On staying motivated

Craig: I see you many places and you’re doing a lot of things and you’re always traveling and teaching, and obviously training as well. There are only, when I last checked, 24 hours in every day. How do you manage to find the motivation [00:16:30] to put something that’s actually useful and meaningful into your time? You, like “I have a free day,” how do you get motivated to fill that day with something meaningful and not end up back in front of the PlayStation 1?

Sasa: Because I don’t have a PlayStation 1 anymore.

Craig: Oh I knew, as soon as I said it I was like…

Sasa: Yes, I will definitely do that Driver and Colin McRae Rally all over again. No, I’m joking. I didn’t play games actually until that point. Motivation, [00:17:00] it’s an interesting question all the time because we fight in different ways against this. I think how I am here so long is that everything changes constantly, always new things. I’m not getting stuck with that, “I need to do this all the time like that or like that.” My training evolves so much from the beginning until now, that [00:17:30] when I look back I just cannot compare that person with this person kind of. Yes, in some things.

Craig: Right, you can hardly recognize yourself when you …

Sasa: Yes, like movement wise and training wise, because the first two years I cannot say that was training, was just learning about the discipline.

Craig: Learning about some physical abilities of your body.

Sasa: Yes, like learning about what I saw in that video. Then you meet people, and then I had completely new two, [00:18:00] three years doing something else. It was a completely new life again, because of new people. Actually first people, and then sharing with them what I have what they have, it was amazing. Then that happened in another city, and then I moved again. In that first small city, and then second biggest city in Serbia it’s Novi Sad so I stayed there for a couple of years. I trained there with people … I consider that was [00:18:30] the moment where I develop my Parkour. Where I actually started training, sharing, doing community stuff, doing challenges together. Growing up in Parkour, that’s like kind of my childhood, but I had first Parkour friends, just talk about Parkour all the time. How we solve this problem, how we do this, how we do that.

Craig: What are we doing next, right.

Sasa: I didn’t have any other choice, I had actually a work, because I moved out of the city, I needed money [00:19:00] to pay apartment. I did the regular work for 7, 8 hours per day, and then I did training. There was nothing else. You earn money for life, and then you train.

Craig: Then you sleep and then you start over.

Sasa: Yes. Luckily I had this work from beginning of my training. The moment I start training I had the work, so I get in that mindset that I didn’t have that excuse that when I start working, “Oh, I can’t train anymore.” Because, that [00:19:30] happened from beginning.

Craig: More like you had to squeeze the work in around the training. I sleep, I eat, I train and then [crosstalk 00:19:37] work.

Sasa: Yes, then you sacrifice everything else. There was no going out with the friends every weekend, getting drunk, doing whatever, whatever. Every time I go I finish work, I go train or I teach and I go sleep and then all over again. I wasn’t– I never was [00:20:00] thinking about that I’m actually sacrificing something you know. For me that was what I want to do. For me it was much more fun to go for, if I work first or second shift for example. If I work first shift, afternoon I can train with my friends because they were all lazy to get up in the morning at 3:00 in the morning. Then I get this benefit when I’d work afternoon. I’d get up early, I have breakfast, I go train by myself and that’s where [00:20:30] you combine these two trainings, training by yourself for two, three years. When you train in the morning, every second week, and training afternoon with your friends.

Combining two, these different styles, into one, it’s very magic happen. Because then I actually get to meet myself and to learn more about myself in that period. That I think where was the good base of [00:21:00] my understanding Parkour, and the discipline and the training. That’s how I get to discipline myself. If you work afternoon you don’t get to sleep until 10:00 and then chill a little bit and go to work. No, I get up every morning, I train, I go for work. When you can discipline yourself just by falling in love with movement, if you love something so [00:21:30] bad you can do whatever you want. For me, that love for this has been, was the key from the beginning. If I didn’t fall in love that never will happen. From there, I choose … I mean that I had… 21, 22… to move from Novi Sad, from Serbia to Croatia.

That was [00:22:00] a huge step, and then I go there and I open a class with Americo, my friend from Croatia, and that was another– completely another level. Completely new city, new obstacles, new people. I will say, first new people and then new obstacles, because it’s much more important, and completely new ideas. I get from one kind of [00:22:30] sample, or one idea for Parkour in Serbia, however it’s close, we all think differently. These guys one idea, these guys have another idea, so when you’re dropped in this kind of training you evolve so much. You learn so much just by changing environments.

Craig: You can get exposed to those fresh ideas right?

Sasa: Yes, just fresh environments is all. I was staying three years in Zagreblearning a lot from these people, and also [00:23:00] by myself. That’s where the pirate ship actually happened. The pirate ship happened just like two weeks or one week before I get VISA for America. That was 2014, and then in 2014 … I’m going to say that was the kind of, the big turn again. Every kind of three years something happened in my life, [00:23:30] accidentally. Probably not accidentally, but something really big change happened and that is important kind of checkpoints why …

Craig: Life cycles.

Sasa: Yes, why I am so long here.

On doing what he loves

Craig: So why do you do what you love?

Mat: See that’s an interesting question because I had to learn the hard way of why am I doing the things I don’t want to do? [00:00:30] Or why am I doing the things I hate? Or why am I doing the things that I think that I have to do? For a while, I feel like everybody thinks they have to do a lot of different things, and that there is this pressure growing up and just in our society that you have to do these certain things.

