We asked Jesse Danger some follow up questions, that we didn’t have the chance to discuss in his episode, Jesse Danger: Systems thinking, game design, and novelty. Here are the questions, and his responses to them:
How do you stay motivated, and how do you convert inspiration into motivation?
I think that around motivation, I’m grateful for whenever it shows up on its own. I find especially when I’m unmotivated, the best thing for me is sticking to my routine. I really subscribe to this idea from The War of Art that inspiration strikes every day at 9:00 AM. This idea that you have to go to work every day, even if you identify as an artist, maybe especially if you identify as an artist, and you can set up the conditions for exploration and growth, but you still have to jump in and do it. And I’ve found through every single training session that no matter how I feel before the session, afterwards, I’m happy to have done it. I’ve done something new, I’ve challenged myself, and I’ve become stronger. So anytime that I can jump in and do the damn thing, in training, or in work and in life, I feel better for it, and that really helps me to stop from seeing motivation as some fleeting, beautiful sunlight through the lens, and see it as something that I can control and participate in.
I think the way that I convert inspiration into motivation is to stay on my edge around confusion and frustration, and I think on a very surface level, both of those things can be annoying, and we can avoid them as much as possible. I know that that’s my inclination, that there is a subtle push away from those things, and as soon as I notice that push away, I can jump into it. Being as confused and as frustrated as possible has been really fruitful in learning and finding interesting challenges for myself in life and in training, and that’s also why we’ve condensed this idea simply into “embrace challenge.”
I mentioned dedicating some time weekly to practices that I personally need, and what those restorative practices are, to me, is finding interesting ways to challenge myself in movement outside of something that requires high impact or requires going somewhere. So something I can do with me, I can carry with me and I can do when it feels helpful. These practices now a little bit of Tai Chi and Qigong, some different ideas around dance. I would like to start juggling, and also playing music, and the last practices that I’m finding really helpful are finding time to be away from any kind of screen, and taking walks just to take walks.
What do you think some people misunderstand about you, or what is something you wish they understood or knew about you?
I find it really strange that I have been actively pursuing trying to push the body of thought around parkour. I’ve been trying to train in a different way and coach in a different way, and produce different kinds of movements, and then somehow I’m also a little bit embarrassed and ashamed that I’m different. And I think some of that is some ego around being the special snowflake and the tortured artist, and I still feel a lot of holdover and attachment when speaking with people, especially around how I used to be. I feel like I’ve grown a tremendous amount as a practitioner and as a coach, as a business person, as a community participant, and I feel pulled back to old conversations, old bodies of thought.
I think one of the biggest places this happens is around play. I am not a believer in the one true path. I know that I have my path and I think that others can find their path. And to me, the best way to help others find their path is to present a diversity of ideas, and allow them to try things, and choose things, and develop themselves. So while I have a lot of play in sessions I’m coaching, I think that I also have sessions where I’m subscribing and pushing the whole Yamak ideals. Sometimes I’m trying to be on the cutting edge of sports science, or of this new field of movement, and to me it’s this presentation of the diversity ideas that allows people that subscribe more strongly to any one of those to find what they’re looking for and also to learn the value and learn their value, and create an open sharing movement community.
What’s something given to you which changed your life or has remained a treasure?
I had an opportunity to take a tour of Lisse a couple of weeks ago, and we were shown all the beautiful spots and these movement challenges that were in the first videos I watched, and it was a very emotional experience. Thinking back to my friend Barga just saying, “Hey, I’ve got something you have to check out,” and going and downloading these videos and watching them… That the simple act of, “Hey, I want to show you this video,” can turn into something that has snowballed into taking over my whole life direction is really incredible.
You talk about the interest in powerfully transformative things or ideas hiding in the mundane, and I have to say that the most powerful thing that I’ve given, and I invite you to find someone to give this to, is the benefit of the doubt. I am not credentialed, and the opportunities that I have been given have really shaped me and allowed me to grow into who I am, and all of that was person after person giving me the benefit of the doubt and giving me the opportunity to rise to the occasion. So many times I’m being asked to do things that I’ve never done before, and to be trusted in that capacity is something I’m really honored to receive.
And because I gave you a concept and a video online, I’ll also name a physical object. I was given a dorje by a friend of mine on my birthday a few years back. It’s like a little metal symbol about the size of the tip of my thumb, and it’s similar to the little tools they use in Inception. It’s meant to be spun or rolled between your fingers to remind you that you’re still dreaming, and this action is something that has been added to my morning routine, into my life. Just picking it up and rolling it, and then putting it back on the hands of Buddha on my altar, and it somehow makes life a little bit more magical. It dulls the sharp edge of my perception, and I think that’s pretty incredible for a little piece of decorative metal.
