On why he stopped doing Ninja Warrior

Craig: One of the things that I am passionate about is collecting other people’s stories because I think having people share something they’re passionate about really gives people a glimpse into who you really are. Is there a story you would care to share?

Elet: Maybe the story of why I stopped doing Ninja Warrior.

I was filming for my submission video for what would have been my fifth season on American Ninja Warrior. I had a very, very surprising [00:18:00] experience. I went out to a woods near where I was staying at the time, it was along a river in Laurel, Maryland and there was an old dam there, this used to be a mill town and that dam had a tower on the one side of it that’s maybe 40 feet tall. It’s a man made wall, off to the right hand side is the wall of the dam itself, which is about half the height, about 20 feet.

It was something I messed around on bouldering on before and [00:18:30] man made walls are great to climb because they got a lot of big handholds but they’re also interesting because a lot of times, especially with old walls, the grout disintegrates and makes a lot of sand on all these holds.

I was up there for the day and I was gonna film and I just set my phone up to film this one climbing route and I just started bouldering up and I got to a point where I was like, “Alright, this is high enough, I’m gonna exit right out onto that dam wall.” And as I start to traverse off to that side, I caught a bad handhold with a lot of sand on it. My hand [00:19:00] popped and I’m 25 feet off the ground and down below me is a boulder field of rocks. Ankle breakers, back breakers I mean some serious stuff and I started to barn-door off and I just said, “Nope.” So I just pushed off the wall.

I’ve got a video of it, I’ll have to send it to you. Ended up falling 25 feet. Landed straddling a rock, full compression on the landing, my tailbone was probably an inch and a half off of this giant limestone boulder and I came within an inch and a half of paralyzing myself and walked [00:19:30] away absolutely fine, not a scratch, not an ache.

In the shock that followed as I walked back to the apartment and as I sat there by myself thinking about what the hell was I doing, what happened, what took me there, I got into the idea of why was I filming that? What prompted me to get up into that, what was motivating me. I realized I put my life on the line for something that I didn’t necessarily believe in 100 percent. I’ve been doing [00:20:00] Ninja Warrior for years and years and it was a big production and there was good and bad. I met a lot of great people through it, I had good experiences but then at the same time, we weren’t getting paid. We were helping a show that last year made 750 odd million dollars and we didn’t see a penny. I was perpetuating that. I was involved in something that didn’t necessarily represent what I wanted to represent and here I was risking my life to get back on it.

I [00:20:30] kind of just had to balance that and that was the day I kind of decided I’m not gonna do that for a while. I backed away from it. It was just a really interesting thing because I always talk about analyzing risk and consequence. Consequence exist all of the time. Being alive implies the consequence of possible death. Parkour implies the consequence of possible injury, death, always.

There are a lot of people that like to say, “Oh, parkour’s safe.” Parkour is not safe. It’s not safe and it will never be safe. We can make good decisions. We can manage [00:21:00] risk, we can mitigate risk but its not safe. If it was, it’d be boring. We enjoy that dance. There’s consequences that’s real, which is the juxtaposition to the majority of things we do in our day to day life. The reason we don’t care about them, the reason we’re disenfranchised is because it’s not real.

If we lose it, that’s fine. Oh I’ll keep going, I can still put food in my mouth, I’ll still be alive. How many of us have been in a situation where we’re facing off with death, where we’re facing off [00:21:30] with real consequence, where we’re facing off with real social consequences. Because if this goes, I lose my job, I can’t feed myself. Mostly none of us and we avoid those places as much as we can.

Parkour is our way to play with that and that’s fun because it’s as high or low a stakes as you want to make it. We got this analogy of risk versus consequence here and we interact with that daily in parkour. Your decision making abilities, your technical training abilities, your ability to reiterate a jump again and again and again is [00:22:00] your ability to manage and mitigate risk.

I went and I took on this climb that always, a climb has a consequence of falling and I thought I could mitigate that risk and I was wrong because that’s the game you’re playing and occasionally you come up wrong and man, I walked away from it okay. I don’t know what it is, 15 years of parkour training helped me take a 20 foot, 5 foot drop straddling a boulder, inches a way from the goods and the end of my spine. That was a very serious day. [00:22:30] That’s something I just always like to talk about is this risk versus consequence idea with all things in life. It’s the game we’re always playing whether it’s social, whether it’s physical, whether it’s putting food on our table with our jobs or anything like this. We are always playing that game.

When you can separate that idea and say, “Well here are the possible consequences, here’s how I’m gonna mitigate the risk,” and you can begin to formulate a plan around things. Kind of ties us back into the begging of being very particular about the way that I train. It’s always that analysis of, here’s possible consequences, they [00:23:00] could be good or bad consequences of course.

Craig: I choose this challenge or do I move …

Elet: Or do I move to another one. That’s just kind of my take on how we approach challenge, how we approach life’s issues, obstacles, actual obstacles, because what we do in parkour is not interaction with actual obstacles. None of those are obstacles. You can go around them, we put them there, it’s a challenge, it’s our own choice.