When it came down to it, I thought doing what I love wasn’t really a viable option. I couldn’t really pay my rent and do these different things [00:01:00] if I actually did what I loved. So I felt that I had to make a compromise. I really loved art and doing graphic design and painting and stuff like that. I was like, well, I’ll do graphic design, so that way I can make money.

What I really loved to do was being creative. Like just being creative, but what I ended up doing was becoming a graphic designer and-

Craig: Trying to bend that creativity to fit someone else’s mold.

Mat: And give my creativity to somebody else, [00:01:30] and to help other people, you know to do other people’s visions and dreams. So I did that for 10 years or so. I did that for a really long time until I just got so frustrated, I quit. I just recently got over this whole resentment to computers and technology all together because I was just so-

Craig: Total rage quit. Right. [00:02:00] Burn it all.

Mat: Yeah. I was really frustrated that I spent so many of my years sitting on a computer wishing I was doing something else, looking out the window going oh it’s such a nice day. I wish I could go outside and play.

But you can’t play! You’re an adult. You have to work. You have to make enough money. You need health insurance. You need to pay your rent. You need food. You need to, you know …

Craig: Tow the line. That’s the-

Mat: All these different things that keep you there. But what ended up happening is after [00:02:30] 10 years or so, I mean I got sick a few different times, where it was … It was detrimental to my health and my life.

The first time around, it turned into like an addiction with alcohol and drugs, is that that was my escape. I had to go to work and do these things, sit at a desk for so long. On the weekend, I wanted to have fun [00:03:00] and live life and live life to its fullest and take advantage of the time that I had. The only way that I knew how to do that was to go out and party, to go out to bars and jump on a table or a stage dive or-

Craig: You let it all hang out.

Mat: Do something crazy. And that was my output, but what that did to me over a long period time was make me really unhealthy. Then I found myself weighing like a hundred pounds, and I [00:03:30] was really sick and depressed and hallucinating just on my own, just because of how unhealthy I was. I needed a way out, and that’s when I found Parkour, and that was it.

What is it about Parkour that you saw as an escape?

Craig: So why Parkour? What is it about Parkour that you saw as the escape?

Mat: When I nailed it down to what I really loved to do, what I really love to do is play. [00:04:00] And Parkour is like the grownup version of play.

Craig: Right or the not yet and the not grown up version of play. It’s just play.

Mat: Yeah. Another thing about Parkour is that I was able to be creative. And that was also why I liked graphic design and being a painter and these other different things I did with visual arts, is I’m a very creative person. And I’m able to be creative with my movement.

Craig: Without having to be nailed [00:04:30] to a desk or a computer, all those things that you wanted to get away from.

Mat: Yes. I could also be very creative as a coach, so I could help other people and help other people learn movement. And that is to me, when I make a lesson plan, it is like painting a picture or making a sculpture or something. But I’m making an hour experience.

Craig: Yeah crafting a journey that you’re going to take people through.

Mat: Yeah, and so [00:05:00] I fell in love with this whole experiencing life, and Parkour has helped bring that out. Where my experiences before with being a painter is you have this experience. You make it, and then it’s on a wall. You know? And you want other people to experience that too.

But with Parkour, it’s that actual, when I jump, I’m in the moment, and I’m living that experience. Then once I have that experience, I can use that as paint and my palette to help others when [00:05:30] I’m doing my classes. And oh, remember that one time where I did that one jump, and I learned all these different life lessons.

Craig: How do I craft this to convey that feeling to them. Right?

Mat: Yeah. I went through a long time really questioning myself though. After I fell in love with Parkour, I just stopped doing art. I stopped painting. I was a tattoo artist for a little bit too, and I just stopped. I put all my stuff in a box, and I still have it in my closet. And I wonder if it’s every gonna come out.

[00:06:00] The thing is I feel completely quenched, like my creative tendencies are being fulfilled through playing around, swinging, jumping, having fun with kids.

Craig: Coaching and right.

Mat: Yeah, I get to be creative every single day in all these different ways is just a lot different, so I thought I was losing a part of me, when I had this transformation, and I was learning Parkour. Because I did art [00:06:30] for so many years, and it was such a big part of my life. I still have it all over my body, so I have that.

And I still love it. I look at other people’s art, and I can really appreciate it and I like to see beautiful things. But now I’ve learned a greater appreciation of experiencing things, of experiencing moments in art and ideas [00:07:00] and being in it.

So to me, Parkour is art. I realized after a few years, I didn’t lose it. I’m still an artist. I’m a life artist. I’m a movement artist. And I can still be creative, and I can play.

Seeing everything as an opportunity

Craig: Many people say that they enjoy overcoming obstacles, but when you say it, I know that you have a deeper, a more considered meaning behind that phrase, which is often thrown around quite lightly. [00:07:30] So I’m wondering if you can unpack a little bit about why you feel that overcoming obstacles has a deeper meaning for you?

Mat: For me, overcoming obstacles is a way of life. It’s my way of life. And it is the thing that I feel has ultimately changed my life and changed how I live. My experience is in everything that happens to me, or how I react [00:08:00] when things happen to me.

So before I learned Parkour, overcoming obstacles was not something I liked to do or something that I felt passionate about. An obstacle would happen, and I would feel like, oh no, this happened to me, and now I have to deal with this. This is a terrible thing.

But after learning Parkour, I started to see obstacles in a new light and a new way of thinking. So when something happens to me in my life, I don’t see it as a negative [00:08:30] thing. I see it as an opportunity for me to grow and become strong or demonstrate how strong I’ve become.

