013 – Interview with Andy Taylor

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Episode Summary

Andy Taylor discusses the intricacies of designing and building a great parkour gym. Along the way, we talk about what makes a gym inspiring, the evolution of build standards that are safe without limiting parkour vision, and how parkour has been instrumental in the development of a young autistic girl.


On design inspiration and imagining lines

Craig: So, I’m not an expert in construction or especially not an expert in gym design, although I’ve played in a bunch of gyms. And one of the things that strikes me, is your ideas about designing lines, like coming at the design of a space by imagining what people are going to do in that space in those lines.

That’s kind of controversial, some people look at that and say, “No, that’s the wrong … That’s the exact opposite of what parkour or whatever you want to call it, ADD, that’s the exact opposite of what that [00:24:30] is. And, I’m just wondering, why do you believe so strongly that designing lines is something that you should be doing when you’re building these built spaces?

Andy: I think that, whenever you go out to a space, anybody who has scouted out new spaces should be able to relate with … You see this spot and it looks beautiful and it’s got hand rails and it’s got different levels and it looks amazing. And then you get there and you’re like, “I’m going to jump to … Oh, man I can’t really jump to that, because that thing’s there” or “Oh, I’ll go over this way then … No, I can’t [00:25:00] really do that.” You’ll see spots that hit that child-like nature that we were referring to. And though it calls to you, when you get there, there’s not a whole lot that you can do there.

Craig: Yeah, what is that crazy epic thing that we all … We know it when we see it, when you see that epic line, you’re like, “That’s the thing.” Now, why is that only available in some places?

Andy: Yeah, so when that’s not available, that’s a spot that was not designed well [00:25:30] for parkour, right?

Craig: Right.

Andy: If there is a way to design well, then there’s got to be a way to design poorly, this is one of the ways that I think is that. If it’s not … If you have everything that’s four feet apart, then you can jump over it and you go to an eight foot thing, right? But then the next jump, if you want to go bigger than that you’ve got to go … From now, from eight to twelve feet.

So, that’s means that you’ve got to run to do it and maybe there’s no run, right? So, [00:26:00] having … When I sit down to do this, I’ll look at there’s … This thing is four feet away so what can I do with that. And I can think of 15 things that I can do with that. So then I say, “Well, if I put this wall there can I still do that?” And I’m like, “Well, no, but I can do this other 20 things,” right? So, then now because that wall’s there the space is not the same way- It’s not designed the same way, but it’s designed in a way that has more options. [00:26:30] So, then I’ll say, “Well, what if I put this wall here, because that wall was good, this wall is good, let’s put this wall here.”

Craig: Yeah.

Andy: Well, now I just lost about 30 of my options.

Craig: So, you’re saying it’s more about the designing adds to the options rather than takes away from the options. You’re not imagining how the mover has to move through the space, you’re trying to imagine how many different ways they could move through the space.

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, so I don’t want to be constrictive, but I do want to say there is a sweet rail- [00:27:00] pre right over here, right?

Craig: Right, yeah.

Andy: There’s a sweet thing that I can do, I designed that, I put that in there, that was my plan there’s a sweet rail-pre. And now … Because I did this at Beast Coast, the year that I did that, I designed it and I said, “I’m gonna have someone kong this plank and grab this rail”, and I was like, “Yeah, that’s gonna be cool”. And then people did and I was like, “Yeah, that’s cool”. But then-

Craig: Yeah, they saw it, you didn’t tell them, right-

Andy: I didn’t tell them.

Craig: You just built it in, of course they saw it.

Andy: Then after that, [00:27:30] I saw people lining up to do kong fronts to that rail. Right? And then I saw kong fronts to grab the rail right? And then I saw people doing hands and toes dash over that thing, coming out, right? I saw people that were just balancing along the side of it and they were doing all the laché to balance to land on the thing. And I saw a ton of movement, so I’m not going to be able to envision everything, right, and I don’t want to. [00:28:00] I know that there’s more, right?

Craig: Right.

Andy: But you can … if I sit down and say there is easily 30 things that I can do here, then that’s probably a good spot.

Craig: A good line, right?

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, then that just opens up opportunities. In that fashion, I look for very basic lines that I can do, right? So if there is 30 very basic things to do there, then it’s probably a good spot because you can always intricate [00:28:30] your movements.

Craig: Yeah, a lot of times you can … What is one, two, three can kind of become six in one move, you can just go right over it, you can always up the ante.

