What does your practice mean to you?

Craig: [00:20:30] So, one of the things that I find I have to work on a lot is learning how to accept assistance from people. I don’t mean like the physical lift up on a wall climb up or something, I’m great at that, “Here, give me a push.” But when people try to help me and I feel like I should know this material myself, and that’s something that I struggle with. When people want to just cheer you on or offer you some words of encouragement, I have trouble accepting that.

Thomas: Yeah, many of us do. I think for me it’s [00:21:00] not only that but also, as much as I don’t want to, I do walk around with a chip on my shoulder that I know a bunch of things or something, and like all of us I’ll often make assumptions about other people. I’ve had that experience, I remember once I was in class, and I’m 53 years old almost, in a month, and most of the people are about 30 years younger than me or more –

Craig: Right.

Thomas: … and we were doing [00:21:30] something, it was one of those day when I remember my son –

Craig: C-word?

Thomas: … asked me if, he looked at me like he was worried I was going to die or something because I was breathing so hard.

Craig: oh, yeah, we were doing conditioning. Right.

Thomas: And this other young guy came over to me and said, “Oh, you know if you breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, it’ll help you to recover faster,” and you know, for like a micro-second I had rage, and that I was followed up by, as quick as I could turn [00:22:00] it around from, who do you think you’re talking to? I know what I’m doing, to, oh, here’s this kid in this system of movement that instead of promoting competition or separation –

Craig: Yeah, he didn’t laugh at you.

Thomas: … he turned so to someone who’s 40 years older than him. I must look like a grandpa, practically, to him, and he was like, “I wonder if I could help this guy.” And that’s one of the cool things about Parkour versus almost all other systems that I’ve experienced of like these kind of sports, [00:22:30] like marital arts and all those things, is that the group teaches itself, right. Everybody reaches a hand out to someone and –

Craig: Yeah, it’s like a tribe, where we’re all living outdoors.

Thomas: Yeah, the intent! Yeah, it reminds me of like… Tribe’s a great term actually, because it reminds me of that even though there’s the elder, and even though this one’s the best hunter, and this one’s the best scout, and this one’s … Everybody has something, and everybody’s something is encouraged to come into the soup of the [00:23:00] group environment. They have this great phrase, which you love to say in French, which I don’t know how to say in French.

Craig: On commençe ensemble, on finit ensemble. We start together, we finish together.

Thomas: Right. And that experience of having that was like a huge ego crush for me because I think every time we did conditioning I was always the last person, even yesterday I was the last person and the finally Josh said, “Well, I think you can finish now,” or something like that.

Craig: And then you feel cheated, you’re like “Aww.”

Thomas: But that process of like, you know, you’re in your pushups [00:23:30] and you’re all alone, and then like someone gets down on each of side you and starts doing pushups with you to finish it out. There’s this feeling of like, I mean it’s almost like the Marines where there’s like no man left behind.

Craig: Right. They literally, a lot of people say that, that we don’t leave each other behind. For me personally, I’m always in the back. But now I find that if I am not dead last, my train of thought is, “Oops. What did I do wrong? That I made this exercise so easy on my lazy self that I left somebody behind.” I’m like, “I remember how [00:24:00] hard I worked on the first day. I don’t work that hard anymore. I don’t think I’ve seen many people who work as hard as they did on their first day. They work smarter now.” So, I always, if I’m the guy who doubles back to help someone, I’m always thinking like, “I’m sorry I left you behind,” not “Why are you so slow?” And from the other side of that, when I was the guy at the very end, I felt bad that people were coming to help me, and now I realize that that’s actually done out of like a big open heart. And they would hug me and lift me up if they knew, except they know that I would feel [00:24:30] cheated like, “No, I wanted to do the pushup.” So, I really think that community is … I don’t know that it’s unique, I’ve only done a certain number of other things, but it really is exceptional when you encounter that in Parkour.

Thomas: Yeah. I think it exists in other places depending on the culture that’s being developed by the leader of that group.

Craig: Yeah, that’s a good point about that.

