A place of their own

Dylan: [00:11:00] Right, yeah. So we found a tiny, little, we would joke it was like a boutique parkour gym it was like 900 square feet, and we-

Craig: I love that thing, you walked in and it was like, “Oh, it’s got an L, it goes around the corner,” and when you filled it up with stuff it actually got bigger for some reason.

Dylan: Yeah, exactly, it is hilarious when we designed it the way you would design a ship or an airplane or something where there’s no wasted…it’s not just the dining room table, it’s also the bed, so we [00:11:30] tried to be really creative in use of the space and the interaction of the obstacles and I did love that gym. But it was hilarious when we did move recently, just January first we opened to our much bigger space, like four times the size. When we had gotten all the stuff out and I just looked at the… I just stood there alone in the room, I was like, “What crazy person thought he could do a parkour gym in this thing?” It was so little!

Craig: Wasn’t it some kind of art thing on the other side of the wall? Was there an art studio or a gallery-

Dylan: Right, that whole building was mostly artist spaces and stuff [00:12:00] like that, so it was like the size, the guy who had it before me was like a sculptor. It was just him alone and a wheel. There was enough room for that, and then I was like, “I could build a parkour gym, it will be fine.”

Craig: We’ll hang five sets of rings from the ceiling…

Dylan: Right, exactly. So I guess a couple years went by in that much smaller space, and at that point we started to… I guess we were doing something right because it was growing a lot, and a lot of interest. The buzz was starting to form and starting to reach that tipping point in the community where enough people knew about [00:12:30] us that when someone was interested in this type of thing, they would be like, “Oh, I know there is a thing like that around here, go check it out.” So we kind of grew to the point where we were like, “We’ve gotta get out of here-”

Craig: Bursting at the seams…

Dylan: Right, there’s too many people-

Craig: I can’t get in the door to get my bag down to turn right-

Bigger and better things

Dylan: Exactly, so that’s when we started looking for bigger spaces, found the one that we found now, and we’ve been there since January first. That’s kind of the story of how I went from [00:13:00] training alone in an alley to having three different gyms in the course of a few years-

Craig: I think there’s a really interesting middle step there that I don’t know that I’ve seen anybody else do, which is the idea of, someone once said to me, “smallest set of features that can be defined as success.” So, not, “what is the dream?” Well, it has to have a door, it has to have a vault box, and it needs to have students, so what’s the minimum. So I don’t know that you were setting out intentionally to do that, but by picking a space that was… It was [00:13:30] clearly too small. By picking a space that was too small you set yourself up for at least avoiding the failure of having too much money hanging over your head. “I can’t make the rent,

Dylan: Right.

Craig: I can’t get… I need 70 people.”

Dylan: Right.

Craig: And then, or course, if it becomes a hot bed with six people show up and it crammed then they tell their friends, “Man, the joint is jumping!”

Dylan: Right, yeah.

Craig: That might be a good intermediate step for people to consider. Don’t think, “How do I start a 5,000 square foot parkour gym?”

Dylan: Right.

Craig: That’s almost insurmountable unless you have resources and assistance. And don’t think that, “Okay, I’m gonna go into teaching [00:14:00] in a gymnastics space,” as like, “I have to be there forever.” Picture your stepping stones, “I’ll be in the gymnastics space for a year and a half… I’m not telling them that, but I’ll be there for a year and a half, and then while I’m doing that I’m looking for the next space to make the leap frog, I’ll be there for another year or two.”

Dylan: Like An intermediate step. It feels analogous to if your band is just getting started out you should book an arena. It’s gonna feel empty. Get a small theater and then it’ll feel… it’s better to be in a tiny theater that feels full and people are standing room only, than to be in this huge space [00:14:30] with seven-eighths of the seats are empty.

Craig: “How we feeling in row two?”

On the meaning of success

Craig: When I say the word successful, who’s the first person that comes to mind.

Dylan: My idea of success is definitely not aligned with some of the traditional notions that I feel like I’ve gotten from our culture of just having the biggest most important job, or making the most money, or having the biggest house. [00:15:00] I definitely think that success is defined by happiness, and that does come back to my idea of following your bliss. Whatever makes you satisfied and just the things that fire you up and the relationships you’re having with people, as long as those things are prioritized in your life, then that is what I think of as a successful life.

A great example is a guy like Rich Roll. If [00:15:30] you happen to know, he’s a plant-based, ultra marathoner guy who, I guess his backstory is he had been this big time corporate lawyer, been like sort of “successful” in the traditional sense, but he also was really unhealthy and would tell stories of getting tired walking up the stairs-

Craig: Stairs are challenging…Doc says we have to talk about these numbers…

Dylan: Right, exactly, the doctor’s pretty much like, “You know, you’re gonna have a heart attack, like, any second, what are you doing?” [00:16:00] So he just had this moment where he was just like, “Okay, I’m gonna change up my diet, I’m gonna start training, I’m gonna quit my job as a corporate lawyer and just go hang out on the beach,” or whatever he was doing. I don’t know how he made that work, but eventually, he just became this really successful ultra marathoner and just running hundred mile races and winning them and starting all this past the age of forty. Now, he just seems like this pinnacle of health, [00:16:30] and he just does his thing and he trains and he talks about, I think he has a podcast. He’s definitely a person I think would think of as success just ’cause. I’ve seen videos-

Craig: He defined it himself and then succeeded at that.

