Ševo Saša is best-known as an amazing and creative mover, and the founder of the Skochypstiks clothing line. In this interview he shares the story of his Parkour beginnings after the collapse of Yugoslavia, and his motivation for overcoming a devastating injury in his youth. Sasa’s love of people and profound discipline have enabled him to thrive amidst the cycles of life, and have lead him to tremendous personal growth.Continue Reading…
Craig: Hello. I’m Craig Constantine.
Sasa: and here is Sasa.
Craig: Sasa is from the Balkans and he’s a pioneer in that area in introducing Parkour as a crazy creative mover. You’ve seen him do the pirate ship in the playground and things like that. Welcome Sasa.
Sasa: Thank you very much for having me.
Craig: Balkans… Yugoslavia… Can you just unpack a little bit what goes on over there where you’re from, and how you got into Parkour? What’s going on.
Sasa: Yes. [00:00:30] Not started like way over from beginning, but shortly, like most people say oh “Where you from?” I say Serbia and they’re like “What the fuck, where is that? Is that like Siberia or Syria,” or stuff like that. Balkans have really a lot of bad history, a lot of war, all this stuff, yes I can understand. More people know about Yugoslavia than actually the Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Slovenia, all these countries. Like we had one now [00:01:00] we have seven, so I will not go into it so much. My story begins that I’m born in Yugoslavia and that country doesn’t exist anymore, and now it’s seven different countries.
I’m Serbian, who lived in Croatian territory, so a war happened. Everything crashed. We needed to move out, there was no choice. I go to live in Serbia where we don’t have, actually any family. Maybe it sounds weird that you don’t relatives in Serbia, but that’s not how it goes, [00:01:30] because my family lived in Croatian territory for the last 300 years or so. We move there and start … My family started life all over again. That’s actually where my Parkour story starts. In Serbia, a small city, really small, like 20,000 people. I got actually always in love for movement from the way I …
Craig: Yes, you don’t strike me as a guy who sits around [00:02:00] and eats potato chips.
Sasa: When I had three … I crashed with a bicycle because it was really taller than me, I shouldn’t drive it, but I crashed in the wall, and I kick my two teeth, or three, from, tooth?
Craig: Yes, teeth, that’s fine. It’s part of the schtick, we love the accent…
Sasa: Yes, I just crashed it in the wall … I’ll have all these different stupid things what I did in my growing up. There came that period when I [00:02:30] had like, watching my father actually doing stuff in 40, 40 plus. Doing hand stands, running.
Craig: Your dad was working at that point there, and what are you doing?
Sasa: Nothing. [crosstalk 00:02:44] Yes. I was actually playing PlayStation … 1, Driver and Colin McRae.
Craig: PlayStation … 1, to be clear.
Sasa: Colin McRae Rally and all this stuff. Yes, I had reason to that because I had a really [00:03:00] bad crash. Long story, I was smashed completely, I lived and survived an accident with all broken body. Ribs, legs, skull, everything. Not going into that, I had recovery for one year. During this recovery I did this, Sony games. I was a teenager, like high school and stuff and playing games. My father was working out, doing hand stands, [00:03:30] doing push ups, running. He was around 40 and he’d everyday poke me, like “What are you doing? In your age I was running, climbing trees, doing handstands, walking for 100 meters on hands and stuff like that.” “You’re sitting in front of the television and doing nothing” I’m like “Yes, yes, whatever.”
Craig: Go to work old man.
Sasa: Yes, like that’s, you know … With so many times repeating me that, he [00:04:00] got into my head. Then I wanted to do that handstand, but I didn’t want him to know I’m practicing. When he’s at work I’m doing handstands and driving, and then when we got back to work I play still, PlayStation you know.
Craig: It’s like stealth training.
Sasa: Yes, yes, and then after like a month or two, he’s coming back, I get in handstand, having now do it in front of him, you know, inside of the garden. He’s coming back from work and I’m doing a handstand [00:04:30] in the garden and he just passed. He didn’t saw me, like pass through the wall, nothing. I’m like “What the fuck?”
Craig: I’m up-side down.
Sasa: Yes, like why he didn’t say anything?! I went in the house, “Did you do [sic, see] what I did?” He was like, “Yes, it was shit.” My dad was like “If you want to have really kind of good form of handstand, you should do every day 100 pushups and 300 [00:05:00] abs.” I’m like “What?” He said “Yes, yes, this form is shit, everything is shit. If you want to do a proper handstand do it right.” He just actually wanted to kind of poison me to start doing, keep going.
