090. Alex Pavlotski: Ethnography, leadership, and trajectory (transcript)

Highlight [0:00]

Chapter’s show notes…

Alex (00:00:04):
So one of the things that I wrote in my thesis was, “It’s amazing how similar parkour is to what is [inaudible 00:00:13] and gymnastics, back in…” I mean, we’re talking about the 1700s. And then we get to play with that conception and that idea, but it’s also really similar to the way that Okinawan Karate developed in conception to the way that it was between China and Japan. It becomes all really interesting when we come to talk about the way that it’s predictable. Yeah, it’s 100% predictable.


Intro [0:37]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:00:39):
(chapter) Hello, I’m Craig Constantine. Welcome to the “Movers Mindset”, podcast, where I talk with movement enthusiasts to learn who they are, what they do and why they do it. This is episode number 90. Alex Pavlotski, ethnography, leadership and trajectory. “A picture is worth 1000 words,” is a statement that Alex Pavlotski lives by as a cartooning ethnographer. He explains ethnography and anthropology and shares his thoughts on parkour and where it’s headed. Alex discusses leadership and his project, “Word Magic,” as well as his goals for an illustrated thesis. He unpacks his observations on parkour practice, community, and defining our own future. Alex Pavlotski is an anthropologist, comic artist, blogger, and parkour practitioner based in Melbourne, Australia. He is the creator of Parkour Panels, a satirical comic where he discussed relevant issues in the Parkour Community. Alex earned his PhD in 2016 and traveled extensively while working on his thesis, training with, and studying global parkour communities.

Craig (00:01:50):
For more information go to moversmindset.com/90. Yikes! I don’t want to jinx it, but 100 is coming up fast. In fact, we have all the episodes through 99 recorded and we’re starting to work on 100. Each of us has things we want to share for you, for episode 100. Did I say 100? Have I said 100? But we want also to know, well, what do you want to know? What do you want to hear from us? Reach out: Facebook, Instagram, Pay tribute on our forum, email team@moversmindset.com. We’d love to hear from you in any way, shape, or form. Thanks for listening.


Ethnography and parkour [2:25]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:02:25):
(chapter) Welcome, Alex. Thank you very much for staying up very late or getting up very early to join me this morning.

Alex (00:02:34):
Hey, Craig. I’m loving the sexy voice. It’s an excellent introduction.

Craig (00:02:38):
It’s become a thing, and then it makes me self-conscious, and I really am not like, People can see me. So, anyway-

Alex (00:02:46):
Oh, bloody hell! This isn’t supposed to be a power game. Let’s just talk about, “Movement.”

Craig (00:02:50):
All right. Yeah, there’s so many things to talk about. I have actually wanted to talk to you for years. And actually, I’m… Stop saying actually. I’m glad that it never came together before this because it took me a long time to figure out what I was doing with the podcast. Now that I think I know what I’m doing. I think our conversation is going to go places where it wouldn’t have gone if I had called you three years ago, kind of thing. So I’m not going to take the time to let’s unpack ethnography, let’s unpack anthropology. Let’s not, people. There’s Internet, Wikipedia, go look it up. So having done all that, can you take me back to that time. Do you remember when you first figured out what ethnography was in the sense of, “That’s a thing, I’m going to go do it?”

Alex (00:03:36):
Well, I cheated. I was an illustrator first. The big thing about me is, I love drawing, and I’d done that all throughout my undergraduate degree. It was the way that I used to support myself. So the big thing about me was that I picked a project at the end of an honors degree, which is at the end of an undergraduate degree, where I said, “I want to draw superheroes, and that would be amazing.” Then I was just like, “Who are the best superheroes?” Then a friend of mine was just like, “You should do this whole parkour thing.” Then, from that point onwards, it was just a matter of what is appropriate places at which superheroes exist? What is appropriate places at which ethnography exists? Then I had to go and hang out with people who did parkour, which the first time I did it was horrible because it was just a group of people doing really quadrupedally … We all know the hard to do place like for me, I am physically active, but it was not the level of physically active that I had. Then I got down and dirty-

Craig (00:04:48):
I agree with you.

Alex (00:04:49):
… had to put my hands in the ground and then went onto the forums. Then I guess, I don’t know, at some point, it felt real, weird and real and [crosstalk 00:05:04]

Craig (00:05:03):
Felt real bro and how real?

Alex (00:05:06):
I mean the big thing that happened was that, it wasn’t during people anymore. That wasn’t the point anymore. It wasn’t the reason why I would enter the community. What happened was, it was too complex for me to draw superheroes [crosstalk 00:05:21] and that was a lot of fun. And then that process of ethnography just sort of became practice, just being there and doing things. Anthropologists who… It’s central for us to have an identity crisis, if we don’t, then we’re bad anthropologists.

Alex (00:05:41):
And that was the point at which had in mind, where people were like, “Yeah, you should just go out and train until you vomit a little bit.” Or crawl around or do all these terrible things. And then turns out I really like it. It’s Stockholm Syndrome in a way. And then, afterwards I had to disassemble it. So I’m not sure whether I’m answering your question anymore, but my point of ethnography was just like “Chase the superhero idea”, get caught up in it. It turns out really hard, way more complicated than I ever could have imagined. And now I’m in it and now we get to practice.

Craig (00:06:24):
You did. So let’s start with the theory about the mind’s problem. Like I said, anybody else experience anything like I do. I often look at younger people, I’m not grouping you in that group. I’m grouping you in my group. I often look at younger people and I think, maybe it’s too early for them to have… I almost said jumped on. Taking on something that’s going to be so transformative because I would want to put words in your mouth, but you and I agree though, this really winds up Parkour winds up being transformative or arthroplasty, motor free running, whatever. I love, sorry, I read real fast. And I read everything I could look about you, including the second half of the, I think it’s, she can trace article what happened to the second half of that?

