Transcript for “Social – with Damien Puddle”

Episode: Social – with Damien Puddle.

Craig 0:04
Hello, I’m Craig Constantine. Welcome to the movers mindset podcast where I talk with movement enthusiast to learn who they are, what they do, and why they do it. My guest today is Damien Puddle. Welcome, Damien.

Damien 0:18
Hey, thanks for having me.

Craig 0:20
I’m I say this all the time. In a lot of shows, I’m always super excited to get a chance to use the internet to talk to people all over the world. I have not yet had what I understand would be a distinct pleasure of getting to visit New Zealand. It’s on my bucket list. But it’s a little ways to go from or am I? There’s so many things that we could talk about, right? Because if people were listening who know who Damian puddle is, you’re like, oh, what they’re rubbing their hands together. What’s Greg gonna ask about? We’re not going to talk about anything like that. What I’m most curious about is everybody’s each person’s journey to like, how they got into movement, or like, what kind of like when I see people doing little weird gapping challenges that like that scratches my itch, and I have to go join them. So my first thing that I noticed that I was like, I didn’t know that was that you actually have a PhD in Parkour. And I’m like all that we’re going to talk about that. So my question around that is, did you as my wife has a PhD in mathematics, and I have some other close family members who have like PhDs in physics and chemistry, like, how did you decide to make your dissertation be Parkour? Were you into Parkour? And you saw, Oh, I have an opportunity, I can jam my passion into my thesis, or were you like, Oh, crap, I need a topic for a thesis. And you went out and discovered Parkour? Like how did which is first the chicken or the egg?

Damien 1:37
Yeah, yeah. So well, no, actually, some of the bios that I’ve written about myself where I’ve been written about me really talk about it all happening concurrently. So I started Parkour in 2008. Here in New Zealand, after meeting a guy named Barnaby Matthews or bands, and anyone who has heard of the plus bands tour should go and or if they don’t haven’t heard of it, they should go and watch that on YouTube. But I met this guy Barnaby at college, I guess you’d call it in the US here. It’s, it’s not University. It’s but it’s an equivalent, called politic. And so I was doing, we were, we were both doing a degree in Sport and Exercise Science. And I met him and we became good friends. And he did Park we’d be doing Parkour for four years. And the reason this thing called the bands to exist is because no one else did Parkour in New Zealand, and he would fly over to Australia. And it happened to coincide. His first trip was when David Bell was supposed to be coming on a worldwide tour, and ended up not happening, or at least not coming to Australia, like it planned. But at least Barnaby was there. And so there was the band’s tour. And so it was like he was the big guest. And so he was excited when I got into it, because a few people were starting to get into it. There weren’t too many other people in our city. And then, as my studies continued, I just got so interested in Parkour that I tried to spin every single project of any kind that I did, towards Parkour, because I realized there was no, there’s hardly any research written about it at all. And, yeah, so that kind of kicked me on this journey of academia and Parkour. Fan, your

Craig 3:29
thesis advisor, like how did that fly, when you spent money on how it works where you are, but I know how that works in the States, when you’re like, This is what I would do my doctoral dissertation on, they’re like, No, you can’t, you can’t do something with people’s weights, you cannot do it on paper folding move on. So like, how did that? Did you have trouble convincing your committee? Or was it pretty easy? So

Damien 3:50
it was, like, it’s always a journey. But the thing I suppose it was interesting to me and might be interesting to you, given some of the things you shared with me before we started recording, is that my, my undergraduate research, which was the first thing that I I published, was published in 2013. So it’s quite an early article was on biomechanics. And so I was very much interested in the actual physical movement. You know, looking at forces and kinetics and kinematics of movements and things like that looking at drop landings, trying to understand the role, precision landing things like that. Because it was felt better, you know, to do to land like that. I’ve never landed like that. I learned to land like that. And then it felt better than any other way I learned to land. And there was a I guess it became a thing that I have the Parkour people will kind of felt good about how they landed and, you know, not necessarily use it as a cudgel to beat other people’s choices of movement and landing but you know,

Craig 4:55
hurting yourself, right?

