Craig: One thing that I wanted to bring up is I know you have a pretty extensive background in martial arts, in terms of the number of years you put into it, starting very young and continuing on. One question I had for you is it seems to me that at some point you had to step away from that and allocate less time to it. I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts or anything you wanted [00:08:00] to say about having to change the primary love of your life from one … They’re both physical activities, but they’re fundamentally very different.
Adam: They are, and what you just said, Craig, is wonderfully accurate. I really did have to flip the switch on the love of my life. Since I was a kid my father was in the Vietnam War, and his father, my grandfather, taught karate to the World War II troops. So he knew judo and some of the old-school basic karate that we see in the [00:08:30] old movies. He was a combat instructor and taught Asian martial arts to our guys so that they could have a better understanding of hand-to-hand combat. He taught my dad. My dad talked about that here and there. So as a kid I always thought “That’s super cool.” What kid doesn’t want to be a Black belt and doesn’t want to do karate?
I was always interested in it, and on top of that, I was bullied at school. I was very short. I was the second shortest person in my class. For what it’s worth, the shortest person in my class was my main bully, ironically. [00:09:00] Yeah, so of course, that affected me. So at age eight or nine, I want to say nine, my parents and I decided that we want to look at martial art schools.
We walked around. It’s pretty funny, in downtown Emmaus, there were two karate schools directly across the street from each other. We drove into the parking lot of one. We were walking up, and you know how schools have glass windows so that you can see the class from outside? I looked through the window, and I saw a girl who was probably a teenager, and she had a Purple belt [00:09:30] on. I knew enough to know that that was kind of a high rank. So like “I’m gonna watch her for a second.”
So I’m standing on the sidewalk looking through the window, and they were doing a drill. She was kicking a pad in front of her and a pad behind her, like a front kick and then a back kick. She just looked awful. She was terrible. It didn’t look cool at all, and I thought “I don’t think I want to learn here. That girl’s not very good.” So I told my dad “I want to go across the street and go to the other place.”
So I went to the other place. Lehigh Valley Martial Arts was the name of the school, and I met the instructor, Paul Miller. [00:10:00] It was awesome. I really liked him. I really liked the other instructors that were at the school. I liked the kids that I saw. So I ended up joining. I can thank that Purple belt for … Whoever that girl is out there, I appreciate it.
Craig: The anti-example.
Adam: The anti-example. Exactly. She was the perfect contrast for me. So I joined that school, and that was my passion. That was my dream as a kid. All I wanted to do was be a martial arts instructor. In my late teenage years, as I was in college, I was a martial arts instructor. I sort of [00:10:30] achieved my goal and was right on the edge, or the premise, of at least being a head instructor for my very own school. Right about when that happened I was also getting involved in parkour. It was a difficult choice, and I had to decide “Do I want to continue being a martial arts instructor, or do I want to take my parkour coaching career a little bit more seriously?”
I made the hard choice to do parkour. The [00:11:00] reason behind that is pretty straightforward. It’s pretty honest. It’s that the more I got involved in the martial arts culture and the martial arts community, the more I saw that it was largely driven by ego. You didn’t necessarily have to be really good to be a martial arts instructor. You didn’t even have to know what you were doing necessarily. You just had to look good and act tough, or be big and be large, and throw your weight around physically.
Craig: Play the part.
Adam: Or metaphorically. Exactly. You could really [00:11:30] act a martial arts instructor, and a quick Google search will show you that that happens across the world. Don’t get too much time Googling though, you’ll get depressed. The parkour community, on the other hand, I have yet to meet someone who I consider better than me that is not obviously better than me. Anyone out there who says they’re good at parkour, they can’t do one jump without it being shown one way or another.
Craig: Right. Movement makes it immediately obvious.
Adam: Right. Exactly right. It’s a transparent art. It’s a transparent skill. You could be a big [00:12:00] karate guy and wear whatever color belt you want to wear with however many stripes on it you want, and you can toss a guy around who’s psychologically conditioned to give into that. You can either convince yourself or everybody around you or both that you’re really good, but when it’s you versus a rail or you versus the empty space of a very large jump, you either are or are not. There’s no guessing. So that element of the parkour culture, which is a sense of humility versus your obstacles, as opposed to ego versus [00:12:30] your students, really drew me in the direction of parkour.