019 – Interview with Sandro Widmer

Episode Summary

Sandro Widmer discusses ParkourONE’s TRUST concept, his current research and movement journey. Along the way he describes his time in America, and the struggles of studying parkour coaches. Sandro also reminds us to walk through this world with an open mind, as we can never fully understand each other’s experiences.

References

American Rendezvous
ADAPT
ParkourONE TRUST Concept
Johanna Herrmann

Guest Introduction


Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.

Sandro: Hi, I’m Sandro Widmer.

Craig: Sandro Widmer is from Zug, Switzerland. And I have the distinct pleasure of catching up with him after [00:00:30] American Rendezvous in Boston and Somerville. And Sandro is going to talk a little bit today about ParkourONE, Switzerland’s TRuST concept. And I’m also hoping you’ll give us some information about his master’s research that he’s working on. So welcome, Sandro.

Sandro: Thank you for being here.

Craig: It’s my pleasure.

ParkourONE’s TRUST Concept

Craig: So Sandro, can we talk a little bit about ParkourONE’s TRuST concept? What is that? Can you unpack it a little bit for us?

Sandro: Yeah. TRuST, or parkour according to TRuST, is [00:01:00] meant to increase immaterial wealth. I think you say it like that. It’s like the purpose of it is to increase health and-

Craig: Richness of your experience.

Sandro: Yeah. And personality. Develop personality and to parkour according to our values. So our values [00:01:30] are basically a very important thing-

Craig: And they’re also very well thought out, it’s not like a simple punch list, so they, can you run me through them?

Sandro: Exactly. Yeah, we can practically do quickly all of them.

Craig: Okay.

Sandro: Because it’s the concept with the hand, I don’t know if you remember it?

Craig: Yeah, ParkourONE’s logo-

Sandro: A fist, open hand.

Craig: Yeah, they’re superimposed so it’s the fist and the open hand [00:02:00] in the same image.

Sandro: And you can like explain all of the values on one hand. So it’s the thumb is going to be “no competition.” So-

Craig: And the visual there is-

Sandro: -is zoned for-

Craig: Not thumb up north.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly. So we don’t want to judge actually about other people. We don’t want to judge like, “Oh you’re so good, or you’re so bad.” We don’t want to make a difference there, we just want to … we just don’t want to [00:02:30] judge about that. Second one, maybe is that-

Craig: Pointer finger or index finger, we would say.

Sandro: Exactly. It’s … maybe you saw it, everybody saw it when the mother was-

Craig: Yes, my French tutor does that, she shakes her finger at me. So the gesture he’s making is a finger shaking index finger.

Sandro: Exactly. So that means “be cautious.” You only have one body, and if you mess that up, [00:03:00] you don’t have any body left, so-

Craig: Right.

Sandro: So just be cautious about what you’re doing. The middle finger, we’re turning it around, it shows for us respect. Respect for the people around us when we’re training, respect for the spot we’re training at. Because when we want to train for a long time, maybe. And especially respect for nature around us because we don’t want [00:03:30] to mess that up. So we basically just want to show respect as well to show good picture of parkour as well.

Craig: Okay, so the presentation of the thing as well as being respectful.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly.

Craig: Okay.

Sandro: And the fourth one is going to be the Trust. So basically Trusting yourself … I don’t know, is [00:04:00] there another word for …?

Craig: In English? I think trust is, well trust or self-reliance, maybe-

Sandro: Self-confidence?

Craig: Self-confidence. Because I was going to ask you to, when you’re done, go through the names of them in German, so we-

Sandro: Yeah, yeah. Perfectly. So trust in other people and self-confidence in yourself because it needs a lot of self-confidence to go out and train like we do because we are being out there with [00:04:30] all the other people. Some people are used to stare at people doing different things. So it needs a lot of self-confidence to overcome the barrier.

Craig: Yeah, otherwise you add that on top of the actual physical danger that could be there.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly.

Craig: So that’s four is the ring finger. And then we would call it the pinkie or the fifth finger.

Sandro: Exactly. That one is modesty, I think for me it’s one of the most important ones. There’s always more [00:05:00] obstacles in your way that you cannot overcome than obstacles that you overcame. So just be humble. Be modest about what you’re doing. And do not shout out-

Craig: And I love image of when you get to the end of your hand, and you’re holding up this tiny little finger, and that’s for the modesty. So can you do them in English one more time, is ….

