Craig sits down to interview Ville Leppanen, a lifelong learner and member of the Finnish Parkour community. Ville discusses how he uses different tools in his coaching, how to work smarter instead of harder, and how he uses interval training to help him in parkour. Finally, Ville touches on how his coaching has evolved over the years and how his teaching has helped him learn things about himself.
Craig: You said to me randomly at one point, the Finns disprefer confrontation and you actually presented it as if it were a bit of a flaw or blind spot for them and I would say that Americans are probably really good at confrontation and I’m wondering what your thoughts are how that reflects into the parkour community. So I’m guessing that the Finnish parkour community would be colored by that national aspect. I know our parkour community is clearly colored by that aspect here, so I’m wondering, you have a unique perspective on those two points of view, those two communities? I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on that.
Ville: I’m not sure if it’s a nice thing to say about my own culture, they try to avoid confront, but it is true in a way. The unique thing about the Finnish Parkour community is the minute that people started training when they first saw videos of David and the Yamakasi and got inspired to go out and train, immediately within just a few months or the first month, we created a national association.
Craig: That explains it. I’m like, why is the Finnish parkour community so far ahead of everybody else in terms of cohesion and organization. That’s interesting.
Ville: That’s the reason but that’s also what we do in Finland. There’s something new that pops up, let’s do an association around it. That’s the mindset we have to kind of create some organization around it and maybe that comes from the cultural thing. We’re not competing against each other. We don’t want to create a system where we have these groups that are …
Craig: Pulling in different directions?
Ville: Pulling in different directions. Figuring out who’s going to be taking the leadership role in the bigger picture ’cause like everybody, all the different groups, so there was six different groups who started around the same time, they all came together and formed the association and that I think has left a unique stamp on the Finnish parkour community because of the history that we had the association right from the beginning, and that’s kept the community pretty unified. But sometimes, you need to have conflict.
Ville: This is my personal take. You have the difficult questions and I think we’re getting better at them because if the way to avoid conflict and confrontation is to be quiet about it, which is the way sometimes we Finns go about things, which may not be a positive way to go about things, it’s just to avoid the hard things that’s in front of you, but I think our community has learned to also, like over the years, to face those more difficult situations and still have that unity and that sense that, okay we don’t need all the different groups and local communities don’t need to agree with everybody on the different organizations. They don’t need to be identical.
Craig: You clearly like to use questions as tools so you either directly ask the questions of the students by presenting them with some sort of challenge or entice them to come up with their own questions. So this idea of questions being tools, how long have you had that idea and can you maybe take me back to a point where, Ville didn’t have that idea of using questions and how did you get from that version of you to the current version of you?
Ville: That’s a good one. In school, I used to be a know it all, like a really annoying know it all kid and I thought that maybe going back to the idea of success is I thought it is knowing the right answers to everything. I still like but I used to really like being correct; being right. Having the right knowledge but then I guess in the parkour training and being a coach, I’m being a bad coach if I’m always right. If I’m going up to the person and telling them, “Okay, this is how you need to do it. This is the correct way to do it.” And kind of slowly, I guess, through teaching, years of teaching, it’s evolved into how can I facilitate the process for the learner and without me being there, the annoying know it all.
Craig: Just be better, right?
Ville: Yeah. Just be better telling, okay this is exactly how you do it and then you become awesome. No, that’s not very fun for people or it’s not teaching them the process of self discovery and finding the strength.
Craig: Because it’s not the answer that makes you better. It’s the journey to find the answer that made you better.
Ville: So it’s kind of a personal challenge for me with a tendency to really like being correct to try to not give out answers. Try to think of the good questions for the students and then when I start doing that and when I started doing more and more of that in my teaching, having that be a starting point, that explorative kind of experiment lab feel to things, I felt more connected with the students and then I started to reflect that into my own practice too, is about, I don’t need to have knowledge or factual information about the training I’m doing or the correct technique. The most interesting things come out when I ask a question and let that lead me somewhere, whether it be a movement puzzle or can I pull something off like a project. Like what would happen if I had an interesting starting point and then just asked, “Okay, what happens next?’
Craig: Is there anything else that you want to talk about. I know there’s a million things we could bring up.
Ville: I think a souvenir from the Finnish parkour community, or if we had to export something to the rest of the world, like a local specialty, would be our family classes. They are very close to my heart personally and I know the different communities run them all around the world now, but it’s something I think we pioneered back home and it’s my personal favorite definitely to coach and bring the joy of movement, not just to the kids or the adults, but have them move together.
Ville: I find that’s the place where we have the spirit of our discipline brought out the best. Shines the brightest and the smiles on the faces of the kids and the parents and I also find that, anyone who’s a community leader and if you’re not running family classes, I strongly recommend that because it’s so much fun and that’s the way you can influence the parents too, if they’re doing the helicopter parenting thing, you can slowly and slowly start to effect their attitudes and show them the ways you can allow the kids the freedom of movement and the joy of movement, but then also give them tools to how to make it safe and how to make sure that they, of course you want to protect your kids from injuring themselves; to create an environment where they learn, have a good time together, play, enjoy movement and over the years, the best bonds between students I’ve had and the coolest stories that I’ve got the chance to follow are usually like this kid comes, he’s three years old, and they start at a family class.
Ville: The parent gets super excited about the sport maybe after two or three years they’ve been going to the family class, they start training themselves and get more and more into it and then the kids goes on the kids classes and further and then they’re teenagers and then when they’re teenager and their parents are growing older too, but they all keep training together and coming to open gyms or whatever. Just sharing the movement and that feels very special to me when that happens in those cases. It reminds me at least of why I love doing this and why I love being involved in this community.
Do five push-ups, just for fun. 🙂