Craig (00:07:13):
There’s an interview of you and there’s like part one, but there’s also part two. And there’s this idea that I have that it’s obviously a transformative practice, but it’s almost like you have to throw enough darts at the board to have a rough shape of what you’re going to be, like I’m not going to be that. And then, now with some beginning of negative focus, having cut off the stuff, that’s not going to be who you are and you’re like ripe or you’re fertile for that mindset to take hold. And then I love some of the points you made in that article, which will link to, where you talked about, we’re not really all doing the same thing, whereas in depending where you go, “Hey, it’s anthropology.”

Craig (00:07:56):
It’s specifically created by the space and the people in the language and the environment. So I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts about how having, let’s say comparing, having absolutely no idea who you are. Let’s say you’re 14. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, versus having some clue, like 34 maybe, these fake numbers, how do you see that play out in your experiences, like things you do?

Alex (00:08:24):
Right. Well, the big thing about it is, so… I want to remind most of the way through the stuff that you said.

Craig (00:08:31):
Go wherever you want to. [crosstalk 00:08:32]

Alex (00:08:35):
The thing about you referencing articles that I wrote means that I actually know the articles that I read, which is fantastic. So central to a lot of the ideas that I’ve published previously on parkour, is the idea of discovery itself. I want to be sure that I’m answering this question correctly and say, well, it is completely different to discover yourself when you’re 14 and is completely different to discover yourself when you are, our age, as squeaky old man. The distinction comes down to, I guess, at the end of the day. That’s a hard yakka question.

Alex (00:09:18):
Central to it, is the capacity to go. I mean, so many of the people that I worked with who were younger men, mostly because the reality is a lot of the parkour people back in 2009 were younger men. And when you look at that [crosstalk 00:09:36] And that’s a big deal. We’re able to project and deliver a notion of themselves that was really kind of cool and unique. I mean, what we’re talking about with like skateboarding videos or we’re talking about us, the way that people can move in that particular way.

Alex (00:09:52):
(quote) Parkour is amazing because it delivers so much of the stuff that we want to do. And we want to be unique and crazy as young men, but also young women. It offers the capacity to move in this entirely exciting way. But then when we get older, it does the thing that everything does to movement practice and makes us slow down just a little bit and think about the philosophy and process things in an entirely different way.(

Alex (00:10:18):
Not that any of those people who are younger, were missing the point. But you know, when your knee is broken, you want to sit down and you might want to pontificate about the various points that we want to make. So, to answer your question, I guess the big thing that I would say is, it shouldn’t be a difference, but there is a difference. Everybody experiences Parkour in the same way when they are little. And I mean, like three year old is the best movement that I’ve ever seen.

Craig (00:10:47):
Seriously, kids are made of rubber.

Alex (00:10:48):
Yeah. And then, eventually what happens is that physical capital is a thing. I mean, we do damage to ourselves. If we expand it too quickly. My best example of that would be when I was working in Eastern Europe. So when you see all, there’s amazing Eastern European trying to see as, but it’s just some kind of a fact by the time that they’re past 35 and you’ve got examples of people, just belittle their physical capital in that particular way. I’m not sure if I’m answering the question?

Craig (00:11:19):
You don’t have to answer the question [crosstalk 00:11:21]

Alex (00:11:23):
I know, but I want to have a conversation with you and I don’t know if I’m doing it right. So, please correct me.

Craig (00:11:31):
Sometimes I think that-

Alex (00:11:34):
I’ve got so many directions I can wander in and please do-

Craig (00:11:36):
But you can wander anywhere you want, if you wander really far, I’ll be like, “Hey, come back here.”


Leadership [11:40]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:11:39):
(chapter, highlight) So one of the things that’s like stuck in my head, and I can’t decide if it’s stuck because it’s on this topic. Or if it’s just stuck because it struck me when I read it, was a comment and I think it was in, geez, I hope it’s in she can trace, is where that interview was. A comment you made about, and I don’t wanna put you on the spot, but being able to spot leaders.

Craig (00:12:01):
And when I see people, you made a comment, it was like off head, or why you were talking about this and you’re like, “And I learned to spot leaders and write a whole book about that.” And I went like, "Stop! Wait. You give me… So I don’t know if you want to go there or if you want to continue talking about what you’ve seen and I really, we can go wherever you want to go. [crosstalk 00:12:24]

Alex (00:12:24):
I mean, we can. That’d be great. And I’m sorry if I’m pivoting, but yeah, absolutely. So leaders are people who want to shape culture and Craig, you’re one of them. People who are able to have a pause in a conversation. That’s central to our conception of leadership, like anthropologically and outside of things like parkour. People who write history, people who create Chronicles.

Alex (00:12:52):
And for me, it was really central because one of the things that happened to me was, I got to spend four years being funded by a university, traveling around. And it’s a lot of fun. It was fantastic. And the big thing that I learnt is that, if you want to find out who the head of the group, in any group that you meet is because ideologies filter down. And one of the things that’s really interesting about consumptions of leadership is that leadership revolves around the idea of interpreting.

Alex (00:13:27):
So you want the person who interprets various levels of culture. So now, for example, for anybody who does a movement practice, the people who are at the top table and not necessarily in the best movies. And they shouldn’t be. Some of them are older, some of them have been injured. What they end up doing is, they end up sitting down and saying, this is what our movement practice is. This is the way that our culture functions. And it’s really exciting because I mean, I’m really keen to do research on parkour because we pretend it’s a new practice.

Alex (00:14:04):
But every pattern in terms of leadership and the way that we share information and the way that we practice is just repetition of a series of movements. From Karate to TaeKwonDo or to rock climbing, to wind surfing. It’s amazing to see. We like to think we’re special, really not very special. And movement guide us. So, this idea of sitting down and talking about what makes our movement practice what it is. Honestly, leaders are the people who step up and say, “Here is what it is.” And then you get to pick the different types by the way that they define that practice. And I’ve seen about a jillion of them. (/highlight)

Craig (00:14:46):
And they get it. Can they get it wrong like, is it necessarily true that somebody who succeeds at becoming a leader, whether or not they wanted the leader, the crown, is it necessarily true that if they succeed, they must have the right ideas about community in that philosophy, or can you get it wrong-

Alex (00:15:07):
Well, humanity is heading off the cliff. I mean, more ecologically destroying ourselves. And that’s not news. Which means that we have a lot of leaders who are doing their own things sometimes [crosstalk 00:15:19] I guess we have the capacity to do things better.