Sandro: It’s no competition, be cautious, respect, [00:05:30] sorry … we’re going to go through them again.

Craig: Go ahead.

Sandro: No competition, be careful, respect, trust, and modesty.

Craig: And modesty.

Craig: So just so everyone understands the translations correctly, can you give them to me in German? The way you would normally use them so people can look up what the actual definitions are. So we make sure we have it right.

Sandro: So that would be Konkurrenzfreiheit, Vorsicht, Respekt, Vertrauen, Bescheidenheit [00:06:00] And the actual sixth one, or the catching, it’s actually less making a fist then catching something.

Craig: Okay, like catching, so it’s like a catching motion.

Sandro: Like grab a wall, grab something that’s like the picture that we want to do, and not the making a fist and punching somebody. That’s courage. You need a lot of courage [00:06:30] to do all those things.

Craig: To do all the things.

Sandro: Parkour to get over yourself, or to break a jump sometimes.

Craig: And what’s the German word for the sixth one?

Sandro: Mut.

Craig: Mut? I don’t speak a word of German, I’m sorry.

Sandro: Don’t worry about that.

What is ParkourONE?

Craig: So that’s the TRuST concept from ParkourONE. And if people are paying close attention, there first question should be, “Wait, I thought ParkourONE was the German parkour organization? Why are we talking to someone from [00:07:00] Switzerland?” Aside from the fact that Switzerland is gorgeous, you need to go to Switzerland. “But why are we talking to Sandro from Switzerland about ParkourONE?” And that’s because ParkourONE is not a simple organization within one country. ParkourONE is actually a composition of Switzerland and Germany working together.

Craig: So can you just talk to me a little bit about first of all, what does it mean to be a member of ParkourONE? And I’m going to let the cat out of the bag a little bit, that’s actually different from [00:07:30] simply going to ParkourONE classes. That doesn’t automatically make you a member. So can you tell me a little bit about what it means, let’s say, for you specifically, to be a member of ParkourONE?

Sandro: Yeah, well as a member of ParkourONE, I’m … like some rights and some duties as well. I can … I represent ParkourONE as a member of ParkourONE. And there’s [00:08:00] not just an easy way to get to be a member of ParkourONE, you just cannot apply for it.

Craig: It’s not a simple, “I want to be…”

Sandro: Exactly. You are like chosen or you used to be chosen to be a member. Or especially if they wanted you in, they were going to ask you if you want to be in. Now it got a little bit different because of the … because we changed [00:08:30] a little bit because we grow so much in Switzerland. And in Germany, there were so many coaches, like around 80 coaches and head coaches in Switzerland and in Germany.

Craig: Not a young group, right?

Sandro: Yeah. It’s a pretty old group even, I think for most of us. Because of that we had to make it up a little bit. And now [00:09:00] as you’re going to make a coach education or as you are in the coach program, you are going to be a member automatically.

Craig: Okay, and that allows the organization to maybe verify that you understand the values of the group that you’re trying to join. And also that you’ll be able to maintain the standards. So when someone says, “I’m a member of ParkourONE,” I think the Americans especially [00:09:30] miss, they don’t notice that there’s some subtlety there. It’s not simply that this person paid their monetary dues and filled out a form and then they’re in. They’ve done more than that, significantly more than just a simple form and some money.

Sandro: Yeah, they may be taught very much for the community and stuff like this. Even … you can choose your duties a little bit, like several to choose from. [00:10:00] But you have to verify that you do them. For example, you have to give a class, you have to teach, or you have to distribute parkour in other sessions that are out of classes.

Craig: Right, or you’re working in an administrative capacity behind the scenes, but there’s … you have to have a specific role, and you have to fill that role to a specific standard.

Sandro: Exactly.

How Sandro joined ParkourONE

Craig: So Sandro, can you … that’s a good sketch of the basic structure. [00:10:30] And that is actually rather different from how all of the organizations really in the United States work. And can you maybe color in some details with your personal journey of how you became a member maybe? Or what your path was a little bit? Just to give us an experience of one person.

Sandro: So I was doing Parkour already before I was getting into ParkourONE. And as I was getting into ParkourONE in 2013, Felix started the branch in Basel [00:11:00], a new branch in Basel. And I started in the class there, actually with only one other guy who is teaching now in Basel with me. And first in the beginning, there were the two of us, and then we grow…

Craig: And it grows around that seed group.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly. And then I got asked by Felix if I wanted to do the coach education, the ParkourONE [00:11:30] or the TRuST coach. I was thinking about it because I always liked teaching a lot, or I always liked to teach. I was not sure if I’m ready yet, but they told me I should maybe do it. And look afterwards how it is-

Craig: Start pursuing.