Real [00:23:30] life obstacles, real life problems, it’s the same analysis and that’s one of the fantastic things about parkour is it gives you the tools to manage that, so you can approach it with the same mentality that you do these situations that have the consequence of life and death. You are more well equipped.

Is there a story you would like to share?

(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.

Sasa: Yes.

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.

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

I was hesitating to drop this personal story. I am always aware I could hurt someone’s feelings or so. But I think each reason for practise is personal. Some need to prove something to the self. The fact is, we all interact on totally different levels.

When I started squatting, it was after 9 years in Parkour and straight after separation with my ex-girlfriend. I will save you the story about that relationship, I will tell just “this is how you learn to back someone”.

When I went squatting, it was to extend philosophy of “impossible”. I don’t know many people in here I think, hardly anyone knew me before my transformation. The weakest, with curled back, glasses, diction disfunctions, child of an alcoholic. I didn’t have friends. I wasn’t “cool”. I was drawing for whole days, knowing I can afford hardly anything. Here, in Poland, we have german prices and ukrainian salaries. I was escaping home. I was sad. More books I read, more aware of something wrong around I was.

My first pk team… I loved guys for the passion. At some point there were about 22 of us. But nor for long. Lack of time (“I need to go for a beer!”), energy (“but I like smoking!”), knowledge (“my back used to be like this for my entire life!”) made us fall apart. Then we created first ever polish sports club that treated about Parkour.

And here I am getting towards important things.

Lack of any knowledge and any older practitioners made people that jump a bit further think they are better than anyone. I am doing this for 12 years now. I used to play basketball before. I had to become stronger, more endurant, more jumpy. I started Parkour trainings, because I have learned that is training method that could improve any skills. Other, non-sportive skills were waiting for their order at that point.

I got supported from Parkour Generations. Some say they wanted to use me. Some say I was fit for this crew. The fact is, while my other colleagues were like “come on , just jump”, they were happy to give me tasks, put some responsibility on me, finally I git involved as a coach, when we realised I can explain, show, break other person fear. For me, who comes from total darkness, it is relatively easy. In 2013 Adapt was hard I have heard. I missed 0.04% to get 100%.

Squatting was real school. I knew who I am. That time I wanted to learn. I knew there are people who already don’t want to deal with money anymore. We built from what we found. Ate what we got. Helped local communities. Involved many people in different activities. We turned some homeless guys into serious artists and any other kind of activists. After 5 months I found I am on constant holiday, that was time to get back and help my mom. During ghat 5 months I did 2 big workshops in Poland. That’s how my country learned there is someone who actually can push stuff forward.

Unfortunatelly, after coming back many people were like “who da fuck you think you are?”. This is how I got separated from the scene I had built. Biggest gatherings, shows, tv interviews, but never any dirty business – no shit ads, promoting any organisations or activities I wouldn’t agree with. When I found what honesty actually is, I started transforming – my back got straight, shoulders strong, my belly went back, even my sight got improved. I got rid of most of toxic behaviours and stopped being where there are still present (yep, that includes my closest family).

I knew I am not going to force and push between ones that haven’t experienced what I did. I seem crazy for many. Regardless, I run my own academy, set from A to Z by myself. I still keep high standard and I often see people are not ready for this, but ones that are, come back stronger, more confident, they get healthy in less than two months! All of them – rich, poor, kids, adults, sportives and non-sportives. I teach performers and actors. I run school classes now.

I was opposed to polish federation, as competition was “the only” to be presented. And there is about 5 fairly working academies around my country. Now I got that nice feeling when that association (I honestly don’t know if it is official now) got opposed fig. We are all growing up and see easy ways are to trap us.

By all this I am trying to say, Pakour is way more than just a performance. I know we tried to promote it as a sport (which is a huge promotion from ‘spiritual’ ones), but for me, despite I can fairly call myself “an expert”, term “training method” suits better. We can improve literally anything this way. And I proved you can survive, create and have fun without sacrificing yourself. So far none of “big sports organisations” succeed. Examples? Motor sports – ads of energy drinks and ciggies. Football? Everything that is bad. The most fair disciplines about advertising are lifting competitions, as performers “don’t do anything spectacular”, and we live in world of constant show and instant gratification.

I see ones defending Montpellier show, I can hear voices about “progression”. From my perspective, it is like we were trying to exchange one illness for other. We are here to encourage each other, not to prove that “I am the best”. Noone is! How would we compare? What are the standards? Better start conditions? Cleaner life? Longer legs? Power of the worldwide community lies in unity and different skills of different people. I have passed stunt school. My notes were so high I got into stunt crew instantly. I see no reason to tun around screaming “I an the best!”. That is what you supposed to hear from your students, you know.