Craig (00:15:22):
Maybe there’s foul things, like I was thinking maybe part of, that’s what I was fishing for was, does that make them, I want to say kind of a false prophet? So if the proof’s in the pudding, so you wind up with a wrong like, “Oh, look, we’re steering off the cliff.” That means this leader must actually not be a leader because he got the wrong answer. Or is it possible to-

Alex (00:15:43):
No. God knows. [crosstalk 00:15:43]

Craig (00:15:43):
Give you a wrong answer.

Alex (00:15:43):
Oh, absolutely. I’m paying you kidding me, of course. I mean leaders with the wrong answers all the time happens everywhere we look. I mean, leadership is the definition of the way that people practice. And this is a very anthropological idea. I mean, it’s, and I would like to challenge you, Craig, if you would to kind of argue with me, what your conception of leadership is, [crosstalk 00:16:08] What’s your conception of leadership might be. If in any ways interferes with the following: Leaders define the understanding of whatever it is, the people below them do.

Craig (00:16:24):
By that I’ll swallow that wholesale, because I wouldn’t have come up with something that eloquent, but I think so on the spot while being recorded, leadership is in my mind about having vision. And I don’t mean I’m like I have a dream that the whole world is just being like able to see. So having vision and then being able to figure out what things that you conceptually see are salient to whatever the heck it is we’re doing.

Craig (00:16:56):
So, I see a whole bunch of stuff, but that aspect of it, that’s a thing that we need to all pay attention to. Not so much, “Hey, let’s all go this way, kind of thing.” That would be like, if you forced me to define leadership, being able to distill the things in the landscape.

Alex (00:17:12):
To me, like that sounds like leadership is neutral. Our neutral qualities of the way that we want to move. What you’ve just defined is sort of a classic notion of leaders is always doing the right thing [crosstalk 00:17:29] They’re the person who have the vision. But if my vision is to drive you off a cliff, I mean, if I was to be a cult leader, then I’d still be excellent successful leader, but I would just be leading your right off the end of that cliff [crosstalk 00:17:46]

Alex (00:17:46):
Yeah. So the big important thing about it is that, okay, so value laid in, once upon a time, when I was midway through my research, I have strong ideas about the way the parkour should be and movement practice, but then I actually realized that would be bad. And then I looked at the history of movement practices and realized that no, we’re following a trajectory. So I learnt through my ethnographic experience that I should be more neutral, less ethnocentric in the way that we have conversations about leadership. Still has bad feelings sometimes.

Craig (00:18:28):
You have your lived experience. And one of them would be like one of the few things that I think make humans really great is our ability to be cerebral, to be embodied and then to also go, and where was I going with that train of thought? More of coffee.

Alex (00:18:48):
I’ve got some.


Parkour Trajectory [18:53]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:18:48):
Again, I don’t know how you do it. If you try to beep me up at midnight for a call, I’d be like, but (chapter) you mentioned, I heard, you mentioned too, you were talking about trajectory, you mentioned trajectory.

Alex (00:18:57):
Yeah.

Craig (00:18:59):
I don’t know if I even want to go down this side, should I just say, Yeah. It’s like walking down the street and you and I are spotting side streets and alleys. And one of the side streets, that’s pretty obvious here is to talk about their trajectory of parkour as, and I always, like I actually consider myself a student of art through parkour. I have trained a lot with the French guys. I say parkour because we are talking in English, but in my brain, I’m thinking A-D-D and what I’m thinking is, is this arc. And I think you’re going to say, I think I know what you’re going to say, is this arc, this trajectory, going to go anywhere surprising or could we really look at anthropology’s previous work and go, "Oh, we know where this arc is going to go. Does that make sense?

Alex (00:19:43):
Yeah, though it does… Well, the trajectory of Parkour and depends on practices, is really going in a very predictable way. I’m looking forward to schools, opening up various movement practices and variations. I’m looking forward to the formalization of parkour. I mean, one of the things that could happen is that we could sell it to schools and then we’d have to tone it down just a little bit. All of that has happened before with most movement practices.

Alex (00:20:17):
Could it go in a different direction? I think it probably could. The fun thing about going in directions that we’ve never gone in before is we don’t know what that’s like. And so we get to make that argument. I’m quite excited about the practice, because I think that one of the things that it does is that, it presents. I mean, this is where the Neuro-anthropologist, where I get really brainy with the brain stuff and gets really excited about it.

Alex (00:20:46):
Because the thing about it is the current presentation of this movement practice, is really specifically adapted to our environment in a way that it’s really fascinating and spectacular. I thought I had a spike coming out of my head for me that, but then it tends to practice. It tends to pause and practice in a way that most sort of martial arts and movement practices have gone. So one of the things that I wrote on my thesis was it’s amazing how similar par core is to what is good Smithy and gymnastics back in like… I mean, we’re talking about the 1700s and then we get to play with that conception and that idea, but it’s also really similar to the way that Okinawa and Karate developed in conception to like the way that it was between China and Japan.

Alex (00:21:39):
And it becomes all really interesting when we come to talk about the way that it’s predictable. Yeah. It’s a 100% predictable. It has a trajectory that we get to follow, but at the same time, what an amazing open capacity, I mean, it’s going to be potentially all free climbing and free surfing and all the free variations of all these sports, which is a lot of fun to play with. Sorry, I’m leaning on.

Craig (00:22:08):
No, no, I’m never at, like sometimes I lock up and it’s not because I’m at a loss for things to ask about because I’m like, “Oh man-”

Alex (00:22:15):
Too many things.