Sandro: Right, if I’m ready for teaching already. And so I did it, and it was [00:12:00] a great decision. I started teaching as a coach. That’s like for you guys, or for the PKGen guys ADAPT level one. Because you’re only allowed to teach with a head coach as a coach. So you cannot teach alone. Yeah. And so I started teaching with many other coaches, or with many other head coaches especially, for a year. And [00:12:30] after this year, I was ready for the head coach.

Craig: For the assessment.

Sandro: Exactly. But I had to fulfill my hours of teaching in case of doing such an education, you’ll always have to fulfill hours of teaching, and you have to do an assessment. Like assessment of teaching, not like a physical assessment. [00:13:00]

Craig: Right, you can do the precision, but do you know how to teach the precision to other people, right?

Sandro: Exactly. Because if only choose people or we only teach people how to teach within our group. So Russel and Felix are pretty much aware of our physical abilities enough technical stuff when they invite us to teach.

Craig: To consider becoming a coach.

Sandro: Yeah. It really was that in [00:13:30] this time. So I did head coach a year afterwards. And since then I’m basically teaching classes for ParkourONE. I’m teaching in the regular class on Tuesday and Thursday as a coach. And I have a kids class on Friday as a head coach. And just basic courses we have as well. They are like over twelve times, [00:14:00] or six times, or eight times, just some of these courses as well. Yeah. So the system is actually going down from a member, not from a member, but from a participant of class in ParkourONE, over a coach, over head coach, and then the system grew a little bit. So there’s head coach 2-

Craig: Right, so they added a layer. [00:14:30]

Sandro: -a certificate. Or then after the head coach 2, there comes the expert as well where you can only … you can only do that if you have a master thesis or a bachelor thesis about parkour.

Sandro’s Thesis

Craig: Right. Which leads me to the next question so your master’s thesis is, and can you remind me, like I know you can tell me in German, but that doesn’t help [00:15:00] me. You said it was the effect of one’s philosophy on one’s coaching.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly.

Craig: And I know you’re still in the middle of it, so we don’t have a definitive answer. But can you sketch out the types of data you collected and maybe where you think the research might lead you?

Sandro: So I basically did a questionnaire about this and send it to all the Swiss coaches. So not only in the German part of Switzerland, but also in the French part and the Italian [00:15:30] part. And as I was doing this, I was aware that if I only send the online questionnaire, I won’t be able to collect much feedback. So I actually visited all the groups in Switzerland. So there were like 23-25 groups. And I visited all of them and with some I did some training, with the other ones, I watched some classes [00:16:00] of them.

Craig: Observed them, see how they do.

Sandro: Observed them. Exactly. And so I basically went everywhere just to motivate them to fill out the questionnaire. And that was, I think that was a good move, because I got around 80 answers. And that should be maybe around 70% of all the coaches in Switzerland. So I got basically- [00:16:30]

Craig: That’s really good coverage.

Sandro: -representative data there. Now I only have to watch if I asked the right questions. No, but I basically collected a lot of data about the age, about the experience of the coaches as well. Male and female, so gender. About if they had a pedagogical education [00:17:00] before-

Craig: Yeah, what’s their background before they came to parkour.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly. And then the second part of it, so there was the first part of the questionnaire. The second part of the questionnaire was about the philosophy where I took the work of Johanna Herrmann, I think she’s from Australia. She did some work about the philosophic side of parkour free running, ADD [00:17:30] and how it evolved. And I took some of the words from her, or some of the-

Craig: Sort of used that as a map of or a framework of like this, and then you can try and ask these people if they feel they fit on that tree, that family tree, maybe?

Sandro: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. And I took some of them, and I took some of the … some wordings? [00:18:00] So basically like I follow my way, or [inaudible 00:18:06], and stuff like this. And then I said, well I tried to collect the reasons why they’re doing parkour. And gave some reasons by myself, some possibilities of answers, and left some open so they could fill in their self. So there was the second part. And the third one was about the [00:18:30] methodolic-

Craig: Methodology?

Sandro: Methodology. So I did the methodology part and I was first like, “How are their classes?” So what are they doing in class, doing warm up then the main part, or strength trainings.