Dylan: Right, exactly. He just kind of exudes this sort of a calm glow or sense of self-assuredness-

Craig: Some people have this visible concept, you can just see, they know where their North Star is and they’re not in a rush to get there, but you spin [00:17:00] them around three times and they just settle back on the direction they want to go.

Dylan: Right, exactly. I think a lot of issues for people comes from having the idea of success or what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives not be aligned with what they actually want inside. That dissonance that’s created from that, I think, causes a lot of suffering. So the sooner we can figure out what actually makes us happy and try to do more of that, the better off we’ll be. It is hard. I’ve jokingly referred to it as the “siren [00:17:30] song” of traditional success. It does draw you in. I even find myself sometimes, even now, where sometimes I’ll be like, “Oh, should I be trying to open up a bunch more locations and create a parkour empire? That would make me more impressive.”

Craig: “Or train coaches so I can make a pyramid out of this…”

Dylan: Then I’ll have this moment where it’s like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa…that sounds like a lot to manage!” I tried to set up this whole gig so I could share parkour with people, but also train a lot. Work less, and train more. [00:18:00] That’s been one of the things that I’ve found in owning a gym is that there are so many…it’s not all…I mean, it is all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s also not all it’s cracked up to be, because there’s so many, paperwork and just things to do.

Craig: I call that the sausage factory. Until you’ve owned a sausage factory, you have no idea what goes into making sausage.

Dylan: Totally. There’s a lot. As soon as I’m tempted to be like, “Oh, maybe this is going great, we could probably open more locations and [00:18:30] blah, blah, blah, have an empire.” Then I’m like, “But then you’d have to do the paperwork for all that! Wouldn’t you rather just train and not have an empire?”

Craig: Instead of that, add more staff.

Dylan: Right, instead of that, do more QM. So, yes, sometimes, I still need to remind myself to not accidentally slip onto the treadmill of traditional success.

From practitioner to facilitator

Craig: How did you get from the doer to the facilitator? So in the beginning, I don’t think that you had visions of becoming a parkour community leader, that you were just following your own path, and parkour was the path that you were taking. So, how did that turn into … Obviously you don’t do everything yourself, but how did that turn into you being one of the key people [00:01:30] who keeps the community moving forward and focused on what it is doing? How did you get from-

Jesse: Well, a big thing for me … I mentioned before the interview that I’ve been running experiments on myself since I was 12. One of the experiments was, “Okay, what happens if you set a time, say 6:30 to 8:30 every Tuesday, you’re going to go out and train? You’re going to do it the same time every week. Let’s see what happens.”

[00:02:00] The first thing that happened is it’s kind of rough to keep the schedule. I don’t even know if it’s helpful.

Craig: Oh no, it’s raining, right?

Jesse: Oh no, it’s raining, oh it’s getting cold, it’s winter. Nobody wants to come out.

Craig: Now I’m by myself.

Jesse: Now I’m by myself. But then what you start to notice is, after I train, I feel better. I feel better for like two days after that, too. So I could just do a few sessions of these a week, and [00:02:30] that would coast me on my feelings. Maybe not get me towards my ambitious goals, but it would help mentally regulate me. And that was hugely powerful.

And this just became this dedication to myself to go out and to train, and my promise to myself every Tuesday is to go out and get the training that I need, whatever that looks like. [00:03:00] Maybe I did a lot of jumping that week and I need to do some kind of recovery, like, I’m going to do that there. And listening to a friend of mine, he said, “If you’re truly connected with how you can heal yourself, then you can heal others.”

Craig: So the Movement Creative, depending on who I think I would talk to, they would have completely different opinions of what MC really is. Is it a business or is this organic creation? And I think in reality, it grew out of, [00:03:30] it became, structurally, legally, organizationally, it became just simply what it needed to become in order to do what you guys wanted to do with it. And I think there’s some really complex philosophical points maybe, that people in the United States need to unpack that are related to business versus the goal of the business.

If you create a business, are you creating a tool [00:04:00] because you need screwdriver to solve a problem, or are you creating a tool because you think the tool would be cool. And I think that’s really a subtle point, and maybe I’m wrong, everybody thinks that’s obvious, but I think that’s a subtle point that a lot of people miss. And they tend to throw the baby, the business, out with the bathwater. And they go, “Well, this particular business didn’t work well.” So they throw all business out, throw all businesses under the bus.

And my question for you specifically, since that was rambling, my question for you specifically is how [00:04:30] do you figure out what to do next when you need to put on your business hat? Or do you not have a business hat, and you just, you know, shoot from the hip all the time?

Jesse: Well, my biggest defining guidance is not to do anything offensive to my soul. I’ve done plenty of things that were offensive to my soul.

Craig: Name two. No, I’m kidding.

Jesse: But that’s [00:05:00] what is guiding me. I don’t think the Movement Creative has to succeed, I don’t think I have to succeed, I don’t think I have to make money, I don’t think I have to eat, I don’t have to breathe or be alive. I’m here on purpose, I want to be here, I want to share this, I want to eat, I want to enjoy life, I want to bring this out into the world. And coming from that core of, “This is a decision. There’s a million things I could do to make money.” This [00:05:30] has to be because I want to share this thing.

