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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. In this interview, Brandee Laird discusses many things including the recent Art of Retreat, being an introvert and card manipulation. She shares her coaching philosophy, influences and creating experiences and reflects on the role of usefulness in her practice. Brandee explains how she handles dark moods, strives to expand her skillsets and even recites some of her own poetry.
Craig: But first, a twofer this week. one, the Hero Forge is back in collaboration with Andy Fisher, you did catch episode 60, right? We’re putting all 59 Hero Forge recordings on our website where you can stream or download them for free. Two, if you value what we are doing, you should support our work at MoversMindset.com/support. It’s easy and every dollar matters.
Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.
Brandee: Hi, I’m Brandee.
Craig: Brandee Laird is a human of many skillsets, movement, juggling, crafting, massage and poetry to name a few. Co-founder of Parkour Visions, Brandee is a leader in the American Parkour Community and well-known globally. She’s constantly striving to improve herself and expand her skillsets to be ready and useful in any and every situation. Welcome, Brandee.
Brandee: Thanks, Craig.
Craig: Brandee, I think the first time I ever had a chance to meet you and interact with you, not just like “hey, how are you doing,” and walk away, was the day you threw me on the floor and kneeled on my ass until I screamed for mercy.
Craig: So I’m just wondering when you find that you meet somebody new, do you find that you feel you need to immediately move with them and play with them in some fashion before you feel comfortable with them? You can have a conversation with someone, but is movement for you a really necessary part of saying “hello” and “how are you doing” and “how are you today?”
Brandee: Well, first I think you sort of misrepresented what happened there. But I’m glad I left a good impression on your ass.
Craig: I see what you did there. Both sides, both sides. You are more than welcome to unpack the story, because it’s a fun story.
Brandee: No, no, no, we’ll just leave it at that. And also to answer your question, no, not at all. I don’t need movement to make a connection necessarily. It does help and is nice to be able to connect with people through movement, but I wouldn’t say it’s a necessity for me.
Craig: We all just came back from Art of Retreat and I’m just wondering if there are any snapshots or moments of conversations, movement pieces or whatever, things that jump out at you if I say, so what was Art of Retreat like?
Brandee: Art of Retreat is always just wonderful. Art of Retreat is like dreams come true and watching the people I love the most in the world elevate each other. So as far as this past Art of Retreat, it was a blast as usual. I get to stand in front of people, yell at them, shame them publicly and such and so forth.
Brandee: But one of the most important and really profound moments I had was actually during one of the night mission games, where I had taken on the role of an ogre and I was supposed to be carried away from the village site and I didn’t want that to happen. So I struggled pretty prolifically.
Brandee: And at some point after four or five people who didn’t really know grappling handed me off to someone who did. He had me just full lock, he had his legs around mine in hooks and then my arms were up. So honestly, there’s no way I could’ve gotten out, even I had had any energy left. Yeah, so screaming and struggling and got really exhausted and then just kind of relaxed. And he’s like, “That was good Brandee, that’s good. Take a couple breaths and then try again.”
Brandee: And it was really cool, it was like we’re in a game and we’re playing at being enemies, obviously we’re not enemies because we’re friends and he just took a moment to coach me and help me push even further. Because I had already decided to make it into training as well as playing, but that really took it to the next level for me.
Craig: I wondered how that person died, now I understand what actually happened. I’m obviously just kidding.
Brandee: It was good.
Craig: So one of the reasons I’ve been trying to talk to you for it might be like three or four years, and it wasn’t that you dodged me, it’s actually rather tricky to sit down with people to have an interview, because I only do interviews in person. And I really think to me, it’s probably a challenge for me. By the way, I’m hoping that you’re going to do a card trick. I want to get there soon.
Brandee: I’m not doing a card trick, no.
Craig: Oh, okay. She’s wielding and like practicing…
Brandee: I’m fidgeting with cards.
Craig: I was going to say I thought you were just going to like walk them around your hands. But now I’m distracted by the cards, which is so cool. No, no, it was good, make me deal with the cards, it’s a really good thing.
Brandee: Well I was worried that they would be too loud on the microphone and stuff.
Craig: Oh, no, we can’t even hear that. But one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is because you have a way, this is going to sound ridiculous I think, a way of lighting up practice spaces and I’ve seen you do this multiple times. At American Rendezvous, everybody wants to lob you the “okay, warm them up.” I’m going to call that a mode.
Craig: I’ve seen you do it at Art of Retreat, I’ve seen you do it at ARD multiple times and I’m wondering, do you think of that as something that you flip on? Like okay, here’s a group and these bitches are about to get their… You’re not brutal, not always brutal. So you don’t grind them into submission, but you really challenge people to bring their A-game. So I’m wondering do you have a way you think of that mode and how do you do that?
Brandee: Yes, absolutely. It’s a very conscious switchover from how I am when I’m just existing to now I am the person, the leader in parkour community who is Brandee. It’s really just a matter of thinking about generating energy, because in those moments especially with things like warm-up, especially for a large event with so many people who don’t know each other yet and this, that and the other thing, it’s really important that someone, in my opinion that the people who are in front of them are able to sort of pick up the slack. And I guess it’s almost streamlining them to where I want them to be, which is just as energetic and excited as I’m presenting myself to be. There is definitely a moment, I mean, I can be having a terrible morning and just feel garbage.
Brandee: Mm-hmm (affirmative). But once that clock ticks over and it’s time to stand in front of people, that can’t be there on the floor. Because just like you said, I can light up a room, I can also turn a room into a stormy mess, so the power goes both ways.
Craig: Do you do that on purpose?
Brandee: I can. I try not to.
Craig: Please don’t do it now.
Brandee: Yeah, well especially in younger days with less emotional control, I would do it on accident, just not be able to filter myself correctly and just bring people down. Which is not ever what I want to do. It’s just sort of that train wreck status where you’re just watching yourself be this way and then only later when I feel more regulated can I say oh, geez, I was a real asshole. So the coaching persona and the leader of a big group persona is definitely a conscious effort to just take all of my most energetic ideas and ways of being, just blast it out to everybody else.
Craig: Channel… yeah.
Brandee: Yeah. I always think of it as people talk about passion and the spark, like having a flame. So I just think of it as if I can become a ginormous bonfire, then perhaps I can start setting other people on fire, like putting out a bunch of sparks and maybe it’ll catch.
Craig: It’s like standing in front of a lighthouse, you’re just like… wow, like it sweeps by and you’re like, I better jump higher, or whatever we’re doing.
Craig: Well obviously a lot of that is just who you are, but was there anybody who was influential on you realizing that this was a flashlight that you had for the good and the bad version of the flashlight and then was there someone that helped you realize that that was a thing you could control?
Brandee: I honestly can’t pinpoint a single someone or even a handful of someones for this particular thing. I think it was just built up over the time of being in a leadership position and the many comments over time, small things over, and over, and over, and over that was showing what I was doing for people and how I was impacting people. Yeah.
Craig: If I say, think of someone or someones that you find that you admire, not to be confused with who inspire you, but somebody that you admire or multiple someones that you admire. Can you share a story about one or more of them? And you can leave the names out if you like, if you don’t want to tell who it is, but what I want to see is what do you admire about someone or someones and I want to see how admiration is manifested for you and the kinds of things that you’re drawn toward. You could say no.
Brandee: Yeah, the reason I’m taking so long is I’m trying to really establish because there’s so many people that I admire and for so many different reasons. Again, not a pinpointable… It was when this thing happened that I just grew…
Craig: So who’s the first person that comes to mind?
Brandee: When you ask me who I admire, the first person that came to mind was Caitlin Pontrella. Yeah, absolutely.
Craig: So I could say why, but I’m also going to say, just tell me, oh, random story that exemplifies something that…
Brandee: Caitlin started the Art of Retreat. She decided that we needed more connection across different communities and organizations and companies and was seeing that a lot of us were finding as much excellence as possible on our own in our own little fishbowls in the world. And was really one of the first people to pinpoint that we needed to cross those barriers and come together and that itself has been the catalysis to so many other amazing endeavors and works and more community even and education and I just think she’s the bomb.com.
Craig: What’s something that you think people get wrong about you?
Brandee: I think people think I’m an extrovert and that’s very wrong. I’m not an extrovert.
Craig: I am aware. Because I think a lot of people might say that I am an extrovert.
Brandee: Yeah. It’s more obvious over time. But if you’re just at an event or a couple classes. Heck, actually you can be in my classes for years and never know… Which goes back to what you were saying earlier about generating and coaching persona and stepping into the role of being the teacher.
Craig: So how do you recharge as an introvert?