Something that’s recently, that’s happened to me, is I had my lung collapse. So old me, before Parkour, this would be a victim thing. This would be, “My lung collapsed. My life’s over. I’m gonna be stuck in bed forever. How dare this happen. Why me? So many other people, they live their [00:09:00] lives, and their lungs don’t collapse. Why did my lung collapse?”

Craig: Yeah, I was doing so great before this, but …

Mat: Yeah, and then I could just play on that for years, maybe for the rest of my life, I could use that as a disability, or why my life sucks is because I had a collapsed lung. But after learning Parkour and really finding and appreciating overcoming obstacles, when my lung collapsed, it was like, “Wow, here’s my chance to demonstrate how strong I have become.”

I’ve learned how to overcome [00:09:30] obstacles physically with my body, how to do pull-ups and climb-ups and kongs and all these different things. But here’s something that’s happened to me, and I’m gonna use that progressive method that I use when I’m doing Parkour. But I’m gonna use this with my body, and I’m gonna use it to get strong, and I’m gonna use it to get through the surgery. I’m gonna use it to become healthy fast, and then be able to get back to work and get back to doing what I love. I’ve done this before, so I can do it again. I’m just going to [00:10:00] get better and better at it.

Craig: That’s great mindset. Right.

Mat: Yeah, I didn’t see it as something that was terrible, and when I was in the hospital everybody was really impressed with me. I saw it as like, “Bring it on!’

Craig: Yeah, you were talking about the physical therapist, and you know, most people hate their physical therapist. “Oh, I don’t want to go. It hurts.” And your attitude was, “Yeah, tell me exactly what I have to do,” and your watch beeps every hour to remind you to breath, which is something they had you doing [00:10:30] as a physical therapy, but now it’s like that’s actually a really good thing to do.

Mat: Yeah, so they gave me exercises, and I loved them because I love exercises. I love trying to be strong. I love doing things in a progressive method where I break everything down into steps. So if they say, “Oh you do this step here, and then this step and this step, and you’ll be on your way.” And I say, “Yes, I trust that.” I know that. I know when I was learning kongs, I did not know how to do a full kong, but I broke it up into steps, and I learned each step, and then I put it together.

Craig: Understand the process.

Mat: [00:11:00] Yeah. So now, I could do this with my lungs. I could do it with my body. They sliced my back open to do the surgery, and so I lost all my pull-ups-

Craig: All the pull. Right.

Mat: All my upper body strength was gone, and at first I was hurt. I was like, “Oh man, I worked so hard on muscle-ups and pull-ups, and now I can’t even do one.” But then I was like, wait a minute. I’ve done it once. I can do it again. I know, actually, how to do it [00:11:30] better now.

Craig: Right.

Mat: So this time around, it’s gonna go a lot better than the first time I did it. So here’s an opportunity for me to focus on the fundamentals of pull-ups again. And the fundamentals of all my different exercises. Like as I felt like I lost it, and then I get to rebuild. So it was like a challenge. It was like a thing.

And so, with Parkour, we need to learn how to adapt to different environments. [00:12:00] So I just had to learn how to adapt in my life and adapt to having this big slice in my back. While I was in the hospital, I had to adapt having a tube in my lung.

Craig: In your lung.

Mat: Man, which was painful for a while, and oh man, it was so hard. But I knew that I could do it. You know, step-by-step, I could just watch the clock, and I’ll know [00:12:30] tomorrow I’ll be better than I was the day before.

Just like with Parkour, I’m getting stronger and stronger, more knowledgeable. And with going through the surgery, it was the same thing. It was just gonna happen again. You know? I know how to transform myself, and I’m gonna put it into practice.

I learned a lot of things from Parkour. I learned a [00:13:00] lot of valuable life lessons, but on the way, I’ve also learned things that seem unrelated to Parkour, but also, equally important life lessons. One of those life lessons that I’ve recently learned, but it’s been there throughout my whole life is turning bad things into good things.

And it’s weird for me to even say it bad because now, I kind of don’t believe there is bad.

Craig: You sort of realize those things [00:13:30] were actually good in the first place. Right?

Mat: Yeah, well to turn bad things into good things, it’s just I wonder if everything is actually good. And we just kind of make them bad, or we don’t want to adapt and change and learn.

Craig: Yeah, what makes it bad is your reaction to it. That’s what paints the bad onto the event.

Mat: So I’ve had some bad things happen in my life. Like how I was talking about earlier with my jobs that I didn’t like. [00:14:00] Those were bad, but now-

Craig: Yes, stressful, toxic, environments-

Mat: Now I really, truly appreciate and love what I do, where I’m working with kids, and I’m playing, and it’s a nice day, and I’m outside. Or I’m in a gym that’s comfortable, and we’re having a good time, and I’m doing it.

And it just makes me thankful. All the times that I was stuck behind the window or in [00:14:30] my cubicle at a desk, now just makes me really appreciate moving and feeling free and laughing and making jokes and doing all these different fun things.

Then even when things got bad at my other jobs, and I turned to drinking to try to get a way out. Now I appreciate how good and amazing it is to be sober. And how amazing is that experience. [00:15:00] It’s something I can’t give to somebody else, and I have a hard time describing it, but I have it for myself, and I love it. Sometimes it makes me so happy that I’ll cry from happiness. I would never have that though, if I never spent so many years being depressed.