Craig: Cool downs.

Sandro: Cool downs. And then I was about how do they work with coordination stuff? So [19:00} do they do balance, do they do relaxation part stuff? Do they have other kinds of coordination things? Then conditioning like endurance, strength training. How long do they do it or do they do strength training? Exactly. Then the main, I think, methodology aspect was about three different concepts I had researched them a little bit more. [00:19:30] And I think they fill in very good with parkour and free running and they …. So it was basically learning from a model.

Sandro: And there was the first one, learning by observing. Second one was differential learning. So as parkour guy, you have always different obstacles, different conditions, different like stuff. [00:20:00] Like there’s different heights, different challenges. And as you go to challenge, the third one was problem solving and methodology like that. And over these three concepts, there were little concept of competence, are you working with competences as well? So that you move from the parkour class as well to the life [00:20:30] so that they can transfers the … topics of your parkour class into life?

Craig: We would say translates, you want to be able to move the concepts. I’ve learned it in this context and I’m moving it to my whole life, translating it.

Sandro: Exactly. So if they could translate the competence from parkour class into life. And the second one was about if they’re fixed on [00:21:00] open or closed exercises. So if they leave space for the students to develop their own concepts of tasks.

Craig: Yeah, maybe are the students building their own game, or are you always giving them all of the instructions.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly.

Craig: Okay, that’s open versus closed?

Sandro: Open versus closed, exactly. That were basically the things I asked for. Now I’ve got all the data and I’ve got to analyze it right now. [00:21:30]

Craig: Figure out what the answer to the question really is.

Sandro: If there is a connection between philosophy and their style of teaching.

Craig: And their style of teaching.

Sandro: Or if there are other like the age or the experience that are more-

Craig: Or the coaches that have a larger impact in performance than their philosophy.

Sandro: Exactly. So that’s basically what it is.

Craig: Well, I’m looking forward to hearing the answers to these questions.

Is there a story you would like to share?

Craig: I say all the time that one of my favorite parts of the podcast [00:22:00] is asking people to share their stories because when you hear someone tell a story, you learn not just the story, but you also get insight into the person telling the story. So is there a story that you would like to share?

Sandro: Yeah, sure. It’s basically the story of my first class of ParkourONE. We did with Felix and the other guy, Silvio. So Felix was, he was one of the first traceurs in Switzerland, or one of the main ones. And I was [00:22:30] really looking forward to it, to the class. And Silvio was also already an experienced traceur with ParkourONE stuff at that time. And I was a traceur as well at that time, for like two or three years. But I was never, or I wasn’t so much into classes, I was often being training by myself and training with other people.

Craig: But you hadn’t been exposed to like a systematic classroom [00:23:00] setting, right?

Sandro: Exactly, exactly. So there were basically the two of us, and Felix was teaching. And everything was really okay, it was really good, and then we came to the conditioning part, and we did an exercise where somebody holds one leg of the person in front. And the person in front has to jump with the other leg, and the other person in behind resists. [00:23:30] So we were basically, Silvio and I were jumping, and Felix was standing beneath it and watching that everything we did, we did well. So yeah, and we did some other exercise, I don’t remember. But after this class, I was so tired, I was so … I was just finished. I think I never got to this feeling again anymore [00:24:00] than I was after this class. Because I was like, I was going home and there was like shaking of exhausting. Exhaustion. It was so crazy. And after that, I always knew I have to stick to the class because that’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to be able to do without getting this exhaustion afterwards.

Craig: Right saw something there that really drew you.

Sandro: Actually, yes. [00:24:30]

Sandro’s experience with parkour in America

Craig: So as I mentioned in the beginning, we just finished American Rendezvous, and one of the great things about podcasting is you get a chance to listen to, basically talk to people that you wouldn’t normally run into. So right off the top of my head, is there anything about American culture or ARDV or the way we train, or just that perspective, you have a completely different point of view from Switzerland. So what jumps out at you?

Sandro: Yeah, actually I was just really really surprised about the food. [00:25:00] We had so healthy food here, it was so crazy. When think of Americans, I think of the big burgers and the-

Craig: Ouch, ouch.

Sandro: Yeah, that’s just the picture we have, I think, in foreign countries maybe.

Craig: I think we exported that now and I apologize.