Craig (00:22:15):
Right from the bouquet of…


Thesis book and goals [22:17]

Chapter’s show notes…

Alex (00:22:17):
(chapter) But, then which direction would you like to go? I mean, we can go Neuro-anthropology or we can go into culture. Would you like Diigo or would you like some more-

Craig (00:22:25):
I’m more interesting in… I mean, I don’t have any of one those things. But what I want to say is what I’ll let you choose. So is there something that when people come to these interviews, they’re all, I’ve done a few of them. People are like, “I don’t know what to expect. My gosh, they aren’t here, it’s just two people talking.” Was there something that was like, “Boy, I really hope we managed to get to dot?”

Alex (00:22:47):
No, not really. So it’d be like…

Craig (00:22:49):
No, I’m asking the question, there were thesis and I think you said, you were going to work, there’s a book coming, like you’re doing more. I think I read that, I read that a lot. So can you tell a little more about what your goal is for the book? Like why do you have to write a book?

Alex (00:23:07):
So, I’d like to do a graphic novel. I’m, an illustrator, so comics are almost more important than anthropology to me. And I think that we have a pretty poor basis of communicating neurosciences, which is the other thing that I really like. So what I really like to be able to do is sit down and secure some level of contract or conversation with being able to do a graphic novel of Parkour. And that would just be really exciting to me because the big thing about it is Parkour is an adaptational technique.

Alex (00:23:41):
We’ve got this environment that we live in and we’ve come up with a way to sort of slice that way through it. And the environment stresses us out and we figured out a way to break it. And at the same time we’re oversaturated with sort of baseline information. Nobody really reads anything anymore. That is my perception.

Craig (00:24:05):
I agree.

Alex (00:24:07):
And-

Craig (00:24:08):
I’m gonna keep writing, don’t stop.

Alex (00:24:10):
And you shouldn’t. And so will I. But the big thing about it is, I think that there’s a sense of, in which we can just sort of… We can do visual communicator stuff. I’m a huge fan of comics and I make them, and I love them.

Craig (00:24:24):
I have a graphic novel on podcasting. I don’t know where it is. It’s somewhere. I mean, I could find it, but my library is categorized by the time [crosstalk 00:24:36]

Alex (00:24:36):
So the books that I want to do… Yeah, it’s the book thing that I would want to do and be able to sit down and draw comics. And I guess it’d be sliced up in a way of saying, “Hey, here’s Parkour and here is the way that it interacts with the environment and here is the way that it shapes our brain. And then here is the way in which it’s kind of similar to a bunch of other things that we’ve done.” And then afterwards, where does it go? What can we do with it? And that’s sort of the general structure. I hope that helps.

Craig (00:25:10):
Yes. I hope people listening, you’re not going to get this. It’s a sight gag. What is behind you? There is a drawing. It looks to me like either a physical map. It’s on the chalkboard behind you is that-

Alex (00:25:25):
That’s my kid’s coloring book. You can buy the sheets of paper.

Craig (00:25:29):
That’s just a pre-printed thing that he’s been coloring in. Because it almost looks like, my brain’s like, "Oh, I can’t quite see it. It almost looks like somebody doing-

Alex (00:25:38):
Like a giant Cityscape [crosstalk 00:25:40]

Craig (00:25:40):
Yeah, or something is not right.

Alex (00:25:40):
I really enjoy it.

Craig (00:25:43):
My brain has been going that for somehow, for some reason that fits perfectly in the back. Like you’re talking about Cityscape graphics [crosstalk 00:25:49] Yeah. There’s probably a name for that. My neurological urge to see like you see, well, here’s a watershed, what do you see? Oh, I see my mother. I’m looking at that line. I see people doing like dash vaults and going over walls.


Craig's practice(s) [26:05]

Chapter’s show notes…

Alex (00:26:06):
(chapter) And I’m in a horrible position where I’ve given you no prep for this particular interview and I have to apologize, but great. [crosstalk 00:26:13]

Craig (00:26:13):
I don’t want you to prep.

Alex (00:26:13):
Do you mind if I say, what does it mean to you get excited about the idea of doing movement interviews?

Craig (00:26:20):
No, I don’t mind if you say that, I’m just kidding. So I often fall back to defense via grammar. So I actually literally had no idea what I was doing when I started. And what happened was, as part of like my personal journey and this was not planned, rediscovering movement, I like started like par what, when I was 42, I think. And just started trying to move in a community that I just fell in with a really awesome community. And as I went along, like we were mentioning before, if you’re older, you tend to like need more recovery time. You’re a slower, you tend to be thinking about things more. And over years I just found that I was sort of crossing off pieces of the spacing.

Alex (00:27:03):
I’m not really into that. I’m there later than I want to be an influencer I don’t want to be on Instagram. And what I was left with is, I just kept like narrowing in on, well, gee, every time I have an awesome conversation with somebody, I f-ing love it. And so does the other person. I have friends, really good friends who I met because I had a great conversation with somebody that somebody got up for another whatever, and the other person went, “Hi, I’m so-and-so. I just lurked the shit out of that conversation.” So I found over the years, that conversation and communication in conversation appears to be my stick. Like that’s the thing, like listening appears to be my superpower.And-

Alex (00:27:41):
If I can bug you.

Craig (00:27:43):
Sure.

Alex (00:27:44):
What was the movement practice?

Craig (00:27:44):
Does that answer your questions?

Alex (00:27:45):
Yeah, it does. But what was the movement practice? What was the moment in which you got engaged with movement?

Craig (00:27:52):
The specific moment. I don’t know, but I’ll pick one. So I’m going to say, I went to a class run by Adam McClellan before it was parkour generations. Americas are both like, this is not long before, but before that, and it was just a group their group of friends getting together to… They weren’t just jumping on shift, but they were basically jumping on shift together and finding their own parkour. You don’t want a complicated story. I got invited, I didn’t know any of them very well. I knew Adam casually, we had bumped each other in circles a few times and I went to a class and I remember what we were doing, but it was a pushup. He was like, “Okay, let’s do pushups.”