I think our miscommunication and lack of trust comes from lack of specific experiences. I did everything I could to see if I can fully trust myself and what are situations Parkour would be really useful. You’d need to see me getting squats, without using any help, any tools, in the middle of the day. Laurent reminds of ethics often. Some people are not honest against themselves. Some do everything to please parents or other people. Some get asked – you train for so long and you get nothing? I understand motivation of some. After all, when you jump, you are alone.

Some people don’t get sense of “we start together and finish together”. Some get pissed off because people around think slow. Some get this mad they shut people down instead of opening them. And some are constantly surrounded with friends that have no issues, they only want to jump. And use the opportunity, when cannot create anything in their own.

When it comes to Adapt, I think that is the best accessible tool I have experienced. I have heard a lot about it, money issues, trust issues. Have heard Yamakasi hate PkG. in fact, it makes people meet, learn and give the responsibility, and that is why I want it in Poland. I don’t mind “competition” when it comes to other schools. Yep, capitalism, yep, something, but or we create, or build ourselves to get sold to someone that is going to exchange us when we are tired/injured/old/independent. Parkour/ADD as a tool to build the better self, right? We can base on personal experiences.

I’d be happy to see “ethic commision” or something. Trust is not easy to gain. I see no reason to trust anyone that only gives money. Personally, if I wanted to be a prostitute, I’d chose classic way. Much love you all!

An experience of urban exploration

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

This is a story of an urban exploration adventure I had with parkour people, going to the top of a big bridge in NYC.

The way up was exciting but very safe. We had to a little easy beam balancing and climbing when we realized we were on the wrong side of the freeway to reach our access point and then some very simple and unexposed climbing. After that it was a night hike, ascending a metal staircase that was almost a ladder. With every level we climbed, past crisscrossing girders and huge cables like harp strings, more of the city revealed itself. At the peak of the stairs, we climbed a ladder that went through the center of a dark, vertical cave of metal in the ceiling. Through that cylindrical hole we emerged into a dusty metal box of a room with no lights and graffiti covered windows. I thought we’d reached a dead end, but then saw one side of the room was lit by moonlight filtering through a space big enough to climb through. We pulled ourselves up through that gap and then squirmed out a porthole window into the fresh night air on top of the bridge.

I tested the ground beneath me to see how strong, how slanted, how dusty it was, how far in each direction until the world dropped away. Then, satisfied that I could relax and enjoy, I let the panoramic view of the city wash over me.

My first impression was just a mass of twinkling lights: shimmering reflections on the water, the massive yellow moon low on the horizon, and clusters of dark geometry implied by shining windows. The bridge commanded my attention below like an epic, sci-fi version of yellow brick road. I felt like Spider-Man up somewhere so impossible, where in my peripheral vision a red light flashes intermittently to warn away airplanes.

Then the epic scale of the human project around me really hit me. I had read that day that 8.5 million people live in New York City. To see the length of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens; mountains of metal, hundreds of docked ships that carry cargo from around the world so the city can subsist; to see cars pass by underneath each with a driver going somewhere important to them, and in every direction more windows into someone’s home or workplace than I can count… to then realize NYC is small compared to places like Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai… to think about how transformed the human experience is in these huge cities on a millennium timescale… I felt the scale of it like a thrum in my chest. It hit me with a visceral power that I don’t think I would have get if I’d been in a crowd of tourists on the top floor of the Empire State Building, although I can’t explain why.

I settled into a good vantage point facing Manhattan and the nearly full moon. The members of our little group navigated their experience of this epic, transgressive moment: one friend challenging himself to experience the height with more risk and exposure; a couple of us balancing the desire to preserve with photos against the unfiltered “authenticity” of raw experience. We chatted about the view, about why people are so drawn to vistas, and soon we were just joking around like we might do anywhere. I realized I kept forgetting to really see what was around me, but there’s only so long I can sustain amazement, and sometimes it’s nice to just chat with a background view.

Eventually, it felt like time to come down and go to bed; at this point it was about 4am. We went back through the window, through the gap, down the ladder cave, down the winding, steep stairs, and did our little bit of climbing to cross back into the boundaries of everyday life.

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

Craig: One of my personal passions is collecting people’s stories. I’d love to just hear whatever you have that you’re passionate about.

Chris: [00:20:00] Lots of little moments from within the muscle-up challenge that we were speaking about. Spread throughout the day a lot of people that got involved who weren’t necessarily expecting to get involved. Khiel [aka Andy Day] actually stayed and originally I think he was just going to do 100. Just his own personal challenge of seeing if he could get there. Then he got to 100 relatively easily and quickly.

Then kind of 300 was dawnign on him as a possibilities. [00:20:30] He stayed and kept going. I think he had to go to a wedding before he could get to that number, which is delightful and unexpected. Both company but the idea that he also learned something about that day, or, about himself that day.