Brandee: Normally, I just stay in my room by myself doing Brandee things. Which can be writing, playing with cards, sewing, I do a lot of little tasks and things.
Craig: I read that you were really getting into magic tricks, like hand card tricks.
Brandee: No, that’s actually untrue, I’m not getting into magic tricks at all. I’ve been manipulating cards, like card juggling and cardistry.
Craig: Okay. Why?
Brandee: I just wanted more dexterity. It was interesting, it kind of just popped up, something that’s been on my list for a long time is to become a card ninja, that how I phrase it in my own head. I want to be a card ninja.
Craig: That’s way better than cardistry.
Brandee: Yeah, I know.
Craig: Without taking my eyes out, can you throw them?
Brandee: I have been throwing them but only once I’ve beat them up enough to make it work to wreck them.
Craig: To wreck them.
Brandee: So yeah, I got home from a trip this past spring and realized I had been carrying this deck of cards in my bag this whole time for years and years and years, because among the things to carry it’s good to have entertainment for people. I was like, you know, if I’m going to keep carrying this all the time I should start doing something cool with them. So I did. That was April and I’ve only missed two or three days of practice since. It’s also very meditative for me, a lot of stimulation for my brain and it feels nice on my hands.
Craig: Which leads me to EDC, Every Day Carry. EDC is a huge thing, but what’s something that you carry that might be unexpected?
Brandee: Unexpected for me personally or unexpected for someone to carry?
Craig: Unexpected for someone who’s familiar with EDC. So if I say, oh, I have paracord tied into my bag, or I have duct tape or whatever. There’s bunch of things, I have a knife. But what’s a piece of EDC that would be unexpected for someone that knows what EDC is?
Brandee: I always carry the I Ching, the I Ching with me.
Craig: To throw? Because the I Ching is kind of a big book. Kindling or what?
Brandee: It’s a book, it’s a book. There are some smaller translations of it that are not as ginormous.
Craig: Okay, so I’m assuming you mean to read it as opposed to…
Brandee: Yes, to read it, to refer to it, yes.
Craig: I mean, I have seen people carry a book because they’re going to use it for kindling to start a fire, which is like dried paper. Assuming you’re reading it, are there particular passages from the I Ching that you find yourself reading more often than not or there are things about it that you go to like, “I’m stuck on X and I have found that going to the I Ching got me on?”
Brandee: It’s not so much I go to specific passages. I mean when I started the practice it was in a time where I was very stressed out and felt like I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was either going to lash out in some way or just go crazy and lose myself.
Brandee: What I would do, is when I started feeling that way, I would just open to a random passage and then read that passage and then just apply whatever I read to whatever I was feeling. That’s just still how I do it. Sometimes I’ll make a point to study and just go through and study them one by one. But for the most part it’s just if I feel like I need something to remind me or chill me out.
Craig: Get out of the rut.
Brandee: Yeah, just something. I just open it.
Craig: All I’m really doing is asking all of the questions that I want to ask, I’m like I don’t have a… Favorite food?
Craig: Oh, we’re going to get along.
Brandee: Yeah, I love sushi.
Craig: With or without additional soy sauce?
Brandee: Usually without.
Craig: High-five across the table.
Brandee: If there’s something funky like a California roll, I might use soy sauce, but if it’s good, fresh salmon, why would I do that?
Craig: Why would you eat a California roll?
Brandee: I don’t know.
Craig: Sometimes California rolls are people who want to eat sushi but don’t want to eat sushi, they want to eat… yeah.
Brandee: My favorite sushi place is Musashi’s here in the city. Make a point to go there before you leave. Musashi’s, is that where we’re going tonight? What’s today?
Craig: We’re leaving tomorrow morning.
Brandee: Oh my gosh, guys let’s go to Musashi’s.
Craig: Okay. And we’re done. It’s was a pleasure.
Brandee: Miguel, we’re going to Musashi’s.
Craig: It was a pleasure talking to you, Brandee. What else do inquiring minds want to know? When I say the word “unusual,” who’s the first person you think of?
Craig: Well played, I am going to remember that as an answer to any random question people at you. Successful?
Brandee: Successful. Successful. That’s interesting. I started with Blake actually. Blake Evitt and then kind of the whole PK GEN Americas team, They just seem very successful to me, like they keep going and getting better at everything.
Craig: I would say, you keep going you’re better at everything too.
Brandee: Yeah. Yeah. I’m successful.
Craig: You’re making this interesting, because it’s like where are the in-roads to…
Brandee: Here’s the thing, I’m coming off the Art of Retreat, so all these people are still in my head and really fresh, fresh in my brain, just meeting all of them. And I’m like, oh, I’m so proud of everybody, because everybody’s so cool.
Craig: It is a definite coagulation of cool.
Craig: Very good, that was actually a test to see whether you would pull that one out of your hat. What was the other one I had the other day? It was oh, people who design parkour parks would be park-itects.
Craig: Parkour-chitects. Actually I think it’s better parkour-chitects.
Brandee: Parkour-chitect. Yeah.
Craig: Parkour-chitecture. Do you have any fun, I was going to say linguistic ticks, but tick is the wrong word. Do you have any fun linguistic games that you enjoy playing? Like for example, can you curse in any languages other than English?
Brandee: No, no. English is the language I curse in the most.
Craig: The language of sailorship.
Brandee: Yes, because I’ll say in German…
Craig: But I know some people travel the world like, “I can curse in 17 languages, including Ancient Norse.”
Brandee: It never occurred to me to do something like that. It never occurred to me to…
Craig: You need to talk to Evan Beyer.
Brandee: Oh, I would never talk to that guy.
Craig: Well at least communicate in guttural utterances.
Brandee: We can grunt back and forth.
Craig: Grunt back and forth across the circle of fire.
Brandee: I can maybe handle that.
Craig: But yes, him and some other people I’ve always spotted them with little notebooks like, “you speak Finnish, how do I say…” And then he’s like, “okay, don’t ever say this to anybody” and they’re writing it down phonetically, they’re trying to make it [crosstalk 00:18:34].
Brandee: Yeah, I don’t really have that.
Craig: Where are you from originally?
Brandee: I’m from Seattle.
Craig: Seattle. So what’s the farthest you’ve ever been from Seattle.
Brandee: I’ve been to Melbourne, Australia.
Craig: Well, that’s the other side, so you’ve been all around the globe.
Craig: What took you to Melbourne?
Brandee: Parkour. Teaching parkour to people there.
Craig: Should have guessed that.
Brandee: It’s the reason why I travel for anything. Either that or a parkour person’s wedding.
Craig: Parkour weddings are the best. I’ve been to one, two… Two parkour weddings. I think two.
Craig: Yeah. You know what my favorite part of the parkour wedding is? The other side of the family going “what’s going on here, what are these people doing? You can’t have fun at a wedding? What’s the matter with you, sir?”
Craig: Yeah, people get in our giant major Janga sets, like, “should you people be on top of the swing set,” and all sorts of fun things.
Brandee: It’s beautiful.
Craig: Yes, I think it is. It is literally a celebration. What’s one question, like a rhetorical question, like what’s the meaning of life? What’s a rhetorical question that you wish everybody would spend time thinking about?
Brandee: I don’t think I want to choose a rhetorical question, I want to choose a question that people actually want to answer and keep asking over and over again. And that would be, what am I doing right now or what could I be doing very soon to improve humanity? Yeah, I dropped that on a class I covered at the Chainstore in London to a bunch of adults and blew their minds, they didn’t have any quick answers for me. But again, the inquiry is the point.
Craig: You know what my answer is?
Brandee: What’s that?
Craig: We’re doing it right now. Facilitate conversation.
Brandee: I agree.
Craig: Do you know my definition? Here’s a pop quiz to see whether you’ve listened to other episodes or not. She just nodded negatively, vigorously, like nope. Do you know what my definition of success is for the podcast?
Brandee: I don’t.
Craig: If one person, preferably more, but if one person is listening, after hearing the interview with the guest, feels like they know them well enough that they can walk up to them and start a conversation and skip the “oh my god, I love you on Instagram, that’s such a cool thing.” They walk up to you and say “I heard you ask that question and I thought of X or Y.”
Craig: So that the benefactors would be the guests would have more interesting conversations start and that people would walk up to them. That’s my definition of success. I don’t know if that’s ever happened yet, so I keep telling guests this so that I’m hoping someday somebody will message me like “oh my god, it finally happened, somebody came up and said…”
Brandee: Yeah, I’ll message you like, “Craig, people won’t stop talking to me and it’s your fault.”
Craig: “Ruh-oh, Raggy.” Did I mention I moved to Florida? I live in the panhandle of Florida now.