Damien 4:56
Yeah, we feel good and we’re not hitting ourselves why? Why hasn’t this happened before? What what can we learn about it? So that was my initial research trajectory. But in general, that research process, I just got really excited, you can find out new information, you can go and talk to people, you can explore stuff, and you can figure things out. But at the same time, I was getting more and more involved with involved with the formation, and then ended up taking over the leadership role at Parkour New Zealand. And through that process, I became increasingly more interested in why people were practicing and how they were practicing. And what were the opportunities to and Hance the practice and support what they were doing and, and protect it. And it’s more of the qualitative research and sort of social understanding of the practice rather than the biomechanics. And so I had been interested in doing my PhD. But in my way, my thinking had gone to I didn’t think I had a good enough question to warrant three years, more of my time, as well as result, end up with something that might just end up saying, Yeah, Parkour landings are good, you know, or not as good, you know, I didn’t think it had a big enough drawcard for me and for the community, because I wanted the research to be valuable to the community. And so I just didn’t do that. And so I just finished my honors degree and extra year after the degree, did a bunch of different work, personal training, was coaching, working with a quintet, a few different things. And then through that process, I ended up meeting one of my supervisors, who invited me to speak on a panel at a conference for our run by a national sports ministry sporting Zed, talking about action sports. And so I was there. At this conference. Talking with her, she interviewed me for some of her own research, and then met her colleague who she’d done a lot of writing with. So this is Holly Thorpe. And then while there, I met her colleague, Belinda Wheaton, and they hypnotized me into doing a PhD in the sociology of sport, which I had no experience, because of that trajectory, of my own thinking and interests. Yeah, I was just struck by Oh, yeah, I’ve wanted to do a PhD, I’m interested in doing further learning. Actually, I think there’s probably something here that I can explore, that has greater value, and interest for myself, as well as for the community. So the irony, I think, is that the original research that was available was sociology of sports stuff. And in 20 2011, was an early article as well by Belinda and I had brushed it off going, Oh, that’s not interesting. I want to know about biomechanics. And really, what it

Craig 7:54
I, you mentioned the word trajectory in there. And that makes me think about how each of us, this is my personal experience. And what I’ve seen from people that I’ve talked to, that each of us has rejected the words has a trajectory to their own personal journey of exploration and growth. So like, I found Parkour at a certain age at a certain season, you know, like, this time of year, and like with a certain group of people, and if you had changed any one of those things, I might be a completely different person or on a completely different journey. And I like how you’re a lot of the way points that you were describing, in that show this trajectory of somebody who’s passionately are eminently curious. But maybe not the wisest, right? Like you’ve missed some signposts along the way, but when you look back, you’re like, yeah, no, I actually need to do this long longer, you know, Enron to learn that sociology plays a big part of it. It’s not just biomechanics. I just like that word that you use trajectory for that is a really nice way to sum it up. I’m wondering about so I, you and I have some shared book passions. I’m a big fan of Vincent the Bose work. And I noticed one of the things if you want to learn a lot of people would just scroll hold down the page down key, scroll all the way back. I use Instagram on a browser on my desktop, scroll all the way back to the beginning and see what their first posts are because most people don’t delete them. And you had a poster I’m like, Oh, look, that’s one of instance books. And I’m, I’m wondering if you so I’m going to say you seem to be drawn more toward Art du Déplacement toward the French guys way of thinking about the culture around Parkour. Not so much fishing for you know, what’s the right word for it? What do we call it, but I’m wondering what your thoughts are on how the culture of Parkour because here’s, I’m like, thinking about the sociology part of the Venn diagram, like there’s a physicality there’s making circles in the air like people can see sociology part. There’s the physicality Venn diagram then there’s like a, an organizational on the education of the words. But there’s all these little Venn things that come together and then what we all call Parkour Freerunning Art du Déplacement Is this little special, I think, special place in the center. And I’m wondering if you have any boom, and it’s a guiding words of wisdom for people who are like, really into the physicality part of it, and they’re starting to get to that plateau, where you’re like, Okay, where one is like, this is really cool. But I feel like there’s something else bigger here that I’m missing. And my brain says, Yeah, that’s the societal, the cultural part of it. I wonder if you have any words of wisdom, like, yeah, if you’re training and you really feel like you want to take it to the next level, you need to maybe it’s traveled, maybe it’s read, maybe it’s find your local park organization and figure out how to volunteer contribute, and maybe it’s find the national organization or you’re like, how do we help? If we think we can? How do we help people expand their horizons? Yeah.

