How Sandro joined ParkourONE

Craig: So Sandro, can you … that’s a good sketch of the basic structure. [00:10:30] And that is actually rather different from how all of the organizations really in the United States work. And can you maybe color in some details with your personal journey of how you became a member maybe? Or what your path was a little bit? Just to give us an experience of one person.

Sandro: So I was doing Parkour already before I was getting into ParkourONE. And as I was getting into ParkourONE in 2013, Felix started the branch in Basel [00:11:00], a new branch in Basel. And I started in the class there, actually with only one other guy who is teaching now in Basel with me. And first in the beginning, there were the two of us, and then we grow…

Craig: And it grows around that seed group.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly. And then I got asked by Felix if I wanted to do the coach education, the ParkourONE [00:11:30] or the TRuST coach. I was thinking about it because I always liked teaching a lot, or I always liked to teach. I was not sure if I’m ready yet, but they told me I should maybe do it. And look afterwards how it is-

Craig: Start pursuing.

Sandro: Right, if I’m ready for teaching already. And so I did it, and it was [00:12:00] a great decision. I started teaching as a coach. That’s like for you guys, or for the PKGen guys ADAPT level one. Because you’re only allowed to teach with a head coach as a coach. So you cannot teach alone. Yeah. And so I started teaching with many other coaches, or with many other head coaches especially, for a year. And [00:12:30] after this year, I was ready for the head coach.

Craig: For the assessment.

Sandro: Exactly. But I had to fulfill my hours of teaching in case of doing such an education, you’ll always have to fulfill hours of teaching, and you have to do an assessment. Like assessment of teaching, not like a physical assessment. [00:13:00]

Craig: Right, you can do the precision, but do you know how to teach the precision to other people, right?

Sandro: Exactly. Because if only choose people or we only teach people how to teach within our group. So Russel and Felix are pretty much aware of our physical abilities enough technical stuff when they invite us to teach.

Craig: To consider becoming a coach.

Sandro: Yeah. It really was that in [00:13:30] this time. So I did head coach a year afterwards. And since then I’m basically teaching classes for ParkourONE. I’m teaching in the regular class on Tuesday and Thursday as a coach. And I have a kids class on Friday as a head coach. And just basic courses we have as well. They are like over twelve times, [00:14:00] or six times, or eight times, just some of these courses as well. Yeah. So the system is actually going down from a member, not from a member, but from a participant of class in ParkourONE, over a coach, over head coach, and then the system grew a little bit. So there’s head coach 2-

Craig: Right, so they added a layer. [00:14:30]

Sandro: -a certificate. Or then after the head coach 2, there comes the expert as well where you can only … you can only do that if you have a master thesis or a bachelor thesis about parkour.

Dylan’s origin story

Craig: So let’s just start by putting you into the spatial picture a little bit. How did you get into parkour and how do you end up being a person who started Innate Movement and just like …

Dylan: Totally. Should I kinda do the whole origin story and then –

Craig: You can. I kind of avoid the origin stories, [00:01:00] but there are parts of your origin story that are gonna come in that are important, so whatever level you wanna bring in.

Dylan: Well I guess I first found parkour just by seeing one of the David Belle French news videos, and it just immediately resonated with me. I was like, I have to go do that. You know, I was one of those kind of monkey kids like many of us who were climbing on things always. As soon as I saw it, I was like, yes, I must go. But at the time I was very [00:01:30] kind of like, hippied out. I just got out of college and I didn’t want to train on concrete. I just wanted to train in the woods and feel connected to nature.

Craig: Ooh, that’s actually an interesting parallel to how they really started, right?

Dylan: Right, right, exactly. Like the Sarcelles situation, right? But so you know, I went out and I trained a little bit. This was in like, 2006 or 2007 for a few months. Then I actually broke my fibula and destroyed my ankle in like an old man flag football league.

Craig: Ow, I’m laughing ’cause they’re using the word old man.

Dylan: [00:02:00] Right, well, that’s how I thought about it at the time, and yeah, with that experience, I was like, oh, maybe I’m too old and fragile to do this. I can’t train parkour, parkour isn’t for me, which is just hilarious…

Craig: Right, you were over the hill and your life ended at what age?

