What does your practice mean to you?

Craig: Inside Parkour there’s something called Parkour vision. People who– Caitlin’s nodding. People who do Parkour, are like “yeah, yeah, I know what that is.” I call it Obstacle Attraction Disorder. Everybody does this. You’re simply drawn to railings and walls and obstacles, and they sort of have this inherent beauty that you see because you spot the inherent movement opportunities that are there. But, along the way, [00:10:00] I had to learn that. In the beginning, I had no idea what to do anywhere, anytime, because I didn’t have my own builtin permission to play. People who don’t do Parkour, this Parkour vision is really central.

Caitlin: Absolutely. I think that Parkour vision, and I wish again that we had a different term so that we can pull more people to [crosstalk 00:10:21].

Craig: Right, when you say the p-word, people go, “I’m too old for that.”

Caitlin: I know, I know. Exactly. It turns them off. They have this idea of extreme athletic endeavor. [00:10:30] Maybe, “Play vision?” There’s some other way I’m sure we can describe it. Basically, I think it’s probably the most valuable thing anyone can learn from Parkour, which is why I think that people should try Parkour no matter what they’re coming from. Architects, city planners, [00:10:47] even people running companies. This is going to change the way you see your world. This is no longer a sidewalk. This is my stage. This is no longer scaffolding. These are pull-up bars. This is a jungle gym. This is no longer [00:11:00] a bench where I’m going to sit. This is my playground.

Craig: Right. I go into New York City. I’m like, “Look at all this scaffolding.”

Caitlin: For most people their experience of New York City, and I hear this so many times when people come visit me is there’s this oppressiveness to the city. Everything is paved and everything is … There’s rules and pedestrians walk on the sidewalk and the cars go here, and the buildings go there. Public, private, this, that. Everyone in its place.

Craig: Delineated and explicit.

Caitlin: Gridded out, right. [00:11:30] Then, everything is policed. All of that leaves this sense of oppression. If you don’t have this vision, and like what this vision enables is you walk out into and see and realize no, this isn’t somewhere I’m forced to be! This is a place of extreme opportunity. This is a playground. This is like the ultimate place to live, the most joyful place to live! The most freeing place to live because I can now … everything here is a tool for me to explore and improve myself, [00:12:00] and that is so powerful. When you start to see your world as something more in line as like a tool and an obstacle to interact with, play with, you’re going to take that lesson and look at other obstacles in your life. Your relationships, your job, your work, your health even. All these things are going to be so strongly ultimately affected by this tiny little change of yourself and your city.

Craig: Change your perspective.

Caitlin: Exactly. [00:12:30] Across the board. That’s what we’re trying to do at The Movement Creative even is: How can we take this really powerful idea, experience in Parkour and bring it to a larger group of people as a part of play because that’s what play could do. This is our look at play.

Craig: A couple of the previous interviews, I’ve been talking about balance and sort of digging into flow state and finding what some traditions call the infinite moment. [00:13:00] One way to access that is through balance. I also think, this is my personal opinion, I also think you can access that same idea through Parkour vision. When you encounter a new space and you have that little momentary pause, and you’re looking at that space in a new light, that almost seems to make time slow down. I think you can also get into flow state that way by seeing the novelty in how you would interact with a space.

Caitlin: Absolutely. I think it also give you a deeper appreciation for [00:13:30] the spaces that you’re in. I’ve talked to so many people who when they experience Parkour vision, or they start to see it and take their first Parkour class and they go out. The whole world is kind of new to them. Where like before– and a lot of times people tune out when you walk. I’m in New York City, so people tune out when they walk around. They’re on their phones. You stop paying attention to the small details around you because they’ve always been irrelevant, but realizing that there’s nothing irrelevant about your environment. [00:14:00] This isn’t just a curb. This isn’t just a barrier keeping me out of here. Before where they were just elements in your background that create the scenery, they’re now again pieces of your playground. People talk about having these really powerful, almost spiritual kind of experiences in public spaces and in everyday spaces right after they start learning how to do Parkour because [00:14:30] they realize all these things that they’ve been missing out on.

Craig: Right. They’ve been enabled. They were enabled to originally and someway along the way they lost that. Then, they’ve been enabled again and that’s a very powerful feeling.

Caitlin: Yes, exactly. That’s exactly what … Having met so many people who had this experience, you just want to keep giving that experience to more people. That’s what these invitations are through our programming, through our design. How can we keep inviting more people to open their eyes to [00:15:00] re-engage with movement, re-engage with play, and to start seeing their world as a much more richer place to live than what they might have otherwise perceived it to be. You can rise above the oppression of New York City and realize it’s a playground. That’s powerful. That’s going to change the way you interact with your world and your life.

As kids, we all had Parkour vision. We jumped on the couches, and we climbed our countertops. Everything was our playground. Right? [00:15:30] As we grew up, you get deeper into school, academics become competitive. You’re dissuaded from play and moved into competitive sports.

Craig: Right. There are only so many hours, so why don’t you do something that leads to a scholarship?

Caitlin: Exactly. To get into college. Then, when you’re in college, you’re competing for the best grades to get the best job. Then, after college you’re competing to get married faster than your peers, and have a kid, have a house, and there’s all this … Everything in your life is so systematic and it’s [00:16:00] about achieving something.

Craig: Anytime you want to do something different, you have to explain that. It’s automatically assumed that you’re going to be on the track.

Caitlin: Why would you do that if it’s not going to help you get to that thing that everyone wants obviously, because everyone wants it. I say sarcastically.

Craig: When you get back into playing as an adult, you re-discover what you set on a shelf 20, 30 years ago.

Caitlin: Exactly. That’s like when you find Parkour. Some people find obstacle course racing or Capoeira or this playfulness. They realize that [00:16:30] there’s this thing about play that’s very different than all these other aspects of our lives. When you’re competing or your trying to be the best or trying to achieve something, like winning is about winning. You want to be number one. You want to be better than everyone else. However, in play winning is about belonging. It’s about continuing to play. It’s about keeping the question open, exploring more, collaborating, asking, “How can we do it different?” You’re not trying to beat someone.

Craig: We’ve all learned this going on. Now, [00:17:00] let’s make it hard. Now, you have to go over the bar and then …

Caitlin: Exactly. You’re trying to grow together versus try to be better than one another. That’s very different in terms of mindset outlook. Imagine getting that mindset of play, experiencing that play mindset again, which is this Parkour vision, this play mindset. Right? Bringing that back into other aspects of your life. Realizing that I don’t have to compete to win. I can win by belonging. I can win by exploring. I can win by … There’s other [00:17:30]

Craig: There’s certainly other places that pays great dividends. There’s a deep aspect to how your mind works. We all know that a lot of times you sleep on something and in the morning you have the idea that solves the problem, but that goes even deeper. When you play, you’re being creative in a continuous process.

Caitlin: Yeah, it’s a very rich social and cultural exchange.

Craig: If you can bring that back into your work and the way that you drive and the way that you walk and all the things you do normally, you could be operating at that [00:18:00] deeper, that more rich level the whole time.

Caitlin: It also changes your value system. When you’re playing to belong, when you’re playing and facing things as challenges for yourself. Imagine if you were making decisions about your future, not pivoting from a place where you’re saying, “I need to be better than this person.” Or, “I need to be the best, on the top.” Whatever is it. That’s what winning is. Rather you’re coming from a place, “How can I grow myself?” Without thinking about the other people in the room. What’s best for me? What’s most [00:18:30] interesting? What if we all followed our creative whim versus trying to beat out Joe over there?

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!