044. Rosy Noguchi: Coaching, gender, and travel

Craig: Welcome to the Mover’s Mindset podcast, where I interview movement enthusiasts to find out who they are, what they do, and why they do it. This week, Rosy Noguchi discusses her involvement in PK Move, coaching, and why she is passionate about what they are doing. She shares her thoughts on the DC Women’s community and why it’s been successfully running for over six years. Rosy reflects on the benefits of traveling for parkour and closes out with her experiences with gender and intergenerational training in parkour. Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.

Rosy: And I’m Noguchi.

Craig: Rosy Noguchi is a coach, traceurs and board member of PK move. Her first introduction to parkour was through her mother and led to her becoming a coach as well as a leader in the local women’s community. Rosy co-founded PK Move to share this diverse discipline and community that she is so passionate about. Welcome Rosy.

Rosy: Hey, thank you. Thank you so much.

Craig: Rosy, I mentioned that you began parkour training with your mom and I want to draw the line. So how did your mom get into park and how did you wind up meeting Nancy?

Rosy: Yeah, absolutely. So my mom was looking for a program that did aerial silks, but just because I think she had probably watched some YouTube videos and she thought that was a very beautiful sport and it just so happened that the gym that had the most affordable aerial silks program happened to be a parkour gym in the area. So she joined the parkour gym and I don’t think she ever actually pursued silks after she had tried the intro to parkour class. And then I didn’t get introduced to parkour until maybe a year after my mom had already joined the gym. And so she and Nancy had already been training together for probably a year, and that’s how I met Nancy was through my mom.

Craig: So it’s a long way from your mom taking you to the silks class? No wait, it’s a parkour class?

Rosy: Yes.

Craig: But it was a long way from there to being on the board as one of the founding people behind PK Move and being a coach for that community. And I’m wondering when you went to your first parkour class, did you immediately see a calling to teach? Had you been teaching before that or is it just you were moving and then suddenly they asked for volunteers and you forgot to step back? Or how did that path work out?

Rosy: Yeah, I definitely don’t have any experience teaching anybody in anything before this, but as far as parkour goes, I was immediately taken to the training. I absolutely loved it and I loved how with persistent training, I was making gains in my abilities. So I was probably trading for two years solid before Nancy came up with the inspiration-

Craig: Seed idea, right?

Rosy: Yeah, to start the nonprofit. Initially, I wasn’t even aware that it was a nonprofit. I was just thinking, “Hey, an organization, a group, a company.” And we decided eventually that nonprofit was the best choice to go for our model.

Craig: What your mission was. And when that started to… Because I’ve seen a couple of things form like, and it always happens very… All of a sudden you’re like, “Oh wait, this is suddenly a thing.” It kind of materializes around you unless you’re that one or two key people who are really doing the legwork of always thinking about it and making notes. So I’m wondering, were you involved from the very beginning with those discussions or did it just congeal into, “Oh, this is the core group of people who are going to form it.” How did that thing solidify from Nancy’s original idea?

Rosy: Yeah, we did have a few little, not hiccups, but we had a few different attempts at the organization until we figured out that actually the nonprofit would work best. I was not one of the driving factors in that I was always here, “I’m going to be a co-founder I’ll definitely help out,” but it was mostly Nancy was actually the one with the vision and doing the research. Yeah, so I would say it congealed around me and I found my place.

Craig: I understand that you’re also, I want to say heavily involved, but I’m not sure whether it’s just because you really love going or whether you’re also involved in organizing, but you’re involved in the DC Women’s regular jams that happen. And I know that that happens both indoors and outdoors and I’m wondering that community or that of the event, however you want to call that recurring thing, that’s fairly old. Can you tell me how long has that been going on and what do you think holds it together?

Rosy: Gosh, okay. So I didn’t even find out about the monthly women’s meetups until two years into my training, and I think that they may have started a few years prior before I found out. So I think they might’ve been around for six years or so, but you would definitely want to talk to Kate Miller since she was one of the founding members I believe, or one of the most early members of that group. But I think it was a year ago, the girls who had been organizing that group, they tapped myself and Christie and they asked us if we would like to start helping out with planning the event or running the event because everyone is in different parts of their lives and whatnot. So my friend Christie and I, we’ve been helping them out for the past year and it’s been really fun.

