Jonny Hart shares the role of parkour in his life, and how that fits in with his career as an artist. He explains the parkour and anatomy art classes that he helped develop, and discusses the joy he finds in coaching and teaching. Jonny finishes by unpacking his thoughts on breaking jumps, and shares the story of the first jump he ever broke.
Is there a story you’d like to share?
Craig: Okay. And we’re kind of hinting at there’s a bunch of stories. So I’m going to do do this now. So, we like to ask everybody, is there any particular story you would like to share? So everybody has stories and there are millions of stories out there in the Parkour world, full of spectacular, literally spectacle things. But I’m interested in finding things that people are passionate about, because the people who don’t do Parkour [00:20:00] don’t understand even the mindset that we’re coming from. So if there’s a story that you would like to share, about Parkour, about hustling in Scotland or whatever, I would love to hear it.
Jonny: We could definitely talk about hustling in Scotland because those are some interesting stories too. But I feel like we’ve gotta talk about breaking jumps, since that’s kind of what led us here. And of course, the first one will always be the most memorable. [00:20:30] So, when you first start training, you think you’re breaking jumps, right? Because you’re a foot off the ground and you’re jumping four feet out, you know.
Craig: I’m scared, yeah. I’m scared. I’m doing it! Stop pushing me!
Jonny: You’re terrified! But it doesn’t compare to the first time you really break a jump. And what I mean is one where there is a degree of uncertainty and something could go terribly wrong. So I was at a birthday jam [00:21:00] for a friend of ours. We were all just kind of moving through the city here in New York, from spot to spot. Just one of those training sessions where you’re just looking for stuff along the way.
And three of us broke off to go use the bathroom in this one park. And that turned into a session, of course, you know, on the bathroom. And then we ended up up on the roof and there was a jump across essentially, like an entrance gate. And it had wrought iron …
Jonny: Yes. On either side. So you had to jump up [00:21:30] and over these kind of wrought-iron spikes and then clear them to get to the other side. And there was just like a stone pillar that was, I don’t know, two feet squared or something? It was a very small landing spot. And it was a good eight, maybe nine feet up in the air. And I had never done anything like that before, you know. I was still very, very new. But I was with a friend of mine who I trusted a lot. I trained with him a lot, and he’s not one of those macho dudes that wants to just push you to do bigger and better stuff, but he felt [00:22:00] like I could do it and he was like, “Hey man, do this jump with me.”
That’s all I need to hear. I’m like, “Oh, you’re gonna do this jump? All right, I can do this jump.”
Craig: It’ll make you feel good.
Jonny: So I’m standing there looking at it. He’s looking at it. He goes for it first. And then I’m standing up in the spot and I’m looking and I’m just immediately imagining all the things that could go wrong. And at this point, we had been training for so long in the park that there was all the parents and the kids and everybody had been watching us. So now I have a full, captive audience and they’re staring up [00:22:30] at me. And I’m like, “Well I can’t not do the jump now, right?”
Craig: Maybe if they moved closer they would be a crash mat if something went wrong.
Jonny: I was kind of thinking about that too, but in the worst case scenario, where I’m like, “Now imagine I miss the jump and I land on, like, a five year old kid. This is actually the worst day of my life. And I’ve got a hundred witnesses, on top of that.” It almost doesn’t get any worse, right? So I’m standing there looking at this jump and then all of a sudden these two gung-ho cops come peeling across [00:23:00] the lawn of the park in the car with the lights on and everything, as if I’m some kind of legitimate criminal. And they come to a skidding halt, errrrt. Right in front of me. They jump out. “Get down from there!” And I’m like, well there’s only one way down, I’ve got to make this jump right now.
Craig: …so dodging bullets!
Jonny: So I do the jump and I completely black out in the air. That’s the craziest part, was I don’t remember anything until the landing. I had this moment where I was just 100% autopilot. [00:23:30] I make the jump. I hit the other side. I take the drop, I’m like, “Let’s go!” The whole crowd is cheering for me, all the parents and the kids, everybody. “Yeah!” And I’m looking at the cops like, “You can’t seriously be mad about this, look at this. These people love me.”
And then they start trying to find out what I’m doing, why I was up there and everything. And I’m just grinning from ear to ear like a total maniac. I’m barely even paying attention and I’m like, “Wait, did you see what I just did? That’s what I was up there for. I [00:24:00] went up there to do that jump.” And they’re trying to figure out if I was trying to like break into the bathroom or, you know. I don’t know what they think I’m trying to do from the roof, right? With the door open.