Craig: Keep pushing you further right?
Sasa: Yes, yes, so I started doing fuck, like … everyday like crazy. Pushups and abs and all kinds of different exercises. I did this for a month while training handstand, so of course in one month my handstand was better. After a while, I asked him like, [00:05:30] “Okay, did you walk down the stairs?” Then he said “No.” Like on handstand. I said “Okay, I got you there. I will do it.” You know, and he said “Yes, yes, yes, you will do it.” Yes, no, that never happens … never will happen. I was so into that challenge, that was like my first challenge. I need to overpass what he did, just want to do that. That was my only goal at the moment.
Craig: Teenage rebellion.
Sasa: Just focus [00:06:00] on that. After one month too, it happened. I did one stair, two stairs, three stairs, ten stairs, fifteen stairs and say “Tada, I got it, look at this!” He was like “Good,” but still not proved nothing, like he …
Craig: A little stingy with the positive reinforcements?
Sasa: Yes, like I did that and that, and then like “Oh come on, what’s happening with this guy?” After some short period I got to see one of the Parkour videos [00:06:30] and instant moment I watched that stuff I like, “I want to do that, forever.” I just went out. I watched that video like a hundred times and I go out to try one thing, it’s not working. Come back, watch video like 30 more times, go outside try it like 20 more times. Go back, go out, inside, out, inside, I just tried, tried, tried. I did some but was, you know.
Craig: Yes, it’s extremely hard to learn Parkour from a video.
Sasa: It was so hard, but I can say that actually … [00:07:00] What’s different there, watching videos and watching now videos is because I had only one video. I analyze it so deeply that I actually learned a lot from that video. People today watch videos just to watch, they don’t analyze, they don’t get stuff, they don’t break stuff in videos. They see, they get impressed and they forget it.
I’m passionate about sharing stories. We are hard-wired to love stories, and they are often the gateway to terrific conversations. Understanding each other is the key to successful societies, and the podcast is my way of helping you to better understand both those who I interview and, through introspection, yourself.~ Craig — Project creator and voice of the podcast
(This question is part of the “Story Time!” project.)
Craig: One of the questions I love to ask people is, is there a story you would like to share?
Sasa: Yes of course, everybody has a story, yes?
Craig: Yes. Well, is there a story that you [00:07:30] can share that we’re not going to look things up in a law dictionary.
Sasa: Oh, that story. You need to be more precise because I have different stories.
Craig: Okay, can I have a story about Laurent?
Sasa: Oh yes, that story. What I wanted to say, there is a bunch of stories we have, and for some of the stories you need kind of the trigger to pull them out, but for some stories you don’t need a trigger. Like just stick in your mind forever. This is one of the stories that I think probably I’ll never forget. I had the luck [00:08:00] to spend a lot of time with Laurent and also that period of training with him was … whoa! you know… like completely changing your mindset about everything. It’s like okay, restart. One of the these stories. It’s January, very beginning of January in Milan super cold, minus five, seven, I don’t know. Didn’t [00:08:30] really care.
Craig: We’ll go with, “cold.”
Sasa: It’s about zero, it was a little bit snow. It was snowing that day. We had this routine that we go every day, outside to train. Mostly conditioning in the morning, afternoon we teach or move with him, but this day was special. It was super cold, I just wake up and so to doing the … I look at Laurent and at the moment like, “Do we really train today?!” [00:09:00] He said “Yes, of course.”
Craig: Why is today any different, right?
Sasa: Yes, and then “Yes, but like, what do we do?” He’s like “101, you know,” that’s like super exercise. Training that you spend over one hour down. So I said “Okay, whatever.” We go out, super freezing, super not in the mood for training. That happens to everyone. Just [00:09:30] environment and all this stuff will happen at the moment like, I really don’t want to do it. I didn’t tell to him I don’t really want to do it. I think I said that …
Craig: Yes, you don’t want to actually say it, right.
Sasa: No, I think I even said like, “Oh, why?” I start kind of complaining and all this stuff.
Craig: How did that work out? Now he’s going to go sooner right.
Sasa: Yes, that was the point when he said, “Okay, so we don’t need to do it with the breaks or [00:10:00] … we do it with no stop.”
Craig: Maybe you should quickly unpack what 101 is. I’m laughing because I know what it is, but what’s 101?
Sasa: 101 is like you have eight exercises and you repeat each of these exercises 101 times.
Craig: Right, and the eight exercises are all …
Sasa: In quadrapedal, yes.