Craig (00:28:31):
And I had been doing martial arts for 15 years. So I was like, “Oh yeah, pushups.” So, you could do one. Oh, the moment was the first time that like the little brain inside the art that some awkward is that, the homunculus thing inside [crosstalk 00:28:47] okay and push up. And they kind of went [inaudible 00:28:50] That was the moment. And to me, I’ve always been deeply in love with the objectivity aspect of Parkour like, you can lie to yourself in parkour.

Craig (00:29:02):
It does not end well, fortunately my lie to myself was broken by a push-up and then I don’t really remember what happened the rest of the day, but it just became week after week of just, “Oh, you know what? I just need to shut up and show up, like kind of thing.” So for me that moment was like a purely physical all by myself. I mean, I got other people around, but just for me, it wasn’t like I thumb, wrestled and lost. It was just me. Okay, do the thing. Oh, I can’t do that thing. Okay, I’m going to work on.

Craig (00:29:31):
Very embodied. And at the time I didn’t have any of the terminology for this, a very embodied experience. It was totally like I had already been working in sweating and I was already tired, but it was like a push up. I can do that so easy. [inaudible 00:29:42]

Alex (00:29:43):
I mean, and this is the central component that, I’m pulling on a thread. It’s incredible to see how adaptive that practice is. I mean, the reality of this is… I mean, if we were to talk about a neurologically, how reptilian to amygdala brain is disconnected in a whole bunch of ways, and you’ve had a series of podcasts talking about the way that all these things connect. I mean, the central thing about it is, you found a thing that was an adaptive practice. It’s something that is-

Craig (00:30:15):
I didn’t know that.

Alex (00:30:17):
… something that connects you, that connects you and associates you with the thing. And me too. I mean, as I said before, my research was all about looking at people who were leaping around and looking beautiful while doing it because I want to draw comics. But the reality is, it’s startling the way that we can have this moment of connection across movement and the way that it can make sound cognition and the way it can access to family, which is community and the way that it abstracts itself. And which is just incredible. I mean, it’s a great deal of fun.

Craig (00:30:52):
Yeah, and there’s something ineffable in it. And a lot of times I pause and put the collection because I don’t want to tell Craig stories, but I had the privilege of spending two weeks and I’m not exaggerating, two weeks with Yann Hnautra, at their summer camps in Courchevel. And at his home, like two weeks with Yon and not only did I survive, but a lot of what I learned about it was that I was doing, I was going about things the wrong way. I call it like just, I was bashing myself, here’s parkour.

Craig (00:31:22):
I’m just going to smack myself on it, figuratively speaking until I… You know what talking about it. And I had noticed like maybe two years before that, that there was something about what those guys were communicating or attempting. And I’m like, “Why I kept like being drawn to it.” And my French sucks horribly. And it took me forever to figure it out. But I was basically able to figure it out without having it explained to me in a white paper kind of thing. Well, I should say they were, their various of them and their students were able to eventually explain it to me.

Craig (00:31:54):
I should be more clear. They were able to explain it to me through movement rather than, and I never asked for the white paper, but never having to have it be like conceptually explained. So my takeaway from that years later was like, that’s awesome. Because that means that this could work on a really large scale. If people don’t read that’s okay, you can still learn this. If you find the right, if you fall into the right community. I don’t know [crosstalk 00:32:18]

Alex (00:32:19):
My god Craig! No, Craig dude, this is… That’s where it is. I mean, where the fuck? What are we talking about with parkour? Once upon a time, there was a bunch of people who did a thing with 36 to 68K internet, that’s spread around. That happens to become a global, subculture to the point where I speak to students who I remember, and this is how old I am. I remember meeting people and going parkour, and then like what to meeting people and going parkour. And they’re like, "Yeah, that’s that French movement practice. Like it happens all the time.

Alex (00:32:58):
So the virality, the stuff that you’re talking about, the tackiness of the practice that it grabs onto here. My God, I mean, clearly this is really important and it’s a lot of fun to work with. I mean, we’ve got issues of heritage and we’ve got people talking about what is parkour, what is L’art du Dèplacement? And we’re talking about this person says this and this person says that. Where in any movement practice from like pick a thing, gymnastics to jujitsu to anything, that this hasn’t happened before.

Craig (00:33:36):
Everywhere.

Alex (00:33:36):
And I’m so excited. I mean, here we are. We are at this wreck, this conversation right now will be referenced by historians to speak about who invented Parkour.

Craig (00:33:49):
Sometimes I wig out like, “Eh eh.”

Alex (00:33:53):
With this early and its movement. And at the same time, you’ve had 70 people within your podcast who come out and point out the obvious, “It’s movement, man, like you just move.” And then we have variations from all the breathing practices that come from India to all the stuff that had travels all the way across. It seems incredible stuff. So, you’re in the middle of something really exciting. And so am I, but how do we even, let’s talk about it and that’ll be a really good way to go. I’m going to flail to the [crosstalk 00:34:27]

Craig (00:34:27):
I normally have to suppress that it took me a while to figure out exactly where to put the microphone so that I don’t regularly hit it with my… There’s one safe space here.


Something people get wrong [34:36]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:34:36):
(chapter) What… let’s see. Who would be listening. I often, as you can imagine, I spend a significant amount of time thinking about the craft of how do you, I consider myself, like there’s a bunch of people behind me, stuck behind plexiglass, and all I can do is ask them about, because they can’t actually interact. And I’m just wondering let’s go a little more nuts and bolts here, just to say, I actually got a chance to talk to Alex about what’s something that, and this is a common question, but what’s something that you think people get wrong about you or about maybe one of your projects. Whenever you want to explain that.

Alex (00:35:15):
I think people think that when I record history, it is supposed to be contemporary. So one of the central components of the stuff that I’ve done, is compare the way that Europe and the way that America, looks at Parkour. It’s really interesting because you’ve got two big systems. One is a supposedly a collectivist to one and the other one is supposedly and individualistic.

Craig (00:35:40):
Individualistic.

Alex (00:35:42):
That’s right. So, one of the big things that ends up happening is that, well, what I saw was that-

Craig (00:35:49):
What the individuals do, they all try make organizations. That’s been… Well look at the individuals assemble.