My little brother, who now is an absolute monster, but at the time was a 14 year old kid … I don’t think any older than 14. Been doing parkour for maybe a year and a half. Something like this. He [00:21:00] decided that he was going to join in in his own way. He was very much doing one arm at a time muscle-ups. I think he made 120. I hadn’t even heard of a muscle-up when I was 14. I’m going to be biased. I’m always going to think that my little brother is special. That was one of those early moments of, “Ah, he’s something.” Then the fact that despite the fact that it took me 14 and a half hours, [00:21:30] and he used to have much more regular bedtimes, he refused to go to sleep until I’d finished. He stayed awake until I think it was half-midnight by the time I had finished. I think he curled up in a cardboard box at one point. Blane found him in a corner. Soon as I was done he was very much ready for bed.

Then me trying to fall asleep but being woken up because my forearm was cramping badly in my sleep. Trying to go [00:22:00] back to sleep with my mobile phone laying on my fingers to just keep my hand open and stop it from cramping.

Somewhere around the 770 mark I sat down for about an hour with no idea of if I was going to stand up again. It was really that … That was where my dark point kicked in of, “I actually don’t know if I continue from here. I don’t really want to stop but I actually don’t know [00:22:30] if I can”, or if it’s sensible to, or both. When I finally was like, “No, I’m going to try and do a few more” I just put the entire The Sickness album by Disturbed on, which is my favorite weight lifting album at the time, and for about the next hour just doing one muscle-up. Stalking around the room looking like an angry little emo kid. Eventually making it back to the bar, doing another one, and then just storming off again for a minute or two [00:23:00] and coming back.

Craig: Plus one, plus one.

Chris: Yeah. The very many cups of teas that people that people like Naomi and Tracy would bring us. The sad moment when I got to a point where to raise the tea to my mouth I had to sit on the floor, balance the cup on my knee, hold the handle with my hand, and use my leg to raise the cup to my mouth because it hurt my elbow too much to hold a cup of tea. [00:23:30] Realizing that I still had 150 muscle-ups to go. Those are the moments when it was, “Is it wise to carry on?” Because, if I can’t lift a cup of tea I don’t know what business I’ve got hanging off the bar.”

Craig: Of course, the obvious question is was it wise?

Chris: Hindsight tells me it was. I’m here. Everything is fine. Was it wise to risk hurting yourself? I don’t think it’s wise to do [00:24:00] it all the time. I think in this kind of occasion … For me, this is probably still one of the two or three biggest challenges I’ve ever done, in my life just in terms of the relentless … I don’t want to say darkness but the relentless struggle is harder. Anything else has been over in a much shorter period of time.

I think risking things very sparingly and knowing that you’re really going to come out … [00:24:30] If it was just to say, “Oh, I’ve done 1000”? No, it wasn’t worth the risk. That may have been why I started the challenge. Like, I started it to say I could do 1000 muscle-ups. Then the darker it got the more it was just, “Can I do this?” If I’d still had the mindset of, “Can I do 1000?” I probably wouldn’t have, because that wasn’t a good enough reason to keep going when it hurt.

And if it had been bad enough [00:25:00] I would have stopped. If it is, “I am definitely damaging myself”, no, that’s not worth the risk. If it’s just, “How does this feel? I’ll try another five. I’ll see what it’s like after that.” People bring us tea. Yao, being an absolute legend and providing very regular massages for those of us that were still trying to go. People like Blane just smashing away at a tire in the background with a hammer doing 1000 hammer swings instead.

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

Craig: So Finn, is there a story that you would like to share with us?

Finn: Well, I think I have many stories. Really I could continue for hours, but let me give you one which happened. In fact, I have been writing this story in the newspaper. I was trying to explain in the newspaper what is Parkour, and then [00:20:00] I gave them this special experience I had many years ago. At that time, I had just built the Gerlev Parkour Park, so it was about 2006. I went to the city, the nearby city here. It’s a small city compared to the states, but it’s a small city. Anyway, I was waiting outside the local cinema and I was waiting for my wife. Then while I was sitting in the car, I [00:20:30] looked out and then I saw three young boys. They were being 10, 11, 12 years old, and they were just in front of my car. There was three stones, half meter high. It was put there to avoid that cars parked.

Craig: Right, keep the cars out.

Finn: Yeah, yeah. So it was three stones, and then after the stone there was a sign, a [00:21:00] pole with a sign saying, “This is the street,” and this and this. Those three young kids, they were jumping from stone to stone and then grab the pole, the sign, and swing around. Even my wife, she came but I said, “You have to wait,” I sat for half an hour enjoying how those three kids, they didn’t need anything else, that those three stones and [00:21:30] a sign pole, and then they had fun and fun and fun.

That’s my story.

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

Craig: So in every podcast episode, I try to get it to asking the guest if there’s a story you would like to share because, as I said often, the Parkour community is full of spectacular stories. And what I’m really interested in [00:30:30] is a story that’s special to you. So one that you’re passionate about. It can be an insight, it can be pretty much anything.