Craig: Yes, they’re all quadrapedie, hands and feet on the floor. That’s eight exercises, none of which are easy or relaxing.
Sasa: Yes, yes, no, when you go for 101 you don’t stop … The key of this exercise, when you go for one, in original training you go do one and you kind [00:10:30] of rest a little bit and then you go for another one and then you rest and go further and blah blah blah. You go through all eight of these, and then when you finish you kind of again take a short break and then you do a pyramid of these eight exercises, then you do eight exercises by 11, 21, 31, 21, 11 again.
Craig: Right, of each exercise.
Sasa: Then 101 is kind of over, yes. Then I know that because I do this already every week at least once, and it was fine. It was all these muscles burning and you’re [00:11:00] always like “Oh fuck, this is hard.” Then you survive, because you did before, you know how everything works. You will survive it again, but this day was completely not for that. I was so much complaining and telling how I would, kind of myself that I wouldn’t do it, and then in that moment something go through my mind, like I don’t want to do it. My body don’t want to do it, my mind don’t want to do it, why I am here? What’s happening to me? [00:11:30] Then Laurent just. “Okay, let’s start.” He just started, and then I didn’t have a choice. I start or I go home.
Craig: Right, go home home. Not just back to Laurent’s, go home.
Sasa: Yes, yes, but like what am I doing? I’m here, so let’s just start. I started and the moment I put my hands down, like “Fuuuuuuuuck, why?”
Craig: It’s cold, right?
Sasa: Yes. Go ahead and try it, and you will see, like everyone just going and trying it. You will see how hard it is. [00:12:00] He’s starting, he’s doing it, I’m following a little bit slowly, but following, and then he, at like until 20 minutes or 22 minutes until first part of all exercise by 101 time. I was a little bit behind him and I couldn’t believe it. I was pushing to myself, okay, I will do this set and I’m quitting for sure. I am not going further.
Craig: Yes, I am doing 101 but I’m not aiming for the pyramid.
Sasa: Yes, and then [00:12:30] I will still be happy to finish this part. It’s going to be around 25, 30 minutes. I’m super happy with this. I did it, and like okay, I will go home, and then I look at him and he’s already doing the pyramid.
Craig: Yes, no break, it’s just like … It’s cold, so we’ll just put it all together.
Sasa: Just do it until you know you have energy or heat-ness, whatever. I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t even look at me, you know what I mean, he just …
Craig: Kept going.
Sasa: Yes, and I’m like “Fuuuuuuck!” I’m like, “I need a [00:13:00] break.” On that break, like, again, like why I am doing this? Like why. I couldn’t understand at that point, and I just continued. I didn’t know how or what, but you know. I had that feeling that I don’t have a …
Craig: Yes, your hands are numb. Nothing below the wrist.
Sasa: Yes, I have feeling I am crushing with the bone, directly into the …
Craig: Like making a fist right?
Sasa: Yes, like just the bone, this one.
Craig: Oh, right. Yes.
Sasa: I had that feeling that I don’t have a hand, I felt like [00:13:30] just a stick.
Craig: A stick. I’m on my Radius and my Ulna …
Sasa: Yes, just sticking this stick in the ground and like, fucking cold. He did it, he finished it, and I’m trying to keep up. I am almost done the pyramid and he’s like waiting [for] me in a handstand. It’s like he don’t say anything, you’re just like …
Craig: He just like sticks it up there, I’ll wait for you, right?
Sasa: Yes, yes, like “Come on Sasa.” Like [00:14:00] don’t say anything but I know. I can not explain how that was motivational, because if he wasn’t there I would never do this. This person pushed me so much, just being there, just following him was something incredible and magical that you cannot get always with …
Craig: Yes, it doesn’t happen with everyone.
Sasa: It doesn’t happen with everyone. Everybody can motivate [00:14:30] us in different ways, that’s true, but this special moment is something that I will remember forever. Because I did something that I really didn’t want to do, I kind of refused it with all my body, with everything, and when we ended I think I hugged him so hard, I was so happy doing this, and then we went for like a cup of tea. I think we discussed [00:15:00] about what we did and how awesome that was, but you know. I did crazy other challenges with quadrapedie and all this kind of stuff, and it was always hard, but this is something that just …
Craig: First time you ever faced a challenge that you honestly didn’t want to do.
Craig: Don’t want to do this.
Sasa: Yes, that’s kind of like the story. I don’t know, I want to say just thank you Laurent for making me much durable and resistible and …
Craig: Yes, and making [00:15:30] you realize that you really could do it. He saw that.