Dylan: Exactly, I was like 23, which is hilarious now, you know, I’m almost …

Craig: And how much, you would give a leg to be 23 again?

Dylan: Exactly, yeah, as a person pushing 34, I was like, what are you talking about? I was like, you’re in the prime of your life. But so, at the time that’s how I thought about it so then I just let a lot of years go [00:02:30] by, and I really just kind of embraced the unhealthiness, and I sort of went for it just eating terrible things …

Craig: What’s the most comfortable sofa I can buy, right?

Dylan: Exactly, yeah, I was like this is all over, time to just … it was like hospice or something, it was time to just try to be, just make yourself comfortable and ride it out ’til the end, man.

So, a few years went by of that. At a certain point something flipped back on and I reprioritized becoming fit, and then around [00:03:00] 2013 parkour just came back across my field of view, just on the internet again, I imagine, and I was like, “You know what? No.” Like, “I can do that. I’m in the fittest, I’m in the best shape of my life.” I was like 29-

Craig: Rage quit the potato chips, right?

Dylan: Right, I was like, “I’m out of here.” Yes, I have to go do that immediately. So, the next day I just drove myself to uptown Kingston, and just started touching walls and stuff, just going into alleyways [00:03:30] and climbing on them, and just figuring it out. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t really know how to start. Some of those early sessions were literally like, I would just park my car, stash my keys in the wheel well, and not have anything, and just run in a direction across the city, and just go.

Craig: Just go.

Dylan: Across everything that came, I pass, like jumping through people’s yards, and hopping over people’s dogs, and things I would never do now. Like, come on guys, you’re being very disrespectful.

Craig: Right. But Kingston is neat because the city [00:04:00] is just built up enough that it has a Main Street, and it has a bunch of shops, but then on Sunday it turns into a ghost town-

Dylan: Right.

Craig: So it’s like nobody’s looking, you can run through the backyard.

Dylan: Exactly, exactly. And that’s how, the early parts of my training, that’s really what it was. During the week, I was working in an office, kind of Monday through Friday, nine to five thing, and so I would be doing push-ups and physical conditioning and hopping around in my kitchen and stuff during the week, and thinking about parkour, and reading about parkour, and being [00:04:30] obsessed with it. But the main training days would really be, yeah, those Sunday, just long sessions. Back in the day, every single time I trained was like the epic four, five hour long sessions. Like I said, that particular area of Kingston because of like some, you know, strange, one of those old-

Craig: Ordinance, city ordinance or something.

Dylan: City ordinances, exactly, where it’s like, “Oh, you’re supposed to be closed on Sunday.” So there was just no one there, and it was just this little piece of parkour paradise. It was also one of those like, security through obscurity things. No one knew what I was doing, and no one else trained, and I was the only one doing it, so-

Craig: Go in a different line every week, nobody knows [00:05:05]

Dylan: Exactly, yeah. It was just like ninja status, just in some alleyway, and no one would see me, no one knew it was happening. So, that’s obviously all different now. We need to be having more of a public face when we’re out training in groups and stuff, but back in those days it was just [00:05:20] the wild west, you had lone wolf status. But yeah, so I was doing that for a while. But yeah, I was getting a little banged up, getting sort of hurt, cause I didn’t know how to train, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know any of the techniques, really-

Craig: No recovery, right.

Dylan: Right. I reached out for resources, like community or coaching, in the area, and just came up totally blank. There just wasn’t anyone to train with, or who knew more than me to teach me stuff, and that’s when, eventually, just through Google searching and stuff, I found PK Gen (Parkour Generations), and through that, learned that there was an A.D.A.P.T. level one cert going on [00:06:00] in Pennsylvania, in your neck of the woods, that June. I signed up, just mainly, at the time, just to meet other people who trained. I just didn’t…

So, it was basically almost like, partly starting on the coaching journey, but also partly going to an intro parkour class. I had just, I had never met anyone who trained. So, went to that, learned a lot, and then started … At that point, I had just been [00:06:30] training with some friends, and trying to get it going, and just share with more and more people, so I just have buddies to train with.

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How did your training begin?

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.

How did your training begin? (part 1)

Craig: Let’s start with your childhood. That’s the obvious place to begin. Just tell me a little bit about your home life and schooling.