And if i want to share this thing, how can I share it in a way I totally agree with? And if it’s not working, then I need to look at myself and figure out what I need to learn or understand better, or even that relationship to business being a tool to help something come to be. That’s still something I’m working on.

Systems thinking through game design

Craig: Honestly, I think the hardest part about interviewing you is I can’t decide [00:06:00] what to talk about. So I ask guests all the time, is there something you would like to share in here? And Jesse just hit me with something I know nothing about, so you wanted to talk about?

Jesse: Systems thinking through game design. So my first school program was teaching parkour as a boss level, at a school called Quest to Learn. It’s partnered with Institute of Play. And I got [00:06:30] in there with a friend of a friend, an acquaintance, he knew that I did parkour and he heard that his students wanted to do it, so we ran a weeklong session, and it went pretty well. So they asked us to run another one. So we’re thinking about running this other one. And then they asked us to run an after school program, asked us to run a summer camp.

And as we are running more and more there, parkour is my [00:07:00] thing, but I want this to be co-created. I want this to be working within what values the school-What’s the school trying to do? What are these students trying to do? What’s important to them? Can we use parkour to teach them something a little bit more.

I’m in the school and I see they break systems down. You have a goal that you’re trying to achieve, and a challenge, what’s stopping you, what’s in your way. You have the space [00:07:30] that you’re in, you have the core mechanics, what you’re going to use to accomplish your goal. You have maybe some tools, some things you can use as well. And there’s rules to any system. There’s some sort of rules.

So I started working with Brendon Trombley, who I just got to go to China with, to coach in December. [00:08:00] Brendan is a game designer. He will design a simple game to teach about tyranny, where kids, every day, once a day, they’re going to vote whether they want to work or rebel. And if enough people rebel, the king [00:08:30] is overthrown and they have to elect a new king. If they work, one gold gets distributed to the king. And then the king gets to distribute it however he wants.

Craig: Oh, okay. There’s a feedback, right.

Jesse: So that’s the whole game. And you play this for one week with sixth graders, seventh graders. They’re going to experience tyranny for a week. But it only takes one minute a day, [00:09:00] and then it’s happening between classes. It’s in the lunch room, and it’s like, “We have to get this.” Or “Let’s get it this round, and then we’ll distribute to just our class.” And, “Well, that didn’t work.”

Craig: That’s what you said last time.

Jesse: But he’ll also make a game…he made a working hair follicle cell in Minecraft. So you could move around…

Craig: In the hair follicle.

Jesse: And [00:09:30] you could make the hair follicle grow one cubit if you operated the cell correctly.

Craig: That’s neat.

Jesse: And it’s like, “Oh, wow. We can really use these to teach something.” So it started being like, “Okay, well maybe we can use some games to teach movement.” And I think it transitioned totally for me, to how can I use movement to teach this idea? And this idea is, we’re playing all these different movement games, [00:10:00] different parkour games, and as we keep running the program, we’re playing games that other students have created in this process.

Then we’re asking students, “Well, what do you want to get better at?” Maybe it’s teamwork, maybe it’s jumping. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. And then saying, “Okay, how can we create a game that will make everybody who’s playing it better at this thing?” And that’s awesome. You can take some of your favorite games and you say, “Okay, [00:10:30] what’s the goal of tag? What’s the goal of hide and seek? And what are the core mechanics, what do we learn from this game? What does this game teach us? If we get really good at this game, what will we get really good at?”

And it becomes, “I can take this piece and this piece and I can…” Or, “I don’t like this game at all. Let’s change one small thing about it, now what happens?”

Craig: Completely different animal, right.

Jesse: You say like, “Okay, I want to play tag, but we only have one small room. How are we going to play it?” [00:11:00] You change the space a little bit, you change the system. You just pull one piece out and put one piece in, and you see like, how does this change everything? And to me, that was a hugely empowering tool. And I’m driving up on the car yesterday, everybody’s in the van, and I’m like, “What game can we play in a parking lot?” And I can just see, like…

Craig: All the people coming into the parking lot, like, “What is going on [00:11:30] here? 14 idiots running around in a parking lot.”

Jesse: Yeah, what are my goals? What am I trying to achieve here? I want everybody to move together to have a fun time. Be a little bit confused, warm up…

Craig: Movement check.

Jesse: Yeah, movement check. Create an equal space. Create a space that is too complex and too fresh for anybody to possibly be good at it. Which is also an important thing. We keep making these new games. [00:12:00] We don’t want to be good at these games, these games do not matter at all. We want to be adaptable. We want to be ready to play whatever game, and just be open to it, and see what we can gain. And how powerful is it to tell an eight year old or an eleven year old, “Make a game that you’re going to beat us at. Go out, find a parkour challenge that I can’t do. I’m gonna find one you can’t do, and he’s gonna find one neither of us can do, and then we’re gonna try each other’s challenges until we can figure something out about it.”

The importance of novelty

Craig: I’d like to talk a little bit about [00:12:30] the role of novelty, so part, it seems to me, of what makes those game structures work so well, is novelty levels the playing field. So if the game is novel to everyone in the room, then we’re all starting on the same place. And we have natural talents and strengths, but we’re all starting from the same place.