Max: So, there’s so many stories. I mean, I’ve traveled all over the place and it’s cool to think about those, but I think based on kind of what we’ve been talking about today, I’d maybe just like to talk a little bit about how I started training? Because one thing that I get a lot from people that I train with now is … They look at me and they go, “Wow. You’re not afraid of anything.” Or “This is crazy. How do you do that?” And they just assume [00:31:00] that it’s some genetic mutation. And I have like a twenty minute video that I filmed on my dad’s handi-cam from 1998 that’s on YouTube actually, of me talking to a camera. Setting up a camera and just talking to it for minutes about, “I’ve been trying this jump for days.” It’s like a two foot rail kong-pre. And people just assume that if you’re at a certain level, there’s no …

Craig: You’ve always been there.

Max: Yeah, exactly. [crosstalk 00:31:26] Oh, you must have started and you were just amazing. Or, whatever. [00:31:30] So I kind of would just like to share the way that I got into training because I think that it’s very accurate to the way that I still train and it’s kind of very true to … It explains a lot about who I am and how I train.

So my best friend Calvin, who was my initial training partner … We didn’t have a computer when I was a kid. I didn’t have a computer until I was fifteen. So we used to go to the library, hop on the computer. And one day we were there and we were on YouTube, looking at videos. And he just turned to me and [00:32:00] said, “Man, I saw this crazy news report the other night about some guy who could just jump on walls like Spiderman.” And I was like, “I’m not going to let you go without … You need to be more descriptive. What do you mean?” And he couldn’t really explain it. Him trying to …

Craig: No words, right.

Max: He was like, “It’s just like this guy. And he kind of would like jump on the side of a wall and then stick there for a second and then go to another wall. And then he could jump to little metal rails. It was crazy.” And [00:32:30] so I was just … I had no idea what he was talking about. I can’t even picture it in my head. And I was kind of like, “Jackie Chan?”

He was like, “No, it was way crazier. He would jump between buildings. Thirty feet.” And I didn’t know. And he couldn’t remember what it was called. So we went on YouTube and I was really into martial arts and stuff at the time, all kind of self-instructed. So I was like, “I don’t know what it’s called. Let’s just look for things.” So we’re typing in just whatever. Extreme stunts, things like that. And then [00:33:00] finally we typed in Spiderman guy jumping on buildings. And the letter P. Because he remembered it started with a P, but he didn’t remember what it was. So we typed in Spiderman guy jumps off buildings, the letter P. And the first video popped up was David Bell’s Speed Air Man. And then we start watching it and he was like, “Oh my God. This is it. This is it.”

Craig: Yep.

Max: And I was like … At the beginning I was ragging on him. I’m like, “Dude, how did you not … It’s some dude with tattoos flexing. How did you not be able to describe this?” And then as soon as the [00:33:30] action started …

Craig: Right.

Max: My brain was just like totally …

Craig: I have no words.

Max: Yeah. It was just mind blowing. I didn’t know how to compare it. There was no context for me. And as soon as I saw it, I was just like, “This is so intense. I want to do this. I do not know how the heck I would ever be able to start doing this because it’s just massive roof gaps.”

And I went to the playground right across the street. And I remember climbing up onto something like a fence. Four feet high, five feet high. And I was just like. [00:34:00] I don’t want to jump off of this. Nope. Forget that. I went down. And I was a gymnast when I was a kid, and I remember thinking, “Okay. Where can I start? That’s something that scares me, but will be in my range?” And I was like, “Oh, you know what? I used to love doing tumbling, like back hand springs. Haven’t done one in years. Let me see if I can do it.” And I had, probably for two hours, stood in a field and just tried to commit to a back hand spring. And I had never experienced that level of mental frustration until that moment. Because even as a kid in gymnastics, you [00:34:30] have a coach, you have mats. Progression, do it on the trampoline, do into the pit, whatever.

Craig: Right. As soon as your stuck, they give you the … Here’s the wedge. Here’s the …

Max: Exactly.

Craig: Here’s the mental suggestion.

Max: So it was fall and I remember just piling a ton of leaves into a pile and flopping onto my back for an hour. Just like, “Okay. This is the worst that could happen.” And I’m basically just jumping up into the air and landing on my neck. Like, “Okay. I can do that and I’m safe.” Finally, my buddy Calvin’s like, “I got to go. I got to go. My mom needs me home.” And so he had to leave. And I was like, “I don’t want to do [00:35:00] it alone. ‘Cause I might die and no one will know.” So I finally committed to it. I did it totally fine on my first try. It was perfect. And I was just like, “Of course. That’s how it would happen.” And I just remember that mental process was really crazy. And there was still a moment that I didn’t know where to go after that. And then … This is what I told Blane when I met him, when we were hanging out in June at American Rendezvous.

I remember, I was scrolling through videos. I saw an old Cambridge video which I watched. [00:35:30] Training in summer of 2006 training in Cambridge. And then I saw Blane’s Excelsior video and when I saw him do a rail precision and stick it.