Andrew: Yeah. I was homeschooled. My dad’s a professor at a university, and my mom homeschooled … I’m one of five kids. I’m the oldest son. [00:01:00] Kind of a different childhood than most people that I interact with. It’s always kind of been an identity for a long time. I guess as I’ve gotten older, childhood fades away and it’s not as much an identity as it used to be, but I used to … People asked me who I was. I’d say, “oh, I’m a home-schooled kid.”

Yeah, I was… A lot of times spent … My parents taught me very early on that it’s all about learning, it’s all about gaining knowledge. School was not about grades. I never even knew what my grades were. It was just about, “How much did you [00:01:30] learn? What information did you get out of it?” I did that a lot, just always reading, reading books, always family dinner table conversations, where discussions about philosophy or about … My dad’s a scientist, so we’re talking about the detailed mechanics of some scientific process or something.

Lots of that, and then my parents put a lot of value on music. We started music lessons really young. I started when I was six [00:02:00] and playing classical piano for all the way until I was a senior in high school, and then took up viola lessons, and then did a quartet with my siblings, and then played in an orchestra and was in a Brahms Allegro music club, piano competitions.

Craig: How did you get from there to here

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. It’s a bit of a switch, I guess. I started … My mom signed me up for swim team, [00:02:30] which I was so upset about at the time. I was like, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to have to wear a Speedo. This is horrifying.” But, it was weird. I was hating it, and then I was loving it. I was the worst kid on the team. I was terrible, but something about that was also like I couldn’t quit because I was-

Craig: The challenge.

Andrew: I was so bad, I couldn’t quit. I had to prove myself. I had to get better. I went from being, the first year, I was the worst kid on the team, to second year, I was not the best but I was best at one thing, and I was like, “I’ll [00:03:00] take that.”

Craig: I’ll take that thing! From swimming leads you to soccer…

Andrew: To soccer, yeah. I moved to soccer, and kind of the same story. I was terrible at soccer, honestly. I did a tryout for a premier team, and I was not remotely good enough. I showed up without cleats. I had completely the wrong outfit on, and I didn’t even know what any of the terms were they were using.

Craig: Like, “[inaudible 00:03:25]” you’re like, “What?” [crosstalk 00:03:25]

Andrew: No idea. It would be a complete [00:03:30] embarrassment, but I just didn’t know enough to be embarrassed.

Craig: Just took it as a challenge.

Andrew: I was like, “I don’t know.”

Craig: That’s a great mindset.

Andrew: I was just like, “Coach, what can I do better? How can I make it on the team?” He was like, “Work on your foot skills.” So I went home and spent a year juggling a soccer ball until I could do it a thousand times in a row, and I came back the next year and was like, “Okay, I can do it now.” They’re like, “You still don’t know what you’re doing, but-”

Craig: That’s a small part of the …

Andrew: The coach is like, “All right, you’re trying hard, so I’ll let you on.” Yeah, I definitely had this drive to be … Being [00:04:00] the underdog is something that motivates me.

Craig: So in that whole experience of swimming and soccer and philosophy and classical piano … Where does Parkour come in to all of this?

Andrew: It doesn’t. I was forbidden from doing Parkour. My parents were really opposed to it. They viewed it as being basically criminal-like activity. The way they read it was, “Oh, you’re jumping … You want to be jumping on roofs, and that’s illegal, so you can’t do that.” It was not a part of [00:04:30] my childhood really, except for when I would go and would try and train with my brothers. We started jumping over a picnic table one day and spent a long time just trying to do vaults over a picnic table. Then there’s a playground right by my parents’ house, where we would go and we would just try and do jumps.

Craig: Became an outlet, right?

Andrew: Yeah. We’d go over there every day and jump around and enjoy moving. It was a real relief. We were all very attached to that playground. It’s kind of our [00:05:00] home in many ways.

Craig: And it’s still there, it’s right around the corner from here.

Andrew: It is. It’s been partially torn down. I put up as much of a protest as I could to the city when they did that and made a video memorial and all these things. Still, half of it’s still there, enough to have fun. That’s something.

How did your training begin? (part 2)

Craig: How did you go from being the underdog in sports to being the guy who founded the Miami University’s men’s gymnastic team?

