Travis’ Gym and Community

Craig: [14:25] I have to say that your parkour gym (Axiom Parkour), there’s something about the way that your gym construction is layered. I don’t know. I always feel like I’m looking at Norwegian or Swedish furniture. I mean, it looks like an Ikea done correctly. I wanna just go there and, like, “Look, it’s a table during the day, and it’s a parkour obstacle at night.”

Craig: [14:43] There’s just something about that, about the aesthetic that you build, and I’m guessing that that just called to you, too, so that’s why you build things. But you seem to have this cavernous space, and you just keep throwing toys into it. So what are you doing with your community there at the gym, and where are you going with that?

Travis: [14:57] So there’s two driving focuses of the gym and the build and the design, really, of it. Unfortunately, one is frugality.

Travis: [15:14] So, for anyone who hasn’t seen, it’s dimensional lumber. Everything is constructed from dimensional lumber, mostly two-by-sixes – stud-grade two by sixes, but if you order enough of them, there’s enough premium that you can …

Craig: [15:27] If you nail enough of them together, they get straight.

Travis: [15:30] Yeah. Yeah, you can face. You can face enough good, solid boards. Right?

Craig: [15:36] Enough square board feet, right.

Travis: [15:38] For all the facing for things. It allows me to build things for the future as well. It’s not perfectly permanent. If I glue and I perfectly round the edges of plywood to this size box, that is the size board that it’s going to be. If I have an untouched – other than a little bit of sanding or whatnot – two-by-six, I can take that two-by-six off and use it as framing. It’s not perfectly permanent. Right? Where it is, it’s not going anywhere. It’s not moving. But I can Lego it.

Craig: [16:15] Repurpose it. Right.

Travis: [16:15] I can deconstruct it to be able to do more. Yes, that’s a tremendous amount of work and probably not even worth it in the time vs. the the money thing, but it’s an option. Through my builds, I’ve kept that as a focus of a universal usability, that, “I can use this, but I can also deconstruct it. I can put it in my car.” More of a versatile design.

Travis: [16:40] So, when given the option to fill a gym space, it was difficult, because I can make up my own rules. If I have to fit things into a closet, now, there’s constraints.

Craig: [16:52] Right.

Travis: [16:52] But without constraints, it’s writing the term paper on anything you want, and it takes you forever to figure it out. But if you have … Right? If you have a tiny, specific thing, you can write 20 pages about it, because you’re confined.

Travis: [17:05] So what I did is I created an anti-object, I call it – one that you see and you don’t know what prescribed movements to do on it. It’s not great for a vault. It’s not a great length for precision. It’s not a great height for things. It’s not great for anything. So it kind of breathes innovation, because you have to re-adapt. You have to re-apply to it.

Craig: [17:33] Yeah, mental flexibility required. Otherwise …

Travis: [17:35] Right. I learned everything outdoors. It’s where parkour is supposed to be. It’s where the heart of it is. It was difficulty, opening an indoor space, ’cause conflicting, ’cause I don’t really want to.

Craig: [17:51] Right.

Travis: [17:52] But there’s a necessity to do it. So how can I embody the sense of exploration, the sense of innovation, that you normally find when you just come to a new spot in the city and say, “Okay, how can I apply the movement to this space?” Right?

Craig: [18:04] That’s a good point.

Travis: [18:06] I wanted to try to bring some of that in. Through the design, I’m finding out now, a year and a half, almost two years in, through the design of the modular equipment has, I think, more to do with it than maybe the actual design, physical design of the equipment, ’cause this current setup that I have at the gym right now, I think we can leave for a little bit more.

Travis: [18:27] Usually, I rotate about every three months, for curriculum- wise, keep things fresh. Once we’ve completed the challenges, “Okay, it’s a limited space.”

Craig: [18:34] “We know this spot. Okay, let’s make this spot” …

Travis: [18:37] Right. Right, right, right. But the thing that I have now was more loosely designed on curriculum and more so just designed to replicate an urban sort of planter setting that we all love.

Craig: [18:49] Oh, planters.

Travis: [18:50] Ooh, planters and stairs.

Craig: [18:52] Something more architecturally recognizable. Right? I just had a flashback to Government Center. There are these really cool stairs and planters in Government Center. Anyway, sorry.