Craig: Yeah, it’s like … Did they freeze the video [crosstalk 00:35:43].

Max: My brain literally was like, forget everything else that I’ve seen. If I can land on a rail and stay there, I will be happy with my entire life.

Craig: The meaning of life is a stuck rail pre.

Max: To me, that was just like the most amazing feat. I didn’t [00:36:00] know it was humanly possible to have balance that was good enough to do that. And so I remember in June, I went and told … I was like, “Blane, yeah. When you did a couple of those rail pres in the Excelsior … It was literally life changing for me. I saw that and I was just like … I didn’t even think a human being could do this.” And he just turned to me and he was like, “Well, I think you’ve got the whole jumping to rails thing down since then.”

Craig: You can move on to something else.

Max: So … It’s funny, ’cause to me, I look back to that story and I have pretty much the exact same [00:36:30] approach. I was a wuss, figured out a less wussy thing to do that was still scary. You know, managed to commit to it after a long time, got it really easy on my first try, and then decided I didn’t like flips and wanted to do rail precisions. And that basically sums up my entire Parkour experience since then. So that’s ten years of Parkour training in a nutshell.

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

Craig: Thomas, is there a story that you would like to share with us?

Thomas: Yes, Craig.

Craig: Good, because I thought you were going to say, “No.”

Thomas: It’s funny the weight that comes with the phrase, “Is there a story you’d like to tell us?”

Craig: Right. What’s the statute of limitations on …

Thomas: Yeah, exactly. Right?

Craig: [00:25:30] In Arizona there’s a law –

Thomas: Motorcycle racing and … Right

Craig: I know, right. I miss those days.

Thomas: So, I’m a Chinese medicine doctor. I’ve been doing it forever. I spent a lot of time in my life, professionally, learning everything I could about western medicine, and everything I could about Chinese medicine, and trying to figure out everything I could possibly know about doctoring at this very [00:26:00] high level. Although I would always tell people that I was doing it because I wanted to be good at it, I was really doing it because I wanted to be smarter than the smartest people I knew in the field. Then I would spend my time trying to check in and see. So, I’d go hang out with really smart doctors or people with IQs over 160, and I’d hang out with them and I’d like test my knowledge all the time to see if I was keeping up.

And [00:26:30] I spent all this time in my life going around testing myself and other people. I ended up in this constant state of judgment of like, “Am I smart enough?” and “Are you smart enough?” And I would do both of these things. And I became really close with a local doctor here in the Lehigh Valley named Kristin Reihman, who’s amazing. She’s a family medicine doc, and we ended up doing a lot of training together in Lyme Disease. I would hang out with her and we [00:27:00] would talk about life at the hospital, and in private practice, and what’s it like for her to practice medicine, and all the sort of limitations that kept showing up in her life where she couldn’t do the things that I would do in a treatment room because the law was so strict around what a medical doctor could or couldn’t do.

I found myself spending time with her talking. And I remember, specifically, [00:27:30] sitting with her one day and we talking about Lyme Disease, and we were talking about medicine, and healing, and the whole process of how bodies, and people, and sprits all change, and she looked at me and she said, “Why do you spend all this time trying to show me what you know?” And she just caught me totally sideways, like “Why are you doing that? Like, you’re brilliant.” “But I’m just curious.”

And she was being [00:28:00] completely honest, and I said, “Oh, you noticed that.” And I started to talk to her about it, and she said, “Yeah. I think that,” she said, “You know, I think you’re brilliant. I think you’re incredible, but I think you don’t need to, I don’t think you need to do that,” and it was so interesting because she’s a very like gentle, giving person, and it was somehow, she gave me this permission to just accept [00:28:30] myself for who I am. Somehow that just flipped the switch in my brain, and the second she said that I realized that every place I’d been testing I was trying to be good enough, and then get someone to tell me I wasn’t bad. The second she did that I think I let go of like thirty things I was trying to do that I didn’t actually care about at all.

Craig: Crossed those right off.

Thomas: Including western medicine, which I was like, “I don’t actually care that much about western medicine.” I really don’t. And I [00:29:00] was like, “and that’s fine,” and I just got so free in that moment. And I mean, I can’t thank her enough, because it literally was, like for whatever reason in that moment in time, she just turned the key and this giant cage just sprung away from me, and all of a sudden I could be free to do anything I wanted to do, the way I wanted to do it, and that was great.

I want people to know that what you are, and who you are, and the way that you move through [00:29:30] the world, is the best way that you can be, and the less time that you spend trying to get some authorities approval, or run away from some fear of who you wish you hadn’t been in the past, or what you hadn’t done, or who other people thought you were, the more you can let go of all those things and just be you, the freer you will be and the more amazing you will be.