Brandee: No, you didn’t. Really? Is this for real?
Craig: This is misinformation, so that when you come after me…
Brandee: Okay. I was like, that sounds really not like something you’d be doing.
Craig: At least she’s starting in the wrong corner of the continental US. Yeah, I’m in Idaho.
Brandee: Don’t underestimate me.
Craig: No, I’m not underestimating, this way I can set you off in the wrong direction. Because I think there is another version, that there is another Craig Constantine that lives in Florida. Do you have a doppelganger?
Brandee: I’ve been told over and over and over from people all over the place that there are doppelgangers of me, I’ve not met any of those people. I do have a twin. I have a twin brother.
Craig: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Brandee: Yeah, we’re not that… as far as the way we look.
Craig: You’d be fraternal twins, right?
Brandee: We are fraternal, yes.
Craig: I thought of a really dumb joke, like what’s the difference between… But we only do jokes. What?
Brandee: I’m just laughing at you.
Craig: You’re just laughing at me.
Brandee: Laughing at you. Not with you, at you, definitely.
Craig: Yes, definitely. I mean, right, dance monkey. So I’ve had lots of conversation with people obviously about parkour itself and I’m wondering, do you think that parkour is a unique thing? And maybe the first thing I should do is say I actually think of parkour with a capital ‘P’ as being the thing that David Bell does and the little ‘p’ parkour being the organic thing that we are all co-creating.
Craig: So when I hear, Parkour Generations, I think little ‘p’ parkour and when I say I do parkour, I mean little ‘p’ parkour, because I’ve never met David Bell and don’t know what he does. So I don’t feel qualified to say I do capital ‘P’ parkour. But this is how my twisted brain works with language. Do you think little ‘p’ parkour is a unique thing?
Brandee: Yes, I believe that all of parkour is a unique thing, big ‘P’ or little ‘p.’ And it’s unique in that it has its own name, we have our own cultures and techniques in the community, not to say that the techniques we’re using are exclusively just parkour techniques. Things like the step vault or step through you’re going to see in a MovNat tripod and you’re going to see it in [cabretta 00:23:48]. You’re going to see it all over the place, because it’s a human position that works really well to stay balanced and go places.
Brandee: But what makes parkour unique, in my opinion, is the way that we have built ourselves our own industry and the way that we still have this ability to do our practice anywhere with nothing. There are very few practices I can think of that can be done anywhere with nothing and then have that addition community aspect where you can literally go anywhere in the world, find somebody through the internet and they will take you in and show you around. That’s still pretty unique. Now is it the only thing that’s like that? No. It’s almost like we’re unique but not special.
Brandee: But as far as the big ‘P, little ‘p’ parkour, free running of displacements, I have opinions. I would love to see a new umbrella term for what people are doing, because from my personal practice, I really do value the approach to parkour that is meant for application for the good of others and the advocation for utility. That’s not always practicing that way necessarily, I still play around in all these things.
Brandee: But that to me is what parkour is, is training for utility. And I think everything else is valid. It’s a little bit of a mouthful, but I think looking at all of these things as obstacle-based disciplines and then breaking out from there is what I would prefer. So under obstacle-based disciplines, you have parkour, you have free running, you have Ninja Warrior, you have MovNat, because all of them are in involving all of these obstacles and at Univ was obstacle course racing.
Craig: Obstacle course racing.
Brandee: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Which all of these things were pretty much blowing up in societies right now. Everyone’s like oh, that’s really compelling, that’s really awesome. When we do have things like Ninja Warrior to thank for that. And I think also just the way that in this time of civilization I think people are starting to really feel that we’re not moving enough and notice that gosh, I see this on the TV and I feel something. I feel the something that I want to try it. I think we get tunnel visioned in parkour land to think that ours is the only thing that’s going to do the transformative properties.
Craig: To save the human race.
Brandee: Yeah, exactly. And really that’s just not true, it’s just one aspect of using the environment, using the world to do what we want to do for ourselves.
Craig: This may sound disconnected to people who are listening but you’re known for, I’m going to say you distinguish teaching the student something versus creating an experience for the students. An experiential teaching pedagogy. Sorry about that. Assuming that I’m right…
Brandee: I would say you’re right. Well I would add…
Craig: So why? Yeah, change it up, fix it.
Brandee: Yeah, I would fix it in that I want both to be together. I don’t want to just teach people, I want them to be experiencing something, because what is better than feeling like you did something? That’s what really impacts people and gives them something to remember. It’s not oh, I went in and that person showed me how to get over this wall. Its, I went in there, I was shown how to get over this wall and then I got to do it, or I got to apply it somehow or I got to put myself against a challenge involving this skill. It has to go together for me, because I have no interest in running just a fitness class for people or copy and paste.
Craig: That’s a good metaphor.
Brandee: Yeah, it’s no good for me. Because also for me, I’ve been at this 13 years, I don’t want to get bored by going and I just run the same thing over and over and over and I’m not actually responding to what’s there and by what’s there, who’s there, then I’m not doing my job and I’m not honoring my own experience if I’m not looking at these classes and workshops and events as I’m with these people. Yes, it’s a big group, but every single one, they’re an individual and that’s what I’m trying to speak to as best as possible all at once.
Craig: I wonder if we could play five card poker while we… because we’re just messing with cards on the table right here. How do you figure out what experience to create, because I have no clue how to do this. I’m just like, “the what?” How do you figure out what experience to create for this student?
Brandee: Yeah, that’s a great question, well, there’s a few things that have to go into that and one of them is the fact that you can’t create the best experience for everyone at the same time. Just recognizing that whatever I’ve decided is going to work for some, but maybe not all. If it’s a group of people that I expect to see over and over, then I’m having the benefit of asking them the question of the day every single day. I
Brandee: mentioned before that I asked that group in London what they’re doing to improve humanity. I know, yeah. Because sometimes with kids, its like, what’s your favorite color? Or if you could have any magical creature that you could have as your companion what would it be?
Brandee: So what I’m doing with that is a few things. First I’m just giving them a voice in the session. We start right away, you tell me your name, so I’m going to be able to remember your name and use it. That’s a great way to have a good experience is having someone who cares about you enough to remember your name and to use.
Craig: Remember your name.
Brandee: Also, it’s just more effective as an instructor. And then the question of the day, even if it’s a very trivial question, it’s still going to tell me a lot of information about that person. Do they feel comfortable speaking in front of a group, are they the person who wants to tell me the story for ages and ages. Do they feel severely uncomfortable in front of the group. Basically, by just asking a question and having everyone answer it in their own way, I’ve now created a tiny dossier on that person. And that’s information I’m going to use subsequently in the session or future sessions or whatever.
Brandee: Now when it’s something like a large group, like 100 people for a warm-up and I can’t come around and ask everybody their name and that’s when I’m appealing to them instead is really just trying to build a sense of connection for people. I know that’s what people really want and why they come to big events and train together.
Craig: Connection with you or connection with each other?
Brandee: With each other. With each other, yeah. I mean, they end up feeling connected to me by the way I’m doing it and the way I’m presenting myself. But really it’s whatever tactics and techniques, whatever tools I’m giving them. Whether it’s a game, mess with a partner or we’re all doing something together, it’s really designed to give them a sense of not being alone in the endeavor, because parkour is something that we definitely do alone. But we do it alone together.
Craig: Alone in parallel was how I’ve heard it put.
Brandee: Yeah, in parallel. So that’s kind of what I’m aiming for with those sort of sub-sessions. Then I also just choose what I want people to have. I just make goals for people, what I want them to leave with. So an example of that is recently at the Rendezvous in London, I guess it was the 14th Rendezvous or something.
Craig: You are correct.
Brandee: And I had on the Sunday, after warm-up, I had the most experienced group, Group 5. And I knew it was going to be pissing rain and we were out at this lovely park with trees and rocks and dirt, which is one of my favorite things of all time. I’m thinking this whole time ahead, oh gosh, what am I going to give these guys, they’re like the most experienced group. Self-selected as the best, the biggest jumpers, blah, blah, blah. And they are, they really are. And they spent this whole weekend being told to break jumps and doing sketchy climbs and doing feats of strength and honestly, doing things that they’re already really comfortable with. Sure you’re breaking that jump and it’s scary, but you’ve broken a jump before. So in a way, you’re still in a place of comfort.
Brandee: So what I saw my role to be, and what I decided as a goal for them, was I saw my role to be I want to make these guys and gals actually uncomfortable. I want them to actually have a challenge that’s not like something they’ve seen before, that’s not like something they’re expecting or have done before, because that’s my job is to give them a challenge and to have them face something new in themselves.