Andy: But in the other sense, if you design something where you can only … It’s got this weird diagonal log, sticking out right next to a bar with a wall up against it, that becomes something that is more like dead space. So, maybe you can come up with this absolutely beautiful … Maybe there’s four things that you can do there that are [00:29:00] just unreasonably amazing, right?

But that’s it. You just can’t really do more than that, right? So, that becomes something where now all you’re doing is crawling around on the floor under a space, because that’s the fifth thing, right? Because there’s always something else you can do, but it’s not … There’s no lines-

Craig: Nothing really inspiring, it’s not going to call to you, right?

Andy: It’s not going to call to you, it’s not going to be something that you want to show anyone that you’ve done. It’s not truly an accomplishment [00:29:30] to you whenever you train in that spot, because it looks more like a broom closet than it does … right?

Craig: Right. So, what I love most about this other than talking, what I love most about the podcast, is being able to ask people questions and then they open this door and I get a glimpse at a whole nother world and sometimes it’s really scary what goes on in people’s heads. But a lot of times it’s really interesting and I’m sitting here talking to Andy and I’m thinking, “Wait a second, wait a second, the gym is 11,000 square feet …?

Andy: Yes.

Craig: How many lines [00:30:00] are there in there that you’ve actually thought about?

Andy: Oh my gosh. In every spot, I have … In any place that you’re standing in the gym I have envisioned … one, two … Front, back, side to side and every diagonal.

Craig: Oh, yeah, [00:30:19] all the cardinals, right, right.

Andy: Yeah, so I’ve done every … In any place that you can stand-

Craig: Right.

Andy: In the gym I have planned lines for every one of those. Including, you standing and you move [00:30:30] over one foot, you got another set-

Craig: Yeah, some of the spaces are phone booth sized, some of the spaces are card table size and then there’s a couple of … The reason I asked that question is there’s a couple of neat spots where you go up on something and it’s not a 4 x 4, it’s maybe 10 inches by 10 inches and it … You’re like, you get on it and instead of being like, “Oh, what do I do now”? I get on it and I go, “Wow, if I was any good I could do all these things.” And I didn’t really think it, when I first did that, I didn’t think about, “I wonder if Andy thought all of this stuff,” I just thought you threw all this stuff in there and turned the blender on and then hit produce.

Andy: Yeah, [00:31:00] with my gym I had four … So, I was designing while I was building, but I designed four months before I built. And I was just constantly designing and re-iterating-

Craig: Did you do it in your head, did you do it on CAD or how did you do it, what-

Andy: 3-D, I used Google SketchUp – Because it’s free- And it’s easy to draw in. I’m … I have currently used … Now I can use more advanced ones, but I still … Google [00:31:30] SketchUp’s the best place to just-

Craig: Good enough, GE, right?

Andy: Yeah. But, yeah, I have the whole place down to the inch, down to the eighth inch, built in Google SketchUp and every line … I’ll just sit there with a tape measure and lay it out.

012 – Interview with Elet Hall

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Episode Summary

Elet Hall takes time out from a motorcycle engine rebuild to discuss his approach to training (and not training), challenge, risk, danger, consequences, and why he walked away from American Ninja Warrior. Along the way, we talk about Lyme disease, and his work with the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, before he shares his _four_ words to describe his practice.


On why he stopped doing Ninja Warrior

(This question is part of the “Story Time!” project.)

Craig: One of the things that I am passionate about is collecting other people’s stories because I think having people share something they’re passionate about really gives people a glimpse into who you really are. Is there a story you would care to share?

Elet: Maybe the story of why I stopped doing Ninja Warrior.

I was filming for my submission video for what would have been my fifth season on American Ninja Warrior. I had a very, very surprising [00:18:00] experience. I went out to a woods near where I was staying at the time, it was along a river in Laurel, Maryland and there was an old dam there, this used to be a mill town and that dam had a tower on the one side of it that’s maybe 40 feet tall. It’s a man made wall, off to the right hand side is the wall of the dam itself, which is about half the height, about 20 feet.

It was something I messed around on bouldering on before and [00:18:30] man made walls are great to climb because they got a lot of big handholds but they’re also interesting because a lot of times, especially with old walls, the grout disintegrates and makes a lot of sand on all these holds.