Alex (00:35:57):
Yeah, a hundred percent. And that’s fine. So one of the things that ends up happening, is that people seem to think that when I’m speaking to someone, I am trying to define a vision that is uniform, which happens a lot. Like a lot of our organizations within the English speaking world are doing the rapid commercialization. And also there’s a strong sense of wanting to connect ourselves to a nation state project. So people who want to build schools tends to want to make a lot of money and associate themselves with a government project. And I’m just like, that happens a lot. Here’s the history of gymnastics. Here’s the history of TaeKwonDo, here’s the history of all these things.

Alex (00:36:40):
Simultaneously people in Eastern Europe tends to want to associate themselves with the idea of keeping a really sort of grassroots and keeping it in the whole series of what is like associated with nationalism, which is kind of scary because it gets weird. And I’m just like, “Hey, we should probably just sit down and have a conversation about that.” So I guess one of the big things that happens to me generally speaking, is that I tend to speak to English people about how they should be more European and I intend to speak to European people about how they should be more English. And then everybody hates me and that’s okay.

Craig (00:37:17):
I was going to say, I know how that’s going to turn out, but I think it’s a great idea. Like what you’re doing is great, but you’re going to get a lot of spit balls shot at you.

Alex (00:37:28):
No. And the thing about it is, regardless of anything that I’ll say, it’s just going to evolve in a really sort of trajectory, predictable-

Craig (00:37:37):
Who said be the change you want to see in the world? I have a problem with quotes and I just did another batch of quotes front of the little toy podcast that I have in a quote by Margaret Mead is currently stuck in my brain. And it is, “Never underestimate the ability of a small, passionate group of people to change the world.” It’s the only thing that has ever changed the world. So I’d like, you know [inaudible 00:38:06] you know that being the person that goes, “No, wait, I think this is what I should be doing.” Like for myself that you just go and do it. And that’s how we all co-create humanity, how we co-create society.

Alex (00:38:17):
Yeah. I mean, the exciting thing is we… As I said before, this is a big historical moment for our practice. If you’re talking about parkour, [crosstalk 00:38:29] but also at the same time like… Yeah, please.


Word Magik [38:30]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:38:31):
(chapter) I was going to say magic word, [inaudible 00:38:35] You have another project which I kind of went what’s that, M-A-G-I-C-K, magic word magic, [crosstalk 00:38:40]

Alex (00:38:40):
Yeah, I’m word magic. So…

Craig (00:38:42):
Sorry, word magic. I don’t know if I probably take notes. Does that fit… That feels like that fits in here. Like that’s something that you’re creating, that’s related to the work you’ve done. You know what, the hard work you’ve done. And let’s talk about that because let’s get the word out about that.

Alex (00:38:58):
So one of the big things that I’m currently doing is, Neuro-anthropology in my way working through all the parkour stuff. And then also I kind of got sucked into the great thing about ethnography is that you end up getting sucked into a whole bunch of other practices. And I want to make it really clear. I want to make it really clear. And I’m blushing about this. This isn’t about parkour. But there are terrible people doing community building exercises that are bad for everyone. That are very predictably bad, that are all about power. And that was…

Alex (00:39:36):
So one of the things that happened to me was, back in 2013, I ended up in Eastern Europe. And as part of my parkour practice, I met a whole bunch of Neo-Nazis. Once upon a time, I was training underneath a bridge, which was in Moscow and this young kid, the first person in three days of me arriving from the scene, came out and said, you’re an amazing mover, young kid. He was just like, “Hey, do you want to train parkour?” I’m like, “fucking a, this is amazing. We get to practice.”

Craig (00:40:10):
In the wild yes.

Alex (00:40:12):
And then he’s just like, "Yeah, I know a place that you should hang out and I’ll send you a thing I ended up with Neo-Nazis for two weeks. And that was incredible. So-

Craig (00:40:21):
I have read in your blog, I read your… And it looked to me like that was a snapshot of the experience, but keep going.

Alex (00:40:27):
Yeah, well, the big thing about that is, it’s not parkour. It’s really clearly not. And the thing that I’m terrifying is that people would think that I’m associating, all of my sort of the lack of that word magic is related to parkour. The big thing that it’s associated with is bad masculinity, horrible leadership tactics. The tendency to want to undermine concepts that we like. Like the notion of democracy and free speech. And I am an idealist. I like those ideas. So when I see people really missing that stuff up and people doing really bad leadership practice, which diminishes the community and push the things off words, that’s the way that project goes. I think I just opened up a can of worms. Do you want to lead me down?

Craig (00:41:22):
Give me the executive summary of word magic. So people who are going, wait, what? Where is it? What’s the basic medium that it’s in. Just give me like the executive summary of word magic.

Alex (00:41:35):
Cool. So the big thing is I want to catch it early. So I want to do a kids book. I’ve done. I’ve actually got a whole bunch of kid’s books in my resume as a thing that I’ve previously done. What I want to do is not talk down and I want to identify poor leadership practices. What people would call narcissistic abusive practices when people would define that as, social relational aggression. I think it’s quite important for us to be able to, as a community, to narrow when somebody is manipulating you, not because they’re your friends, but because there’s a big plan and it starts really young.

Alex (00:42:17):
And then the book that I’m trying to make is going to be hopefully an online adolescent sort of aimed at between 12 to 14 year olds project that allows people to recognize when they’re being manipulated. But far more importantly allows people who are likely to do the manipulation to realize that it’s not going to do them much good. There’s an internal process. And the cultural conceptions are complicated. Craig, asked me questions.

Craig (00:42:50):
Oh, I got so many. First of all, please make set thing. Please make that happen. And well, people where you’re winding, we will link in the show notes and I’m torn between telling a story. So I’m going to tell a quick story. I did not read that book. Obviously it doesn’t exist, but I never experienced anybody trying to teach me that material until I got to college. And I had a college course, that was a distribution in a large lecture hall. I think it might’ve been the biggest course that I was in. And we had a great professor. He was an adjunct. So it means he doesn’t have tenure, like he can get axed at any moment. And as a long complicated course, blah.