Sasa: Yes, when I now need to do like 2K crawl or something, pfft, you know.
Craig: Dude, it’s above freezing, the suns up, what the …
Sasa: Yes, like [inaudible 00:15:41], nothing.
Craig: Right, this is awesome!
Sasa: Now I don’t have that like death mindset, which is builded in my head after that one, it’s incredible. Just after that I did like a building, 30 floors, quadrapedie backwards. Okay, you know, no raining, no minus 15.
Craig: [00:16:00] It’s warm, right.
Sasa: Yes, like just get a little bit sweaty, a little bit tired and that’s it.
Craig: Just did you just say reverse qm 30 floors, get a little bit sweaty …
Sasa: Actually, I will correct myself, 31.
Craig: 31, oh, wonderful.
Sasa: It’s the tallest building in Belgrade. Of course no stop, no getting up.
Craig: I see you many places and you’re doing a lot of things and you’re always traveling and teaching, and obviously training as well. There are only, when I last checked, 24 hours in every day. How do you manage to find the motivation [00:16:30] to put something that’s actually useful and meaningful into your time? You, like “I have a free day,” how do you get motivated to fill that day with something meaningful and not end up back in front of the PlayStation 1?
Sasa: Because I don’t have a PlayStation 1 anymore.
Craig: Oh I knew, as soon as I said it I was like…
Sasa: Yes, I will definitely do that Driver and Colin McRae Rally all over again. No, I’m joking. I didn’t play games actually until that point. Motivation, [00:17:00] it’s an interesting question all the time because we fight in different ways against this. I think how I am here so long is that everything changes constantly, always new things. I’m not getting stuck with that, “I need to do this all the time like that or like that.” My training evolves so much from the beginning until now, that [00:17:30] when I look back I just cannot compare that person with this person kind of. Yes, in some things.
Craig: Right, you can hardly recognize yourself when you …
Sasa: Yes, like movement wise and training wise, because the first two years I cannot say that was training, was just learning about the discipline.
Craig: Learning about some physical abilities of your body.
Sasa: Yes, like learning about what I saw in that video. Then you meet people, and then I had completely new two, [00:18:00] three years doing something else. It was a completely new life again, because of new people. Actually first people, and then sharing with them what I have what they have, it was amazing. Then that happened in another city, and then I moved again. In that first small city, and then second biggest city in Serbia it’s Novi Sad so I stayed there for a couple of years. I trained there with people … I consider that was [00:18:30] the moment where I develop my Parkour. Where I actually started training, sharing, doing community stuff, doing challenges together. Growing up in Parkour, that’s like kind of my childhood, but I had first Parkour friends, just talk about Parkour all the time. How we solve this problem, how we do this, how we do that.
Craig: What are we doing next, right.
Sasa: I didn’t have any other choice, I had actually a work, because I moved out of the city, I needed money [00:19:00] to pay apartment. I did the regular work for 7, 8 hours per day, and then I did training. There was nothing else. You earn money for life, and then you train.
Craig: Then you sleep and then you start over.
Sasa: Yes. Luckily I had this work from beginning of my training. The moment I start training I had the work, so I get in that mindset that I didn’t have that excuse that when I start working, “Oh, I can’t train anymore.” Because, that [00:19:30] happened from beginning.
Craig: More like you had to squeeze the work in around the training. I sleep, I eat, I train and then [crosstalk 00:19:37] work.
Sasa: Yes, then you sacrifice everything else. There was no going out with the friends every weekend, getting drunk, doing whatever, whatever. Every time I go I finish work, I go train or I teach and I go sleep and then all over again. I wasn’t– I never was [00:20:00] thinking about that I’m actually sacrificing something you know. For me that was what I want to do. For me it was much more fun to go for, if I work first or second shift for example. If I work first shift, afternoon I can train with my friends because they were all lazy to get up in the morning at 3:00 in the morning. Then I get this benefit when I’d work afternoon. I’d get up early, I have breakfast, I go train by myself and that’s where [00:20:30] you combine these two trainings, training by yourself for two, three years. When you train in the morning, every second week, and training afternoon with your friends.