Andrew: Yeah, that’s kind of weird. Honestly, it’s weird saying it like that, because I [00:05:30] never even thought I was going to be doing that. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. A guy in my dorm walking down the hall one day freshman year was like, “Hey, anyone interested in going to tryout the gymnastics team?” I was like, “Ooh, I can’t do gymnastics, but I’ve always wanted to do a back flip.” …and he’s like, “I’ll teach you a back flip, no problem.” I’m like, “Okay, I’m in. Let’s go.” We show up, he’s like … And we walk in, and it’s all women. He’s like, “Oh, yeah, it’s a women’s team.” I was like, “Wait.”

Craig: That’s when you discovered that they’re not actually allowed to tell men that they’re not allowed to [00:06:00] join.

Andrew: Yep. No rule against that technically, so I paid my dues and I was on the women’s team. I was hooked. I got the flip bug. I couldn’t quit. No coach or anything, I just taught myself, but I’d go in every day and try.

Craig: And of course, the guy who hooked you gave up after three weeks because it didn’t hold his interest and…

Andrew: Yeah, he’s long gone and I’m there by myself, literally over in a corner of the gym, just like, “Am I in anyone’s way? I’m going to try things over here.” Yeah, I started going to competitions, and I just … I had a rule I had to try a new skill [00:06:30] every meet on everything. I’d ask guys, the guy in front of me, be like, “Hey, how’d you do that?”

Craig: What was that move you did right there?

Andrew: “Because I’m going to try that in a second.”

Craig: I’m pretty sure there’s an unwritten rule in gymnastics that says you’re not supposed to try new moves at the competition, right?

Andrew: Yeah. Nobody does that. They were so confused. The judges are looking at me.

Craig: Where’s the one? How do I give a 1.5?

Andrew: Yeah, I got a 1.5. That happened. That’s really low. But I tried. It’s something about … Again, I was so bad [00:07:00] that I couldn’t quit. I was like, “I got to get better. I got to try.”

Craig: Yeah, but passionate, and passion is the thing that I’m picking up in all of our conversations, is that you wind up being so passionate about it then that everybody else is just like, “That looks like fun, even though you’re not doing so good.”

Andrew: Yeah. No, I went to a gymnastics meet. It was honestly terrible, but I was having so much fun I didn’t care. It would’ve been a joke, but it was so fun. People would be like, “Hey, he’s really enjoying it.”

Craig: What can you accomplish when you actually don’t care about winning? Why, you can have a lot of fun, and you can grow and learn [00:07:30] a lot.

Andrew: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m always the guy, if I’m doing something, I do it 100%. I don’t really usually do things halfway in most anything in life, I guess.

On common inspiration and Parkour across cultural boundaries

Craig: At college, how did you get into Arabic studies and wind up in Jordan?

Andrew: I had to take a language for my major, international studies, and I also had to pick a focus, so I picked a focus on the Middle East, and I picked Arabic. I guess I [00:08:00] have a fascination with that area and had always been interested in it. Then my professor, my Arabic professor, was from Jordan. One thing led to another, and I ended up in a study abroad program to study Arabic at the University of Jordan for a summer. I went over there for a two-month intensive Arabic program and fell in love with it over there and ended up telling my professor. At the end of two months, I was [00:08:30] like, “Hey, you know how we have a flight tomorrow?”

Craig: Yeah, I’m not going to be on that.

Andrew: “I’m not going to get on it.” I dropped out of college for a year, and I lived in the Middle East and stayed there. I loved it. I love the language. I love the culture. I love the food. I love the people. It was amazing.

Craig: While you were in Egypt, I understand that surreptitiously fell into a Parkour jam and then…

Andrew: Yeah, kind of crazy. Like I said, [00:09:00] it’s just one of those things that happens. I went out to this park to train. I was there for a few minutes training, and then I see a guy out of the corner of my eye do something like a jump, and I’m like, “Oh, got to check that out.”

Craig: I saw a precision!

Andrew: That looks like a precision. I see baggy sweatpants. I go running over there, and there’s a group of guys that are jamming. They got some hip-hop beats playing and they’re break-dancing. They got a little kicker. They’re chucking side flips. Five minutes later, I’m home, I’m with family, we’re all training.