Craig: And what makes that community stick together? So there’s a lot of weekly or monthly meetups that start up in various places. But it seems to me like if that one’s been going on for six or maybe even seven years now, that says there’s something special, there must be either people at the center of it or an idea, or what do you think keeps it going?

Rosy: Yeah, I definitely think that the girls who have been running it are incredibly dedicated to it and it also helps that the monthly DC Women’s meetup is supported by APK. They let us use their gym in the winter time and they also let us use their waiver system as well. So with that legitimacy, it makes it more legitimate.

Craig: Well that infrastructure makes it-

Rosy: People feel more comfortable with that as well.

Craig: How do those jams run? Have you been to other jams and have you seen differences in structure and layout? Is there something about how that jam runs each month that might be an interesting feature that people could take away for the little events that they’re running?

Rosy: Yeah, so when I first joined the jam as a participant a few years ago, I was a little bit surprised because they do teach it as a class, sort of. They always do a group warm up where everyone’s getting to know each other, doing icebreakers, movement warmups. And then right now we divided up into a newcomers group and a returners group and we run through some exercises led by a group leader and then we will usually switch off halfway so that maybe the returners will get to try the same obstacles that the beginners were trying in the first part.

Rosy: And then we bring it together for the last 30 minutes of class, usually doing maybe a group game with newcomers and returners or sometimes just obstacle course and then a cool-down. So I was really surprised that it was so structured. I thought when I first went to the jam that it would be like a jam, but I actually think I do appreciate that, to have the class, because especially for newcomers, I think that’s valuable to have a structured introduction so that you don’t feel like you’re the only person who doesn’t know what’s going on.

Craig: Right. There’s definitely a vocabulary to the way people move obviously, but also to the way people interact in spaces and how they decide, “Are we taking turns or is there etiquette here? Does this person… Is there a rank, is there structure?” And if you have a beginner space that you set aside for that, then all of those things that everybody else takes for granted, those things become overt and then suddenly when I ask the question, everybody else goes, “I have that exact same question.” So I think there is a lot of benefit to having, not a beginner safe space, but having a set aside area where, “Okay, we’re going to go over all the basics because that’s what these people deserve.” So I would agree with you that I think that’s a feature that makes it successful. I haven’t been there, but-

Rosy: Yeah. One of the nice things is that Kate, who is usually the head coach for that event-

Craig: Yeah, Kate Miller.

Rosy: Yeah, Kate Miller, she always does the intro spiel and she always says, “Hey newcomers, maybe go and group up with these coaches. We’re going to run through these drills. And returners, you can try these drills with these coaches. But if you feel like you still want the basics, go to the other group and you can go between the groups. Don’t worry about how it’s going to be perceived. If you feel like you’re not getting challenged enough, go to the other group. That’s fine.” Yeah, so I think they’re really good with that.

Craig: So you also teach and coach for the PK Silver program, which is run within PK Move, and that’s a completely different type of coaching, a different environment, it’s a different type of student, you have different goals that go… Everything is different and I’m wondering how challenging was it to go from being a parkour practitioner to try and then implement this very, I’m going to say constraint, but it’s a very specific curriculum that has very clear actionables and things are done a certain way. Did you find that challenging to try and work with people that are a generation or maybe two generations up?

Rosy: Yes. I would definitely say that initially I was a little bit… Yeah.

Craig: [crosstalk 00:08:51].

Rosy: It was hard to think, “Isn’t parkour jumping mostly?” And then I was like, “No, we can’t do jumping with this group.” So once you decide that you can be more flexible with your definitions, then it’s like, “Okay yeah, we’re going to still be doing some training.” I think probably before I even started teaching classes, I had taken the Golden Hearts Senior Fitness Specialty class. So it was just a one day training on some concerns that seniors would have in their fitness and how as a trainer, you should approach them. So I had that background in the back of my mind. And initially, we were also doing usually two coaches at a time. That’s part of our insurance. We have to have two coaches on hand. So Nancy’s usually always around to double check, make sure that things are kosher, making sure that things are up to par and not too crazy. Surprisingly, yes, no, because usually she’s going crazy over there. But no, she takes that very seriously.