Craig: If you hadn’t gone through the shadow, if you hadn’t walked through the valley.

Mat: So I learned that, and I tried to use that immediately. So something else that’s happened to me is that I [00:15:30] had my house robbed. I was at a first day of a job that I just started, and while I was at work training, my house was getting broken into.

Craig: Oh that’s horrible.

Mat: They were stealing my laptop, my monitor. They smashed my Go-Pro, and then stole the keys to my car, and I did not realize that until they took the car!

Craig: They came back later and took the car.

Mat: They [00:16:00] came back later in the night while I was sleeping. After I discovered my whole house was stolen- or all of the stuff in my house was stolen, and I went to bed. They came back and stole my car while I was sleeping.

I woke up, and I just look. And I’m like, “Did I leave my car somewhere else?” I don’t drink anymore. I couldn’t have just misplaced it. I’ve worked this out in my life. I know where my car is, but it’s not there. [00:16:30] Did it roll down the street?

Craig: No.

Mat: I mean it couldn’t have just rolled. Okay, it’s gone. Oh they stole it.

Craig: They came back and stole my car. Oh that’s rude.

Mat: Yeah, just like all the other stuff. So immediately, right off the bat though, from having all these different other experiences in my life that seemed to be bad, and I had such a hard time with them. And it took years until I understood that they were very good things to happen to me. I immediately put it into practice.

So I was like, okay, all my stuff’s gone. [00:17:00] I’m alive, and I’m okay. Like it’s not the end of the world. Can you believe that? For some reason, I always feared that losing your laptop and losing your camera and your car and different things, somehow that would end the world.

Craig: That’s somehow like, no that’s where the line is.

Mat: I’m like, oh my God no. I’m breathing. This is amazing. How can this possibly be? All my stuff’s gone, and I’m okay. I’m healthy, and I’m happy.

Craig: Did this [00:17:30] happen to you after your lung operation?

Mat: Yeah. Yeah. So this was shortly after. I’m still-

Craig: We’re laughing now, but this is not-

Mat: Yeah, it was just boom, boom. So I started to immediately put it into practice. I’m like okay, well maybe there isn’t bad things that happen. Maybe everything is actually good, and I just need to right now open my eyes to the possibility of what good could come out of this.

And I was like, all right, well what if I get a better [00:18:00] car than I had? And I was like, well that was like my nicest car that I’ve had. I mean it was the newest car I had. I’d kept it really, really super clean. People would get in my car, and they’d be like “Wow, how do you keep this car so clean? This smells like a new car.” But it wasn’t a new car. It was like a 2012, but it was the newest car I ever had.

Craig: You’d been taking care of it.

Mat: So, I let that come into my reality. I was like well yeah, I don’t know, maybe I can get a better car than I had before. Then [00:18:30] oh man, my camera’s gone. I can’t film Parkour. Well, what if you don’t really need to film Parkour right now?

Craig: How much time was I spending filming?

Mat: Yeah, what if I need to just practice Parkour not filming stuff? You know? And I was like okay, well I need to start doing Parkour with no camera, not filming anything. What about my computer? Well you hated design work for so much of your life, how about you live life without a laptop. See what that’s like. This is good for you. This is a gift. They took [00:19:00] your laptop, something that you’ve grown resent-

Craig: Yeah, it was actually a stone around your neck, and you didn’t know it until they took it away, and you stood up.

Mat: There you go. You know. And then I learned to appreciate it. My insurance company, luckily, I don’t know how it works. Normally it doesn’t work so well for other people. Things happened, and they were really strange.

One day it looked like I was totally screwed, that I was gonna lose thousands [00:19:30] of dollars off this. I wasn’t gonna get a new car. I was gonna have to get like a used car or something like this. Then the next day, it was like, oh no, actually it could work out. There was like this weird thing with numbers and the math, and now it’s taken care of. And it kept on going up and down, and I just kept on trusting that everything would be okay, and it’ll work out exactly how it should.

Craig: I’ll work that out when they make a decision. Right? I’m not gonna freak out.

Mat: It’ll work out how it will work out. And I ended up getting the nice car. I ended up getting a car [00:20:00] nicer than my old car in every way. My new car has better gas mileage, way better gas mileage. I never had a car that had such good gas mileage. Like now it’s like a hobby of mine, and I find enjoyment getting good gas mileage going down the street.

Craig: Hyper-mileing. Right.

Mat: I’m like, yes! I can’t believe this is possible. I’m doing it. It’s a newer car. So I had a 2012, now I have a 2015. So I really lucked out. My payments [00:20:30] are also so much lower. I really couldn’t actually afford the old car that I had, and I was always praying please help me with my bills.

Craig: Yeah, if I could just make it.

Mat: And then I made a joke that like the angels took my car away because they were tired of paying your bills for you every month. You don’t need this car. We’re gonna get you something else. It’s better, and it’s cheaper, and now you can be a coach. And you can only do that for a living, and you don’t have to have this expensive car payment, and you don’t have to spend all your time on a computer.

[00:21:00] But recently, today actually, I opened up my new computer for the first time. I had some hard time with it actually. I got so used to not having it in my life, that I really appreciated not having it in my life.

Craig: Not having it in your life.

Mat: But I’m opened to the fact that well, I’m gonna let new things come into my life, and I’m not gonna hold onto them so tight like I did with my other [00:21:30] belongings. If somebody comes and steals my new laptop, it’s okay. If somebody comes and steals my new car, it’s okay. I can have nice things, and it’s okay if it doesn’t work out.

