On her discovery of parkour

Jean: So then when I discovered parkour, I thought when doing pull ups I’m doing all these really cool things that are really strong but let me do something with it. So it was really fun to take that and actually be useful like the whole parkour thing. Be strong to be useful. So now I was useful. I could do something fun and climb over walls and use my pull up strength and do things that are different than just doing a pull up.

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Thoughts on competition

Craig: Right. We’re talking about competition here, so I’m wondering… You have obviouse experience in them, so I’m wondering if you want to give me some of your ideas on competition in general like as a philosophical thing. What do you think of competition in the context of parkour or parkour in the context of competition? Whichever way you want to do that.

Frank: Let’s see. Just competition itself with the context of parkour, I think it is very well done if done with the right people I think mostly because the first time I competed really was in the first I guess EPC, which is the Boston Qualifier for NAPC, and the first time I went there, I was like, “I’ve never really competed. I think I can maybe do good. Let’s see what happens.”

Craig: What could go wrong?

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On his journey to become a coach

On his journey to become a coach

Craig: Frank, can you take me back to maybe before you became a coach, before you started, before you really had the idea of, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to work on it. I’m going to pursue it.” How did you get from being, I want to say, just someone who trains? Lots of us, including me, are just people who train, but how did you get from that and like turn that passion into a passion for education and working with seniors?

Frank: It was kind of incidental in a way because what I have to do for some of my schooling was I had to do a project that we called Senior Project, and essentially, what you had to do is you choose a topic they wanted to study, and then from there, you would have to give a presentation at the end of the year with like all these notes and pretty much all your research of the topic, and I chose parkour. So with parkour, one of the things that you need for the project is you actually need a professional in the field they need to be able to like consult with.

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Extraordinary Movement

When we move through the world we can move in an ordinary or an extraordinary way. Ordinary movement is easy; it follows established paths; and it is boring. Extraordinary movement requires excellence, knowledge, and independence. When I talk about movement, I am talking about extraordinary movement because it is much more interesting. Movement—whether that is Parkour, ADD, Freerunning—is a celebration of freedom in the context of an unforgiving reality that cannot be ignored. The philosopher Ayn Rand warned, “We can ignore reality but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” John Locke observed, “The only defense against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.” And Aristotle explained, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.

These ideas form the foundation of movement: pay attention to reality, learn as much as you can and practice. With parkour as with just about everything in this world, the true beauty of the practice can be appreciated fully only by taking a deeper dive into it. This means we have to understand not just the physical aspects of movement but the mental and philosophical basis for movement.

As a mastery discipline—something that can be practiced for a lifetime with continued improvement—movement focuses more on the journey than the destination. Understanding the values, interests, and challenges in the minds of the best practitioners is the best way of showing the path of movement in a meaningful and accessible way. Our podcast, with its audio format and transcripts, naturally emphasizes the mental and psychological aspects of movement

The podcast brings out the more intellectual elements of movement. My goal is to emphasize the value that movement and movers create and develop through their practice. In pushing the limits of human potential, movers demonstrate objectively that such achievements are possible. Since the physical aspects of practice can be directly observed through images and videos, the visible part is already well covered. But I believe the mental aspect is where the real magic happens, and it is less well covered because it is not spectacular. A flashy video will grab your attention, excite you and even get you to try some new things, but to get really good at movement you need a deeper understanding.

When you listen to the podcasts, I hope you will notice a distinct difference in our approach. Our goal is always to show the guest in the best possible light. We aim to illuminate and showcase their values, ideas, and principles in a way that makes them accessible and relevant to the listener while showing the proper respect for their achievements. Each interview is a collaborative effort with the guest. Our shared goal is to clearly communicate ideas that will be useful to each listener in the context of their personal journey of exploration.

Yogi, martial artists and chess masters often describe how much they learned about life from in-depth practice and mastery in their disciplines. We hear similar sentiments from musicians, sculptors, painters, hunters, and chefs. Movement as a mastery discipline is no different. A big part of its value comes from the lessons it teaches us about life and reality. Knowing your own strengths and limitations is critical. Reality is unforgiving. Physics always works and is important. You cannot fake competence. Courage is required to overcome self-imposed limitations. The list of lessons is limited only by our ability to think and to understand movement.

I am passionate about creating and promoting rational discussion. Describing and illuminating the ideas behind extraordinary movement and human exceptionalism can help us all to improve our experience and appreciate the richness and beauty of life. So, in that spirit, I invite your questions and comments.