Brandee: That’s how I built my session is it was why it was going to be the most surprising and the most uncomfortable I could think of to have them to. Which ended up having them strip down to their skivvies and rub dirt all over themselves and run around barefoot and climb a really large slippery tree with their eyes closed.
Craig: That’s pretty uncomfortable.
Brandee: It was so uncomfortable for them.
Craig: The only thing that you missed was partner carries, strip down to your skivvies and partner carry.
Brandee: We didn’t do partner carries, I had them do leaf catchings with my favorite autumn games. You go out in anywhere nice and just wait still until you see a leaf falling and then you try your best to get there and catch it. So you have fifteen half-naked parkour people…
Craig: Covered in dirt.
Brandee: Covered in dirt.
Craig: Standing around
Brandee: Standing around and then running around grabbing for leaves. And all these Londoners are walking through it with their dogs, trying to take pictures.
Craig: That’s good.
Brandee: Then you have, again, half-naked humans… More than half-naked humans, let’s be honest, on a giant fallen tree slowly calling with their eyes shut. I mean, they don’t look like those m ajestic parkour experts.
Craig: But they really are.
Brandee: They are, yeah. And that was the goal is to get us out of that state and into one that is going to actually elevate them.
Craig: Give me another example of an experience you created like that. Maybe one, that one’s pretty gnarly. Not gnarly like hey, there’s laws about that, but gnarly like, okay, you put them through some hurt. But I’m guessing you also created experiences that are just bonkers joyful, or are they always gnarly?
Brandee: No, they’re not always gnarly. This is actually something that I’ve come to really embrace in my own self as an instructor is I just don’t think we need to suffer all the time. There’s definitely times you need to suffer for training and do the [inaudible 00:34:22] up the stairs backwards over and over. I actually quite love that kind of stuff. And hard training and scary stuff and putting yourself against it. But I also think that it’s really important to recognize that there’s an everyday practice as well, and that suffering all the time is not sustainable as a practice. It’s great for testing and it’s great for, again, the experience. If I was going to choose something more casual and less gnarly, I would have to say the summer camp I ran last year. I ran a ninja summer camp, I called it Way of the Ninja and I co-taught it with Evan Beyer.
Craig: Oh my God.
Brandee: Yeah, it was a week, six hours a day for a week with a group of twenty kids.
Craig: With Evan and Brandee.
Craig: How did I not get invited?
Brandee: Because it was a kids summer camp.
Craig: Was there a weight limit? Sorry.
Brandee: Although there have been adults since who have asked us to do it for them, so maybe we’ll get there someday. Yeah? A ninja summer camp with me and Evan? I see some raised hands over here. Well, great. I’ll talk to him about that. So yeah, so in this camp, basically what I started with was first of all, what are the skills I want these kids to have that I’m probably sure they don’t have? Things like knot tying and fort building.
Brandee: When I got there and I asked, hey guys, when’s the last time you built a fort? The majority of them couldn’t remember or had never done it. A fort! Not even a blanket fort. Because I asked, I was like, okay, what about an inside fort? They’re just not doing that. And I wanted them to have first aid skills, I wanted them to know how to respond to someone getting hurt and what to do with that. I wanted to teach them meditation skills, we did meditations everyday.
Brandee: I started the first day with those five minutes. I explained go them what meditation was and various ways of meditation. Definitely as that week went on, they learned more about it than just sitting still. But the first day it was five, then it was ten, fifteen, twenty, and then even twenty-five minutes of mediation. And by the fifth day, I was having kids come up to me and ask, “hey, is it okay if I work on my fort for meditation?” Or “hey, is it okay if I keep working on this knot thing for my meditation?” And I’m like, “yes, of course.”
Craig: Let me think about that. Oh, yes.
Brandee: Yeah. Yeah, you can absolutely go and do the things you need to do to be quiet with yourself and reflect. Gosh, yeah we did stealth mode and taught them how to camouflage and what it’s like to hide. It was so fun, because you have twenty kids.
Brandee: Twenty-two children, because two of them happen to be older and smarter.
Craig: Large, right.
Brandee: Maybe not smarter actually, that’s debatable. And then having them just disappear into the woods, like looking out and just seeing nothing and then having then kind of come out of the… oh, it was so exciting. So yeah, it was just based on what I wanted them to have and my own desire when I was a kid. What would I have loved? What did I crave as a child and how do I give it to these kids? So really, it was just doing what I was doing as a kid, just more affectively and organized-like. It was really fun. I told them how to make ghillie suits and use ferns and tie them to their bodies. I’ll show you the picture at some point. They’re adorable.
Craig: So on your way over here, what were you thinking, like “I hope we manage to talk about…”
Brandee: Well, I was thinking you’d have some more pointed questions after having hounded me for four years to come sit here and speak to you through a microphone.
Craig: I didn’t bring any pointed questions. All my instruments were blunt instruments, rusty instruments designed to inflict… No.
Brandee: Yeah, like an amputation spoon? I stole that joke from Eric [Desino 00:38:25].
Brandee: Eric Desino. I don’t think you caught this time around, but definitely should at some point.
Craig: That’s a good… My amputation spoon. Is it at least a spork?
Brandee: No, otherwise I would say amputation spork, Mr. Language Guy. Well, again, coming off of Art Of Retreat, I do have to think of the sessions that I ran. One was a hands-on session, actually it was kind of funny, because I was like, oh, hands-on, I better teach massage. It actually went really well. It was sort of the first I taught a group at massage. But my second session, I gave it some funky name, like Self-Altruism Parkour and Being Useful.
Craig: Self-Altruism and Parkour.
Brandee: Really because when I tend make an Art of Retreat presentations and such, I start with the description first, because otherwise I get in trouble for not submitting one. So then I submit one and then later figuring out what that means.
Craig: What the session is going to be.
Brandee: Yeah. I have to be honest, even up until that moment of teaching it, heck, even starting the session I say everyone, look, this is still a half-baked idea.
Craig: Working progress, right?
Brandee: We’re going to do some baking here. I need you to help me. Essentially, what I brought to the table was that we as in a lot of parkour people, community, maybe not so much the newer practitioners, for the most part heard phrases like, “be strong and to be useful.”
Craig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brandee: Have you heard that before?
Craig: That’s “être fort pour être utile.”
Brandee: Yeah, that’s nice, yeah. The original way.
Craig: What the hell does that mean?
Brandee: Exactly. What does it mean and why do we keep saying it? And why do we keep saying it if maybe we’re not doing it. So we started with the history of where that came from. Talking about Georges Hébert helping save 700 people during a volcanic eruption and how his method came out of that. And he says, he’s like, look, athleticism should be used for morality. If you’re just doing for sport, that’s not enough, you’re not going far enough. I’ve really taken to that. That for me has always been very, very true.
Brandee: First we start with the question, what does it mean “to be strong, to be useful” What is strong? Strong physically, strong mentally, strong emotionally. What is useful? Useful for you? And this is why I said self-altruism, it’s a little bit of an oxymoron because often it’s meant to be for helping others.
Brandee: In fact, I personally define it as making other people’s problems my problems. But we’re really, really good at doing it for ourselves. We’re really great at using parkour just to elevate our courage and our confidence and our physical health and our emotional health through our communities and we’re so, so, so good at applying it for us. How often are we actually using any of this for anyone else?
Brandee: Again, not saying that this is the one and only way to practice parkour. I mean, I’m not going to diminish anyone’s version of it. But it is important to me if we’re going to keep saying it, we better take a look at what that is. Also, I would expand it further, because “to be strong, to be useful” is great, but it’s really, really narrow. Because you could also be “educated, to be useful.” Or “compassionate, to be useful” or “aware to be useful” or just “present to be useful”. Right? I mean, have you ever helped someone push their car when they broke down? Yeah, of course. Okay, so you’re a couple of things, strong and there and most importantly, willing to be useful.
Craig: Willing, motivated, right. Useful.
Brandee: Yes, because here’s the deal, is we have all these nifty skills and there’s a lot of needs that our skills can meet. But if you’re not making that choice and using the will and the decision to do anything about it, well then you’re just not.
Brandee: So, yeah, the skill and need met with will, was pretty much the basis of this conversation. And then within that, I suggest that we choose communities that we care about outside of the parkour community to bring the benefits that we have found to them. In this presentation, I chose first-responders, but it can be anybody. It can be the homelessness populations, or actually someone in the class, she’s been learning sign language so that she can teach parkour classes for hard of hearing and deaf folks, which is really exciting and cool. I was like, yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter who you’re choosing as long as, in opinion, you’re choosing someone outside of you and giving back a bit with that and just looking at what that structure could be like.