I was up there for the day and I was gonna film and I just set my phone up to film this one climbing route and I just started bouldering up and I got to a point where I was like, “Alright, this is high enough, I’m gonna exit right out onto that dam wall.” And as I start to traverse off to that side, I caught a bad handhold with a lot of sand on it. My hand [00:19:00] popped and I’m 25 feet off the ground and down below me is a boulder field of rocks. Ankle breakers, back breakers I mean some serious stuff and I started to barn-door off and I just said, “Nope.” So I just pushed off the wall.

I’ve got a video of it, I’ll have to send it to you. Ended up falling 25 feet. Landed straddling a rock, full compression on the landing, my tailbone was probably an inch and a half off of this giant limestone boulder and I came within an inch and a half of paralyzing myself and walked [00:19:30] away absolutely fine, not a scratch, not an ache.

In the shock that followed as I walked back to the apartment and as I sat there by myself thinking about what the hell was I doing, what happened, what took me there, I got into the idea of why was I filming that? What prompted me to get up into that, what was motivating me. I realized I put my life on the line for something that I didn’t necessarily believe in 100 percent. I’ve been doing [00:20:00] Ninja Warrior for years and years and it was a big production and there was good and bad. I met a lot of great people through it, I had good experiences but then at the same time, we weren’t getting paid. We were helping a show that last year made 750 odd million dollars and we didn’t see a penny. I was perpetuating that. I was involved in something that didn’t necessarily represent what I wanted to represent and here I was risking my life to get back on it.

I [00:20:30] kind of just had to balance that and that was the day I kind of decided I’m not gonna do that for a while. I backed away from it. It was just a really interesting thing because I always talk about analyzing risk and consequence. Consequence exist all of the time. Being alive implies the consequence of possible death. Parkour implies the consequence of possible injury, death, always.

There are a lot of people that like to say, “Oh, parkour’s safe.” Parkour is not safe. It’s not safe and it will never be safe. We can make good decisions. We can manage [00:21:00] risk, we can mitigate risk but its not safe. If it was, it’d be boring. We enjoy that dance. There’s consequences that’s real, which is the juxtaposition to the majority of things we do in our day to day life. The reason we don’t care about them, the reason we’re disenfranchised is because it’s not real.

If we lose it, that’s fine. Oh I’ll keep going, I can still put food in my mouth, I’ll still be alive. How many of us have been in a situation where we’re facing off with death, where we’re facing off [00:21:30] with real consequence, where we’re facing off with real social consequences. Because if this goes, I lose my job, I can’t feed myself. Mostly none of us and we avoid those places as much as we can.

Parkour is our way to play with that and that’s fun because it’s as high or low a stakes as you want to make it. We got this analogy of risk versus consequence here and we interact with that daily in parkour. Your decision making abilities, your technical training abilities, your ability to reiterate a jump again and again and again is [00:22:00] your ability to manage and mitigate risk.

I went and I took on this climb that always, a climb has a consequence of falling and I thought I could mitigate that risk and I was wrong because that’s the game you’re playing and occasionally you come up wrong and man, I walked away from it okay. I don’t know what it is, 15 years of parkour training helped me take a 20 foot, 5 foot drop straddling a boulder, inches a way from the goods and the end of my spine. That was a very serious day. [00:22:30] That’s something I just always like to talk about is this risk versus consequence idea with all things in life. It’s the game we’re always playing whether it’s social, whether it’s physical, whether it’s putting food on our table with our jobs or anything like this. We are always playing that game.

When you can separate that idea and say, “Well here are the possible consequences, here’s how I’m gonna mitigate the risk,” and you can begin to formulate a plan around things. Kind of ties us back into the begging of being very particular about the way that I train. It’s always that analysis of, here’s possible consequences, they [00:23:00] could be good or bad consequences of course.

Craig: I choose this challenge or do I move …

Elet: Or do I move to another one. That’s just kind of my take on how we approach challenge, how we approach life’s issues, obstacles, actual obstacles, because what we do in parkour is not interaction with actual obstacles. None of those are obstacles. You can go around them, we put them there, it’s a challenge, it’s our own choice.

Real [00:23:30] life obstacles, real life problems, it’s the same analysis and that’s one of the fantastic things about parkour is it gives you the tools to manage that, so you can approach it with the same mentality that you do these situations that have the consequence of life and death. You are more well equipped.

What’s new

This project has a new name: Movers Mindset.

After months of thought and preparation, we’re relaunching with a new name. We’ve kept everything we felt is useful, and added a few new bits. In the coming weeks, with posts like this one, I will unpack some of the changes.