Craig (00:43:27):
Over the course of like two weeks, he had a very particular lecture style and the way he always did things. And one day he was off his game, look a little nervous and you could just, I’m just like, “Hmm, something’s up, personal issue, whatever.” And the class got out of hand and this is 300 people in electro halls. The class actually got a hand. We had a very like laid back. You could actually interact. And things got a little ridiculous. It wasn’t a total show, but it got a little out of hand.

Craig (00:43:56):
And then the next lecture, he shows up, he starts and he basically slaps off the overhead projector. And he said guys, you really screwed me over last week. There was a person in the front row. Well, the clipboard was my advisor. And he was here to observe me in this class and it got out of hand, it was a complete mess. And he was visibly upset that our instructor was visibly upset. And he’s basically, “Okay, let’s do something different.”

Craig (00:44:20):
He said, “I want you to take out a piece of paper and I want you to write down a secret that you’ve never told anybody.” And so dumb, I wrote on the paper, “fuck you.” No, I’m not, whatever. But that’s what I realized in hindsight, because I was already a pretty manipulative person. So it was like, I didn’t realize I was being manipulated because boy, howdy were we, it was a setup from the previous lecture. The whole thing he did is all part of the schtick. After he did a system, I do it every semester. Please don’t tell anybody, because it doesn’t work. If you know what’s coming, whole thing was a setup.

Craig (00:44:49):
And there were people, and this is a little sketchy. There were people who were crying, he had written [inaudible 00:44:54] and they’re passing this over and putting it in a box. And then he collected the box and I’m like, “Oh my God, secrets.” And then basically said, I’m going to take us back to my office and shred it if you’d like to come with me and watch. But it was like a blatant, like, Oh, you’ve all been manipulated.

Craig (00:45:10):
And I don’t think you’re going to do that in your book.

Craig (00:45:12):
(highlight) But one of the reasons why I’m like, “Yes, please write the book was because I really wish somebody had showed me just one example of a way that you can really be horribly manipulated.” It’s just that moment in a TV show when the grandparents says, “I don’t know, maybe here’s your best Christmas present ever, everybody lies.” And as a kid, “You’re like what?” That moment of realizing that manipulation is real, like that, I think would be really great if it happened earlier for more people. I know know that’s not a question. [inaudible 00:45:41]

Alex (00:45:41):
Well, no. But it’s a point of story. I mean, I can give you a million examples of the way that people are manipulators, the simplest one, would they get on board with whatever it is that we’re doing? Whether that’s with the movement community. I’m a big advocate of fighting with everyone around me about ideas, which is one of those things that we used to do when movement culture was on forums and message bullets. Let me take out my cane and just pick up my beard, because that’s the reality.

Alex (00:46:15):
But contemporarily, what we do is we want to get along. And one of the things that’s really weird about that is the process of the way that every single one of us wants to get along and how that fits within an ideology and the way that it’s easy to move it around and manipulate. So, the first thing that I would want to say is, Parkour is a fantastic movement practice that will get you down to earth and will allow you to grab it yourself. And it’s similar to yoga. But there’s like a billion people who get excited about that notion and want to say, this is the new utopian alternative to the way that we move, which we don’t have.

Craig (00:46:58):
Let’s grab everything, we need to do this.

Alex (00:47:01):
I mean, simpler way of manipulating, ideas of belonging. This is the thing that you want to challenge. The second that somebody turns around and says, “They…” It happens all the bloody time. We’re living in a weird political world, just in case anybody is missing the context of this interview.

Craig (00:47:20):
Under a rock…

Alex (00:47:21):
Yeah. We’re in this really weird scenario where “they”, is a really potent conception. And to me, that’s the beginning. What we call girl bullying, which is actually relational aggression, which is actually politics. Now-

Craig (00:47:38):
Yeah, I thought you unpack that really well, by the way. And is that, “the we trace” interview? I think I was in that same interview, I thought you packed that really well and like eight little paragraphs, sorry.

Alex (00:47:49):
Well, the big thing about it is that, we like to pretend everything is rhetorical and neat when the reality is the second that we stop pointing fingers, the first thing that anybody should do, is to saying, “Why are they different from us?” And that really happens. I mean, the basis of manipulation is pointing [crosstalk 00:48:12] your finger outwards.

Alex (00:48:14):
I mean, this is just absolutely classic anthropology from archeological to near anthropological, to any kind of like Margaret Mead’s from the notion of the insight as to outsiders to the Sherman, which is all fantastic work, I would say, beware of “They.” (/highlight)

Craig (00:48:32):
Beware of the concept of, “they.” I’m not sure whose “they” is that.

Alex (00:48:37):
Well, I don’t know the way. I don’t like the way that you look at me Craig. I think that you might be on the wrong side.

Craig (00:48:46):
You don’t like the way?

Alex (00:48:46):
I don’t like it.

Craig (00:48:47):
Oh, sorry. What about my look? I think-

Alex (00:48:50):
But having said a lot. For me, this is the really important component. I actually think that we are in this privileged situation, where we’re able to dissect, what we would consider to be formally sort of Chimp behavior, which is the classics notions of stacking in higher radical notions. Hierarchies isn’t going away. I am not against the Jordan Peterson conception of hierarchies. So I don’t think we start with a lobster. But, we’re in this weird situation where we probably shouldn’t have, bullying at a corporate level. The reality is I’m writing this kid’s book, but the reality is, that’s probably the way that your boss treats you and middle management uses it as an existent technique.

Craig (00:49:40):
If it’s the air that they breathe, even if they’re not malicious, they’re still going to advocate. They’re still going to propagate that kind of behavior. So even if your boss, isn’t malicious, I’m not thinking about specific examples, even if your boss isn’t malicious, if that’s what this job or playing this role is-

Alex (00:50:04):
That’s right.

Craig (00:50:05):
Guess what they’re going to do?