Brandee: Then along with that, taking a look at restructuring parkour instruction in general, because we know that if I practice parkour long enough or free running or whatever, I’m going to get better at things. I’m going to get stronger, better at jumping, probably get more courageous, right? Have a better sense of what I can do as far as my abilities. So it will happen over time, I will gain these benefits.
Brandee: But why wait? Why wait to see if someone sticks around long enough to gain the benefits of self-coaching or gain the knowledge of self-control through parkour techniques, when I can actually just flip it around and build a whole curriculum and teach these cool moves and jumping and swinging from a basis of values and a basis of building ourselves up on purpose with the intent of transformation.
Brandee: So that’s what I’ve been working on recently is just completely restructuring the way that I want to have myself and coaches at Parkour Visions look at either things like an hour-long afterschool class. Can I take a 12-week, hour-long afterschool class and teach the kids about themselves and about the world and still make sure that they have enough fun in jumping? That’s the challenge. So I’m pretty excited about what’s coming actually. It’s the one tool to rule them all, it’s going to be very amazing.
Craig: How about some English and grammar, has there been anyone in particular that you can point to as an influence on your coaching style?
Craig: I’m going to actually think that’s a serious answer and I’m going to say, okay, so what about Oprah’s… I don’t want to unpack it too… what about Oprah’s personal style or her vision?
Brandee: I didn’t realize it until actually rather recently when I gave myself a month of using only Oprah gifs for responding to people.
Craig: Wait, run that by me again. Only Oprah gifs?
Brandee: Only Oprah gifts. I don’t remember why, I was like, there are so many gifs. Gifs? No one calls them… Sorry, someone said gifs and it’s not good. It’s a gif.
Craig: Oh, okay, because I thought you said gifts.
Brandee: Well, I mean that’s part of what it is, she was like, “you get compassion, and you get transformation and you get this.”
Craig: I get it, I get it. Come the old, slow guy.
Brandee: But what I mean is the meme.
Craig: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yeah. I’m with you now.
Brandee: Someone texts me and I have a response and I chose…
Craig: And it’s always an Oprah gif.
Brandee: Yeah, because there’s so many and she’s so expressive. Then as I was going through, I was realizing oh my gosh… because I used to watch Oprah all the time as a kid, like religiously. I was like, my goodness. I think I just straight up stole Oprah’s mannerisms in some ways. Because she’d always stand up there, I’d be really excited in front of people and give them the kind of intro to the thing and then talk and lean in when she’s listening to people and feel okay about crying in front of the whole nation/world. Just everything that Oprah embodied in her show, again, I realized this really, really, recently, I was like yep, Oprah’s one of my main inspirations for sure. And it’s definitely come out in my coaching style.
Craig: I’m going to guess that since you are not an ongoing, all-the-time extrovert that you get dark moods, that you’re like, I do not want the happy cave today. We don’t necessarily have to go into the unhappy cave, but I’m wondering what are some things that seem to always help you turn the corner?
Craig: So for me it’s I know if I go for a walk that’s almost, not always, almost always enough to make it so I can go back into the cave of ugliness and get back to work kind of thing. So what are some things that will help you turn that corner, brighten you up or energize you?
Brandee: Yeah, that’s a great question, because I do get very dark moods pretty often actually, because with compassion comes the pain of caring so much about all these people and all this situation, it feels very futile a lot of times, like what can I do to change this. Yeah, I get there and I have a few tactics, I basically build protocols for myself for when I get in those moods. So one of the first things I go to is my self-esteem box.
Craig: This sounds like a good idea.
Brandee: And my self-esteem box is digital, it’s a digital self-esteem box and what I have done, is I have taken screenshots and copy/pasted and just jumped in all kinds of nice things that people have said, either to me or about me over the years.
Brandee: So I have this file that is just full of gratitude and compliments and just stuff that I have had to read over and over and over in order to actually believe it. So that’s actually more like last resort is the self-esteem box. If nothing else works, open the self-esteem box, look through here.
Craig: In case of emergency, break glass, right?
Brandee: Totally. Totally. So that’s something I think everyone could and should do that. I guess I’ve never really told anyone about that. But it’s a nice thing.
Craig: I think that’s a really good tactic. People talk about doing gratitude journaling, but the gratitude journaling. I mean, I know that you know what it is, but gratitude journaling is a process which you have to execute on the spot when you feel like you’re having a bad mood. But the idea of having a self-esteem box is a clever one.
Brandee: Why, thank you.
Craig: What else might you go to before you break the glass on that one?
Brandee: Yeah, so I also will do a walk, I’d be outside. So if I have a day off or something, I say okay, you have to be outside and take at least a walk. That can be up the street and back down. I don’t have to put a limit on that because the point is to just do the one thing. One thing and then do the next one thing.
Brandee: I watch my own parkour videos a lot of times. The reason I make parkour videos in the first place on my YouTube is a journal for myself. So actually, I find myself, especially in the nighttime where I’m just really down, I’m just like, I’m not doing anything, I’m not getting any better, I’m just terrible, why do people trust me to be a leader? He’s rolling his eyes in case you didn’t tell.
Craig: You are too humble, right?
Brandee: This is how my brain chemistry works, right? So yeah, I go back and I watch my videos and there’s one that I made specifically for this purpose is the one it’s called “Opportunitrees” and it’s I think my only video that I’ve made where I actually planned the routes, I planned the scenes, kind of put it together while the rest of them are just clips that are together.
Brandee: But I made it to remind me what it feels like to be in summertime happiness, full energy, loving life and loving the world. So I’ll go and watch that one for sure.
Craig: We’ll link this stuff all up in the show, so people can find it pretty quickly. Anything else that you go through?
Brandee: Well now, I guess this is still relatively new, it’s just last nine months I just talked to Elizabeth, my girlfriend.
Craig: Go-to soulmate.
Brandee: Yeah, she’s amazing. She will not let me weigh myself down. She just refuses. Someone asked me the other day, I was supporting someone who reached out to me at the retreat and I was talking about what would be good is finding someone who is just relentlessly optimistic. Yeah. It can be hard too, because that’s a lot of energy and boisterousness.
Brandee: Yeah, and that’s what I was asked is like well, aren’t you afraid you’re going to bring her down? I was like, no.
Craig: Good luck with that.
Brandee: Exactly. She’s way too stubborn for that. She won’t even let me bring her and more myself down. That is also a really lovely aspect to my life now. I haven’t had to look at my self-esteem box for nine months.
Craig: Terrific. I was going to say, what’s something you have always wanted to do but that’s way hard. But what’s something that comes to mind when I ask you what do you want to do? Some people want to climb a mountain, some people want to affect the change in the world and I’m guessing you’re probably going to go there. But what’s something that you really want to do like next year?
Brandee: Next year. Well, I always want to go to new places and teach in new communities. Next year. That gets a little too close to making a SMART goal, Craig. What I was going to say first was…
Craig: My eyes are crossed, I’m like, oh, please. Okay, 18 months.
Brandee: I want to write and publish novels.
Craig: Can you let a little bit more out? Fiction, non-fiction?
Brandee: Fictional future history.
Craig: That’s good stuff. Can you let slip a teaser of a storyline or you haven’t gotten that far?
Brandee: Oh, I’ve gotten so far and then stopped. There’s things I’ve been working on for fifteen years at this point.
Craig: Oh, this process needs to be expedited.
Brandee: Yeah, exactly.
Craig: Do you feel like sharing any of the stories? You don’t have to, I mean, some people write just for themselves.
Brandee: Well, that’s the goal. I have a goal to share eventually the stories, they’re just not complete or in place to do that yet. I have over time too, if anyone wants to get really silly and see what teenage Brandee used to write like, oh my gosh, it’s cringy, it’s so cringy. But it’s still on the internet. It’s still out there. I think my name is still… Monkey Moves is still my handle across the whole internet, so if you just look up “Monkey Moves” and “writing” or “FictionPress” or whatever, there are some vampire…
Craig: Melissa is typing frantically. We may have a read-in.
Brandee: We have zombie stories out there, because I was using it as coping when I was a teenager.
Craig: Find me something about 300 words.
Brandee: 300 words. Yeah, it’s cringy. But there’s some poetry in there too probably.
Craig: Oh, right. One of the downsides of not working from notes is that I can’t even have a bullet list to work from and I wanted to ask about what is it about poetry that draws you in? Like is it the form? Is it the normal prose? I actually think prose might be more restrictive than poetry. But then I’m just why poetry?
Brandee: Well, honestly I don’t know. A lot of times my prose are more like poetry and my poetry’s more like prose.
