My name is Nick Anastasia. I live in Somerville, Massachusetts. I’m 30 years old. I’ve been training Parkour for 8 years now. I’ve been coaching with Parkour Generations Boston for almost 4 years.
I’ve always been an active person. Running and jumping and climbing on things has just been what I do, but it’s taken a lot of different forms over the years. I started down the path that lead me to parkour when I was in middle school, I was into roller blading, skate boarding, and BMX.
Eventually that petered off and I was looking for a new thing to fill the void. I happened to stumble across a YouTube video, not of Parkour, but of this thing called jumping stilts, which are these contraptions that you strap to your legs that you stand about 18 inches off the ground. It has a big fiberglass leaf spring so you can jump, it compresses and you can jump 6 feet high and do crazy acrobatics.
So I saw a video of a guy doing this and just doing backflip backflip backflip backflip down the street and I thought: I want to be able to do that! So I ordered a pair of those immediately, and I basically spent the next 5 years diving head-first into that.
I did that in college, and when I moved up to Boston in 2009, I was looking for a gym that would let me in on stilts in order to learn more acrobatics. I found this gym that said, “Yeah, that’s cool, you can do that.” They happened to also be starting a Parkour class, and asked would I be interested in that and I said, “Yes I would be! I’m going to do that too!” Well, turns out it wasn’t really a Parkour class, it was just an adult gymnastics class and they just called it a Parkour class to get people to go.
I started doing that. It took me towards one of my goals of learning standing backflips and better air awareness which is what I wanted to learn at the time. And then, probably, 6 months later that gym went out of business, because cheerleading gyms are not viable business models.
I continued down the parallel paths of still doing jumping stilts, and now doing Parkour. I found some of the local community at the time, but it was pretty small and disorganized. I got together with some people, and was mostly still training in gymnastics gyms at time because I was more interested in the acrobatic side of things.
After a couple years of self directed training I wound up taking classes through the same coach that was teaching that adults’ gymnastics/parkour class at another gym. After a couple months of that, a new guy showed up, and said, “Hey I’m Blake! I’m from Parkour Generations and we teach classes in Boston now, and we’re running an instructor certification class in a couple of weeks. So I wanted to come meet everybody and tell you that’s a thing.” I ended up riding the subway home with Blake and we had a good conversation.
I met Blake, probably three weeks before they were running the first ADAPT level one coaching course delivered by Parkour Generations Americas here in Boston in 2013. I didn’t think anything of it on the day that I met him, I was thinking, “Oh, there’s another Parkour group here in Boston.” But over the next 2 weeks I had 3 or 4 friends not in the parkour community independently find the Facebook event for the ADAPT course and sent it to me saying, “Hey, I thought you might be interested in this”, and I was like ‘meh’. “Hey, I thought you might be interested in this”, meh… “Hey, I thought you might be interested in this” Hey! …maybe I’m interested in this!
Then I was like, “well yeah, it’s only a little bit of money and a weekend, so even if nothing comes of it, I might as well try.” So I went over to attend one of PKGB’s classes, just thinking, well if i’m going to go learn how to coach from these guys, I’m going to go see what they do. I took a class and it was great fun! The Parkour Generations philosophy and the Yamak way of training is very different from the more gymnastics/acrobatic training that I’d been doing. But I think it was what I needed and has done very well for me over the past four years.
So, I took one of their classes, talked to Blake afterwards and I said, “Hey, remember me? We met a few weeks earlier, and I’d like to take that instructor course that you mentioned.” …and I’ve been working for him for four years now. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to get in on the ground level of the expansion of Parkour Generations in Boston.
Training parkour has affected me in many ways. I’ve gotten stronger. I’m getting older, but I’m definitely in the best shape of my life, which is great. The biggest effect of training has been changes in my perception of what I can do and what possibilities are open to me. We often focus on looking at jumps that are scary or at the edge of our ability and assessing the challenge against our skill sets to convince ourselves that we can do what might at first appear out of reach. After analyzing my own training for so long you start to analyze other parts of your life and find what other obstacles you have held up as insurmountable.
The biggest of these was a major career change. I’ve been a software engineer for a number of years and about a year ago was fed up with office life. I was unable to work, sleep, train, coach, and have a social life. After a lot of thought and debate I decided the thing that needed to budge was work. I was comfortable where I was, but needed to push my boundaries to see what I could really do. So, I left my comfortable office job and now coach parkour, as well as a few other odd jobs to support myself. Training has both supplied me with a new career path as well as a framework for continuous self improvement.
I’ve been spending a lot of time rock climbing, but I’ve also been applying that to my training outside. Climbing has changed how I see a spot. I was out training, and went to this cool spot, it was an old dilapidated building, and the first thing I see and immediately latched onto was this sketchy rusty, little tiny brick ledge. I was like, I need to do a cat leap to that and build a route around it.