(This was a presentation I gave at Gerlev International Gathering in 2018.)

Finnish Parkour Community

Craig: You said to me randomly at one point, the Finns disprefer confrontation and you actually presented it as if it were a bit of a flaw or blind spot for them and I would say that Americans are probably really good at confrontation and I’m wondering what your thoughts are how that reflects into the parkour community. So I’m guessing that the Finnish parkour community would be colored by that national aspect. I know our parkour community is clearly colored by that aspect here, so I’m wondering, you have a unique perspective on those two points of view, those two communities? I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on that.

Ville: I’m not sure if it’s a nice thing to say about my own culture, they try to avoid confront, but it is true in a way. The unique thing about the Finnish Parkour community is the minute that people started training when they first saw videos of David and the Yamakasi and got inspired to go out and train, immediately within just a few months or the first month, we created a national association.

Craig: That explains it. I’m like, why is the Finnish parkour community so far ahead of everybody else in terms of cohesion and organization. That’s interesting.

Ville: That’s the reason but that’s also what we do in Finland. There’s something new that pops up, let’s do an association around it. That’s the mindset we have to kind of create some organization around it and maybe that comes from the cultural thing. We’re not competing against each other. We don’t want to create a system where we have these groups that are …

Craig: Pulling in different directions?

Ville: Pulling in different directions. Figuring out who’s going to be taking the leadership role in the bigger picture ’cause like everybody, all the different groups, so there was six different groups who started around the same time, they all came together and formed the association and that I think has left a unique stamp on the Finnish parkour community because of the history that we had the association right from the beginning, and that’s kept the community pretty unified. But sometimes, you need to have conflict.

Ville: This is my personal take. You have the difficult questions and I think we’re getting better at them because if the way to avoid conflict and confrontation is to be quiet about it, which is the way sometimes we Finns go about things, which may not be a positive way to go about things, it’s just to avoid the hard things that’s in front of you, but I think our community has learned to also, like over the years, to face those more difficult situations and still have that unity and that sense that, okay we don’t need all the different groups and local communities don’t need to agree with everybody on the different organizations. They don’t need to be identical.

Questions and Coaching Insight

Craig: You clearly like to use questions as tools so you either directly ask the questions of the students by presenting them with some sort of challenge or entice them to come up with their own questions. So this idea of questions being tools, how long have you had that idea and can you maybe take me back to a point where, Ville didn’t have that idea of using questions and how did you get from that version of you to the current version of you?

Ville: That’s a good one. In school, I used to be a know it all, like a really annoying know it all kid and I thought that maybe going back to the idea of success is I thought it is knowing the right answers to everything. I still like but I used to really like being correct; being right. Having the right knowledge but then I guess in the parkour training and being a coach, I’m being a bad coach if I’m always right. If I’m going up to the person and telling them, “Okay, this is how you need to do it. This is the correct way to do it.” And kind of slowly, I guess, through teaching, years of teaching, it’s evolved into how can I facilitate the process for the learner and without me being there, the annoying know it all.

Craig: Just be better, right?

Ville: Yeah. Just be better telling, okay this is exactly how you do it and then you become awesome. No, that’s not very fun for people or it’s not teaching them the process of self discovery and finding the strength.

Craig: Because it’s not the answer that makes you better. It’s the journey to find the answer that made you better.

Ville: So it’s kind of a personal challenge for me with a tendency to really like being correct to try to not give out answers. Try to think of the good questions for the students and then when I start doing that and when I started doing more and more of that in my teaching, having that be a starting point, that explorative kind of experiment lab feel to things, I felt more connected with the students and then I started to reflect that into my own practice too, is about, I don’t need to have knowledge or factual information about the training I’m doing or the correct technique. The most interesting things come out when I ask a question and let that lead me somewhere, whether it be a movement puzzle or can I pull something off like a project. Like what would happen if I had an interesting starting point and then just asked, “Okay, what happens next?’

Family Classes

Craig: Is there anything else that you want to talk about. I know there’s a million things we could bring up.

Ville: I think a souvenir from the Finnish parkour community, or if we had to export something to the rest of the world, like a local specialty, would be our family classes. They are very close to my heart personally and I know the different communities run them all around the world now, but it’s something I think we pioneered back home and it’s my personal favorite definitely to coach and bring the joy of movement, not just to the kids or the adults, but have them move together.