Craig 10:54


Damien 10:59
I do, I think, actually do have something to share. So yeah, I wasn’t familiar with Vincent’s books previously. But I, yeah, I love to read before research and academic, you know, reports and articles and theses and stuff, it was novels. And yeah, I’m the guy that will read the whole report, when people ignore it entirely, or only skim it out, you know, Go into all the detail. So I like to read. At the same time, New Zealand is heavily geographically isolated. So I’ve only done Parkour in Australia and Canada, outside of New Zealand, I have Canadian citizenship, a little bit of eight years. And yet, I’m traveling back and forth there and Australia’s the closest to us, and it’s three hours away by plane. So I guess the thing that I would say is that Parkour is so much bigger than often we think it is. And I think, you know, people, people could probably learn that just by listening to all the guests you’ve had on the podcast, and the three words they use, you know, what, what does their practice mean to them? What are we

Craig 12:15
getting? Right? You know,

Damien 12:17
the, but the, like, when I started, I was I had a much more dogmatic view of what is what is the practice? And how do you do it, and how should you do it. And through that journey, and then in my, in my thesis, a very different point of view, because I introduced the concept from another theory that was applied to the sociology of science, I think it was called boundary object theory. And it is essentially trying to identify that different actors within a community or within a, a space, will perceive the same thing differently to other actors in the same series. And so they use the examples of a squirrel within a museum is, is perceived differently to the museum curator, to the taxidermist, to the to the cartographer, who map the area where the squirrel was caught, you know, to the trapper, you know, all of these people perceive the squirrel differently, and therefore, the squirrel is a boundary object, because it touches all these, the boundaries of all of these different actors in the system. And so I described Parkour as a boundary object, and that not not, yes, there’s all the actors in the system in terms of the practitioner, the security guard, the lay person, you know, all those Parkour, but I say, actually, within the community itself, all of the different perceptions, all of the different national communities and sub communities. And all of those interpretations, the language, the different language, we use a different terminology, the different camps, we sort of hold on to all of those, and make Parkour itself a boundary object to the community itself, all having different touch points into the practice. And so I tried to use that as a different way of describing Parkour then say, it’s a subculture, or it’s this, you know, some of those terminology room really put it into a very specific type of camp. And I like, my it, especially like, you know, I would read, read work by Jeffrey Kidder, who’s an academic, I think, from Chicago, and he studied a bunch of the Chicago community and he was kind of writing in a way that Parkour is this and I was like, that’s not how I experienced Parkour. You know, he’s, he’s got this I’m sure it’s happened in other places, but there’s there was a part where he’s, you know, as A lot of young guys that he was following along and they were like it’s shirtless o’clock, and they will take their shirts off and jump around. And it was like, I have literally never ever seen that in New Zealand, like every now and again, someone gets hot. But there’s sort of no gender discrimination in terms of the removal of clothing to train when it’s hot. It sounds like what is this? Is that American Park? Was that Chicago? Parkour? Is it Jeffrey, Jeffrey kittehs approach or perception as like, actually, that is Parkour. That’s that’s that experience. And maybe that’s not a great, you know?

Craig 15:36
Yeah, maybe apply that, even though we just did what, okay,

Damien 15:41
what is it not that, like, it gets a little tricky, and I don’t, I don’t really want to dive into this. But you know, when someone says, Oh, that’s not Parkour, and this is Parkour. But I just wanted to, I guess, present Parkour in a way that actually was brought up more holistic, based on all of the things I had seen an experience or readings, my own training. The thesis topic was the globalization of Parkour, New Zealand as geographically removed from France as you can get. So what was the trajectory of, you know, coming to our nation? And how do we perceive it? And so, yeah, I really liked boundary object theory to convey that. So my my tidbit in that big, long winded thing was, it’s so much bigger than even our own personal practice. And it’s worth exploring that. And I think you do that with your podcast, which is really cool.