So now I have a new laptop, and my new laptop is better than my old laptop. And I’m getting a new camera that’s better than my old camera is.

Craig: I’m sensing a pattern here. Right?

Mat: Yeah, so this has been, just something that I really wanted to share with everybody that’s listening to this podcast, is that you [00:22:00] really can turn negative, bad situations into good positive ones. It’s just how you see it, and if you’re ready. If you can open up and believe the possibility of something good could happen. It can.

If you’re new to Parkour, and you are doubting, I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can do Parkour. Or maybe [00:22:30] you want to be a Parkour coach, and you’re doubting that too. I would say just try to open up and be able to receive it.

See it as a possibility in life, and say, “Let it be an option.” Don’t instantly say, “Oh no this is bad. I can’t do it.” “Oh my lung collapsed. I can’t breathe anymore for the rest of my life, I’m totally done. I can’t exercise.” Or “I hurt my ankle once. I’m not good at Parkour.”

Craig: Right. Give up. Give up at the first sign [00:23:00] of difficulty.

Mat: Just use it as things to grow, and then you’ll be so much stronger after that.

On being just a normal person

Craig: Mat, I know you don’t want me to put on a pedestal, but I want to sort of drag you out a little bit further. A lot of the things that you have described, you’ve left out some of the details of the challenges that you really went through, and things were much more difficult than they sound.

I want to just sort of put you on the spot a little bit to get you to explain why you believe that you’re not special. Why do you believe [00:23:30] that this is just a regular way to live?

Mat: Yeah, that’s the thing. Sometimes I think to myself that I’m just normal. That I’m just your average guy. A lot of these things that I do isn’t something that is a supernatural feat. That I have something really super special that somebody can’t have themselves. I see everything I do as what an average [00:24:00] human can do. We go through life, and we have negative things happen to us. This is all normal.

Craig: Right.

Mat: We all get this opportunity to do this and see the world like this and be able to respond in this way. So once I started to do this, then my life transformed in all different ways then I possibly could [00:24:30] imagine. So when people who know me, different family members or friends that I’ve known for years, they think, “Oh wow, well Mat can do it, but I can’t do it.” You know?

You could totally do it. It’s completely possible to do it. I mean I don’t feel like what I did was too special, but maybe it might have been just making the right decision, which is definitely hard, but it’s completely possible.

[00:25:00] So I have my doubts as well. As an average person, I think “Man, there are so many other people that are talented than me.” And I see them in my life. They come to the gym. They can do awesome tricks that I can’t do. But the thing is that I keep on going anyways. Instead of comparing myself [00:25:30] to other people, I see everybody else is on a different path in their life.

We’re all in different stages. We’re all learning different lessons, and somebody might be very talented at one thing, and somebody might be very talented at another. So what I do, is I concentrate on the things that I’m talented, and I’m good at. I might not be the most talented athlete. I might not be on the Red Bull Art of Motion.

Craig: Right, or the best business person, or the best family guy, whatever.

Mat: [00:26:00] Yeah, but I wake up, and I do what I love. That overrides and overpowers where I lack in different skills. My love and my creativity brings me out of that. So I see myself as a very average, regular person, but since I’m doing what I love, and I believe in what I’m doing, that I can go on through my life and seemingly do these very impressive things. I [00:26:30] also believe anybody else can do this too. All you need is some challenges and a good vision.

Craig: A focused mindset.

Mat: Yeah, a good pair of glasses.

What else would you like to share?

Do and Jutsu in Parkour

When I asked for the difference between judo and jujutsu to be explained to me, my sensei used to bring me the mountain metaphor. I try to remember it and write it down.

For my teacher the martial art is like a mountain and the journey (life) leads us to the summit. But like a real mountain, one face is rocky and the other hilly, one cold side, the other sunny. When you are preparing for ascension, from the bottom, you can have an overview and decide how you want to climb: by the quickest and most direct route or by the slowest and sweetest path. It is at this stage that, in fact, we decide what our goal is: we want to enjoy the view and learn something about the local flora and fauna or do we prefer to acquire techniques that allow us to reach the top even in the most adverse conditions?

And here we are at the heart of the matter, jutsu means method, technique (1), its objective is explicitly functional. On the other hand, the end of do , which means path, path (1), is to reach a certain level of introspection, a profound experience of reality. (2)

In nineteenth-century Japan, with the samurai era at sunset, culture changed and technology rendered traditional fighting arts obsolete in one way or another. However, people wanted to continue to practice martial arts but had to shift their attention: this new generation chose self-improvement and spiritual upliftment as its main purpose. (2) After this change of goal resulted in a restructuring, more or less marked, the technical baggage of the disciplines that, in fact, no longer had effectiveness as a priority.