Ville: I find that’s the place where we have the spirit of our discipline brought out the best. Shines the brightest and the smiles on the faces of the kids and the parents and I also find that, anyone who’s a community leader and if you’re not running family classes, I strongly recommend that because it’s so much fun and that’s the way you can influence the parents too, if they’re doing the helicopter parenting thing, you can slowly and slowly start to effect their attitudes and show them the ways you can allow the kids the freedom of movement and the joy of movement, but then also give them tools to how to make it safe and how to make sure that they, of course you want to protect your kids from injuring themselves; to create an environment where they learn, have a good time together, play, enjoy movement and over the years, the best bonds between students I’ve had and the coolest stories that I’ve got the chance to follow are usually like this kid comes, he’s three years old, and they start at a family class.

Ville: The parent gets super excited about the sport maybe after two or three years they’ve been going to the family class, they start training themselves and get more and more into it and then the kids goes on the kids classes and further and then they’re teenagers and then when they’re teenager and their parents are growing older too, but they all keep training together and coming to open gyms or whatever. Just sharing the movement and that feels very special to me when that happens in those cases. It reminds me at least of why I love doing this and why I love being involved in this community.

Learning, Curiosity, and Exploring

Craig: Let’s dig a little deeper into learning. That’s really a key part of exploring. And I don’t mean to be negative, but I understand that you weren’t a great student in school, that you really didn’t want to learn, and you’re clearly on the opposite end of that spectrum now in terms of your desire for knowledge and reading and visual. Can you tell me how did that change from not wanting to be …?

Sebastien: Basically, wherever you are works for some people. It doesn’t work for others. So for me, my understanding of school when I was younger, which is a bit different now, was “I hate it.” Because it was kind of a trauma. But I had to have absolute freedom. To get to this place where you have to sit down and listen, and they don’t ask you what … Now, school probably changed, which is more organic, because they learn. But just to listen, and it was kind of racing for grades. It was super traumatic. Because of my personality, and I was more a dreamer, and in some ways always the eyes towards the skies and watching stars and everything, and was always in my head. And getting this place where they force me to get information, which I didn’t want to get, it was pretty difficult. So I didn’t want to learn. Before, when I was kid, I wanted to learn. Every kid has that.

Craig: Curiosity, right?

Sebastien: Yeah, curiosity. “Dad, what’s that? Mom what’s that? How does it work?” And then the parents say, “Stop. Okay, you’re annoying. Stop saying that to me. Leave me alone.” Do you see? Politely, but, “Stop it now, you ask too much question.” But we can talk about the super power later. This is our super power. And I discovered that later. So for me, it’s like I went through a phase where I don’t want to learn. I want to escape from school. It’s awful. And then my school was the school of outside. And not the street, because people think parkour came from a street, no. Now I’ve been in Pennsylvania, and it remind me–Lisses–the birth of parkour, the place where it started. It’s a mix between the city, where we’re living, like human being living, but well matched, and well–

Craig: Blended, or mixed, or woven?

Sebastien: Yeah, yeah. With nature, this is what I like. This is why my friend and I, we keep moving. Because we are courageous for activity, it connects us with nature, everything. We talk about energy, like we can hear the animal, you can breathe. Everything is there.

Craig: Yeah, after it rains, you can smell the earth, and you hear the birds. Right.

Sebastien: You see, now I’m not even talking about like philosophy and Zen and everything. No, it’s right there, with your senses. It’s right there. So outside I learned that, and I grew because of that. Then I thought, “Oh my God,” then I become curious again. And then out of the curiosity, that’s how I discover I’m an explorer. And then my brain, I cannot stop asking question, “What is that? Why are we doing this? You see?

Coaching and Autonomy

Craig: What I’m most interested here in is getting at the things that no one will hear if we don’t talk about them. You had made a comment, not in the podcast, you made a comment before about an idea for like a coaching exchange, and you really are passionate about talking about coaching techniques, and trying to get coaches together to work on … I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Give me your idea about coaching, and tell me some more about what you are thinking.

Sebastien: Yeah. One thing upset me, now we got more and more coach, we’ve got certificate and everything. But also, we’ve got different sensitivity and ideas toward coaching. And I think, because parkour has become more and more democratic, I think it would be good to have … My dream is it would be good to have something where people get together, and we exchange. We talk so much about political issues, but for me it’s like I’m an explorer, so I want to find the cause of my ignorance, and I want to learn with others. Coaching is good, but parkour is teaching a certain a way that’s not traditional. I talked to you about traditional warm-up, which I do a nontraditional warm-up.