Craig: If you think back to before when you were coaching for PK Move, can you tell me about the point in time where you realized that you could contribute at that level that these other women are able to contribute, their time and the insight that they provide? And I’m just wondering if you can describe the mindset or the shift in your thinking that would have happened for you to be able to step up and do that?

Rosy: Well, training with my mom was one of the reasons why it was important to me because she is older than… I don’t want to say older than Nancy, but she’s older than Nancy. Yeah. Yeah, so my mom is super agile, super excited. Generally, much more agile and capable than some other people that are her age. So that’s just inspiring to me and it’s important to both Nancy and to my mom that these sort of activities that are challenging yet fun and inclusive are available to the population. So helping out with the PK Silver group classes, I was like, “I want to help out my mom. I see these folks as my mom and I’m going to help them out.”

Craig: If you can think of one, what is one lesson that your mother taught you that stuck with you your whole life?

Rosy: I’ll just say that recently, she was incredibly just straightforward with me. She was saying it was around Valentine’s day. She saw something in the newspaper about an article about dating while gray and that just made her so angry just because… What is gray? Are you just saying that everybody who’s over 60 is gray, we’re all like decaying? We’re not up there with the hot young things? She was just very angry that they seemed marginalized and that people that were in her position were being marginalized and treated so differently. So I would just say that that happened recently and that really struck a nerve. I’m like, “Dang. Yeah, no, my mom… Yeah, she got gray hair, but I don’t think that she’s any less of a person and I don’t think that she should have any of these special…”

Rosy: It just didn’t seem right. I don’t see my mom as being gray, even though she is over 60, you feel me? So I would just say that, yeah, you got to just treat everybody like a human and take care of everybody. We’re all going to get that way and she was very, very adamant about, “I ain’t going to turn gray. I’m not going to go kicking… I’m going to go kicking and screaming into my age. I can’t lie down and take it.” So I’ll just say that I admire that spirit in her.

Craig: [crosstalk 00:12:44]

Rosy: Yes. Yeah.

Craig: Rosy, I’m wondering if you want to share any of your perspective of what you know about how he can move works and how coaching and organizations work. I think a lot of people don’t understand the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes, and PK Move is a large project, but even on smaller projects, a lot of work goes on that people don’t see. And I’m wondering if you want to share any of your perspective, often seem to be the quiet person in the room that people underestimate?

Rosy: Yeah. Well, I’ll just say that Nancy, our president and I guess the impetus for our organization, she leads everything. She spearheads everything. She tells me about most of it and I am just so surprised with everything that does go into running the organization. Even when we initially applied for the partnership with the Alexandria RP, yeah the Recreational and Parks Department to get the pop-up parkour playground equipment, just doing the initial schpeel in front of the group of other well-qualified applicants was… I’m like, “Wow, this is so real now when we’re standing there next to all these other great groups.” So I will just say that that itself could be enough to persuade some people from saying, “Wow, this is going to be really, really difficult and I don’t think we can do this.” But with Nancy’s support, we all recognize that, “Yeah, we can do this.”

Rosy: She is absolutely positive about everything, a driving force, and I would say that without her guidance, we wouldn’t be nearly as successful as we are. Even all the little bits of insurance that we need to make sure that we have to run this organization properly, so many things that I myself actually don’t understand. So we’re actually going to be hosting the North American Women’s Jam in Washington, D.C. this summer, so everybody should come out, I’m helping plan it. But yeah, I would just say that it doesn’t matter. We’re going to make it amazing. But regardless, even if you have any doubts, you should still come out because it is just a great event and you get to meet people who you probably wouldn’t run into any other time.

Craig: So when you went out to Colorado, did you go with someone in particular or did you just go by yourself?