Sandro: It was so, Blake did such a good job by getting us to so diverse places. And we had so good food there, it was really amazing. And I was really surprised about that. [00:25:30] But actually except from that or what is more important, I think there’s not many difference about the culture of the people, of the parkour people. Because I think what connects us really is that we are standing over the borders of our country, or something like this. That we have kind of an open mindset to [00:26:00] every new participant or participant coming from another country as well. And that was really nice to see that there were so many open mindsets and so much tolerance in this American Rendezvous, I really liked that.

Walk through the world with an open mind

Craig: Sandro, if there was something that you could ask people who are listening, maybe something for them to consider, or something for them to think about, or something for them to do, here’s your opportunity. [26:30}

Sandro: Well, I think what’s the most important thing to give on, for me, is to walk through the world with an open mindset. And to be aware of the other people who are walking around you, that they have their own history in the background, and they have their own things, so don’t blame them for anything. Or don’t blame them for too much of their doing … of their acting this. Because all of us have a history in our background. [00:27:00] And you don’t know which history the other person has. So be tolerant, be open-minded, and have a smile on your face.

Three Words to Describe Your Practice

Craig: And of course, the final question is three words to describe your practice.

Sandro: So that three words in Swiss-German would be Kraft, Nachhaltigkeit, Autonomie. So that will be strength, be strong, [00:27:30] sustainability, and autonomy. So there’s basically a story behind it. If you don’t mind sharing-

Craig: I mean yeah, it has to be shorter than 23 hours. Let’s do that.

Sandro: So basically the “be strong” was really the thing I had in the beginning when I started parkour because I was always like the thin guy. [00:28:00] Really not able to do anything except running.

Craig: I don’t believe that, but okay.

Sandro: Yeah, it was. It was. And so that was quite a big topic when I saw parkour guys doing that stuff first in YouTube videos. When I watched all the YouTube videos, I saw basically very strong guys being [00:28:30] able to do things I was sure I was not able to do at any time. So I got started into it. And as I got started, and as I got further with doing parkour and doing all the stuff, strength went always a little bit more into the background.

Craig: Okay.

Sandro: For me still, it’s strength or to be strong is still a thing, [00:29:00] but not only physically, but also mentally. But it’s more strength or to be strong to be useful, to help other peoples, and not only with the background of physically helping people, but mentally be aware of other peoples. And that they have different backgrounds and that you might help them with being open, with an open mindset and being tolerant. So that’s basically the story about being strong. [00:29:30]

Sandro: And the second one, sustainability, is something I really admire people who are getting older who still deal with being able to move a lot. Maybe to say two persons I admire for that, it’s Ramon Siegenthaler, from Switzerland from ParkourONE. [00:30:00] And also Chau Belle, we had a workshop with him once. And especially or of course, also Sebastien Foucan, and the other founders. But I didn’t meet the other founders, so I cannot tell about them. But yeah, it was the ones I experience, and it’s really admiring how they still move in such good ways. And I think that’s something I want to keep for myself as well, [00:30:30] that I can be able as well in 50 years, maybe not to do so big moves, but to move as a person and to give that on to other people. And I don’t want to end up staying in the house and don’t move anymore at all. I think that’s quite a basic fear I have, being old and not being able to move anymore. [00:31:00] And so I don’t want to have that.

Sandro: And the last one, autonomy, is basically it came as the last part, or it came quite lately. And it’s something I want to share with my students especially. To be autonomous in their own practice. And also to think autonomous and critically, [00:31:30] not only of the practice, or of parkour or what we’re doing at class. But also doing or thinking critical and autonomous in life, when they’re acting-

Craig: -translating it.

Sandro: Yeah, when they’re acting in their life. That’s basically very important for me that my students don’t just look up to me, “Oh, that’s the teacher [00:32:00] saying these very important things.” But that they think of, “Oh, what is he saying?”

Craig: Right.

Sandro: “And does that work for me as well? And can I apply to this?” And I also always, or I try to remember them often that I think critically also about my lessons. And that I think about their feedback when they [00:32:30] are in my lessons. So that’s basically the one thing I want to give on to other people. Or to share with other people, that they start to think critically, and don’t just believe in things that are ….

Craig: Handed to them blindly, right?

Sandro: Exactly.

Craig: Well thank you very much, Sandro. It is a pleasure to talk to you today.

Sandro: Thank you, Craig. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Speaker 1: Want more? Check out moversmindset.com/insiders for a bunch of additional features. This was episode 19. For the show notes and full transcript, go to moversmindset.com/19, thanks for listening.