Brandee: Pros-etrys, yeah. I don’t know, i just know that when I have really big thoughts or feel overwhelmed or have something to extract from my brain, it just comes out and a lot of times will have a cadence, has a particular visual build up around what’s happening. Also just a lot of the things I write down, I write as if they were being spoken. A lot of that too is something sensory, the way it sounds or the way it feels to say the thing.
Craig: Like I think it’s a Carl Sagan quote, which I can only paraphrase, which is something to the affect of human beings can work magic and he’s basically talking about books and writing, how somebody who is long dead can create a specific thought in my mind just by me moving these gelatinous orbs over these inks stained on trees. And we still call books, books have leaves. There’s a whole bunch of things about it still being like a tree even after we’ve reduced it to pulp. I was just curious about poetry. Not that I’m going to say dance monkey, but do you happen to have any poetry that you can recite off of the top of your head?
Brandee: If you want me to take four minutes I do.
Craig: We can take a silence pause, which we’ll delete out of the finished thing, but yeah, if you want to whip one out.
Brandee: Okay. But it lasts like four minutes. That’s what I’m saying.
Craig: Oh, if you could recite a four minute poem off the top of your head, that would be awesome.
Brandee: I’m going to recite the poem, I am going to pull it up too, just because usually when i know I’m going to recite it I run it through a couple times in my brain.
Craig: How did you not expect me to go here?
Brandee: I don’t know.
Craig: Did you really not expect me to go to the poetry thing?
Brandee: Yes. I didn’t think about it. It didn’t occur to me.
Craig: Oh, we got to get to the good stuff.
Brandee: Because I don’t think of myself as a poet among the thing, I am, but I didn’t realize it. That’s how you get really, really creative. Okay.
Craig: I think you only get one chance at doing an interview, you’re never going to talk to me again so you got to do all the stuff.
Brandee: No, I have to get back at you and body check you. We have to have a body check competition.
Craig: Wow, I didn’t make that much of a thing out of it, but you really just surprise the crap out of me.
Brandee: Yeah, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’m pretty tough though.
Craig: It’s always a good sign. When people get physical, like I got a flying body check with no warning.
Brandee: Okay. I’m going to try this without having…
Craig: For the first time ever in history.
Brandee: Yeah, right. No people have heard this.
Craig: Thousands of people have heard this before?
Brandee: Not thousands of people, no way. Maybe a total of thirty people have heard this before.
Craig: You’re about to deliver a poem to more than thirty people, but go for it.
Brandee: Yeah, it’s fine. It’s fine. It’s called On growing Wings.
Brandee: First of all, it really itches. All the time, very deep, where it’s too gruesome to try and scratch. It’s like inside and around the spine, this sharp, electric type of itching that nothing but patience ever relieves. And then there’s inflammation.
Brandee: Dang it, I got to stop. It’s so hard, because you guys are just staring at me.
Craig: I’ll freaking leave the room if you would like me too.
Brandee: No, no, no. I can do this. I’m just like…
Craig: I want to point out that she wasn’t reading off her phone, she just cold delivered that and you’re only getting half of it by listening to it.
Brandee: No, we’ll do it, because normally I stand up to [inaudible 00:57:41].
Craig: Well, but then you need to pick the mic up. Brandee showed up.
Brandee: I’m here. I just need more arm movement.
Craig: Take some of the loops off of there.
Brandee: Okay, okay. On Growing Wings.
Brandee: First of all, it really itches. All the time, very deep, where it would be too gruesome to try and scratch. It’s like inside of the spine, an acute, electric kind of itching that nothing but patience ever relieves. And then there’s inflammation. Everything’s trying to encapsulate tight and hot and angry. Sometimes it’s only one. The other side’s just hanging around, aching dully, but mostly they flare simultaneously, creating dread with every arm movement. Always expecting the sharp, dense pain that will cause you to catch your breath. And this goes on for weeks.
Brandee: Then it’s almost like the itching begins to flow up through the layers of soft tissue, broadening as it becomes increasingly subdermal, but then just pinpointing one day at the back of each scapula, right there on the surface. And this, you scratch. It itches so fiercely you wear your roughest shirts, knowing you’ll lean on the walls trying to create enough friction between you and them to chase the irritation away. You’ll discover yourself reaching over your shoulders as far back as you can scratching, rubbing and tenderly palpating your changing tissues. You’re shifting. Your bones are going longer, more dense, preparing to hold great weight, growing wings.
Brandee: And just when you’re ready to lose it from the frustration of the itching, the skin breaks and it’s ugly. A hundred hairline fissures in largest defensive organ. Your back feels heavier, fuller, skin raw and wet. Growing wings and all you have to show for it are your strangely larger scapula and a prickly, weepy rash. It’s all the time and all you can do is wait.
Brandee: But you can feel the shadow where your wings will be. Like your nervousness has already laid the groundwork and is trying to link with the poise that just aren’t there yet. Soon, but until then, the tingly fiery, mean itchiness drags on. Some days are easier than other days, but it’s always strange. Sometimes awful and occasionally excruciating.
Brandee: And then the fever. Night sweats, terror dreams, nightmares that your wings will never grow, that if they do, they won’t be able to hold you. Your whole body hurts with fever and your mind with your aching heart, when will they be here? Will they be here? You writhe out of agony for days and then finally falling into a deep, still sleep.
Brandee: And when you wake, the rash has subsided and you have downy soft feathers or rough or leathery skin and those are your type of wings. And somewhere in there, you got your new bones and muscles. It was so unusual, undersized and unsure, all twitchy and weak, but you can control them, stretch them, flex them, reach them out. You can even see them just by looking over your shoulder. Your funny baby wings. They do ache still and they won’t so much as slow you down in a fall, but you can feel them growing.
Brandee: So you care for them gently, stretching, massaging and moving them daily. You stand in front of the mirror, taking the extra time, twisting and twerking, trying to get a better view. You get new sensations from them. Temperature, pressure, the direction the air moves around you as you walk. They’re almost like antennae, where you almost start to feel the frequencies of people’s emotions through your wings. You’re feeling more because you are more, it’s not like they’re just stuck on there. They are you. Brand new, super sensitive, someday crazy powerful wings.
Brandee: But it’s still awkward. Not everyone has seen someone growing wings and some people misunderstand, being uncomfortable when they’re near or just judging you. And not only that, little baby wings get really cold very easily, so all winter you’re just this strange Gollum huddling under a coat. Some people point. Others stare, still others just ask, “what’s wrong with you?” And with enough practice or patience, you just shrug your little wings saying I’m growing something awesome. Thanks for noticing. And then you do.
Brandee: More weeks and months and maybe years and maybe years and all those people who have grown used to your new stature and you’ve honed the abilities to sense and feel and stretch and flap your wings are fully grown. You can envelop yourself with them, warm and shielded. You can expand them to reach around others, many others, way more than your arms could ever hold. You figure out how to dress around them, how to sleep without going numb. They’re fully grown and honestly, having these awesome wings makes all that suffering all right. And you have everything you need now to continue on. Now, it’s time to learn flight.
Brandee: There’s where I would drop the mic, only it’s expensive.
Craig: I have spares, you could drop one. That was… Yeah.
Brandee: It was a little of a chill iteration.
Brandee: Yeah, there you go. There was just one. Craig had to drop the mic for me, because I couldn’t bear doing it.
Craig: It’s makes marks in the table, that’s how terrible it is.
Brandee: Yeah, I prefer to have [inaudible 01:02:45] when I write them.
Craig: When did you write that?
Brandee: I wrote that five or six years ago. I was just graduating massage school and there was a lot of other things going on at the time. So that’s sort of what was inspiring as far as the physical aspects of that piece thinking about the scapula and the way skin is.
Brandee: And really it was just representative of growth, a growth into the next thing and into embracing… I don’t know. I start actually pinpointing why exactly I wrote that, I just knew that I wanted to share something with my cohort at the end and id gone through a lot myself that year.
Craig: I think it’s pretty terrific.
Brandee: Why, thank you.
Craig: Put that one in your self-esteem box, I think that’s pretty terrific.
Brandee: I’ll do that, once this podcast comes out, I’ll snip that little bit out of there.
Craig: You can just stick the whole thing in this self-esteem box, I think the whole thing is going to be a celebration of Brandee. I want to mindful of your time and we are an hour and twenty minutes in.
Brandee: I’m chill.
Brandee: Now that I’m not doing poetry anymore I feel fine.
Craig: Yeah, what I really want to do is say let’s end there, but there’s much more that we could talk about I’m sure. There’s no pressure now to come up with a good next question after I ask about poetry get a tour de force. The first time that you read it through and people only heard the second time. But the first time you read it through, it was actually a presentation. You have way… It’s audio, kids. You missed it. Every single phrase up there, she had a physical presentation, a physical manifestation and I think it actually made more sense, I believe it would probably make more sense having seen you deliver the poetry. Have you ever done that, had an open mic night or in public or you just do it for fun?