Rosy: I went with my friend Christie.

Craig: Right. So the two of you went out. So do you think that going as a buddy system makes it easier? That’d be my guess that it’s easier to go to a new town and have somebody, have a common point of-

Rosy: Yeah, I do definitely like having people who I know just as a backup. It turned out we met plenty of really cool people, some people who we were just dying to see and we got to see them the following year and you still keep in contact on Facebook and whatnot. But yeah, it was nice to have a friend to go out with. In the end, we all met more people. It was easy to integrate.

Craig: I think some people have the travel bug and some people don’t and I’m wondering, after you’ve gone to that event now, do you find yourself getting the bug to travel all the time? So it was something like a switch. Once you to go once then you’re you’re hooked.

Rosy: Yeah, that was probably the furthest I had traveled for a jam and after that, I was like, “It’s worth it. It’s worth it. It’s worth it.” So I went to Boston the following year, I went to Vancouver the year after that and just up and down the East coast, there’s plenty of gyms and plenty of events and plenty of big jams and friends. So I definitely do like doing that. I will admit that I am a little bit of a creature of comfort, so I’m not as ready to just pick up and go as some people are living out of suitcase. I kind of do like having some comforts, but I do love going around and meeting people.

Craig: I would venture to guess that the majority of women who train don’t go to those events just based on the numbers that you see at events. And I’m wondering, what do you think, what might you guess holds people back from wanting to go? So why don’t they go to women’s only events?

Rosy: Well, I will say that the organizers try to make them affordable. Usually most of the ones that I’ve been to, I think that they’ve had either gym accommodations or local hosts. But I will say that I have a feeling that it’s money most of the time, to be honest.

Craig: You think it’s the cost of the travel?

Rosy: Yeah, the cost of the travel, even the gyms and organizes to try to help out where they can. But I feel like it’s mostly the cost because I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to go because it’s just so fun. I don’t know. Yeah, cost or maybe you got work the next day. I don’t know.

Craig: So two years ago, I was at a session and I don’t want to drop too many name. I was at a session where the topic that was being discussed was gender representation or the gender gap in parkour. And I would venture to guess that everybody within the sound of my voice would be like, “Yes, there’s a gender gap.” And if the people saying that are male, they’re always interested in closing the gap or bringing more women into the art, the sport, however you want to put it. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are on, do you feel that there is a difference in representation? And I’m kind of begging the question because PK Move is predominantly run by women and women’s voices are very strongly represented and that’s a good thing. And I’m just wondering, do you see that as something that is exceptional, meaning that it’s not seen elsewhere? Or do you think that that’s just the nature of parkour? I’m wondering what your thoughts are on, is there a gap, and how does that gap really play out?

Rosy: Yeah, the makeup of our board and of our founders, that never actually really striked me as being outstanding. It just seemed natural. These are my friends and we all train parkour and we created an organization. I guess that looking back on it, yeah, I guess there weren’t that many women involved when I started training. But I always had a good girlfriend here or there. But honestly, I think that most people probably agree that gym environments for the most part are super welcoming. It didn’t matter. I had friends who were 16 year old high school boys and then I had friends who were mothers and it was kind of like everybody’s together, everybody’s on the same boat. Some people can do flips, some people can’t.

Rosy: But whatever, we’re all still training at the same gym, most of us are still in the same classes. So I guess the gap never really struck me as being weird and I never really felt different because I had good friends and everybody was friendly and welcoming. But after joining the women’s jam, I started to realize that there are a good amount of girls here who I see every month at this jam, but I don’t see them at the weekly jams in Virginia or in the D.C. area, and still not sure exactly how to bring them out. But I think that maybe the novelty of having the monthly women’s jam, that’s beneficial because it’s novel.

Craig: [crosstalk 00:19:39] It draws them out.

Rosy: It draws them out. Whereas the weekly jam, you know what’s going to happen every week.