Thomas: But it seems more built into the infrastructure of Parkour, at least in that language.

Craig: Yeah, it seems to generate those cultures. Yeah.

Thomas: And everybody eventually falls and does something to [00:25:00] themselves that’s quite painful and nobody’s immune to that, and I think that’s also known in the group that kind of the playing field’s level no matter what your skill level is.

Craig: Everybody’s human.

What does your practice mean to you?

Mentioned in this section:
Jonny Hart’s paintings

Craig: So that brings me to an interesting question, which is, Jonny Hart is an artist. So I started talking to him, and I met him, and I met him a couple times, and I’m like “Oh, this guy’s a painter, like with a capital P.” If you haven’t seen his work, I’ll link some stuff off of the show notes. Like a painter for realsies. So I’m thinking, “Well, this guy went to school for years, and he has this skill set.” And we’re gonna talk about anatomy. “This guy has a skill set with drawing and anatomy and does he look at his Parkour [00:06:30] differently? Like is there a cross between the art skillset and the Parkour skillset?” Or do you find that you really separate these two parts of your lives and, if you do separate them, why?

Jonny: I do tend to separate them, yes. People ask me all the time why I’m not painting action poses of my friends jumping …

Craig: The body in space, right.

Jonny: Mid-backflip, or whatever it may be. And the truth is, I couldn’t be less interested in doing something like that. The reason why is because in school, [00:07:00] I watched the progression of going from doing art purely because I loved it, I just did it to escape in my own world because it was the most fun I could imagine having, to having to do it because it’s a grind now. You’ve chosen to do this for a living. You show up every day. You put in the work and you do it when it’s not fun, when it’s not inspiring. And I needed something else after a day of being in the studio to unwind. Because it wasn’t drawing anymore. I didn’t want to come home and do more drawing or painting. [00:07:30] And I don’t like wasting time, so I wasn’t going to come home and play video games or drown myself in comic books or anime or whatever. Not that I’m putting any of those things down, it’s just, for me it felt like…

I don’t know, I’m a very obsessive person. I go all in when I get into something. So if I go down one of those rabbit holes, that’s gonna be most of my life. I’m gonna be playing Call of Duty eighteen hours a day or something. And I have no interest in doing that.

Craig: Don’t do that! So you’re looking at [00:08:00] Parkour like, this is something precious that you’ve found and I’m loving it.

Jonny: Oh my god, yes.

Craig: Do not want to mess this up by having it turn into my workaday life. So here in New York City, and in Brooklyn, I know that you’re teaching for The Movement Creative and I’ll talk about the class in a minute. But you teach for them, but you don’t have aspirations, or do you have aspirations of teaching and making a living off that? Is that bread and butter?

Jonny: I do not, no. I do it because I love it. I have another job, a survival job that I do just in a restaurant to make ends meet, but for coaching, I just [00:08:30] do it because I love it. And I only coach classes that I love coaching. I leave there feeling awesome. All those kids are like my little brothers and sisters. When I leave, my battery is recharged. I’m not drained at all.

So I love the fact that I don’t have to do it for a living, that I do it just because I love it. And it keeps it fresh and exciting for me, and, I’m sure, for the kids as well. And I still have this art thing that I do as well. I may go into academia or something at some point. But for now, I’m also painting and drawing on the side. I teach art, as [00:09:00] well. And I’m even starting to come up with classes now that combine the two, where I’m teaching drawing and anatomy and movement, all at the same time.

What does your practice mean to you?

Throughout the years I’ve thought of many things that parkour is to me. A way of thinking that breaks you out of the normal pattern of movement. A fun pastime, something that I can always have a good time doing. A great way to meet people, and a way both to stand out from the normal flow of our society and to fit in to a community filled with people of similar mindsets (in a certain regard.) I have been thinking of one thing more recently: Parkour allows us to be better.

