Extraordinary Movement

When we move through the world we can move in an ordinary or an extraordinary way. Ordinary movement is easy; it follows established paths; and it is boring. Extraordinary movement requires excellence, knowledge, and independence. When I talk about movement, I am talking about extraordinary movement because it is much more interesting. Movement—whether that is Parkour, ADD, Freerunning—is a celebration of freedom in the context of an unforgiving reality that cannot be ignored. The philosopher Ayn Rand warned, “We can ignore reality but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” John Locke observed, “The only defense against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.” And Aristotle explained, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.

These ideas form the foundation of movement: pay attention to reality, learn as much as you can and practice. With parkour as with just about everything in this world, the true beauty of the practice can be appreciated fully only by taking a deeper dive into it. This means we have to understand not just the physical aspects of movement but the mental and philosophical basis for movement.

As a mastery discipline—something that can be practiced for a lifetime with continued improvement—movement focuses more on the journey than the destination. Understanding the values, interests, and challenges in the minds of the best practitioners is the best way of showing the path of movement in a meaningful and accessible way. Our podcast, with its audio format and transcripts, naturally emphasizes the mental and psychological aspects of movement

The podcast brings out the more intellectual elements of movement. My goal is to emphasize the value that movement and movers create and develop through their practice. In pushing the limits of human potential, movers demonstrate objectively that such achievements are possible. Since the physical aspects of practice can be directly observed through images and videos, the visible part is already well covered. But I believe the mental aspect is where the real magic happens, and it is less well covered because it is not spectacular. A flashy video will grab your attention, excite you and even get you to try some new things, but to get really good at movement you need a deeper understanding.

When you listen to the podcasts, I hope you will notice a distinct difference in our approach. Our goal is always to show the guest in the best possible light. We aim to illuminate and showcase their values, ideas, and principles in a way that makes them accessible and relevant to the listener while showing the proper respect for their achievements. Each interview is a collaborative effort with the guest. Our shared goal is to clearly communicate ideas that will be useful to each listener in the context of their personal journey of exploration.

Yogi, martial artists and chess masters often describe how much they learned about life from in-depth practice and mastery in their disciplines. We hear similar sentiments from musicians, sculptors, painters, hunters, and chefs. Movement as a mastery discipline is no different. A big part of its value comes from the lessons it teaches us about life and reality. Knowing your own strengths and limitations is critical. Reality is unforgiving. Physics always works and is important. You cannot fake competence. Courage is required to overcome self-imposed limitations. The list of lessons is limited only by our ability to think and to understand movement.

I am passionate about creating and promoting rational discussion. Describing and illuminating the ideas behind extraordinary movement and human exceptionalism can help us all to improve our experience and appreciate the richness and beauty of life. So, in that spirit, I invite your questions and comments.

(This was a presentation I gave at Gerlev International Gathering in 2018.)

025. Craig Constantine: Podcast origin, Movers Mindset past, present, and future

025. Craig Constantine: Podcast origin, Movers Mindset past, present, and future

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Episode Summary

In a reversal of roles, this episode features Craig as the guest, interviewed by Movers Mindset’s production manager, Kristen. They discuss all things related to the podcast, from its origin, how we got to where we are, and the unseen difficulty involved in “just making a podcast.” Craig opens up about why he chose to make a podcast, what it means to him, and where he hopes to take it. 

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

“Lemons” [Chapter 7 from Vincent Thibault’s book, “Pakour & Art du Déplacement”] simply reminds us that sometimes we need to make lemonade from whatever lemons we find before us.

I am acutely aware of this aspect of Parkour; This searching what is right in front of me for something to do. Initially I felt like a one trick pony. Every time I’d be faced with some little area, I’d stare at it thinking, “I can only do, literally, a step vault. What am I going to do here?!” Yet somehow, I manage to force myself to stand in the face of my ineptitude and to search for inspiration.

Eventually I came up with a sort of “wedge” for the problem. I would seize on, literally, the first thing I could think of. Often that would be something even I felt was ludicrous. But this first ludicrous movement, got me moving. (That’s the wedge.) From there, I invariably saw something else.

Usually the second thing was also ludicrous, but sometimes it was better (whatever “better” might mean to me at the time). So I’d change to doing the second thing. I’d throw my shame and ego to the wind and start doing repitions of whatever that first ludicrous thing was, then the second thing if it was better, and so on. Sometimes, I could only see a single thing which I feared, and so I’d start with ludicrously simple progressions to the thing I feared.

In my mind, I called this “busting rocks”. Pick the biggest, ludicrous rock and smash it. Pick the next biggest rock, and so on. As I smashed, I’d remind myself of something I’d written years ago: “Parkour is the grueling work of self destruction.”

One day, I participated in the most surreal jam session. On a sign. It was just a slightly sloped, big flat sign with a map on it and four skinny legs into the ground. One person did something near it, “interesting,” I thought. Then a second person did a little sliding thing across it. And I thought, “I wish I could do something on there.” And the wedge happened automatically and I thought, “I can try this ludicrous move.” And I tried it, and someone said, “Craig, what are you doing?”. And I failed. And someone else said, “OH! That’s totally a thing!” And in the blink of an eye a dozen world-class traceurs — people whose abilities all boggle my mind — LINED UP to play on this little sign. And for what seemed like eternity, we all took turns trying crazy stuff on a sign, at night, in a busy public square. And passers-by stopped and some even applauded or cheered. And we all ate ice cream and drank milk-shakes as we waited our turn and pondered our next go. And I for one wanted it to never end.

It was the greatest lemon pie I have ever tasted.

How did your training begin?

I knew nothing about Parkour when I started in the spring of 2012. I had met Adam McClellan during a martial arts demonstration and he talked me into coming out to play with the growing Lehigh Valley Parkour community.

I initially thought I could simply jump into training being my usual self. But two pushups into my first class, I was stripped of my delusions of grandeur. Two minutes in, and I figured out that I was an out-of-shape pile of bacon. After two hours of trying to do something — anything — and failing and sweating and flailing and sweating more… Well, I realized it was going to be grueling work. As it turns out, it’s also extremely rewarding work!

I’ve changed so much, it’s hard for me to summarize. I’ve made huge progress in losing weight, eating a better diet, sleeping, recovery work (rest, stretching, yoga), learning to run, and learning to train (that is to say, set goals and work towards them). Parkour is a huge piece of the foundation on which I have rebuilt myself.

Along the way I pushed my limits. First, I simply committed to regular weekly classes and spent each week trying to recover in time for the next class (40-year-old, neglected Achilles tendons require a bit of work). I pushed myself by going to events where I knew I’d be uncomfortable; uncomfortable with my age, with my body size, with my lack of ability. Early on, I went all the way to London, on a whim, to attend Winterval; I knew no one, nearly froze and it was awesome. I began going to events like American Rendezvous in Boston. I started traveling to visit groups of people to train with them and sponge off their knowledge.

…and that’s where I find myself today: On a great journey. I’ve taken a thousand steps, and am delighted to see countless steps beckoning me onward.