We come, finally, to the Parkour. I believe that our discipline is in a privileged position compared to the Japanese martial arts. The jutsu of parkour, in fact, does not consist of a series of techniques to dislocate the joints or to decapitate the adversaries, but in a general system to overcome the obstacles of the environment that is crossed. It is therefore evident that the jutsu of parkour can be applied in its most utilitarian form without having to fall short of its ethical principles (or without incurring serious legal consequences). Practicing jutsu means, for me, tracing paths in continuity from a starting point to a pre-established arrival point, paying attention:

  • To apply the right series of movements (not to waste energy or time)
  • All ‘harmony of movements that follow each other (because the fluidity of the succession of muscular tension derives the effectiveness of a series of movements)
  • The silence of impacts (because “no sound, not shock”)

And the do ? Well, the most spiritual side of parkour lies in overcoming one’s mental limitations, as well as in the continuous strengthening of one’s own will to progress. Working on do in parkour, for me, is:

  • Carrying out particularly painstaking conditioning exercises (from the physical point of view, but above all the mental one) that I set (to temper my willpower)
  • Perform single risky movements, that is, motilemente difficult and potentially dangerous (to develop concentration and lucidity in moments of stress)
  • Refine the techniques (to respond to an aesthetic and functional sense)

It is good to remember, however, that there is a common basis for the two practices: physical conditioning. Neither the justu nor the do can express themselves if the body is not ready to face the obstacles.

On the other hand, there are some specific consequences of the two training methods. Training jutsu leads to greater adaptability, a high capacity for improvisation as well as the possibility of seeing the city as one full of possibilities and not as a series of watertight environments and obligatory passages. On the other hand, developing the do refines the precision and control and the possibility of “unlocking” passages deemed unimaginable.

We return for a moment to Japan: considering the jutsu as a functional modality and the do linked more to reason to engage in combat, we realize that very few could harmonize the two components . These rare cases do not justify the belief that this was the norm or that, from the historical point of view, jutsu was identical to the do of high ethical purposes. (3)

Parkour’s luck is right here: the do and the jutsu of the parkour are not as difficult to integrate as those in the Japanese fighting arts. It is possible, for us, to develop the two things together: we rely on do to develop and give meaning to a track and tracing out of overly specialized or aesthetic research.

Note:

  1. From Wikipedia
  2. From Do vs Jutsu, Jeff Brooks
  3. From the ancient martial arts, Ratti Westbrook

Thoughts on the 2017 Art of Retreat

This weekend I attended The Art of Retreat in NYC with many of the community leaders, business owners and athletes that have been directly responsible for the growth and progress of our young sport. Collecting my thoughts will be difficult so we’ll see how this goes.

I thought I was attending the event to discuss with others how and why we should form a national governing body for the American communities – after the first day of governance discussion with Eugene Minogue and Victor Bevine it became very clear to me that the solution to our communal plight does not lie within what others have done in the past, but rather within the parameters that are unique to the American market. While it was good to hear an international opinion ultimately the formation of our governance (or decision against governance) must come from the hearts and minds of American athletes and business owners that understand that nature of our capitalist democracy. This much you probably already knew.

In my opinion we cannot expect to grow in a calculated way as a national sport if we remain unorganized. It has been invaluable for each region to define its own marketplace and practices but I believe in order to grow exponentially we must level the playing field and start getting better about transparency of business practice and research so that all can benefit where few have prospered. In each region people are blindly having to make the same mistakes and jump through hoops that older entrepreneurs have already navigated – and we have the power to change that. By each organization and region investing in a governing body that is dedicated to the preservation and innovation of our sport we ensure peer review instead of monopoly.

There is of course the American sentiment that a government was made to get in a citizen’s way but we have the power to formulate and structure any system that we want. When the Founding Fathers and the members of the Constitutional Convention met to decide secession from the British Empire they were not purely reacting to foreign oppression, they were using foreign oppression as a focusing device to ensure a future for American citizens and businesses. They did not expect to topple the British Empire but merely to ensure that the future of our nation rested within the hands of her people. We do not have the power and resources to defeat FIG if they have their mind set on putting parkour in Olympics, but we can control the growth and innovation of the American communities through spreading out the workload so many have contributed to in order to strengthen our sport nationally by investing in young entrepreneurs.

I see the culture of excellence Brandee Laird Rene Scavington and Dylan Polin have instilled in their communities and it excites me for the future generations of our movement. I look at how Justin Sheaffer and Caitlin Pontrella can organize an event and I see a young athlete learning how to host a jam or event in their own community. I listen to Alice B. Popejoy and Craig Constantine efficiently facilitate discourse and communication that could improve every business in this nation’s sport. I witness the example set by entrepreneurs like Dan Iaboni Ryan Ford and Amos Rendao emulated by the current and next generations of our sport and with a concentrated effort on all our parts I believe we can develop a system that enriches our current businesses and emboldens our other community members to contribute to the marketplace with all our support.

I am still learning my role to play in all of this but I am convinced that I can use my ability to communicate to bridge these companies and communities together. I am humbled by the opportunity to learn from each of you and I look forward to the future we will craft together together. You have all inspired me for the better part of a decade and I am dedicated to returning the favor. When I think about this sport I am filled with nothing but pride and admiration (besides chronic knee pain). Thank you for your support and love as always.

On the 1,000 muscle-ups challenge

Craig: The 1,000 Muscle-ups Challenge is infamous and if you haven’t seen it we’ll link the video in the show notes. A lot of people I think mistake that as a suggestion for a way to train muscle-ups [00:00:30] and that’s clearly not what was going on. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Chris: Yeah, basically we have stupid ideas lots of the time. This particular stupid idea happened … It’s genesis was in Brazil as an entirely innocent, after-dinner conversation, where I believe Blane, Dan Edwardes, Stephane Vigroux, and Bruno, who was the actual Brazilian, and the reason the guys were out there, having a hypothetical [00:01:00] debate over whether one would prefer to do 10,000 pushups in a day or 1,000 muscle-ups in a day.

Craig: I think I would prefer to be absent that day.