Craig: Right.

Sebastien: And for me it’s the same with coaching. Why do we follow all the coachings there is, and why don’t we do our own way? And that’s something that can be taught together.

Craig: Yeah, you’re not saying throw everything out, you’re saying we should get together and discuss it. Like, did we make a conscious choice?

Sebastien: Yeah, we can bring guests, and people will coaching, and talking about knowledge about physiology and everything. But just, I will bring for example the concept of autonomy. For example, when do we start? Who teaches us everything? We’ve been inspired, but who teach us to do anything? Nobody. It become organic, it has become now very sophisticated and more advanced, because people have knowledge from everywhere, it’s become something.

Craig: Right.

Sebastien: And it’s kind of organic. But the autonomy. Like for example in sports, everyone’s related to their coach. And always looking, okay, is that good? Is my moves good? In parkour, we’re not doing that. You need to understand what you’re doing, by yourself. A bird doesn’t have a coach. It’s like this is it. It’s a belief.

ParkourONE’s TRUST Concept

Craig: So Sandro, can we talk a little bit about ParkourONE’s TRuST concept? What is that? Can you unpack it a little bit for us?

Sandro: Yeah. TRuST, or parkour according to TRuST, is [00:01:00] meant to increase immaterial wealth. I think you say it like that. It’s like the purpose of it is to increase health and-

Craig: Richness of your experience.

Sandro: Yeah. And personality. Develop personality and to parkour according to our values. So our values [00:01:30] are basically a very important thing-

Craig: And they’re also very well thought out, it’s not like a simple punch list, so they, can you run me through them?

Sandro: Exactly. Yeah, we can practically do quickly all of them.

Craig: Okay.

Sandro: Because it’s the concept with the hand, I don’t know if you remember it?

Craig: Yeah, ParkourONE’s logo-

Sandro: A fist, open hand.

Craig: Yeah, they’re superimposed so it’s the fist and the open hand [00:02:00] in the same image.

Sandro: And you can like explain all of the values on one hand. So it’s the thumb is going to be “no competition.” So-

Craig: And the visual there is-

Sandro: -is zoned for-

Craig: Not thumb up north.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly. So we don’t want to judge actually about other people. We don’t want to judge like, “Oh you’re so good, or you’re so bad.” We don’t want to make a difference there, we just want to … we just don’t want to [00:02:30] judge about that. Second one, maybe is that-

Craig: Pointer finger or index finger, we would say.

Sandro: Exactly. It’s … maybe you saw it, everybody saw it when the mother was-

Craig: Yes, my French tutor does that, she shakes her finger at me. So the gesture he’s making is a finger shaking index finger.

Sandro: Exactly. So that means “be cautious.” You only have one body, and if you mess that up, [00:03:00] you don’t have any body left, so-

Craig: Right.

Sandro: So just be cautious about what you’re doing. The middle finger, we’re turning it around, it shows for us respect. Respect for the people around us when we’re training, respect for the spot we’re training at. Because when we want to train for a long time, maybe. And especially respect for nature around us because we don’t want [00:03:30] to mess that up. So we basically just want to show respect as well to show good picture of parkour as well.

Craig: Okay, so the presentation of the thing as well as being respectful.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly.

Craig: Okay.

Sandro: And the fourth one is going to be the Trust. So basically Trusting yourself … I don’t know, is [00:04:00] there another word for …?

Craig: In English? I think trust is, well trust or self-reliance, maybe-

Sandro: Self-confidence?

Craig: Self-confidence. Because I was going to ask you to, when you’re done, go through the names of them in German, so we-

Sandro: Yeah, yeah. Perfectly. So trust in other people and self-confidence in yourself because it needs a lot of self-confidence to go out and train like we do because we are being out there with [00:04:30] all the other people. Some people are used to stare at people doing different things. So it needs a lot of self-confidence to overcome the barrier.

Craig: Yeah, otherwise you add that on top of the actual physical danger that could be there.

Sandro: Exactly, exactly.

Craig: So that’s four is the ring finger. And then we would call it the pinkie or the fifth finger.

Sandro: Exactly. That one is modesty, I think for me it’s one of the most important ones. There’s always more [00:05:00] obstacles in your way that you cannot overcome than obstacles that you overcame. So just be humble. Be modest about what you’re doing. And do not shout out-

Craig: And I love image of when you get to the end of your hand, and you’re holding up this tiny little finger, and that’s for the modesty. So can you do them in English one more time, is ….