Travis: [19:02] Yes. Oh, yes. But that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Travis: [19:07] But, yeah. While we’re on this topic of conversation, I’m at a bit of a conflict right now, where I’m pouring in so much time and energy to build this community where there was nothing. Okay? The nothing called me to this area to build the gym, except for God, except for through prayers. He says, “This is the direction that you wanna go.” No business sense – okay? – to do what I did.

Craig: [19:38] Right.

Travis: [19:38] Zero. It was a terrible business and entrepreneurial decision, but it all worked.

Craig: [19:45] But you … That’s where your passion is, ’cause if you go the business sense-ical way, you’re not gonna have passion. If you have passion, you can pretty much do anything, if you have the passion to get behind it.

Craig: [19:57] So the gym is, I guess, relatively convenient to where you live, but what you’re saying is there isn’t a huge community of normal, regular people.

Travis: [20:03] Zero, yeah.

Craig: [20:05] Zero.

Travis: [20:05] I mean, not parkour people, just in how many people live nearby.

Craig: [20:07] Right, right. So Walworth County. If you would like to go look it up, Walworth County is like that’s where they export the cornfields from?

Travis: [20:17] Rural. Without exaggeration, in most places, there aren’t curbs. So for what I call interactive architecture, places to jump on that are sturdy enough to jump on or wheelchair ramps or anything like a simple spot completely does not exist. Beautiful kettles and moraines. Beautiful woods. We have a gorgeous ski hill over there. But just … It’s not built up.

Craig: [20:50] Absolutely no space.

Travis: [20:53] No close urban city settings, in the least bit, in Walworth County, and nobody was asking for classes. I did not have a slew of people, like, “Let’s start a class down in Walworth County.” The opportunity came up. The right people came up. The right price came up.

Craig: [21:08] Space was there.

Travis: [21:09] It made no business sense, so I was just like, “Well, I believe in what I’m doing. Like you said, I have the passion to do it. I believe I have a quality product. So if I can get a family in, they will tell a family, and they will tell a family.”

Craig: [21:24] Sure.

Travis: [21:25] “That’ll be that.” Truthfully, that’s how it’s all grown. The people that are with me that were there at the beginning, I mean, I can’t get them to stop talking. They just find people on the street and, like, “Listen. Even if you don’t like parkour” …

Craig: [21:43] They become evangelical about it. Right?

Travis: [21:44] They have.

What are you doing?

(This question is part of the “What are you doing?” project.)

I’m doing parkour and a lot of people actually recognize parkour. So I train in New York and when I’m walking around the city, training outside with my people, a lot of folks know about parkour from the office, from Ninja Warrior, from … some people from James Bond. So a lot of times when they see us doing it, then they’ll shout parkour at us–sometimes derisively, sometimes encouragingly. But usually it’s accompanied by a horrible cartwheel or someone sliding and jumping around, pretending to flip. The good with the bad, I suppose.

But for folks that are actually a little bit more interested in parkour and don’t necessarily know what it is or what to expect and had never seen anyone actually doing it outside for real, like it’s not on TV, usually I’ll tell them that I’m training. So … typically they’ll ask me something like, “Oh, like what are you training for? Why are you doing this?” And, a lot of times I’ll just tell them … personally, I’m not training for Ninja Warrior. I’m not training for competitions like NAPC or Air Wipp or anything like that. You know, I’m not trying to be an elite athlete. I train for myself. And so usually that’s what I tell them is, “I’m training to get stronger. I’m training to break mental barriers, to break jumps, and also ’cause it’s fun.”

You know, it’s my form of exercise that I enjoy doing. Some people like doing SoulCycles. Some people like jogging, biking, things like that. And for me, parkour is that. You know, that’s my fulfillment. It’s my stress relief. And typically, I don’t get that in-depth with people. Usually, they just have a quick question and they’re like, “Oh, what are you doing?” But, usually if I had the chance to actually explain to them, that’s what it would be.

What are you doing?

(This question is part of the “What are you doing?” project.)

I’m training Parkour, which is a discipline kind of like martial arts, but instead of training you to fight, it trains you to move your body through your environment. So its techniques are running, jumping, and climbing. And it’s just for overall bettering of self, trying to stay fit, trying to– again– move through your environment as efficiently, or just as creatively as possible.