Craig: [00:09:30] Walks up and says hello and does a back flip and in like Flint!

Andrew: Yeah. It’s awesome. You don’t even need to speak the same language. I spoke Arabic, but nonetheless, it’s just like you start training together. We trained that day, and then at the end of the day, they’re like, “Okay, meet back here tomorrow. Another training session.” I’m like, “Yes, all right.” More people show up the next day, and then we’re training, and one dude pulls out a cell phone and he’s talking on the phone. He says, “Hey, you want to meet Danny Ilabac?” I was like, “Yeah.”

Craig: Now you’re just pulling my leg, right?

Andrew: “Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all like to meet Danny?” He’s like, “No, for real. Danny Ilabaca [00:10:00] has a jam tomorrow.” It was like, “What? Wait, where? Here?”

Craig: …I just happen to be in Egypt…

Andrew: Yeah. It was crazy. Danny’s always traveling all over, I guess. It was so cool, yeah. Next thing I know, I’m in a taxi, and then we’re cruising through a market, and there’s donkeys everywhere, and then we’re at this jam. The whole Parkour community from the whole city of Cairo shows up. Danny’s there, and everybody’s jamming. It was amazing. It was such a cool experience to see the community show up and everyone’s so excited. [00:10:30] Danny’s such an inspirational figure for so many people. That’s also cool like … We grew up on other sides of the world, but these guys view Danny the same way. It’s like, “I know nothing about your life, and you know nothing about mine, but we have this same person that’s been a huge inspiration for us.”

Craig: Common inspiration, right.

Andrew: They’re like, “Danny Ilabaca.” I’m like, “Yeah, Danny Ilabaca.” They’re like, “Choose not to fall.” I’m like, “Choose not to fall. Yes!”

Craig: Right.

Andrew: That was great. It was a huge … Danny’s been a hug inspiration for me growing up. [00:11:00] Even, I remember showing my parents some of his videos, trying to convince them that Parkour was a good idea when he’s talking about how it’s changed and influenced his life. Getting to meet him, he’s like, “I took a picture with him.” I was like, “Sorry, I hate to be that guy, but I got to take a picture to show my brothers. They’re never going to believe I met.”

Then I got to … He invited me to have dinner with him, and we got to talk. I feel like he’s such a … He’s like a sage or a guru. [00:11:30] You don’t talk to him for very long before he’s picking you apart. He looks over at me. He’s like, “Hey, Andrew. Training with you, I just see something. You’ve got this potential, but you’re not realizing it.” I’m like, “Wait, what?” He’s like, “I watched you running up to that precision, and you were stutter stepping.” He’s like, “Stop looking ahead and thinking ahead. You need to be in the moment. Each step, have your mind in the moment.” I didn’t even know he’s watching me, and he’s breaking me down as a person.

Craig: Yeah, in one glance, right? He picked that apart.

Andrew: Yeah.

How did your training begin?

My journey to parkour began when I saw some chase scenes in some action films. I didn’t know there was a word for it at the time – I just thought that those cool moves were what people naturally did whenever they had to run away from something really fast. I had no idea that they were practiced. Being a rather reckless teenager, I decided to try things out: just jump off of something tall and see if anything cool happens, or run at a fence and see if my body magically carries me over it. Needless to say, I got injured a lot, and I didn’t learn much parkour.

Then one day, after watching District B13, a friend introduced me to the word ‘parkour’. It was magic – the first time I realized that a chase sequence consisted of individual moves that can be broken down and practiced individually and progressed upon. Of course, that night, we all went on some roofs and tried to recreate what we saw. He tried to teach me a ‘get up on a waist height ledge using your arms AND legs’ move, otherwise known as a ‘kong up’. I must have tried it for hours just that night, and came back to try it again and again. I never got it.

For a solid couple of years, I tried ‘parkour’ mostly alone, or alongside people who also had no experience past watching some movies. I got ok at things I perceived to be controlled or had no risk [i.e. balance and climbing], but quickly gave up on things that got me hurt. Any attempt at creating a regular training group was sabotaged by the fact that none of us knew what to do.