Sandro: It’s no competition, be cautious, respect, [00:05:30] sorry … we’re going to go through them again.

Craig: Go ahead.

Sandro: No competition, be careful, respect, trust, and modesty.

Craig: And modesty.

Craig: So just so everyone understands the translations correctly, can you give them to me in German? The way you would normally use them so people can look up what the actual definitions are. So we make sure we have it right.

Sandro: So that would be Konkurrenzfreiheit, Vorsicht, Respekt, Vertrauen, Bescheidenheit [00:06:00] And the actual sixth one, or the catching, it’s actually less making a fist then catching something.

Craig: Okay, like catching, so it’s like a catching motion.

Sandro: Like grab a wall, grab something that’s like the picture that we want to do, and not the making a fist and punching somebody. That’s courage. You need a lot of courage [00:06:30] to do all those things.

Craig: To do all the things.

Sandro: Parkour to get over yourself, or to break a jump sometimes.

Craig: And what’s the German word for the sixth one?

Sandro: Mut.

Craig: Mut? I don’t speak a word of German, I’m sorry.

Sandro: Don’t worry about that.

What is ParkourONE?

Craig: So that’s the TRuST concept from ParkourONE. And if people are paying close attention, there first question should be, “Wait, I thought ParkourONE was the German parkour organization? Why are we talking to someone from [00:07:00] Switzerland?” Aside from the fact that Switzerland is gorgeous, you need to go to Switzerland. “But why are we talking to Sandro from Switzerland about ParkourONE?” And that’s because ParkourONE is not a simple organization within one country. ParkourONE is actually a composition of Switzerland and Germany working together.

Craig: So can you just talk to me a little bit about first of all, what does it mean to be a member of ParkourONE? And I’m going to let the cat out of the bag a little bit, that’s actually different from [00:07:30] simply going to ParkourONE classes. That doesn’t automatically make you a member. So can you tell me a little bit about what it means, let’s say, for you specifically, to be a member of ParkourONE?

Sandro: Yeah, well as a member of ParkourONE, I’m … like some rights and some duties as well. I can … I represent ParkourONE as a member of ParkourONE. And there’s [00:08:00] not just an easy way to get to be a member of ParkourONE, you just cannot apply for it.

Craig: It’s not a simple, “I want to be…”

Sandro: Exactly. You are like chosen or you used to be chosen to be a member. Or especially if they wanted you in, they were going to ask you if you want to be in. Now it got a little bit different because of the … because we changed [00:08:30] a little bit because we grow so much in Switzerland. And in Germany, there were so many coaches, like around 80 coaches and head coaches in Switzerland and in Germany.

Craig: Not a young group, right?

Sandro: Yeah. It’s a pretty old group even, I think for most of us. Because of that we had to make it up a little bit. And now [00:09:00] as you’re going to make a coach education or as you are in the coach program, you are going to be a member automatically.

Craig: Okay, and that allows the organization to maybe verify that you understand the values of the group that you’re trying to join. And also that you’ll be able to maintain the standards. So when someone says, “I’m a member of ParkourONE,” I think the Americans especially [00:09:30] miss, they don’t notice that there’s some subtlety there. It’s not simply that this person paid their monetary dues and filled out a form and then they’re in. They’ve done more than that, significantly more than just a simple form and some money.

Sandro: Yeah, they may be taught very much for the community and stuff like this. Even … you can choose your duties a little bit, like several to choose from. [00:10:00] But you have to verify that you do them. For example, you have to give a class, you have to teach, or you have to distribute parkour in other sessions that are out of classes.

Craig: Right, or you’re working in an administrative capacity behind the scenes, but there’s … you have to have a specific role, and you have to fill that role to a specific standard.

Sandro: Exactly.

Walk through the world with an open mind

Craig: Sandro, if there was something that you could ask people who are listening, maybe something for them to consider, or something for them to think about, or something for them to do, here’s your opportunity. [26:30}

Sandro: Well, I think what’s the most important thing to give on, for me, is to walk through the world with an open mindset. And to be aware of the other people who are walking around you, that they have their own history in the background, and they have their own things, so don’t blame them for anything. Or don’t blame them for too much of their doing … of their acting this. Because all of us have a history in our background. [00:27:00] And you don’t know which history the other person has. So be tolerant, be open-minded, and have a smile on your face.