Their questions made no sense to me and I must have looked like I was high on something, because I’m just, I’m in full ecstasy, you know? I’m so bummed I have to share this moment with these two cops right now rather than my buddies or the cheering crowd of parents who were absolutely in awe over what just happened. So, whatever, we talk to the cops, they realize that I’m just a totally [00:24:30] harmless weirdo.
Craig: Crazy individual.
Jonny: Yeah. They let me go. And that high lasted for two or three days. I came home, I couldn’t shut up about it. I’m talking to my girlfriend. I’m calling my mom. I’m telling anybody that doesn’t care. They’ve got to know. I’m posting on Facebook about it. It was, it was absurd. But I had never felt more alive in my life, and that’s really saying something. Because I was in a coma for a week, you want to talk about feeling like you’re alive, come out of a coma [00:25:00] you feel pretty alive. This dwarfed that. I felt… I was like, “This is the meaning of life right here, is to have these moments.”
Three words to describe your practice?
Craig: All right, last and final question that I always end with, which is: three words to describe your practice.
Jonny: Whoah. Well the first two that come to mind immediately are grateful and enthusiastic. The third one eludes me. Man, and two is a comparison. Three is a theme. I really do need a third one to make this work. So I’m going to go with… uh, it would have to be grateful, enthusiastic, and caffeinated.
Craig: That’s perfect. I think you’re the first honest person who actually owned up to the drug of choice, which is caffeine.
Craig: It’s all about the caffeine.
Jonny: I’ve been drinking coffee nonstop throughout this podcast.
Craig: Great, because the next thing I say is, could you unpack those words a little bit? So we’ll just say the caffeine is the coffee cup that he’s been… He actually got up and filled it. I’m talking, he walked away and got the coffee.
Jonny: It’s true.
Craig: So the first two words were…
Jonny: Grateful and enthusiastic.
Craig: And why? Why those the two words?
Jonny: Oh man, I’m grateful every day that I wake up and I get to move. I already was grateful, because I feel like I came to Parkour a little bit later in life. I started training when I was 31. And obviously, later in life than most people that I train with. I see you’ve bumped your head on the microphone in total dismay because Craig came to Parkour probably ten years later than I did. I just say later in life than your top-level athlete, right? So you get in and you immediately compare yourself to the top 1%, as everybody does, no matter how unrealistic it is.
Jonny: And you go, “Oh, okay. Well I’ll never do that. I’ll never be that guy.”
Craig: More coffee.
Jonny: But rather than depress me, it just makes me more grateful that it wasn’t too late, you know. That I wasn’t perhaps missing a foot from diabetes, you know, or on some sort of emphysema breathing machine. Anything could happen. Life takes crazy turns.
Craig: And late enough to realize that, yeah, I’m not gonna be that high-level professional person, so I’m not gonna spend any time killing myself, literally, to try to get to that level. I’m gonna take it and see how far does this body go?
Jonny: Exactly, yeah. And I’m grateful for what my body gives me every day. And I do make very high demands on my body because I want to maximize the time that I do have left. We all know you hit a peak at a certain point and I think, you know, I’ve probably peaked, if I’m not right at the peak right now. And then it’s about maintenance, you know. Whatever you can do.
Craig: And the second word?
Jonny: Was enthusiasm?
Craig: They’re your words. Okay, enthusiasm.
Jonny: Enthusiasm. Man, I just was lucky enough to stumble across this thing that gets me as excited as anything else anybody can be excited about on this planet. I even look at Jiro Dreams of Sushi, here’s something that they made a whole documentary about this guy, he devotes every waking moment, and I still think I’m more enthusiastic about Parkour than he is about sushi. And you know, a lot of people can go their whole lives without finding that thing. They may not ever find that driving force. But for me, we had lunch earlier today and we were talking about how, for a long time, during, for sure, the first year of my training, every training session ended … I didn’t stop til the sun went down and the little ritual was to sit down and watch the sun set and kind of reflect on my day.
And every single one, without exception, I thought, “This is the best day of my life.”
That is really saying something, because as much as I love art, as much as I’ve been pursuing that for as far back as I have memories in life, I’ve never stopped at the end of a day of drawing and thought, “This is the best day of my life.” So I found this thing that gives me that consistently. It may not be every time now, because nothing’s perfect, it’s been going on four years now. There are those days where you just had a good day. It wasn’t necessarily the best day of your life, but man, there’s a good chance it is gonna be the best day of my life. And how can you not just be at the highest level of enthusiasm possible when you’re having the peak of your lifetime right there in that moment?