When someone takes the time to personally connect — takes the time to talk, to put their phone down, to reach out “out of the blue”, to arrange for a shared meal, to ask ‘How are you?’ as an invitation to shared understanding — those are people and interactions with real value.

So here’s my promise when we publish content, or when I appear in your ears:

The podcasts I’m creating, and the things we’re publishing, will have real value. They will be useful to you. They will make you think, or make you see, or make you feel. They will inspire you, or help you understand, or lead you to new questions.

Questions? Suggestions? …there’s a form on the About page.

011 – Interview with Ševo Saša

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Episode Summary

Ševo Saša is best-known as an amazing and creative mover, and the founder of the Skochypstiks clothing line. In this interview he shares the story of his Parkour beginnings after the collapse of Yugoslavia, and his motivation for overcoming a devastating injury in his youth. Sasa’s love of people and profound discipline have enabled him to thrive amidst the cycles of life, and have lead him to tremendous personal growth.


On staying motivated

Craig: I see you many places and you’re doing a lot of things and you’re always traveling and teaching, and obviously training as well. There are only, when I last checked, 24 hours in every day. How do you manage to find the motivation [00:16:30] to put something that’s actually useful and meaningful into your time? You, like “I have a free day,” how do you get motivated to fill that day with something meaningful and not end up back in front of the PlayStation 1?

Sasa: Because I don’t have a PlayStation 1 anymore.

Craig: Oh I knew, as soon as I said it I was like…

Sasa: Yes, I will definitely do that Driver and Colin McRae Rally all over again. No, I’m joking. I didn’t play games actually until that point. Motivation, [00:17:00] it’s an interesting question all the time because we fight in different ways against this. I think how I am here so long is that everything changes constantly, always new things. I’m not getting stuck with that, “I need to do this all the time like that or like that.” My training evolves so much from the beginning until now, that [00:17:30] when I look back I just cannot compare that person with this person kind of. Yes, in some things.

Craig: Right, you can hardly recognize yourself when you …

Sasa: Yes, like movement wise and training wise, because the first two years I cannot say that was training, was just learning about the discipline.

Craig: Learning about some physical abilities of your body.

Sasa: Yes, like learning about what I saw in that video. Then you meet people, and then I had completely new two, [00:18:00] three years doing something else. It was a completely new life again, because of new people. Actually first people, and then sharing with them what I have what they have, it was amazing. Then that happened in another city, and then I moved again. In that first small city, and then second biggest city in Serbia it’s Novi Sad so I stayed there for a couple of years. I trained there with people … I consider that was [00:18:30] the moment where I develop my Parkour. Where I actually started training, sharing, doing community stuff, doing challenges together. Growing up in Parkour, that’s like kind of my childhood, but I had first Parkour friends, just talk about Parkour all the time. How we solve this problem, how we do this, how we do that.

Craig: What are we doing next, right.

Sasa: I didn’t have any other choice, I had actually a work, because I moved out of the city, I needed money [00:19:00] to pay apartment. I did the regular work for 7, 8 hours per day, and then I did training. There was nothing else. You earn money for life, and then you train.

Craig: Then you sleep and then you start over.

Sasa: Yes. Luckily I had this work from beginning of my training. The moment I start training I had the work, so I get in that mindset that I didn’t have that excuse that when I start working, “Oh, I can’t train anymore.” Because, that [00:19:30] happened from beginning.

Craig: More like you had to squeeze the work in around the training. I sleep, I eat, I train and then [crosstalk 00:19:37] work.

Sasa: Yes, then you sacrifice everything else. There was no going out with the friends every weekend, getting drunk, doing whatever, whatever. Every time I go I finish work, I go train or I teach and I go sleep and then all over again. I wasn’t– I never was [00:20:00] thinking about that I’m actually sacrificing something you know. For me that was what I want to do. For me it was much more fun to go for, if I work first or second shift for example. If I work first shift, afternoon I can train with my friends because they were all lazy to get up in the morning at 3:00 in the morning. Then I get this benefit when I’d work afternoon. I’d get up early, I have breakfast, I go train by myself and that’s where [00:20:30] you combine these two trainings, training by yourself for two, three years. When you train in the morning, every second week, and training afternoon with your friends.