Brandee: Yeah, I’ve done that one a couple of times at open mic, probably three time up to now. I shared once as well at a friend’s house. We just ended up having a poetry share and I kind of threw down.
Craig: Did everybody go home crying after you did that?
Brandee: Everyone had something really amazing to share that night, so no. I mean, thank you, that’s very kind.
Craig: You’re very welcome.
Brandee: But yeah, when I write these things, I actually don’t write them down first. I write them in my head and I write them and I recite them and then only once I have it complete do I actually write it down somewhere.
Craig: Just to capture it.
Craig: I can spell the word poetry. That’s the limit of my knowledge of poetry. I’m just wondering, did you study any poetry or are there particular other poets that inspired you or is just, this is just the way it comes out.
Brandee: This is just how it is. I can’t pinpoint and inspirations. I’m sure there were enough. The first I’m like what name could I think of? Sylvia Plath? That’s a name that comes up. She’s a poet, right? I think so.
Craig: I believe so.
Brandee: Yeah. She’s pretty badass, but I can’t remember exactly she wrote.
Craig: So when you have the idea in your head and you’re toying with it, do you stand around and play with all the mediums, the vocal medium, the body language as your composing it or do you sit in a zen state and in your mind you imagine embodying the poetry?
Brandee: I’m almost always moving when I’m doing it, on a walk or cleaning or doing something with my hands. Yeah, I don’t really do it inside of my head unless it’s too awkward to be mumbling to myself.
Craig: On mass transit, I’m going to think about growing wings.
Brandee: Which it does, it does. Yeah, I did something similar for a friend’s wedding I officiated and I just came up with a whole thing just for them in the same way, where I was just on the plane just mumbling to myself over and over and over, trying to get it down. Still haven’t written it down, which I really should.
Brandee: Because they asked me to do that.
Craig: Or you’ll forget it.
Craig: Okay, so far we’ve discovered that you’re a closet novelist and I’m going to say accomplished poet. All right this is a pretty well-rounded skillset you’ve got here. I’m just wondering, do you think that other people focus too much on parkour and instead they should, I don’t want to say everybody should become poets, although that might be a really good thing. I’m just wondering if you think that people focus too much one thing, whether it be parkour or not.
Brandee: I think in general people don’t expand themselves far enough, or don’t give themselves enough credit to learn more things. I don’t see anything wrong with specializing or focusing really intensely on something. Honestly if I hadn’t been in parkour, I’d be in the circus, I’d probably be just focusing on juggling and just that. Actually probably not, at this point I would’ve gotten out of that.
Brandee: I just can’t stick with one thing for me personally, because I know I’m trying to on one hand, gather more experiences to write better stories. I don’t want to just pull everything out of just the ether. I want to have had experiences that I can write about honestly and bring that into what I want to create.
Brandee: I do encourage people to do all kinds of different things and I would say that one of the best things they can do is find something that is uncharacteristic for themselves. Like what is the thing I would never do? Let’s actually think of something that I personally would not do that I probably will then have to since I’ve said it now. Well I did a painting. Okay, here’s one, where I didn’t want to and it just kind of stuck around. There was a Bob Ross and Beers. I didn’t have the beers.
Craig: Some happy little trees.
Brandee: Exactly. I’m sitting down and this lovely lady from a little art studio came in, it was actually across the gym, they have little social endeavors. She brought all the stuff and I was kind of humming and hawing, I was like, okay. I sit down and get guided through this painting process and just hating it the whole time just really unhappy with what I was doing and what it looked like. My clouds, they looked like poop.
Craig: You’re supposed to use white for that, right?
Brandee: Yeah, my mountain is just not convincing. Yeah, going through this process of this class and having to see at the end of it and actually letting it there to dry, coming back a week later and thinking, actually that’s really cool. And not only was it okay, not an awful product… It hadn’t kept up because I haven’t kept up with the practice of painting.
Brandee: But for about two weeks after this circumstance, I started seeing things in the world and thinking, how would I paint that? Or seeing oh, that’s cool, I could paint that or knowing that I could. Like oh, there’s those trees. It was funny because the scene involves snow on trees and it doesn’t snow very often in Seattle, but about a week later it did snow in Seattle, so my brain was just on fire, like, whoa, I could paint all of this now, or at least try.
Brandee: So that’s really what I mean when I think people don’t give themselves credit or should take a look at what would be really characteristic and then just go for it. Don’t have to commit to anything more than just once just to see what happens. Or maybe especially in things like frustration and lack of motivation is where you can find a lot of resilience for future endeavors. Yeah. What’s really uncharacteristic for you, Craig? What would you not do? What would you not try on reflex?
Craig: On reflex.
Brandee: Yeah, you’d be like, nah.
Craig: If I could answer the question honestly, what wouldn’t I try on reflex? Let’s see, stereotypical things would be like “shit, that’s really dangerous.” Just because at this point, I really value life in general and I really like mine. But that’s too easy of an answer. I don’t know. What wouldn’t I try?
Brandee: Yeah. It’s hard, it’s a hard question to think of, but it’s important to be like, oh, what wouldn’t I not want to do?
Craig: Yeah, I’m trying to think of something. What I’m doing is I’m peeking over my shoulder trying to look for blind spots. I’ve never really driven high-speed automobiles, but that’s kind of a stereotypical guy thing to say that would be fun to do. I’ve done so much stuff. I don’t mean to be like…
Brandee: No, I see you searching in your interbrains for something. I try to think of things that I would consider boring or outside of my skill range or just intimidating from what else is there.
Craig: Those kinds of things, believe it or not, its actually physical challenges like slack lining. I mean, I’ve stood on a floor slack line and just on some basic traverses on a squat or two. But like, all right, go on a flip on a squat line or do a body flop to back standing, those kind of like, oh my God, that would take me months of messing around to do that. So there’s a couple of physical challenges like that. That’s still in the realm of I’m familiar…
Brandee: Again, that’s still in the realm of something that you’re going too quickly… Exactly.
Craig: Queue up the Manhattan, right?
Brandee: You’re thinking in your body, but you’re used to thinking in your body.
Craig: I’ve done so much mental stuff too.
Brandee: I’m trying to think of something that I would be…
Craig: I don’t know, what comes from the peanut gallery? This is interesting.
Brandee: Yeah. What about, it’s still physical, but certain martial training like going to a range and shooting rifles or something? Yeah.
Craig: Hand guns, rifles, something Pennsylvania.
Brandee: I know, that’s right. I was like, Pennsylvania? No, you did it. I just don’t know that about you.
Craig: No, that’s fine.
Brandee: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Craig: I’ve never been skydiving. That’s one thing I’ve never done. That would be a “do we really need to get out and…”
Brandee: What about ballroom dancing?
Craig: That’s a good one. I have done a tiny little bit of ballroom dancing at actually [inaudible 01:13:20], at Art of Retreat. Oddly enough, that’s something that…
Brandee: There’s nothing I can [inaudible 01:13:24].
Craig: Well no, but I’ve never done enough of it to say that I have actually done it. I’ve done a few minutes of it here and there and that oddly was something that my wife Tracey and I have been talking about twenty years ago, maybe more, back when we used to do the wedding circuit. We’d go to everybody’s weddings. There was a whole season of going to everybody’s weddings and then you’re supposed to dance and both us, just still do the high school two-step sway. That’s as far as we ever got.
Brandee: That’s adorable.
Craig: We didn’t go to high school together, but that was our dancing education was high school-based. So we had always talked about trying to find somebody to do ballroom dancing lessons. That’s something we never did. That would be one thing, because I have problems with negative body image. The whole idea of being on the dance floor.
Brandee: Can I tell you the first thing I thought of that I thought was maybe not the best to say? But it’d be like sexy stripping dancing, like Pole Dancing Craig. That’s in the realm I’m talking about.
Craig: That’s like strip to your skivvies, cover in mud and climb a tree. Take a pole dancing class.
Brandee: Take a pole dancing class, Craig. Take a pole dancing class.
Craig: I pull the pole down.
Brandee: See, this is it. You’re already making excuses.
Brandee: Yeah, it’s beautiful.
Craig: All right that’s a good one. Challenge not excepted, but yes, that’s a good one.
Brandee: Yeah, okay. That’d be right, man.
Craig: Yeah, that’s a blind spot.
Brandee: Or an aerials class where it’s usually more sexy.