Craig: Yeah. If you had to guess, what do you think keeps them? Is it just the lack of novelty? I’m not criticizing, but that draws them out. That doesn’t actually tell me, “Well, what’s actually keeping them back?” Is it the fear of falling? I’m wondering what do you think is keeping them from appearing since we know they’re there, they do show up monthly. So what do you think keeps the average woman parkour practitioner from showing up?

Rosy: Yeah, I can’t speak for everybody, but I don’t know. I really do think it’s a novelty, having something special makes it worthwhile to do something. I don’t know. That’s just how I feel about the annual women’s jam as well as the monthly women’s jam. I guess people, they also always say, “Oh yeah, I’m still at work. I don’t get out till 6:00. That’s when the jam starts. It’s going to get dark by 7:00.” That’s always a good excuse too. But yeah, I don’t know. I think that special events are very good for women.

Craig: You mentioned before that you had trained with, I think you said something like a sophomore high school guy and then somebody else’s mom and you never really were considering the gender gap or even the gender distribution. So I want to circle back to that and say, “Okay, to me that actually is a little unusual to have that wide range of ages and genders mixed in one class.” So can you take me back a little bit to where actually that training was happening? Talk about that space and just unpack a little bit more what that environment was like because I think you may have been in a rather unique environment that other people don’t have access to.

Rosy: Yeah. Okay, so I started my parkour training, aside from following the kids at the UVA parkour club around, I started at the gym Urban Evolution in Alexandria. And I guess that it is a little bit novel to have teenagers training with adults and then sometimes there are little kids in that class as well. I’m going to go ahead and assume that it’s because of their band system, they have a levels of, if you’re a white band, you’re pretty much a novice. Once you can level up tests and get your green band, and then you get more privileges at the gym. But kids and adults who are green bands, they could be in the same class.

Rosy: It didn’t matter if you were a ten-year-old who was very skilled or a 50 year old or a 20 year old, you’re all in the same class, you’re all being challenged in the same way. So I guess when I was taking classes that I was surrounded by all different age groups and that was really, really cool. They’re in the evening, some of the parents, if they were a green band, sometimes they were training with their kids because they had both leveled up and it was really cool. It was intergenerational and sometimes you had little kids, teenagers, adults, young adults.

Craig: But that, wasn’t something you really noticed at the time? It’s like fish don’t notice water.

Rosy: No, I just thought it was cool, man. You’re only as old as you act and nobody was acting that old. Yeah, it was cool.

Craig: Sorry. Well, I guess what I was just digging out was I’m trying to wonder if you’re out there trying to do your programming and figure out what your courses should be like. It seems like I’ve heard multiple stories, not just from you, but from others about how having that mixture works out well and that the adults, especially the older adults learn something from the young kids about the love of life and movement and enjoyment and play and the kids learn things from the adults. It tends to mix well. So it’s just an interesting, another glimpse at something that we’ve seen a couple time.

Rosy: Yeah. I’ll just say it again, that the band system, that was super inclusive because if you could get that band, you’re together. We’re going to treat you all the same. And I think, yeah, that was really, really cool. So actually, when I leveled up and I got my green band, I was actually being tested at the same time with a father and his kid, and his kid was probably early teens and the father was a father.

Craig: Not early teens.

Rosy: So yeah, we’re all just being tested the same, asked to do the same things.

Craig: [crosstalk 00:23:40] right, right.

Rosy: Yeah, it was cool.

Craig: And of course the final question, three words to describe your practice?

Rosy: I’d to say grace, calm, and adventure. So grace, just because, I don’t know, you can’t do a movement without grace. If it’s chunky, I wouldn’t call that parkour. I think that grace is definitely part of that. Calm, you got to be calm to have the grace, and then adventure just because there’s so many things that you can do with your movement. And every time you move, you’re learning something new.

Craig: Thank you very much, Rosy. It’s been a pleasure.

Rosy: Oh, thank you. This was fun.

Craig: This was episode 44. For more information, go to moversmindset.com/44. And there’s more to the Movers Mindset project than just this podcast. Visit our website for more free content to sign up for our newsletter or to join the Movers Mindset community. Thanks for listening.