And it seems to me that you could also talk about the novelty that’s inherent in activities like attending a retreat, or this one is about winter, so we were doing things like going outside, intentionally underdressed, et cetera. And [00:13:00] we were hiking on a snow-packed, snow-covered trail. And I intentionally chose, knowing full well how this would work out, I intentionally chose to go in minimalist footwear with a pair of wool socks, knowing full well that my feet would be soaked, my toes would be frozen. And my intention was to go manage frostnip, was my plan for the day. Can I go and play in an environment where I would normally have on heavy shoes? Because that’s the safe thing, to protect your ankles. That’s the warm thing, that’s the dry thing, that’s the thing my mother is saying, “Put [00:13:30] your shoes on.”

So I’m wondering how necessary, how, I know that it’s important, but how deeply necessary is that novelty? Is it, one must find that novelty? Or if you find it once a month, that’s okay? Or should you seek it constantly? Do you have to get on an airplane and go to the International Gathering, versus just playing in your play lot? Like, how deep is that need for novelty?

Jesse: I think we can create a value [00:14:00] system around which novelty we prefer, but I don’t think that we need to. I think we can see that repetition is impossible, nothing will ever be the same as it was. Things are constantly changing. So everything is novel all the time, and whether or not we notice that is just up to our awareness. We can also intentionally create novelty. We can do something like not wear enough clothes, or challenge ourselves in some small but ridiculous way, and we can see what [00:14:30] comes of that.

And yeah, novelty levels the playing field. What that brings up for me is thinking about how, I think I heard Rafe Kelley say it first, talking about how kids play versus adults play. Adults play to win, and kids play to keep playing. And you can watch kids roughhouse, and they’ll change the rules of wrestling just so that either side can win. And it needs to be like 33/66, you need to have [00:15:00] like a third of a chance to win.

Craig: Yeah, a fair fight.

Jesse: And I noticed the same thing when I went to the International Gathering. We created a game, and there’s like six of us jumping around on these wooden beams. Then it stops being fun or somebody has really figured out a strategy, and it’s like, “We really gotta shake that up.” And we’re able to keep playing new versions of that same game for an hour and a half.

And how much jumping happened in an hour and a half? [00:15:30] Do you have to go to a CrossFit box and say, “You’re gonna do three sets of 60 box jumps.” What happens if you do 3 sets of 60 box jumps? Versus, “I think we jumped like 180 times. It felt good, we had fun, we connected with each other. I made friends in that moment that, I don’t know, I trust, I respect, I want to know more about.” It’s pretty powerful to [00:16:00] me. I know that happens at CrossFit as well.

Craig: Right. But the novelty is some sort of catalyst for—I’ve talked before about single serving size parkour friends—which I learned that from Fight Club. But there’s something about that novelty which makes those people click more quickly. So you could certainly find that novelty at any place. But that novelty is like a gateway drug to making that moment memorable, and making that moment deeper.

Jesse: Yeah. I think what I noticed, [00:16:30] finding all of these things that I was looking for in parkour and in the parkour community, and the people I was surrounding myself with, I thought it had to be that and it had to be in a certain way. It had to be pushing and challenge. It had to be doing something ridiculous, it had to be…and then maybe later it had to be training or having fun, or being able to goof off together. And now, what I see when [00:17:00] I sit in circle, is that I gain a deeper respect for everyone I’m sitting in circle with, and also everyone in my life. And I see elements of myself in different people, and I see ways that I’ve hurt people, ways that I’ve been hurt, new things to pay attention to, ways I can grow. It’s incredible.

Craig: Yeah, all because you’re listening.

Jesse: [00:17:30] Yeah, it’s a practice of listening.

How to focus and progress a group without alienating individuals

Craig: We’ve touched on a couple of different topics, kind of going in different directions, and I generally like to encourage guests to bring up random items. You wanted to talk about something in particular, sort of the bigger picture about our “discipline”. And I’m making air quotes around discipline because I don’t want to put it in a box, in preparation for you to form your thoughts.

Jesse: Not what I thought got me into parkour, but some of the contributing, maybe, larger factors [00:18:00] that brought me to parkour, and how I see resonance in other people that have come into parkour. Maybe they didn’t get along with team sports. They didn’t get along with competition. They wanted to do their own thing. And how that has created an emergence of, “Okay, how do we grow this thing? How do we work together? How do we work together in this isolated individual discipline? How do we integrate?” And I see that one of the most important things for me, in that [00:18:30] process, is working through and unpacking my relationship with competition. And my relationship with teamwork, and my relationship with…

Craig: With authority?

Jesse: Absolutely, my relationship with authority. And seeing what part of this is this fucked-up world, and what part of this is this fucked-up me? And seeing whether or not this is some kind of wounded child inside of me, that I can start to heal around it. [00:19:00] Because ultimately if I am modeling, practicing, and teaching, from that point, from that perspective, then I am limiting who will be able to be affected by this. And I don’t want to do that, because I think that we, in parkour, have come to some fantastic realizations of powerful movement practice that are widely applicable and could really help people in their lives. I don’t [00:19:30] want to limit it to just who I was, but I also don’t want to alienate who I was. I don’t want to create anything that I wouldn’t have wanted to be a part of.