The next step was when I moved to the Bay Area and attended a free beginners parkour session. Although I left the class feeling that I had not learned any actual skills [you can’t expect to really learn something in just 1.5 hrs], something amazing happened. For the first time in my life, I met a dedicated group of traceurs who knew what they were doing and an entire community who were passionate about both teaching and learning. At the conclusion of the event, there was an announcement about which groups to contact for training around different neighborhoods.

I lived in Berkeley at the time and it turns out people were training a couple times a week just a few blocks away. I went to check it out, but people were doing ridiculous things. I wanted nothing more than to train with them, but there were no beginners there, and I decided that the people I was watching had better things to do than helping me out.

Later, a friend of a friend who remembered me from the beginners session contacted me and asked if I wanted to climb around at some playground. I thought ‘climb’ and ‘playground’ both sounded not intimidating, so I went. He introduced me to a game called ‘add on’ and then kept on cursing me for doing things that require flexibility. Any feelings of intimidation went away. Then he introduced me to the SF Wednesdays parkour group, which had a much larger percentage of newbies. The more experienced people there seemed to like giving newbies advice, so I felt comfortable. I trained with them consistently and started improving much more rapidly than before.

Eventually started feeling more comfortable in the larger parkour community as well.

How did your training begin?

Mentioned in this section:
The “first Tempest video
Jesse Danger
The Movement Creative

Craig: Tell me the story. You’re at school at NYU and you go to?

Jonny: Well, I didn’t go to NYU. [crosstalk 00:00:56] Let’s not make them think I’m a little smarter than I am.

Craig: I’m sorry. I keep saying it. We’re leaving that in.

Jonny: [00:01:00] I went to art school, so it’s about 27 notches down the ladder from NYU.

Craig: It’s still a Masters of Fine Art.

Jonny: Yeah, yeah. I do have a piece of paper that calls me a master. But, so I’m in art school in New York and I’m back home visiting family in Los Angeles when a friend of mine sends me the first Tempest video on YouTube. And I realized it was about a mile away from my mom’s house. [00:01:30] So I ran down there, took the class, stayed for open gym, and just went back every night for the rest of the trip. Went back to New York and just had this, like … It was like an alcoholic drying out, you know? I was just not about to go a day without doing this.

Craig: Where’s the gym?

Jonny: So, yeah, well so of course I’m out just exploring every park and there’s not too many sightings in the wild of traceurs, so I’ve got my eye open. I’m looking for anybody. Somebody even pushes [00:02:00] the crosswalk differently, I’m like, “Is he training? What is he doing over there?” I’m just looking for anything. Someone. And when that didn’t work, I couldn’t just roam the wilds of New York hoping to stumble across somebody, so I started doing some searching online and I found a community session called Get Strong, which is like conditioning for Parkour.

Craig: Right. And that’s run by?

Jonny: Jesse Danger.

Craig: Right. And the group is? Name drop.

Jonny: The Movement Creative.

Craig: Okey dokey. So I’ve always wondered, “How do these two guys know each other?” [00:02:30] That explains that. So you went to every one of those courses, I’m going to guess, every class.

Jonny: Oh, man. Yeah, I went there and found just a bunch of savages. I was like, “This is my world.” It felt like Fight Club. It felt like at night, I’m in there with these people that are doing just dangerous things that really aren’t actually dangerous, but you know what I mean. That feeling of living dangerously. Like, “Ooh, I’m not doing exactly what I’m supposed to do. I’m climbing up on this thing. I’m jumping off,” or whatever, but then it was also, it’s not like beautiful, sunny [00:03:00] Los Angeles. There was snow, and rain, and all kinds of other stuff going on.

Craig: Bubblegum and rain.

Jonny: These guys are out there doing it.

Craig: Broken fortune cookies, right.

Jonny: I’m seeing people throwing up, you know, I mean it was just intense and I was like, “This is it. I want to test myself.”

Craig: This is the Parkour scene in New York. Yes. I have caught glimpses of it.

Jonny: Yeah, there was no cushy trampolines or spring floor or any of that stuff. It was all pretty gritty and I was in love with it.

I made the greatest group of friends I could have ever known here in New York, from [00:03:30] training. That is actually the only common thread, is that we train. Other than that, our lives couldn’t be more disparate. And that’s in stark contrast to everything that I had known before that, where my friend groups were based around art or music or whatever, we were all living pretty similar lives.