Combining two, these different styles, into one, it’s very magic happen. Because then I actually get to meet myself and to learn more about myself in that period. That I think where was the good base of [00:21:00] my understanding Parkour, and the discipline and the training. That’s how I get to discipline myself. If you work afternoon you don’t get to sleep until 10:00 and then chill a little bit and go to work. No, I get up every morning, I train, I go for work. When you can discipline yourself just by falling in love with movement, if you love something so [00:21:30] bad you can do whatever you want. For me, that love for this has been, was the key from the beginning. If I didn’t fall in love that never will happen. From there, I choose … I mean that I had… 21, 22… to move from Novi Sad, from Serbia to Croatia.

That was [00:22:00] a huge step, and then I go there and I open a class with Americo, my friend from Croatia, and that was another– completely another level. Completely new city, new obstacles, new people. I will say, first new people and then new obstacles, because it’s much more important, and completely new ideas. I get from one kind of [00:22:30] sample, or one idea for Parkour in Serbia, however it’s close, we all think differently. These guys one idea, these guys have another idea, so when you’re dropped in this kind of training you evolve so much. You learn so much just by changing environments.

Craig: You can get exposed to those fresh ideas right?

Sasa: Yes, just fresh environments is all. I was staying three years in Zagreblearning a lot from these people, and also [00:23:00] by myself. That’s where the pirate ship actually happened. The pirate ship happened just like two weeks or one week before I get VISA for America. That was 2014, and then in 2014 … I’m going to say that was the kind of, the big turn again. Every kind of three years something happened in my life, [00:23:30] accidentally. Probably not accidentally, but something really big change happened and that is important kind of checkpoints why …

Craig: Life cycles.

Sasa: Yes, why I am so long here.

What are you doing?

If you’ve ever played (or trained) in public, someone has asked you this question.

I’m not talking about the strange birds who shout things like, “Can you do a back flip?!” or “Get down from there!”. And I’m not talking about the alligators who get mad or try to chase you away.

I’m talking about the average, every-day people who notice what you are doing, and are genuinely interested in what you are doing.

How do you answer their question, “What are you doing?”

Posts which are part of the “What are you doing?” project are all tagged with What are you doing?

010 – Interview with Mat Poprocki

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Episode Summary

Mat Poprocki does what he loves. Formally a visual artist, he is now a movement artist who likes to play and overcome obstacles. He discusses the challenges he’s faced and how he rediscovered his artistic expression through Parkour.

On being just a normal person

Craig: Mat, I know you don’t want me to put on a pedestal, but I want to sort of drag you out a little bit further. A lot of the things that you have described, you’ve left out some of the details of the challenges that you really went through, and things were much more difficult than they sound.

I want to just sort of put you on the spot a little bit to get you to explain why you believe that you’re not special. Why do you believe [00:23:30] that this is just a regular way to live?

Mat: Yeah, that’s the thing. Sometimes I think to myself that I’m just normal. That I’m just your average guy. A lot of these things that I do isn’t something that is a supernatural feat. That I have something really super special that somebody can’t have themselves. I see everything I do as what an average [00:24:00] human can do. We go through life, and we have negative things happen to us. This is all normal.

Craig: Right.

Mat: We all get this opportunity to do this and see the world like this and be able to respond in this way. So once I started to do this, then my life transformed in all different ways then I possibly could [00:24:30] imagine. So when people who know me, different family members or friends that I’ve known for years, they think, “Oh wow, well Mat can do it, but I can’t do it.” You know?

You could totally do it. It’s completely possible to do it. I mean I don’t feel like what I did was too special, but maybe it might have been just making the right decision, which is definitely hard, but it’s completely possible.

[00:25:00] So I have my doubts as well. As an average person, I think “Man, there are so many other people that are talented than me.” And I see them in my life. They come to the gym. They can do awesome tricks that I can’t do. But the thing is that I keep on going anyways. Instead of comparing myself [00:25:30] to other people, I see everybody else is on a different path in their life.

We’re all in different stages. We’re all learning different lessons, and somebody might be very talented at one thing, and somebody might be very talented at another. So what I do, is I concentrate on the things that I’m talented, and I’m good at. I might not be the most talented athlete. I might not be on the Red Bull Art of Motion.

Craig: Right, or the best business person, or the best family guy, whatever.

Mat: [00:26:00] Yeah, but I wake up, and I do what I love. That overrides and overpowers where I lack in different skills. My love and my creativity brings me out of that. So I see myself as a very average, regular person, but since I’m doing what I love, and I believe in what I’m doing, that I can go on through my life and seemingly do these very impressive things. I [00:26:30] also believe anybody else can do this too. All you need is some challenges and a good vision.

Craig: A focused mindset.

Mat: Yeah, a good pair of glasses.