And already, just by being a business, just by being an authority, by having a coach, a leader, somebody telling me what to do, how to do it, when to do it…

Craig: It’s kind of the opposite of what brought you in, right?

Jesse: It’s exactly the opposite of what brought me in. So how do I create that environment and the other environment? How do I bridge that gap, how do I [00:20:00] create an understanding of the discipline that isn’t coming from the perspective of a wounded child? And to me, this is something I see, I notice in myself, I’m like the wounded child and the philosopher. I’m both of these things, and I want that to be fully integrated. I want to be really connected with how I was hurt, but not just from that deep [00:20:30] personal perspective of hurt, but also like, “Yeah, I didn’t really like doing those things. I didn’t get along, I didn’t want to play by the rules, I…”

Craig: Team sports.

Jesse: Yeah. But now, can I go and play a game of basketball? I think with systems thinking through game design, it really taught me, “Oh, I can go play a game of basketball, I can just work on my communication. I can just work on my dribbling. I can just work on one small part of the larger complex, intangible game.” [00:21:00] I was unable to focus on what was, to me, operating on this level of mastery. I can just operate in this level of skill and drill, even if I’m playing in a game where everybody else is operating in mastery, we’re all different. We’re all masters of different things. And being on a team is really respecting and honoring that.

And there’s a power to this intangible direction that a group of people can move towards. But there’s an incredible power to working [00:21:30] together towards a single focus. And that is my challenge now. How do I work with people towards a single focus?

Craig: And facilitate that.

Jesse: How do we grow in this direction? It’s easy to grow in any direction when it’s just you. But if you want to be a part of something larger than yourself, you need to respect the larger social experiment. The larger [00:22:00] chemistry. What is the reaction when these elements are coming together? And is that purely respectful and honoring of everybody’s individual intentions and effort and attention?

Craig: It seems to me that goes both ways. It’s also that person, let’s call them the “broken child”, that we’re talking about, the broken child has to realize that they’re gonna outgrow that, or they’re gonna be healed, or they’re gonna move up or out and into the bigger tribal society. [00:22:30] But there’s also the exact opposite, which is just as important, which is that the tribe has to realize, the tribe’s job is not to fix the broken child.

The tribe’s job is to facilitate whatever the broken child, that’s a horrible metaphor, whatever the broken child needs. That person needs x, or y, or z. And it’s the tribe’s job to provide those things. So the tribe is responsible for that person, the fact that they’re broken, the fact that they need help, the tribe is responsible for that. And they have to facilitate that. They have to figure out what works in this person’s [00:23:00] particular situation. So that’s a very interesting point that you bring up.

Jesse: Yeah. And bringing it up that way, the tribe has to facilitate the needs, like that is ultimately the healing, is the tribe and the person deciding that nobody is broken here. Everybody has different needs, everybody has different value, everybody is bringing something new to the table. Can we hold space for that and allow that to emerge in the way that it will?

Craig: It just brought us all the way back to the circle.

Jesse: Or, [00:23:30] do we have to tell people how to do things, and how they’re wrong, and how they’re not good enough? Is that the only way to grow? Is that the only way to…

Craig: How’s that worked out so far? Let’s go back a couple million years, or last two thousand years, how’s that worked out?

Jesse: Yeah.

Life lessons from playing chess

Craig: Can you take me back to a point in time where you weren’t thinking about parkour? Like, give me a snapshot of Jesse, before you knew anything about parkour.

Jesse: [00:28:00] I used to play a lot of chess. I was on a chess team, when I was 9, 10, 11. Go to tournaments all the time. I really loved solving chess problems and playing the game, learning from the game, being a chess player. [00:28:30] I learned a bunch of different openings, you learn all the different moves, and all the different moves that can happen from all the different moves. And I remember meeting a guy, and he was playing in more of a style. He was playing around openings. Like, he’s trying to let someone else take the center so that he can take it back. And I was like, “Whoa, [00:29:00] that’s different. I thought you were supposed to do this other thing, that’s what I was taught. It’s totally different.”

And then I remember playing my uncle, and my uncle is a master. And I’m thinking in combinations, like, “How can I trick him in three moves?” That was my game of chess. How can I trick this person in three moves? How can I win in three moves? How can I get a piece, or a position, tempo, how can I get something in three moves. [00:29:30] And I lose every single game against my uncle.

And he was like, “I don’t know, I didn’t learn to play that way, I learned to play it positionally. I learned to pay attention to what the board is, and move positionally.” And it became a lot more abstract, but he said that to me, and I didn’t play him for a couple years. I played him again, and I won. And [00:30:00] I played him again and I lost. And I think I would still lose most games against him.

But it’s incredible to me, this idea of playing positionally. Looking at the board, not making this plan, this intention, actually, you can hold that possibility. But is each piece of it, also, helping? Is each piece of it also [00:30:30] moving towards your greater intention?

Craig: Is whole picture some unified whole?

Jesse: Yeah. And remembering that this is the small game. This is the finite game, it has an end. The goal in it is to learn something and maybe gain some connection with the person across the table. That has nothing to do with winning, that has nothing to do with trying to trick somebody, that’s a different game. That’s the finite game.

[00:31:00] The infinite game is being this chess player, being this person. What does it all contribute to the larger sense of self and who you are in the world? And that path of integration was groundbreaking for me.