Chris: It’s an entirely interesting and hypothetical conversation.

Craig: Or so you thought.

Chris: What harm can come from this? I didn’t get a say in this. I just get told about this I guess a few weeks later because during the course of this conversation Blane decides that 1000 muscle-ups in a day is clearly [00:01:30] less horrendous than 10,000 pushups in a day. And furthermore, he’s going to do it. At which point, Dan thinks it’s a great idea.

Great is probably putting words in his mouth. Dan is not willing to be left out of the idea at this point. If someone else is doing it, this is a great challenge. This is something to learn a bit more about yourself. Maybe you can do it, maybe you can’t. Let’s see what happens. Steph [00:02:00] agrees as well. Bruno, for his sins, also agrees to join in, and is a great help when we got around to the change a few months later, but probably spends more time with a camera than with a scaffolding.

Craig: Right. What is the big event? What is the big takeaway aside from having done it? I think you’re one of the guys who actually finished it.

Chris: Yeah. There were eight of us that decided to take this on in the end. Myself was number five. Andy Pearson, one of the other tutors from London, joined [00:02:30] in as well. Who am I missing? Jun Sato…

Craig: Oh, right.

Chris: He’s an amazing guy from Japan, who I think, over time some myths may grow up around this, but I’m pretty sure he delayed his flight so that he could stay in the country and do the challenge with us. Joe Boyle, who is another guy from London, coached with us, and he’s just a phenomenal athlete, especially when it comes to endurance and strength endurance challenges.

Craig: Right. He’s figuring out the pace [00:03:00] and how to get it done.

Chris: Yeah, well, I don’t know if he knew how to get it done or at least innately knew how to get it done, but he bloody well got it done.

Craig: A journey of 1000 muscle-ups begins with a single muscle-up.

Chris: Yeah, and then a second and so on and so on until you hit 1000.

Craig: Any particular takeaways from that other than you never want to do that again?

Chris: Which we will also return to. Yeah. Actually, it [00:03:30] is possible. We’re talking with some of the other guys here at the gathering about challenges and is it a challenge if you know you can do it before you start?

Craig: Yeah. I heard someone say, “It takes a special skill to set a challenge for yourself that you’re unable to do,” and at first I was like, “Well, no, I could challenge myself to climb Mount Everest tomorrow,” but to actually set a challenge that you would actually attempt that you are unable to do is actually tricky. It’s like breaking [00:04:00] a jump in a way.

Chris: Yeah, especially one that maybe you’re not able to do but you think there’s a possibility you might. In many ways, it is like breaking a jump. The jump won’t scare you if you can’t do it. Likewise, if you know for a fact you can’t do the challenge it’s not really a challenge because at no point do you have the intention to try and do it.

Craig: To commit.

Chris: The problem is you need something that is conceivable enough that you’re going to go in with 100% intention to try and get it done but far enough away that you don’t go in 100% [00:04:30] sure it is going to get done. The combination of it being pitched at that level, the guys that were doing it, and I suspect on certainly my part and a few of the other guys, a little bit of hubris.

Craig: I’m like, “He’s going to say hubris.”

Chris: Yeah. I think I realized somewhere in the middle of the challenge that I’d not necessarily bitten off more than I can chew but certainly stuffed a lot more in my mouth [00:05:00] than I was expecting. Then there’s all kinds of little moments throughout the day that made me think how much easier it was with other people around. I can’t say for sure but I’m 99% certain I would not have done 1000 muscle-ups that day if I’d been the only one doing it.

Craig: Yeah, what would the vision in your mind be? “I’m going to do 1000 muscle-ups in an empty …” it was basically like a gym. In an empty gym without any heat. It was in the winter. [00:05:30] That would be mind-boggingly demotivating to be by yourself.

Chris: As with more legends, I did hear tell [inaudible 00:05:39] one of the second-generation guys from Lisse in France … He either did 1000 or did 600 or 800, or some phenomenal number, but on his own in a playground on a fairly thick bar. Just did three, walked to the other side of the playground, did three, and … [00:06:00] Yeah. It goes to show the challenges that those guys would do to find out what they are capable of and to build what they were capable of.

On the value of challenge

Craig: If I remember correctly it was 14 and a half hours. Why would anyone want to put themselves through not necessarily that specific challenge but a challenge of that magnitude in general? What’s the potential payoff?

Chris: To learn something about yourself. Modern life doesn’t give you many chances of seeing what you’re capable of.

Craig: [00:06:30] Opportunities for growth.

Chris: Yeah. Seeing where your limits are. Yeah, I didn’t get better at muscle-ups that day for sure …

Craig: I think the quality went down.

Chris: Yeah. It was three days before I could do another one. I came out of it knowing that when things got really awful I could still keep going. Then when things got really awful I still had a bunch of great people around me that were able to [00:07:00] either …

Craig: Understand the viewpoint maybe?

Chris: Yeah. Also, I don’t know if it was inspire me or motivate me or just that energy kept me going. I wasn’t doing it because other people were there watching. I didn’t care what they thought of me. That was not the boost I got from having other people around. It was just other people in the space either going through the same thing or supporting us and bringing us cups [00:07:30] of teas.

Craig: Yeah, there were people helping.

Chris: Or doing their own challenges in the background or just staying awake, in the case of my, now the strongest Keighley, but at the time a much, much smaller, younger, and weaker Keighley.

