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!

What does your practice mean to you?

At this point in my training, and my coaching career, my practice to me means “humility”.

I got into parkour relatively young; fourteen, to be exact. Soon enough I had been practicing parkour for 1 year.. 3 years.. 5 years. Now I’m approaching 10 years. That must mean that I’m really good at parkour, right?

I thought so for many years. “I’ve been practicing parkour for over twice as long as most of these people, they should listen to me.” And while it is true that I’ve learned so many life lessons during my practice, I was stagnating in my ability both as a practitioner and as a coach.

During college, I started an unofficial parkour club and made many friends that way. They looked to me as a leader, and in many ways I was a leader, but as time progressed, I became complacent with both my technical skill, physical ability, and mental strength.

Stagnation. I didn’t realize I was stagnating until I started traveling to various parkour events around the United States, such as American Rendezvous and doing my ADAPT level 1 coaching certification.

I’ve been to the American Rendezvous when it was located in Columbus, Ohio; and completed my ADAPT level 1 coaching certification shortly after. I met so many amazing people there. I continued to go to events at various universities, the ADD Academy in Quebec City, the American Rendezvous in Boston, and continued to meet so many great people.

Meeting people. Where am I going with this train of thought? I’ve met all these very cool people. And I’ve continued to see them over the years as I’ve went to more and more events. All the people who I thought should listen to me since I’ve been doing parkour for so many years… were beginning to surpass me.

Being surpassed typically isn’t a great feeling. I definitely felt a pang of jealousy as the years went by. Long story short, I went through a condensed version of the 5 stages of grief. I really only hit “denial”, “depression”, and “acceptance”. In hindsight, this is all part of growing up.

As I grew up emotionally, I took what was once jealousy and transformed it into pride. Not pride in myself, but instead I am proud of the people who really work hard at the thing they love so much, and the thing that I love so much.

Now I live in a location where there is no parkour community. I’ve been working so hard to start one here.

Unlike my college club, I’m approaching this new community with a little more humility. Even though I am a teacher and a coach, I remain a student and look up to people that I consider to be great mentors.