On making a gym inspiring

Craig: Today, we’re going to talk about gym construction and design standards and these kinds of ideas. First, I want to try and explain why this is really important, and one [00:01:00] of the things you and I talked about is the idea of a gym being inspiring. You walk into the gym, and some gyms just click. You can see the high level athletes, it’s a kid in a candy store, and good luck getting them out at closing time.

And, I’m just wondering if you can help me unpack a little bit about how do you put that inspiration into the gym and how does that inspiration in the gym relate to what one might find outside.

Andy: When I sit down to design a gym, I try to call to the inner child that [00:01:30] is in us that makes us wanna play. This is true when I design anything, but we can talk about gyms specifically here. Whenever you go to certain spots, some spots just call to you, and though you go to other spots, you can play there for hours and train and do things, but you don’t ever really drive back there. That really shows in a lot of gym design because you can go into spaces, and [00:02:00] you can train forever, right, and you can play and do that.

But it takes sometimes emotional energy to make that happen as opposed to there are just like when you walk into some big, brightly-colored space, you just feel like a kid. Right? If it looks like a video game, if it looks … like the video games sell for reasons. They’re hitting some sort of base, inner [00:02:30] thing that’s in us that makes us just want to explore and play. If you design a facility so that this is the section that has bars, this is the sections that will have mobile obstacles so I can teach my classes, this is the sections that have concrete walls. This is where they will jump.

Craig: Here’s where climbing challenges go, right?

Andy: Yeah, exactly. Whenever you do that, you can go in, and you can train, and you can do some cool stuff, but [00:03:00] it is … That is one way to stifle some of that call to us because if you go and you have this jumpy section that has a bunch of walls and whatever, and you just stick one bar in it, people will play on that bar. It will just call to them a little bit. They’ll be like, “What is that? What can I do here?”

Craig: Why is there a bar here? I don’t know. I got an idea.

Andy: Yeah, right? If you take your big flat 4 x 4 x 8 box, right, and just put an indent window into it and [00:03:30] then put a 4 x 4 sticking out of it like six inches, people will play on that. And the nuances and the intricacies in the design really make us want to interact with it.

Now, you can design things that push people away because you’ve got this sweet bar setup right here, right? And you’ve got an eight-foot span on the back, so you can get a full swing on it, but then in front of it, it’s got a four foot, four feet away from that bar, there’s a pole sticking out, [00:04:00] right? It’s aimed at the bar, and you’re like, “I don’t want to swing on that”, right? It’s just scary looking. And you can build things that are just too close to an edge, and there’s concrete right next to it, and you’re like, “Ah, I don’t want to do this thing there. I’d love to, but it’s scary.” And there are some things that we want to do that encourage you to overcome fear, but we don’t want things to be needlessly, like we-

Craig: We don’t want to bring danger to the party just for fun, right?

Andy: Yeah, right? So, having things … Putting those types of things in your design in a way that makes you just want to explore the area is really important, and it’s something that you kind of have to have an eye for. You have to sit down and understand, because we’re not talking about like … A lot of people may not even agree that this is something that you should do.

Some people might have the opinion [00:05:00] that they’re extremely utilitarian. They want to have this space here, this space here, this space here because it makes sense for their business, how things flow. You have to, in your philosophy of how you train and what you do, have to believe that this is a thing, this thing that I’m talking about, this child-like “want to play,” because some people don’t even tap into it or use that in it because of the way that they practice parkour, so you have to believe that. And then after you believe that, you have [00:05:30] to figure out-just explore-

Craig: Like how am I going to implement that? How is that gonna come to life in my design, in my space?

Andy: Yeah, see … Look at it in every little instance, say that this is a factor, this is a check mark box for each thing that I design. What can be done here? Can kids play on it? Yes/no. Can adults play on it? Yes/no. Can … Is it pretty enough? Is it slippery? Is it built sturdy? Is it something that calls to people? And each one of these are different check mark boxes. And you should be looking at each one of these [00:06:00] as a legitimate factor when you design any space or any single obstacle.

Craig: Yeah, subspace through a micro component.

On establishing build standards

Craig: So, obviously it’s basic knowledge that you should have to meet local codes and government codes and construction codes, but there’s … In terms of a parkour gym, there’s way more than that. It’s not just, “Is this facility safe for large numbers of people” and “Does it have the bathrooms that code requires”. There’s also questions like, “Is this box gonna fall over”, “How strong is this scaffolding” and how we get to a point where people [00:06:30] know where to go for that?

Andy: Well, the thing that’s nuts whenever you try to set up a gym, is that we … The world is crazy. So, if you go in and you try to get inspected, then the inspector decides what boxes you fall under, right? So, there is no box for parkour. So, whenever you go in and you say, “Hey, I want to build this parkour gym”, they say, “Well, what is it”, you describe it and in their mind they hear cheerleading. They’re like, “So, then you’re a cheerleading [00:07:00] gym, so you have to meet cheerleading standards”. So, how you design and build that gym from then on will fail or pass based on those standards. And the next guy might say that you’re gymnastics and the next guy might say that you’re a bouncy house-

Craig: Public catering right, like what a church would be.

Andy: Yeah, who knows. They could just pick some random thing and say you’ve got to meet these ridiculous outlandish standards. They might say that, “Any box that’s eight feet tall has to have a hand rail around it”.