Craig: Right away what comes to mind is where did you learn that lesson originally? You weren’t born with that lesson. Where did that come from? How did you learn that that was a good way to seek growth was to seek these kinds of really big challenges?

Chris: I [00:08:00] think that probably … Look, I can’t pinpoint when I came across that as a very specific, “Ah, this is eureka moment of this is the mindset I want to adopt”. I think it was a gradual influence of probably people and training over time. Guys like Stephane Vigroux when they were coaching in London and coming up with, “Yes, we’ll do some wonderful technical movement training” and we’ll just do some physical training but as a more common way [00:08:30] of just making yourself stronger.

But then just all these little challenges, whether it was stories of the challenges that they used to do … That’s how Stephane [Vigroux] started. He went to learn from David and he was just some scrawny little teenager. David [Belle] would be like, “Oh, go do 1000 pushups.” Steph would go away and do it and come back like, “What’s next?”

Craig: Then you’re on-call for seven days and whenever I call you or text you you do it immediately, right?

Chris: Right. The influence of those kind of people and probably the training they had coming [00:09:00] up as they were learning about disciplining themselves of … Yeah, this challenge is going to give you more than just the training of the challenge.

Just over time I’d see good guys like Steph [Stephane Vigroux] in London…

Thomas Couetdic… [otherwise known as] Thoma Dubois… was also in London…

Kazuma. Kazuma came and taught with…

It wasn’t even Parkour Generations as it was in the very earliest months. But, I’d say parkour coaching as it was in the first [00:09:30] three or four months and then eventually Parkour Generations.

For sure, Forest [Francois Mahop] and Dan as well.

A very strong ethos of both tough physical challenge but as a way of building you mentally as well as physically. I never went in search of that. I think it was definitely I went there to get stronger …

Craig: Slow discovery process that you realized, “This really works”, right?

Chris: Yeah. Both, “I want more of it” because [00:10:00] when you succeed in a challenge that you’re not sure about the sense of success and achievement is almost infinitely greater than succeeding in a challenge that you knew you’re going to do. I don’t think I was ever chasing that high but it certainly gives you a very strong feeling of pride in yourself and what you can do.

Craig: Right. Self-validation.

Chris: Yeah. I don’t know if I’d necessarily characterize it as validating it myself as [00:10:30] much of almost like a pleasant surprise about yourself. It’s like, “Ah, actually, I can do this.”

On using challenge as a way to grow

Craig: You’re very experienced as a tutor. I know you normally teach the adapt level two courses and you’ve done tons of teaching sessions all over the world. But I don’t know what percentage of your students are day one beginners. The question that I have in the back of my mind is, at what point does really big challenge … Is [00:11:00] that something that’s a really good tool for people? Can you really do that from day one if you find the correct challenge? Or should you start with small challenges and go scale them up as you find your feet?

Chris: Yeah. Well, obviously, the scale of the challenge is going to be entirely dependent on what people are capable of because the really big challenges are the ones that are either just out of reach or in your last 1% of reach. Whether it’s day one or day …

Craig: 1000.

Chris: [00:11:30] Yeah, 10 years, 20 years down the line. It may evolve over time. Like the challenge in 20 years may not be as great in number as the challenge on four or five years in but how far it is out of your reach there will always be a challenge in that zone. From the beginning it’s probably more a question of how people respond to challenge. [00:12:00] Someone can be on day one and respond to challenge really well and if they try something and it turns out, “Ah, I’m not yet capable of it” …

Craig: They also learn something, right?

Chris: Oh, yeah. It’s still a very valuable experience but some people will take that a little bit more at face value and some people may need challenges a little bit more in the yellow zone that are going to be difficult but are definitely achievable just to help them understand the merit of those ideas and help them feel [00:12:30] empowered through those challenges rather than beaten down by them.

Craig: Can I actually be training without their being the presence of challenge?

Chris: I think you’d be missing out on a huge element of the discipline if that were the case. It doesn’t have to be a crazy physical challenge like the muscle-ups because …

Craig: Yeah, I can’t do that every day.

Chris: Yeah. For some people, balancing on a [inaudible 00:12:56] for 10 seconds … Like if you fall off after five seconds, get back up. [00:13:00] Fall off after three, fall off after six. You spend an hour trying to balance for 10 seconds without falling off.

Craig: That’s a challenge. Yeah.

Chris: Absolutely, and a much greater challenge than just a strong guy banging out a couple hundred pull-ups for the sake of it. You don’t know if you can do the balance, right? That’s when they’re in their top 5% … Let’s dial it down from 1%. We don’t want to be quite so much in the stress zone the whole time. The genuine uncertainty of, “Can I do this?” Because that’s how you discover [00:13:30] something. If you knew that you could do it anyway you’ve not discovered anything.

I think you don’t always want to be like this. It can be a very stressful way to train if every session is, “I’ve got to challenge myself in a very demanding way.” But I think the way we learn or get better at almost any human skill is through challenge. It’s applying it. If you’re cooking you don’t stay cooking toast for 20 years.

Craig: Right. You need to move the bar, right?

Chris: Right, but [00:14:00] every time you move the bar you’re like, “I’m going to try something that is more challenging. Can I raise myself to meet that bar?” The people that make the most progress will be the ones … Not necessarily I’m saying they’re the best guys but the people that make the most progress will be the ones who are willing to change themselves. Where that end point is will change from person to person, but their personal growth will be defined to some extent by how much they are willing to encounter challenge at the right level for where they are physically, [00:14:30] mentally, experientially.