Craig: Right, and that group, that community, even if it’s not living in the same place type of community, but that community of people, seems to me that you [00:04:00] meet artists, you’re doing similar things, but some people you just don’t like. You’re just like, “I do not like this person.” And the Parkour community, I don’t know, I’m curious what your experience has been, my experience is the exact opposite of that. Not just the Parkour-specifically named communities, but in anything that you would even classify vaguely as Parkour. Those people are very different from that community.

Jonny: I couldn’t agree more. Yeah. And it’s not specific to [00:04:30] any one city. That is definitely the community at large. So you can go to San Antonio, Texas, you can go to Beaverton, Oregon or wherever you want to go, and you’re gonna find a similar type of person to the one that you’ve been training with. To the type of person that you’ve connected with in your community, whatever it is. And I haven’t traveled abroad to do Parkour, so I can’t speak to the global community outside of what I know from videos and Facebook and stuff. But it appears to be that it’s very much a global commonality.

Craig: Yeah. And the people that you meet, [00:05:00] you might not become best friends with them, you might not click, where you’re, “Oh, wow, three hours have elapsed and we’re still in the corner talking.” It might not meet all the people like that, but you find that when it doesn’t click, the two of you were trying, it was like, “Oh, we didn’t really have a ton to talk about but I really kind of like that person even though I didn’t really click with them.” You know, those little, what was that from Fight Club, single serving-size friends on airplanes?

Jonny: Yes.

Craig: Which I love. So the single-serving-size friends, even single-serving-size Parkour friends, they’re actually a really pretty [00:05:30] good friendship, even for 30 seconds and you forget their name two minutes later.

Jonny: Yeah. I’ll even take it one step further. Even, a lot of times, those people who you’re not connecting with on a conversational level, you start moving together, though. And you find a very deep connection. All of a sudden you find, “Ooh, they look at things similar to the way I look at things,” or, “I love the way they look at things, it’s nothing like the way I look at things.” And now you’re moving in their world or they’re moving in yours, or whatever it is, but you found this other way to connect with somebody that you would have never known if you just worked with them or whatever the [00:06:00] case may be.

Craig: A completely different language. Right.

How did your training begin?

Initially, I had seen the prototypical videos of kids jumping off of buildings and doing crazy awesome flips and was always too scared to try them myself. I believe one day I actually ran outside at 2:00 AM after watching hours of videos of wall flips and had located the closest tree at full speed, ran up a step or two, and proceeded to fall directly onto my shoulder blades—pinecones, sticks, rocks, and all.

After a few more similar events in my teenage life, I had found a group (Lehigh Valley Parkour) taught by Adam McClellan, Andy Keller, and a few others. Soon after two or three courses, I had realized that all of the videos that I used to think were so awesome were a bit misleading. I had learned much less about doing awesome flips and more about self-discipline, perseverance, and overcoming physical and mental fear. I think at that point my training really “began.”

How did your training begin?

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.

How did your training begin?

My training began a few years ago but the question is why? The answer is, I don’t know. The beginning of my practice is pretty vague and I don’t really remember how I started. All I really remember is that I wasn’t a big fan of traditional sports like football and baseball (with some exceptions) and I just started to practice parkour. Ever since I started I haven’t stopped practicing, progressing, advancing my technique, etc.

How did your training begin?

When I was in college, the exchange program student group would periodically show foreign films as a publicity activity. In my sophmore year, on a recommendation from a friend, I went and saw the movie District B13, in French, with no subtitles. I was immediately hooked with the idea of parkour (despite not even really knowing what it was called yet), but for nearly a decade, despite occasionally trying to self-train and joining meetup groups, I never really managed to get into it.

Three years ago, a friend of mine called me up to say he’d read online that there was a place in Somerville that was offering parkour classes — it was only about a 15-minute walk from his house, and half an hour from mine — and there was a new session starting up the next week. I couldn’t make it to the first class, and I almost decided that I should just wait, it might be awkward or hard to start in with people who’d already had a lesson, and a hundred other similar excuses, but I remembered all the times I’d tried to train and talked myself out of it somehow, because of the difficulty, and I decided I’d at least give it a shot.

That was in the summer of 2013. In the spring of 2014 I took the ADAPT Level 1 course, and I’ve never looked back since.