Craig: Exactly. [00:07:26]

Andy: You know? Because people might jump off of that, so then you will then [00:07:30] have to design your entire gym at seven foot six, so that then no one can … We don’t have to put hand rails around our boxes.

Craig: Those eight foot heights, right.

Andy: Yeah, so then finding that kind of stuff out is … It’s really hard and complicated and what we really need is, we need people that are knowledgeable about parkour to get together and put out a good basic set of standards that are … That no matter what you do, where [00:08:00] you put these things, if you have pressboard your gym shouldn’t be together-

Craig: Yeah, pressboard’s not-

Andy: If you’re using eighth inch dry wall screws or something like that, like-

Craig: The structural components, right?

Andy: You know what I mean? There’s a ton of things that you just … We need to meet these standards. And from there we need to get the government to pass that and get the code to do it or we need-

Craig: Well, I think there’s a lot of-There’s a lot of neat things like, when you look at how decks are built. There’s a lot of structural components of deck building [00:08:30] that we go, “Well, this is where we got … This is why we’re saying, use this kind of screw, because it’s from this”. But we can bring together all of those disparate pieces, “This is why we have bars here, but not railings there”. And then that … It actually isn’t new material, but it would then present it in a cohesive fashion and then the dream would be that it would be included in the actual building codes, so that the inspectors would know what they’re looking at.

Andy: Yeah, and that’s really scary for a lot of people. So, a lot of people say, “Oh, you’re going to come in and tell me that I have to build my gym and design it this way”, [00:09:00] you know? And now all the gyms are going to be cookie cutter and look like this. And instead … It depends really on how you do it. You can say that, “If this is a thing that’s going to be load bearing, then it has to have this amount of support”.

You know? And that doesn’t impede on your design. That just says that, “You can build what you want, but you have to build it this way”. Now, getting the government to enforce this is cool. But there’s another [00:09:30] way to do it, I think? You could also just … I think that with gymnastics what they do is that they say, “If you’re going to have a gymnastics gym, you have to have this label”, right? And this label means that you’re a bonafide gymnastics gym. And you can’t get that label unless you pass this inspection. So, it’s not actually government enforcing it. So, there’s ways to do this where the eggheads of construction and parkour can get together-

Craig: Right, and cook up the recipe [00:10:00] that gives everybody else the design parameters.

Andy: Yeah, which doesn’t limit your parkour vision.

Craig: Right.

Andy: But that just keeps us safe, because that’s a big thing here.

On purpose built parkour gyms

Craig: The average person who wants to build a gym, which right away, that’s a very small group of people. Especially in America, it might be hundreds of people who would have visions of building a gym. And they’re going to come at this with different … Some people are going to build the Taj Mahal, right? And some people, they’re just going to have infinite money to throw at it and for them it’s just, “Where are the t’s”, and “I cross [00:10:30] them all” and we make it look cool. And then there are other people that are like a one man shop and they’re trying to just squeak by on old fire house. So, can you kind of pick apart the types, like the scales that you’ve seen and where does it really work and where is like the tipping point for success.

Andy: Yeah, I’ve seen that anything … Like you’ve got this mansion gym, 16,000 square feet, it’s freaking huge, you go into it with-

Craig: Ten times the size of my house.

Andy: Yeah, right. And you got 250,000 dollars to blow, [00:11:00] you got two high bounce gymnastics trampolines and you’ve got custom built sculptures all over the gym. And it’s … You’ve got this crazy-

Craig: Where is this place, I want to go, right?

Andy: Right? Yeah. And you see this … There are a couple of these gyms that are out there and like Tempest was this, the top tier most amazing thing until people were like, “I’m going to do that, but bigger”. Because Tempest is 7,200 square feet, the Tempest that, the Mario won the first one.

Craig: Okay.

Andy: [00:11:30] And, it’s a great gym. We’re not talking about that, we’re talking about how there’s this giant mansion one and what we end up finding … What I see, I’ve seen in it, is that the large gyms that are over 10,000 square feet have to diversify, because it’s not something that they can really sustain completely on parkour. That they have break dancing groups or they have yoga groups, they have aerial silks, they have ninja, something like that and [00:12:00] whenever they split and diversify then they’re … Everyone is learning from each other it’s a really healthy place, whatever. Maybe it’s not, who knows. Depends on how you run it, but that is a giant master thing.

Craig: Opportunity, right.

Andy: And a lot of people go in thinking that they’re going to do that gym, but they don’t have the breakdancer that’s going to teach all the classes, right?

Craig: Right.

Andy: They don’t have the yoga person that’s going to teach the classes. So, when they go into this giant crazy thing, it ends up … [00:12:30] Eating itself. Because the hardest part of business is finding your team.

Craig: Yeah, the other people, that’s the hardest part.

Andy: That is by far the hardest part and people go into it thinking, they’ve got all this money and they’ve got this space and they’ve got this passion and that, that’s going to be good enough. Mine’s up there close, mine’s 11,000 square feet, so I think that mine is just a little bit of a luxury. But I got it for such a sweet price that it’s … We’re not really killing ourselves too much. [00:13:00] But between 10 and 6,000 square feet is … That’s kind of the money maker mark, right?