Combining two, these different styles, into one, it’s very magic happen. Because then I actually get to meet myself and to learn more about myself in that period. That I think where was the good base of [00:21:00] my understanding Parkour, and the discipline and the training. That’s how I get to discipline myself. If you work afternoon you don’t get to sleep until 10:00 and then chill a little bit and go to work. No, I get up every morning, I train, I go for work. When you can discipline yourself just by falling in love with movement, if you love something so [00:21:30] bad you can do whatever you want. For me, that love for this has been, was the key from the beginning. If I didn’t fall in love that never will happen. From there, I choose … I mean that I had… 21, 22… to move from Novi Sad, from Serbia to Croatia.
That was [00:22:00] a huge step, and then I go there and I open a class with Americo, my friend from Croatia, and that was another– completely another level. Completely new city, new obstacles, new people. I will say, first new people and then new obstacles, because it’s much more important, and completely new ideas. I get from one kind of [00:22:30] sample, or one idea for Parkour in Serbia, however it’s close, we all think differently. These guys one idea, these guys have another idea, so when you’re dropped in this kind of training you evolve so much. You learn so much just by changing environments.
Craig: You can get exposed to those fresh ideas right?
Sasa: Yes, just fresh environments is all. I was staying three years in Zagreblearning a lot from these people, and also [00:23:00] by myself. That’s where the pirate ship actually happened. The pirate ship happened just like two weeks or one week before I get VISA for America. That was 2014, and then in 2014 … I’m going to say that was the kind of, the big turn again. Every kind of three years something happened in my life, [00:23:30] accidentally. Probably not accidentally, but something really big change happened and that is important kind of checkpoints why …
Craig: Life cycles.
Sasa: Yes, why I am so long here.
Craig: Of course the final question is, three words to describe your practice?
Sasa: Whoa, so hard question. Maybe there hardest of all of them so far.
Craig: You see right through my plan. That’s exactly why it’s on the end.
Sasa: Wow, it’s … I think [00:24:00] that I already get this question before and it’s always change, because constant progression and everything. I will say first love. Love for movement, love for people, love for everything what Parkour community is doing. Creating so much love inside. I’m here, in between 100 people, I know more than 50 people here, and we [00:24:30] hug every day.
Craig: It’s actually hard to get anywhere around here, you try to … Like you have to leave 10 minutes early, so you can stop for every hug, handshake, laugh, joke. It’s like …
Sasa: Ninja game, all this stuff. It’s love. It’s created a circle of big love between all these people. That’s magic, like that’s, yes, what this discipline did to us. Give you a lot of love, that’s for sure, number one I think, love.
Number [00:25:00] two, discipline.
Craig: That’s a good word.
Sasa: It’s here from beginning. If you discipline yourself first then you can kind of fit in this kind of community. Also, this discipline always can progress and progress and progress.
Craig: Yes, it’s a community of effort. Not a community of accomplishment or specific goals, it’s a community of effort … and that requires discipline.
Sasa: Yes, like for sure discipline is here. To all of us [00:25:30] say here, whatever this discipline is, have a name, it will change or not. It’s not important but it’s going to be always about this discipline for sure.
Third one, I think I will say people, number three. Because it’s all about people, it’s … I’ll actually quote my friend Boki. I get in conversation with him, it was like [00:26:00] he didn’t travel for places, he didn’t travel for obstacles, he didn’t travel for this crazy stuff around. He’d travel to talk.
Craig: To people.
Sasa: To talk to people, to jump with people, to do things with the people. People are key.
Craig: People are unique, right.
Sasa: Yes, well unique in that key of all this, you know. These, all the amazing connections [00:26:30] that he created and all different parts of the world, but we shortly come back for them. Yugoslavia, where we started, and I think it’s going to be good to him there because … on the end, we had this big conflict between all these countries and then what we did, early 2000s, it’s where we connect these two communities, Serbia and Croatia [00:27:00] and all these friends sharing everything between, and Parkour was the link between all these countries who had war between before. Traceurs– Parkour people were the key of this connection, and I hope they will continue all this great work. One of the great things that we did, it’s 2011, it was called first Skochy jam, it was a camping in Serbia that we have [00:27:30] people from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia for the first time combined ever.
Sasa: That was one of the things that made me the most proud. Organizing with all the friends, until this connection is just stronger and stronger and stronger. I hope that [00:28:00] will continue growing up in this direction. People– because we are just the people. We are not … This is not Serbia, this is not Croatia, la, la, la, there is no religion involved, there is nothing between us, there is no borders. We are people, because this is actually the most magical thing what has happened and this link between, is literally the magic [00:28:30] that combine and connect these people after so many bad things. We’ll end up with this connection because, it’s for me maybe the most important work we did so far.
Craig: Thank you very much Sasa. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
Sasa: Thank you man.