Not necessarily in a prideful condescending way. I believe that all people are equal in importance. However, there is something about this art that allows you to take your body beyond the limits of common knowledge. If you need an example, just think of all the people that treat you like your crazy for practicing parkour, a thrill seeker with a desire to do dangerous things. “Normal” people don’t think of the human body, or their human body at least, in the way that we do. Before I practiced parkour, a 10 foot drop was in my mind an almost guaranteed injury. It was not possible for the human body to withstand such things. I would have never thought that my body was capable of so much more. I grew up loving superheroes and sci-fi. The idea of being something more than a normal human was, and is, intriguing to me. Parkour is my way to achieve that goal in the here and now. I can be better today than I was yesterday. I can do more than I thought possible today than I could years ago. I can be more than the average human. I can muster my strength and push my limits until I reach a level that no one thought possible. This art allows us to be better than average, better than just normal. I really admire that about parkour.

I am currently attempting to become a police officer, and I definitely feel that training in parkour has prepared me. I have trained my body so that it is able and efficient, and with that body, I can help other people who do not have the same mindset as me. I can not only show them that we as humans are more capable than we think, but I can use my skills to help keep them safe, and to serve them.

Practicing parkour means a lot of things to me. Right now, however, the focus is on bettering myself. I believe someone relevant to this conversation once said, “be strong to be useful.” That is what practicing parkour means to me right now.

What does your practice mean to you?

Parkour to me is like playing. I love to be able to creatively move through my environment, which is also a reason that I was a passionate skateboarder for many years, and why I continue to ski.

Parkour has reinforced my understanding of the different levels of thinking in my brain. Using too much rational thinking in parkour can be dangerous: e.g. considering the risks of balancing at height, or imaging the different ways I could get injured during a movement. I know to shut those thoughts out and just go for it, granted I know a certain maneuver is within my abilities.

I have learned to trust my instinctual judgement of distances and speed required, etc. It’s quite amazing what the human brain can evaluate without rational calculation. My experience has led to me having very good grasp of what I am capable of, and what I am not. This confidence in my abilities is why I have yet to suffer any side-lining injury.

Another thing I love about parkour is that it makes me feel true physical risk; it makes me feel alive. I enjoy putting myself in situations in which my physical abilities are the only things keeping me from suffering major damage. Example: balancing at height. Living a vanilla life of driving to work, sitting at my desk all day, then heading to the gym to use the nautilus machines is too safe. It is not the life I choose to lead.

I live in the Netherlands now, and don’t train parkour much because I haven’t yet met a group of people that train near me. But I still engage in risky physical activities that require strength, endurance, and balance. They are slacklining, rock climbing, and survival training (a Dutch variant of obstacle course racing).

What does your practice mean to you?

Just like any meaningful practice, “art du déplacement” is like a vehicle, or a boat. It can be used by the working people, or by the dreamers, or by the altruists (a given person can embody all three, of course) … Unless it is one of those few, very specific circumstances, the name of the boat doesn’t matter that much. You need a solid structure—sound foundations—, and you need to learn the fundamentals of navigation. But then you can get from one place to another (i.e. maintain your health on a daily basis), explore uncharted waters (i.e. push the boundaries of a specific theme you’re working on, such as creativity, during a given year or season), or carry people across a river (i.e. dedicating a time of your life to coaching, whatever specific content you believe needs transmission). Oftentimes, a small canoe may just as well serve these purposes, for scale and integrity are two largely unrelated topics (“we’re gonna need a bigger boat!”). You might even change boat one day, drop the anchor for some time, abandon ship altogether or even leave your small embarkation on the shore as an offering to future, unknown travellers—for once you’ve crossed the river, you may realize that there’s no need to carry the heavy boat all around on land.

 

What does your practice mean to you?

Practice to me means pushing my limits and growing in strength and technique. I want to eventually use parkour in rough inner city areas; however, first, I must learn as much as possible and be able to execute moves with skill in order to keep the attention and respect of the youth. When I train, I am preparing for something more then just my enjoyment of an activity. I am developing skills to help me reach into lives of youth who are hurting and longing to find something clean, safe, and fun to express themselves with and find community in. Practice is also about having fun and enjoying the exploration of what my body is capable of!