because of how nervous I was. I turned back toward my dad, but he opened the window and encouraged me to go. My stomach was jittery and my hands couldn’t stop shaking. I walked up to the nearest guy and stuttered, “Is this the parkour class?”

He smiled and said, “Yes, go up to the main desk and sign in.”

I did as he said and ran inside, mostly to get away from all the eyes starring at me, but also because I was already freezing. The woman at the desk gave me a sheet to sign and then told me I was all set to go. I made my way back and the same guy who greeted me gave me a sheet of paper and told me to give this to my parents to sign. I looked back to where my dad had parked, but he had already gone, so I stuffed it in my bag instead. The guy, who was clearly in charge, asked us to gather around him and the four of us did. He took a step forward towards me, singling me out, and said, “Welcome to the family. These are your new brothers, and, guys, this is your new sister.”

I was so shocked that he would use that term to describe the total strangers to me. He took my arm in a grip with his fingers surrounding my forearm. He told me that this was the parkour handshake and that from now on we would greet each other like this every time we saw each other. At that moment I was embarrassed and nervous about being the youngest and the only female there, but as the class progressed I started to feel more comfortable.

The people there were all so nice and I realized that I shouldn’t be worried about fitting in because they already accepted me. I was blown away by my first class, not only because I loved learning new ways to move, but because it made me feel free. During that first class I learned how to incorporate multiple movements together to create one single movement. I was taught to use my background gymnastic skills and to apply them to my environment. I would see a rail and realize I could do a cartwheel or a split on it.

One of the most important skills I have learned from doing parkour is being able to see opportunities. Whenever I walk around I don’t just see rails, walls, benches, or trees; I see wall runs, balancing tricks, vaults, latchets, jumps, etc… I now know many more types of moves and techniques and am able to look at the world and as a big playground, which makes my life so much more exciting.

The people from my first class have become like family to me and have changed my life so much. They have taught me what a loving and supportive community feels like and how to be my best. We train together as much as possible and are constantly trying to expand our knowledge of parkour and movement in general.

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We didn’t know what we were doing but we did it with all of our hearts. Understanding technique, methodology, philosophy was piecing together forum posts in multiple languages, downloading obscure and infrequent videos, and doing our best to physically understand what makes this process possible. We jumped until we couldn’t, we walked tiptoe for miles, balanced on train tracks and visited athletic tracks in the middle of the night. We practiced our vaults, we made up progressions or dealt with the consequences. Things taught in a five minute interaction now took months, or years to hone. Our first handstands were barely a second, “Kong vaults” were three months of being afraid of hitting our knees, every jump was critiqued for silence, every crawl was further, faster than the last. We wandered, looking for possibilities, pushing boundaries in the city and in ourselves, hanging, climbing, sometimes bleeding, and sometimes painting our faces with car grease. We trained all night, we slept under bridges, the city became our teacher, our home, our challenge. I have never felt so alive, and I feel it again, every time I train.

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“Lemons” [Chapter 7 from Vincent Thibault’s book, “Pakour & Art du Déplacement”] simply reminds us that sometimes we need to make lemonade from whatever lemons we find before us.

I am acutely aware of this aspect of Parkour; This searching what is right in front of me for something to do. Initially I felt like a one trick pony. Every time I’d be faced with some little area, I’d stare at it thinking, “I can only do, literally, a step vault. What am I going to do here?!” Yet somehow, I manage to force myself to stand in the face of my ineptitude and to search for inspiration.

Eventually I came up with a sort of “wedge” for the problem. I would seize on, literally, the first thing I could think of. Often that would be something even I felt was ludicrous. But this first ludicrous movement, got me moving. (That’s the wedge.) From there, I invariably saw something else.

Usually the second thing was also ludicrous, but sometimes it was better (whatever “better” might mean to me at the time). So I’d change to doing the second thing. I’d throw my shame and ego to the wind and start doing repitions of whatever that first ludicrous thing was, then the second thing if it was better, and so on. Sometimes, I could only see a single thing which I feared, and so I’d start with ludicrously simple progressions to the thing I feared.

In my mind, I called this “busting rocks”. Pick the biggest, ludicrous rock and smash it. Pick the next biggest rock, and so on. As I smashed, I’d remind myself of something I’d written years ago: “Parkour is the grueling work of self destruction.”

One day, I participated in the most surreal jam session. On a sign. It was just a slightly sloped, big flat sign with a map on it and four skinny legs into the ground. One person did something near it, “interesting,” I thought. Then a second person did a little sliding thing across it. And I thought, “I wish I could do something on there.” And the wedge happened automatically and I thought, “I can try this ludicrous move.” And I tried it, and someone said, “Craig, what are you doing?”. And I failed. And someone else said, “OH! That’s totally a thing!” And in the blink of an eye a dozen world-class traceurs — people whose abilities all boggle my mind — LINED UP to play on this little sign. And for what seemed like eternity, we all took turns trying crazy stuff on a sign, at night, in a busy public square. And passers-by stopped and some even applauded or cheered. And we all ate ice cream and drank milk-shakes as we waited our turn and pondered our next go. And I for one wanted it to never end.

It was the greatest lemon pie I have ever tasted.