Right now, I’m in a reflective period with my training. I’ve had a huge goal of working towards my ADAPT level two certification, which has been a three year process that I’ve been working towards, since 2013. I finally achieved that last June. I took the summer to rest and play. I took a step back from intense physical and mental training being my main focus. I worked on a couple of non parkour related side projects. My movement has been focused on fun, play, and enjoying movement rather than focusing on any specific technical aspect.
Now I’ve taken that four to six months to relax and enjoy movement, I’m swinging back into winter. It’s time to turn up the dial again. I must get strong, I must get better, I must jump further, higher, faster. Now I’m going to swing back into a sort of more intense training regime for the winter.
I haven’t really figured out what tack that’s going to take yet, or what specific goals I want to set for myself. I know my goal for this winter is just, train hard again, you know, filling any voids in my whole body strength and mobility.
As for who I admire, it’s all of my other coaching colleges here in Boston. I get to train almost every day with a whole bunch of crazy strong, crazy talented athletes. Evan Beyer, Adrian Ruiz, and Blake Evitt, Natalia Boltukhova, and Marcus Lincoln. The whole crew here in Boston, we put together a really strong group of coaches and I love that I get to train and coach with them on a regular basis. It’s a super fun group, and it’s inspiring to hang out and train with them.
Outside of the parkour sphere I’ve got a friend here in Boston who goes by Skunk. He’s an artist that founded an art bicycle group that I’m a part of. We build and ride modified art bicycles around Boston. This group has been around for 20 years. The fact that he’s been able to keep this going, a organization that exists just to make absurd bicycles and ride them around the city playing funk music and giving people on the sidewalk high fives. His positivity to roll with the ups and downs of life is inspiring.
I call it Parkour, that’s the word that I learned first, and have just stuck with it. I call it training. I’m not too picky about terminology. I’d rather just move. I joke around a lot with names, so me and a couple of the other coaches here, we don’t go rock climbing. We go dancing, because you have to bring your dancing shoes.
If you’re really trying to pry into the whole parkour, free running, l’art du déplacement, all of that debate. Whatever. I don’t care what word you use. Move however you want, fast, slow, efficient, artistic. As long as you’re finding challenges that involve movement and obstacles I’ll train with you.. Movement, challenge, and obstacles is really the simplest possible definition I find.
(This question is part of the “Story Time!” project.)
This story happens during an intense physical challenge, but it’s not about the physical challenge. It’s about the ability of parkour to bring people together, and to make really good friends really quickly. When I did my ADAPT level two course three years ago now, it’s a five day course that is a lot of physical training, as well as learning a lot about coaching. On the last day of the course, we’ve been going for four days straight, eight hours a day. Probably more than that. They tell us, “All right, get up the next morning, and we’re not going to go to the spot we’ve been meeting all this week. Go to this other spot on the other side of the city.” Which fortunately for me the course is in Boston, and I knew what was coming when they told us to go meet at Harvard Stadium.
The other participants might not quite have known what they were in for. But this a standing challenge in Boston to run up the steps of this massive stadium, that I had known about, and been like “Nope. Not interested. I don’t want to do that.” But they brought us over there for the last day of this course. So, we’re given the challenge of running the steps of the stadium. We’re given a time limit. We’re slogging through. None of us had ever done this before, so we didn’t really know how to appropriately pace ourselves.
There were 14 people on the course. All but one of which I had never met before. This was our fourth day. You spend four days doing that kind of intense training with people, you get to know them pretty well pretty quickly. Then having this stadium be the ender to wrap up our last day. Everyone is exhausted. We’ve all got different pacing strategies. But we’re all there for each other, and we’re there to make sure that everyone finishes.
We came around to probably two thirds of the way through the stadium. I don’t remember if I caught up to Evan or Evan caught up to me, but we crossed paths. After the initial sprint everybody falls into their own pace and we were pretty far apart from each other. We crossed paths with each other, and we’re just like “We’re sticking together. We’re going to make sure each other finishes this thing. We’re going to get this done.” I wouldn’t have finished that stadium without Evan, and Evan has since told me that he would not have finished that stadium without me. The fact that we were just both there fighting through that together having just met each other four days ago.
He has since moved to Boston and now coaches with us. We are fantastic friends. Just the fact that we can forge our friendship through that fight against all those stairs has been a really great experience that I have shared again and again with a ton of different people through parkour which is great. Another reason that I highly recommend that people travel as much as possible and go train in other cities with other coaches with other practitioners. Find those challenges, because that’s where you make your best friends.
Obstacles. Challenge. Movement.