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

Craig: Okay. And we’re kind of hinting at there’s a bunch of stories. So I’m going to do do this now. So, we like to ask everybody, is there any particular story you would like to share? So everybody has stories and there are millions of stories out there in the Parkour world, full of spectacular, literally spectacle things. But I’m interested in finding things that people are passionate about, because the people who don’t do Parkour [00:20:00] don’t understand even the mindset that we’re coming from. So if there’s a story that you would like to share, about Parkour, about hustling in Scotland or whatever, I would love to hear it.

Jonny: We could definitely talk about hustling in Scotland because those are some interesting stories too. But I feel like we’ve gotta talk about breaking jumps, since that’s kind of what led us here. And of course, the first one will always be the most memorable. [00:20:30] So, when you first start training, you think you’re breaking jumps, right? Because you’re a foot off the ground and you’re jumping four feet out, you know.

Craig: I’m scared, yeah. I’m scared. I’m doing it! Stop pushing me!

Jonny: You’re terrified! But it doesn’t compare to the first time you really break a jump. And what I mean is one where there is a degree of uncertainty and something could go terribly wrong. So I was at a birthday jam [00:21:00] for a friend of ours. We were all just kind of moving through the city here in New York, from spot to spot. Just one of those training sessions where you’re just looking for stuff along the way.

And three of us broke off to go use the bathroom in this one park. And that turned into a session, of course, you know, on the bathroom. And then we ended up up on the roof and there was a jump across essentially, like an entrance gate. And it had wrought iron …

Craig: Nastiness?

Jonny: Yes. On either side. So you had to jump up [00:21:30] and over these kind of wrought-iron spikes and then clear them to get to the other side. And there was just like a stone pillar that was, I don’t know, two feet squared or something? It was a very small landing spot. And it was a good eight, maybe nine feet up in the air. And I had never done anything like that before, you know. I was still very, very new. But I was with a friend of mine who I trusted a lot. I trained with him a lot, and he’s not one of those macho dudes that wants to just push you to do bigger and better stuff, but he felt [00:22:00] like I could do it and he was like, “Hey man, do this jump with me.”

That’s all I need to hear. I’m like, “Oh, you’re gonna do this jump? All right, I can do this jump.”

Craig: It’ll make you feel good.

Jonny: So I’m standing there looking at it. He’s looking at it. He goes for it first. And then I’m standing up in the spot and I’m looking and I’m just immediately imagining all the things that could go wrong. And at this point, we had been training for so long in the park that there was all the parents and the kids and everybody had been watching us. So now I have a full, captive audience and they’re staring up [00:22:30] at me. And I’m like, “Well I can’t not do the jump now, right?”

Craig: Maybe if they moved closer they would be a crash mat if something went wrong.

Jonny: I was kind of thinking about that too, but in the worst case scenario, where I’m like, “Now imagine I miss the jump and I land on, like, a five year old kid. This is actually the worst day of my life. And I’ve got a hundred witnesses, on top of that.” It almost doesn’t get any worse, right? So I’m standing there looking at this jump and then all of a sudden these two gung-ho cops come peeling across [00:23:00] the lawn of the park in the car with the lights on and everything, as if I’m some kind of legitimate criminal. And they come to a skidding halt, errrrt. Right in front of me. They jump out. “Get down from there!” And I’m like, well there’s only one way down, I’ve got to make this jump right now.

Craig: …so dodging bullets!

Jonny: So I do the jump and I completely black out in the air. That’s the craziest part, was I don’t remember anything until the landing. I had this moment where I was just 100% autopilot. [00:23:30] I make the jump. I hit the other side. I take the drop, I’m like, “Let’s go!” The whole crowd is cheering for me, all the parents and the kids, everybody. “Yeah!” And I’m looking at the cops like, “You can’t seriously be mad about this, look at this. These people love me.”

And then they start trying to find out what I’m doing, why I was up there and everything. And I’m just grinning from ear to ear like a total maniac. I’m barely even paying attention and I’m like, “Wait, did you see what I just did? That’s what I was up there for. I [00:24:00] went up there to do that jump.” And they’re trying to figure out if I was trying to like break into the bathroom or, you know. I don’t know what they think I’m trying to do from the roof, right? With the door open.

Their questions made no sense to me and I must have looked like I was high on something, because I’m just, I’m in full ecstasy, you know? I’m so bummed I have to share this moment with these two cops right now rather than my buddies or the cheering crowd of parents who were absolutely in awe over what just happened. So, whatever, we talk to the cops, they realize that I’m just a totally [00:24:30] harmless weirdo.

Craig: Crazy individual.

Jonny: Yeah. They let me go. And that high lasted for two or three days. I came home, I couldn’t shut up about it. I’m talking to my girlfriend. I’m calling my mom. I’m telling anybody that doesn’t care. They’ve got to know. I’m posting on Facebook about it. It was, it was absurd. But I had never felt more alive in my life, and that’s really saying something. Because I was in a coma for a week, you want to talk about feeling like you’re alive, come out of a coma [00:25:00] you feel pretty alive. This dwarfed that. I felt… I was like, “This is the meaning of life right here, is to have these moments.”