What are some good games that could serve as an introduction to Parcon?
I think a really fantastic one to me is slow motion kung fu battles. It’s pretty much just like it sounds; You work with a partner and you play with push, with falling, whether that’s a kick or head butt or punch, and trying to stay true to that impulse as you explore varying environment. You can do this on flat ground, on a soft surface, or in a dynamic parkour space.
I think that the other things that you can play with in partner push exercises are accepting force, resisting force, and falling through on force. So playing within those different levels of push can be really nice for exploring contact and exploring a space. I also use slow motion kung fu battles, to help work on bailing, and start to figure out where we are a little uncomfortable falling, and sometimes dig a little bit deeper into that. There are also good online resources for Parcon, and I would recommend checking out Parcon NYC or Parcon World, or reaching out directly to Andrew Suseno. If you’re looking for a bit more of a parkour slant, then you could reach out to Gabe in Philly or Albert and Ruby in New York.
Why do you choose to focus so much on the concept of play?
To me, even the most dedicated, serious practitioners are often not using parkour to save people or escape dangerous situations. They are entering into some kind of a simulation, and to me that simulation is a game. That is play. And that simulation or that game on a very basic level could be, “Can I jump to that place and stay where I land?” I think the game of the precision jump is incredibly engaging, and can create a really fantastic reward system around that particular action. I think that’s one of the reasons why jumping and precision jumps can become addictive in themselves, and why they’re focused on so much in parkour training.
So I guess my answer is a little bit that we are in these simulations, we are playing whether or not where we’re conscious of it. So then, how can we toy with those systems or also effectively show the systems that are engaging with new people, and in our training so that we can continue to remain engaged and passionate about what we’re doing?
In my younger life, I liked to be outside. I liked to climb trees, and I did a lot of skateboarding. Before parkour, I still really liked to play at heights, working on balancing up high and climbing onto and off of things, especially things that scared me. I also played a lot of chess when I was a little bit younger. I was a Boy Scout, and I played a lot of Magic the Gathering. I avoided schoolwork as much as possible.
What is something that you struggle with?
My biggest struggle as a parkour professional is a fear of catastrophic failure. So a lot of my personal development and development of Movement Creative has been around creating a safety net in case my body is not physically able. I have had a couple of traumatic injuries; I broke my arm a little more than 10 years ago and that had me out for three months, and then I cut my shin open and that had me out for two weeks. And I think seeing the effect of two weeks or three months of missed training has really diversified my practice in order to keep myself able to train even when my body is not as physically capable as I’d like it to be. And then working on communication and exploring coaching modalities that are outside of parkour has been really helpful for me feeling more secure and safer as a parkour professional.
I think my other struggles are identifying as an old guard, like trying to hold on to core values while a co-definition and community continues to grow and develop. I think it’s important that I continue to grow and develop as well, and it’s also important to me that a space where myself 15 years ago and myself today feel welcome and motivated to train.
What has been the biggest or most important influence?
I think the biggest recent influence over the past few years, reading Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, especially around his views on education and in developing a therapeutic relationship. I’m looking to develop a healthy, positive self growing relationship with many things in my life. And I feel like the book gave me a little bit of a roadmap for that, and it also gave me a foundation of thought and argument around what I hold as core beliefs around education.
What was a crystallizing moment or discovery in your practice?
I think breaking my arm a little bit more than 10 years ago was a really crystallizing moment for me. After recovering and starting to get into training again, I think I went in a little bit too hard and I ended up injuring my Achilles and hurting both of my wrists. Then in pursuit of finding a way to keep training, to stay physically active and motivated, I started to explore movements that didn’t use hands and feet as much, and in the ways they did, they had to be really, really gentle. So it taught me that parkour can be rehabilitative. It can make you stronger. It can be no impact, and these are things that I think have really benefited my coaching and also benefited my ability to move and work through adversity.
Another huge discovery in my practice was after training for eight or nine years, running across people in other movement disciplines, breakdancers, capoeiristas, general movement people; that despite not having trained parkour specifically were able to pick up parkour techniques, and seeing that I was not as adaptable. To me, my definition of parkour, especially at that time, was adaptability. So to watch someone who had trained in a completely different way be far more adaptable showed me that there were a lot of weaknesses in the way I was training parkour, and also weaknesses in subscribing to the herd mentality of how parkour should be trained and what parkour was. Because really following that had not prepared me as much as 10 years of capoeira or 10 years of breakdancing, or any number of other things.