Craig 16:31
Thank you. Thank you for joining me. If you’re scribbling notes, you could just press pause. There’s a whole bunch of I mean, first of all, I’m writing notes like boundary object. What is this? Well, you know, I’m like taking notes for myself, I have homework to do now. But I think it’s always super useful when you encounter another mind that says, Oh, I think it’s vanilla, you know, or like, not that you’re giving me a simple explanation. But they say something that sounds really simple. And then and you’re like, huh, I thought this was strawberry or you know, butterbur can or something and you, you suddenly realize that your perspective it’s your, your lived experience is true, kind of by definition, right? But suddenly, you realize that there are all these other perspectives, and then that like, what’s the Leonardo DiCaprio movie with the dimensions and the multiple? I can’t even remember the inception, like exceptions. You’re like, what mind bending and then you suddenly I find that when I have those mind bending experiences, I’ll say that was a little my, a small mind bending experience with the idea of the boundary object. For some reason that that makes me want to go do real work. Like I don’t know why I’m just like, real work. And I’m just like, for me, real work is a big part of what I would consider my experience of Parkour. So I should probably go do more of that. It’s just strange how it doesn’t make me those little experiences. Don’t make me want to totally throw out everything that I’m doing and head for a shirtless o’clock in Chicago. Be like, appreciate what I’m lucky enough to do. Maybe makes me Yeah, more.

Damien 18:03
There’s a… I haven’t done it for a couple of years because of COVID. And yeah, if anyone’s noticing my voice, I do have COVID

Craig 18:10
a reason I could get him on the show. He’s like, I’m too busy. I’m too busy. I’m too busy. I’m

Damien 18:17
Yeah. But now this is good, because it’s making me feel energized and have more energy than I haven’t tended interest. But because of my my, my supervisors, and I was lecturing at the university when I the conclusion of my PhD for time, we would have a group come over to New Zealand from Miami University, not the University of Miami, in Florida, but Miami University in Oxford, Ohio,

Craig 18:49
which is very good. I’ve heard of that one. I’m fairly close. And I’ve had that, yes,

Damien 18:54
you would come over with a group of students for like a exchange type program thing. And they would always come down to university into a session with me on Parkour and so do a lecture and they would go and practice it on the campus, which is always super fun. I really enjoyed it. But in I ended up turning my lecture into a video. And the whole video is just watching and pausing and talking about it from the from the movement perspective. So it kicks off with videos of the Mikaze and of David Bell, Sebastian Rukh Khan, and then just goes through all sorts of different types of people, as well as different types of practice to go, that’s Parkour. That’s, that’s Parkour. You know, because there’s, there’s old people that do it, and there’s kids that do it and there’s people that do it up on high rise buildings, and there’s people that do it very low to the ground and there’s people that do it, I guess kind of sedately and just sort of, you know, just a casual pace is because frenetic and you know, bring a lot of energy and effort decision to it there are, there are people that are trying little intricate challenges. And there are people that are trying big, long insurance things. And I guess except for when there’s some external actor coming into the scene to say it’s none of those things, we’re telling you what it is. It’s all of those things. And so I got really good feedback from them. I bet actually, that was one of the coolest presentations we’ve ever had, there was no slides was just a video or just got to experience and see the movement before going out to actually participate and do it ourselves. And so, yeah, you can just find all these videos. And now there are new videos and new things that I want to add to that later as well, because there’s just so many different ways of moving different people who move. Yeah.

Craig 20:47
Terrific. Yeah, I got, you know, 9 million more questions. But time has flown by, as much as I hate to say, I think it’s a good place to stop. I think that is a good place to stop. I hope everybody else found that as stimulating as I did. This doesn’t have to be our only conversation. I will just say and of course the final question. Three words to describe your practice.

Damien 21:12
Yeah, so is always always a challenge. I I’m gonna say three words that I relate to some stuff that we didn’t talk about, but perhaps fruit for a future conversation with me, play. Fun and awkward. Terrific. Yeah. If you search hashtag annoying Parkour, you might, you might find a couple of those. Why I find why I like to play and why why sometimes it’s awkward.

Craig 21:50
Wow. Terrific. Thank you for taking the time. It was a distinct pleasure. I definitely want to talk to you more. I don’t know when I will ever get to New Zealand. But the beauty of zoom and the internet is doesn’t have to be in person. So cool. I wish you all the best of luck in all the other things that we didn’t talk about that you’re involved in that you’re doing and also for speedy recovery. So thanks so much, Damian.

Damien 22:13
My pleasure. Thanks, Craig.