Is there a story you would like to share?

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

Craig: [00:19:30] Okay. Going in a lighter direction, I’ll give you an easier question afield. So, is there a story that you would like to share? The global parkour community is filled with amazing grand stories, but I’m wondering if there’s a more personal story that you’d care to share? Perhaps a memory that makes you laugh? Something that inspires you or reminds you of your parents or your friends or someone who-

Adam: This is a story that to me describes the grit of parkour, which is something that I think lacks [00:20:00] sometimes in the parkour community. People miss the grit element. I’m going to see if I can describe it.

I was taking my ADAPT Level Two course, not my assessments, but my course. The course is a fairly gruesome five-day process. Basically it has two purposes. One is to teach you a bunch of stuff that hopefully you will benefit from in terms of coaching and exercise methodologies and everything you need to do to be a coach. [00:20:30] The other half of the course is just designed to kick your ass. That’s its only purpose, whether you’re 100% prepared for the course or whether you haven’t prepared at all. It doesn’t matter. It’s going to be hard not matter what you do. They designed it that way, and that’s a good coach. A good coach would see someone and go “Okay, they’re good, but I’m going to find this way to push them.” That’s what’s going to happen if you take that course.

So I was taking that course, and we were working on one of the physical conditioning elements with the course that we were going to be assessed on at a later point. It was sort of like [00:21:00] a practice round. What you have to do is you have to hang in a cat position on the wall, and you have to traverse across the wall. I don’t know the numbers exactly. It’s either 15 or 30 meters one way, and then the other way, and with a climb up in between. It’s just a lot of grip strength and whatever.

Grip strength has never been my strength, Craig. Anyone who trains with me knows that’s something I avoid with every ounce of my willpower. So I dreaded it a little bit, but I got in the cat position, I went all the way down the wall and did the climb up in the end, and was like “Okay, I’m more [00:21:30] than 50% through my strength, and I’m less than 50% through the drill, but I’ll give it my best.”

So I’m coming back, and what I hadn’t shared yet is that the guy who was leading the course informed us that if we fall off the wall and we hit the ground, and this was maybe a 14-foot, maybe 15-foot wall, so when you’re hanging off the wall, you’re still 10 feet off the ground, and it’s more than you want to do although you won’t die. So he tells us that we have to do 50 pushups is we fall. So nobody wants to do that. We’re in the middle of a course, [00:22:00] nobody wants their arms blasted. We’re all tired as it is.

I’m about halfway across the wall and my bent arms become straight arms because they’re giving out, and the grip of all of your finger becomes the grip of half of your finger as you move down the knuckles of what can last anymore. I’m thinking I’m not going to make it, and I’m sure they can see that, and they’re going “Come on, Adam. Do it.” And I’m like “Ah.” So I keep moving, I keep trying my best, but I decide mentally that I’m not going to let go. I’m just not going to do it. I’m going to hold onto that wall. So I’m going and [00:22:30] I’m going, and I’m hanging on the wall with everything I have, and I feel my hands start to slip, but mentally I engage. I’m like “I’m not letting go of this wall. I got to finish this challenge.” So with every ounce of my strength I press and squeeze against the corner of that wall, which is a rounded wall by the way, making everything worse.

So I’m really gripping with my fingertips as I go, and as though someone had my by a rope from underneath, I yank off while holding onto that wall with as much strength as I possibly can. So [00:23:00] I fall all the way to the ground, “Ka-thump,” down on the ground, onto my feet, and then onto my hips as I just collapse onto the ground. My fingertips now are bleeding because I really tried to hang onto that wall as much as I could.

On top of that, I had a shoulder injury, subluxated shoulder which is like a partial dislocation, that I’d been very slowly letting heal. Well, I didn’t do a good job of that. The shoulder gave out as I was holding on because I really had mentally decided not to let go. [00:23:30] So, everything except gravity listened to me. My shoulder listened to me, my fingertips listened to me, but gravity didn’t listen to me. So it yanked me off the wall. My shoulder was in pain, my fingertips were bleeding, and I decided to go ahead and do 50 pushups on one arm, because what was the other choice?

I enjoyed those pushups. It took me a while to do them, but I was proud to do them because I felt like I had given it my all, and it was a good metaphor for me for what parkour training is like, which is [00:24:00] it’s inevitable that you’re going to fail. If you’re not failing, then you’re definitely doing something wrong because you’re supposed to find your limits. There are parts of it that are going to suck the whole way along. You’re going to have ripped hands, and you’re going to maybe get injured in a small way. That’s a perfect possibility, but you’re going to grow. You’re going to learn something. You’re going to get stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. All those benefits are going to come along with it.

So, I’ve never been so happy to do 50 one-arm pushups, but I was because I knew that I gave it [00:24:30] my all. I knew that I didn’t give up earlier than I needed to. To me, that was a success, and it’s just a perfect put-together of what the parkour grit is like for me.