Craig: Like the sweet spot.

Andy: Yeah and you’ve got to find the right price.

Craig: Is it’s 6-10,000 square feet.

Andy: Yeah and this is all my opinion. But 6-10,000 square feet, you get people in there, they love it and you can sustain a business entirely on parkour in that. And it’s hard, right, depending on what the prices that you get and whatever. But the gym doesn’t [00:13:30] feel empty whenever you’re in it, whenever you’ve got a couple people in there training. It just … You can make it really baller and it’s not too small either. Because if you have this little small space and you go in and it feels like it’s packed all the time, but there’s only 10 people in it, then you can’t end up doing much there, you don’t get to grow really, as an athlete-

Craig: Yeah, you’re right. You’re not running NAPC there.

Andy: Yeah. So, then the smaller gyms would be another scale. So, you’ve got the [00:14:00] 5,000/4,000 square feet and they’re someone who’s like, “We’re trying to grow bigger, we want to, we just … It’s hard to get over that little hunch … That little hump”, whatever. But then you’ve got the 2,000 square feet gyms and those are the guys that are like, “Man, I need to fix this, I need to change it”. And I’ve been talking entirely in square feet, that’s not the entire marker. A lot of it is the money that you’re putting into your build and the quality in the type of build that you’re doing, because you might do it in sections, and [00:14:30] you might build it out of pallets or you might build it out of like-

Craig: It’s so neat, for people who haven’t gone to different gyms, I really encourage you. Because every one of them has, not just a different vibe, which comes from the people who are there, but the spaces are so different. You walk into one and it’s effectively a pole building, sheet metal garage with a concrete floor and it’s like bar-ville. And everything’s just scaff everywhere and then you walk into another one … You walk into Andy’s gym and it’s … I don’t know how to describe it, I feel like I walked into a video game. Just everything is … It’s [00:15:00] hard, but there’s video game characters and you know-I’m like, “The guy who runs this has blue hair and the kids love it here”, you know?

Andy: Yeah and it’s different building a gym where you think about, “What do I want to play on?” As opposed to-

Craig: Versus, “What does everybody else need?”

Andy: “What is my clientele that’s going to be paying the bills that keeps my business open going to be playing on?”

Craig: Right.

Andy: Right? And then, “How do I get those guys to turn into people that I can train with every day?” As opposed to teach. [00:15:30] And making that is really hard and overwhelming and then trying to tie that back into what we were talking about, about trying to build it with the right … Like, do I use 2 x 4’s or 2 x 6’s? Do I use this type of plywood … Knowing all of this incredibly intense knowledge about building, which, I’m an electrician and have been for 12 years, so I’ve been around construction for … like half my life.

[00:16:00] So, it’s hard to get that knowledge and then to take that and look at your now 6,000 square feet and it’s just an empty box and you’ve got to sit there and make that beautiful. It’s really overwhelming to cross all your t’s. So, I can sympathize with the people that are trying to open a gym and that do it wrong, because they don’t know what to do, they don’t have enough guidance, someone hasn’t stepped in and said, “This is …It’s not public knowledge how to build a gym right and how to run gym business”.

Craig: [00:16:30] Right. How many purpose built parkour spaces do we really think there are in America at the moment? We probably could name 20 if we just sat down with a pencil for a minute. But could we get to 40? Could we get to 50 before we were talking about CrossFit boxes that have a parkour person in house?

Andy: Yeah.

Craig: That’s not a parkour gym. I mean, I think those micro spaces, might be a way to call those. I think micro spaces are good. It could be really good for an outdoor community to have a spot where they can go when it’s snowing sideways. And a place to keep … [00:17:00] Some places to work on muscle up power and things. But above the size of those micro spaces, we can’t be at 100, we’re lucky if we’re at 50, I think.

On small scale builds and parks

Andy: Yeah. And this whole time that we’ve been talking about gyms, I think that a lot of this needs to … There’s a smaller scale, which is, “How do I make my vault box”, right? And, “What do I use when I do that”? And if you’re a home owner that’s just trying to make something that their kids can play on or if you’re a practitioner that’s just trying to make some basic stuff that you can play on at your house, [00:17:30] these types of standards do still matter, because you can just destroy yourself forever, just because you were playing in your backyard.

Craig: Right.

Andy: And then the … Different scale, still large, but outside parks, right? It’s incredibly hard to get a park made, because of all the … You’ve got to get your city to approve it, all this liability involved-

Andy: All the standards.

Craig: Right, and then they want to know about maintenance and who’s going to maintain this thing and what’s it going to look like in 10 years and how does it affect the viewshed of the neighborhood and-

Andy: Yeah, but then if you want to go [00:18:00] and do that type of stuff in your backyard or do that stuff on your friend’s property or something that’s-

Craig: Yeah.

Andy: You find a way around it. And then you’re like, “Well, we can just … We don’t have to deal with the city”.

Craig: Right, so we’ll just whack this together and then when it falls over … right?

Andy: Yeah, and then you’re teaching kids or you’re teaching your grandmother or you’re teaching someone that’s close how to do something on something that is shoddy.

Craig: Yeah, basis-

Andy: Or even not even shoddy, something that’s built right, but it’s not inspiring. It doesn’t call [00:18:30] you to play on it.