Craig: Aerials? No, it would have to be the sexy or the scantily clad, that’s definitely the dark place.
Brandee: Me too, that’s why I thought it was like, I don’t want to take a pole dancing class.
Craig: Actually now that I think of it, one of the most awkward things was to sit through a burlesque show. For the first twenty minutes of it, it was really awkward. Actually what fixed the problem was that it was amazing what they were doing. So this was a Cirque du Soleil, sorry brain slip. A Cirque du Soleil burlesque show in Las Vegas.
Brandee: Holy moly.
Craig: Yeah, I mean, the show went from “oh my God, are they going to… Oh my God they’re… Oh my God.” The sailors were out of exclamations and it was an amazing, unbelievable demonstration. I always say the most amazing, physical feat I have ever seen and I’ve seen a few.
Craig: It was a woman who had came out actually dressed with a stack of fifty hula hoops. She laid them on the stage, stepped into the center of them, they lowered a single hand loop. She grabbed the hand loop, picked up all of these with one foot, so she’s got like fifty or thirty hula hoops on one leg and you were thinking, “is she going to?” Yes, indeed.
Craig: They hoisted her above the stage, no crash net, no wires, and she proceeded to hula, get them all going on her leg, then move them one by one to every piece of her body that she could swing, until she did all of them at the same time in every direction hanging by one arm. That was the most amazing physical feat I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how that’s even humanly possible, because you’re not even standing on the ground, it’s an open… What’s it called? Open chain and movement. You’re hanging.
Craig: So every motion has to be countered by another, I was just like… you could tell I was kind of impressed.
Brandee: Yeah, oh, I’m with you. I have not actually gotten to see any Cirque shows yet. But I’m sure that whatever I do, I’m going to have to bring extra clothing just because I’m so excited.
Craig: Here’s a fun one.
Craig: The Cirque du Soleil O Show, which is the original water show, I sprung for tickets. We were there sat in the center of the front row, got splashed and then danced on stage with the clowns.
Brandee: Yeah, I mean, honestly that’s kind of the direction I was going with juggling, before I stopped juggling.
Craig: Yeah, but even that wasn’t nearly as… Yeah. Yep, juggling. I don’t know if I want to ask you to juggle microphones.
Brandee: No, I have been trying with the cards though, it’s very difficult.
Craig: Okay, here we go.
Brandee: My hands are too sticky.
Craig: That’s awesome. That amazing.
Brandee: Yeah, so amazing.
Craig: It was a sight gag, you missed it.
Brandee: You’re welcome, Gil.
Craig: All right. That was impressive.
Brandee: That’s one of my dexterity drills I’ve been doing, which is like here, here, here and then back. I do dexterity drills. So this is one of the cool things about the way my brain works too, is when I start something new, I just make all kinds of drills for myself because I know how to learn and I know how to teach myself. Should this be touching my lips?
Craig: No, you had to come in and hunker down and struggle to be near it. I’m like, bring your friend. The microphone is your friend, bring it towards you.
Craig: Embrace your friend.
Brandee: Well, what I’m saying is in my endeavor to become a card ninja, I have developed dexterity drills that I’m like, what do I want people to do?
Craig: Oh, yeah, quick, press pause, get a deck of cards and then try the following. Dexterity drills.
Brandee: Dexterity drills.
Craig: People listening.
Brandee: Oh, I’m telling them.
Craig: Yeah. So people, press pause, get a deck of cards and now that you’re back, what were you just doing?
Brandee: Oh my gosh, okay. Okay. What you’re trying to do, is you start with the card between your thumb and your middle finger and the card, you just get one… He’s losing them. You put your index finger on a corner. So there’s a corner facing you. I like to use the short edge corner and not have it long-ways. You’re going to flick it up, you want it to go vertically and stay in the same plane, and then you’re going to try and catch it between your pointer finger and your middle finger. You’ll then try to throw it up between those and then catch it between your middle finger and your ring finger. Up again between your ring finger and your pinky finger and then go back all the way until you can get it back between your thumb and your forefinger.
Craig: This is done palm down.
Brandee: It’s palm down, yes.
Craig: It’s all fun and games until someone ends up with a [crosstalk 01:19:11].
Brandee: Yeah, because I was thinking, well a card ninja would definitely be able to catch and throw card between any fingers, not just here, the same.
Craig: Right, not just the main ones.
Brandee: Yeah. That was good, Craig. That was great, you got it.
Craig: Holy shit, first try. Pardon my french but now how do you? Oh my God, throwing it the first catch is possible.
Brandee: I have a couple secret Instagrams.
Craig: Holy, she just did it.
Brandee: Yeah. I have a couple secret Instagrams where I journal my training. Basically I was like hey, I know I’m going to take videos and photos of stuff, but I cannot keep it all on my phone, let me just use the servers online to hold these things. So I do have a card ninja Instagram where this is up there.
Craig: Wow, okay.
Brandee: The result of trying this over and over.
Craig: That’s going to drive me bonkers playing with that.
Brandee: Yeah. Another one, if you have a whole deck of cards, it’s actually you’re just trying to hold the whole deck between the long edges. So the deck is vertical and you’ll see how you can hold it between your first finger and your middle finger and then between your middle finger and your ring finger and then eventually between your ring finger and your pinky finger. I still can’t hold the whole deck like that, because it’s quite a stretch. It’s really just for stretching and strength. That’s nice, Craig. You did it. For me it’s really difficult.
Craig: I have dinner plates for hands.
Brandee: Your hands are larger than mine. That is true.
Craig: Sorry, they’re so cold.
Brandee: However, definitely my reach has gotten further just in the six months I’ve been trying this stuff, or almost six months. Yeah.
Brandee: Yeah, this is fun drills. It just makes my brain happy.
Craig: Yeah and I think this speaks to a source of your creativity. This huge range of… She’s doing the thing with the card ninja flick and actually half the time it’s just a giant mess, but sometimes she flips it and it’s like… down to the last one.
Brandee: It’s just a bit awkward in this situation too.
Craig: Yeah. Ow, my eye. I said before, being mindful over time. This is awesome.
Brandee: There’s cards flying everywhere now, for those of you who can’t see us, which is everyone.
Craig: If you can’t see this as home, I’m not sorry, because it’s a podcast.
Brandee: So there. Not sorry, not sorry.
Craig: That’s what you signed up for was earbuds. What’d you think was going to happen? The cards are going to come at you.
Brandee: Yikes. He’s waited four years for this.
Craig: I did, I really did. I really don’t want it to end. It’s like the first date. I’m like, well, maybe we could go and have a milkshake afterward. I know what we can do. Let’s go for sushi.
Brandee: Let’s get sushi.
Craig: Okay, so before you’re allowed to have your sushi, there’s a final question, which is three words to describe your practice.
Brandee: Why didn’t I prepare for this exam. I knew this was going to be a thing, I know.
Craig: Its not supposed to be a total… Some people like to talk their way into it like, “oh it would have to be something related to…”
Brandee: Well, first thing I was going to say, eternal. But eternal could only be as long as I last. I don’t see my practice ending any time for any reason. I need some more moments. I need some more moments. Okay, what is my practice in three words?
Craig: Thinking time is free.
Brandee: Yeah. Well, my practice is creative. I have a very creative practice.
Craig: I would agree, yes.
Brandee: And applicable. Yeah. I don’t practice if I’m not going to use it. So if I’m not using something, I stop doing it. Actually, it’d be interesting to apply my other… So I have some other ideas. I do a lot of things obviously. We’ve discussed this. One of those things is make clothing for myself and alter clothing.
Craig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brandee: But the order of what needs to happen is comfort, utility, style, in that order. So that can also be the same for my practice is comfort, utility, style. I think that’s actually pretty good.
Craig: That’s pretty good, yeah.
Brandee: That’s just how I do.
Craig: All right, is that your final answer?
Brandee: Yes, comfort, utility, style.
Craig: Off the charts. Brandee, it was a pleasure to get the chance to sit down and talk with you. I feel like this might be a culminating moment, but I feel like I should do more of these after this, because I finally got to talk to Brandee. Always a pleasure, always exciting, always a challenge. If people don’t know the actual story of why she was jabbing me in the butt.
Brandee: And Sasha.
Craig: And Sasha, that’s good. All right, thank you very much and I’ll see you.
Brandee: You’re so welcome. Bye everyone.
Craig: This was episode 72. For more information, go to MoversMindest.com/72. And the Hero Forge is back. In collaboration with Andy Fisher, you did catch Episode 60, right? We’re putting all 59 Hero Forge recordings on our website where you can stream or download them for free.
Craig: And I’ll leave you with a final thought from Robert Heinlein: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” Thanks for listening.
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