Alex (00:50:07):
Yeah, that’s right. And then, the interesting thing about that is in the global sense, it makes them pretty miserable. And this sounds hoity toity and touchy feely. But at the same time like, we’ve got hundreds of studies about the way that the push down, that you have that carries people to the top. It makes them horribly miserable. And well, hey, hang on.

Alex (00:50:35):
I’m seeing a link here back to the notion of parkour and leadership, the way that people articulate themselves all the way down. And also back to the notion of how conceptualization of the way that we interact with the environment. So for me, look, I’m an anthropologist and I like to hang out. Most of our newer anthropologist, are also really enjoy nature and stuff. We can come up with a million justifications to destroy the world that we live in. Probably shouldn’t.

Craig (00:51:07):
I already did it.

Alex (00:51:09):
Yeah. Having said that, isn’t that amazing that I got to talk to and stay up. Till the early hours of the morning [crosstalk 00:51:17]

Craig (00:51:18):
The sun coming up yet?

Alex (00:51:19):
Not quite yet. [crosstalk 00:51:21] And look, I hope this isn’t a terrible interview. I will worry that this is not well-structured, [crosstalk 00:51:27] if you’re enjoying this conversation.

Craig (00:51:29):
No, in the beginning… Alex and Anthropology, Craig and Podcasting and interviewing and it comes like crawled up on, like I’ve literally listened to 5,000 podcasts. I’m not being hyperbolic, like all your primary research. I did all the primary research on podcasting and interviews and I’m still digging it. And initially when I first started it, wasn’t a podcast, I think, but when I first started on what has become the movers mindset project, I thought I knew what I was doing. And then the more I learned, I’m like, Oh my God, there’s a whole bunch of stuff to learn.

Craig (00:51:57):
And I realized that actually the way to do this as the way I’m doing it, where like I’m prepared and then you like, okay, but now I’m going to go do the thing, which is have the conversation with Alex. And the way to have a really good conversation with Alex is to not be like, okay, we have been talking for exactly one hour and seven minutes. So this is the part where the listeners need to go like, which is what we have just done. We have just taken a little mental break. It’s just it all happens organically the right way. [crosstalk 00:52:24] You and I are modeling.

Alex (00:52:28):
I just want to make sure that you’re getting what you want.

Craig (00:52:33):
Yes, just that first I want to go, Alex is a moron, but I’ve deleted it though. Every single… To all you people within the sound of my voice, every single freaking podcast guest says the same thing. I don’t know why you want to talk to me. I don’t know what I like about… I hope this is going to be again, I’m like, “Yes, it’s freaking awesome.” It’s like the best, but I don’t really pay attention to trying to create an artifact here or a bigger project, that itself is an artifact.

Craig (00:52:58):
I’m not trying to make an artifact. That’s supposed to help people or do anything. I’m like, “Oh no, I find this interesting.” I do occasionally like pop the Periscope up and go, "Am I… Okay, everybody… Okay, back to work. And I make sure I’m not really doing something that’s horrible, like horrible for humanity.

Craig (00:53:14):
But beyond those couple, this I think is a particularly, I’m going to say Guide-Star, but there are a few people that I’ve talked to. I don’t want to name names. Because I don’t want to leave anybody out. But there are a few people that I’ve talked to where the conversation has been a little more meta for me, where I’ve been like, this helps me understand, like I’m standing on the bridge of the ship, like, okay. Let me look at what’s aggression, this is good. We’re going the right way.

Craig (00:53:39):
But then I enjoy having some of those more meta conversations, more high level. That was a backward. A little more orienting for me, personally, conversations mixed in with somewhere around, I’m just like, I have no idea what we’re talking about. We’re just talking about motherhood and having kids. And I’m like, Oh, this is fun. Let’s have a conversation. To me, I’m just like scatter plotting. I don’t know, it’s throwing darts. And then you back up, you’re like, “Oh look, it’s a picture.” That’s all I’m doing. I have no clue what I’m doing.

Alex (00:54:03):
It’s pretty good. [inaudible 00:54:05].


Risk and learning [54:06]

Chapter’s show notes…

Alex (00:54:04):
(chapter) So I’m deeply excited about the notion of Parkour Practice being something that is shamanistic. I’m really excited about. I’m looking at just recently pitched a thing for another thing, that I would want to do, but…

Craig (00:54:22):
Wait, you have more things than you can do-

Alex (00:54:25):
I don’t know. [crosstalk 00:54:25] I don’t know how many people go. But one of the things that’s really cool about it is that here we are within this weird fun movement practice. And here we are as crusty old men sitting down and settling the way that we want to move your pipe…

Craig (00:54:40):
What are you talking about?

Alex (00:54:41):
That’s a beautiful way to go. But at the same time, I’m like my God, the transformations in terms of the way that we engage with the environment, the way that we get to sit down and decides that we now want to cut through the urban landscape, but more importantly, the way that I’m… So one of the cool things that I’d like to share would be parkour is really, and not parkour, but also a whole bunch of other practices, is really effective at slicing through bullshits.

Alex (00:55:15):
And what you told me before about meta, I’m trying to jump in on that idea. We should slice through bullshit. And the big thing about that is that, the second that you put yourself in a position where you’re worried about your knees failing, that you want to land with your toes before your heels, that you want to land a giant roof gap, which is something that, some of the proficient kids do nowadays just knock it off.

Alex (00:55:45):
They’ve never done it before. And I would never do a thing like that. But I mean, having said that moments of risk are incredibly valuable and incredibly rare. And I like to sing praises to the fact that we’ve got all these amazing movement practices that create trauma. I’m a big fan of trauma. Can we generate some trauma for the way that we live in our life? I don’t know whether or not that helps you in terms of the way that we want to look at things.

Craig (00:56:16):
I don’t know. A thought buzzing around in my head about, like I consume too much materials. I can’t remember where it got it from, but it was, the idea is about how, or in what context is learning effective. And it has to be difficult. The learning has to be either uncomfortable or dangerous or that the struggle is a necessary component of learning. If it’s all just like, "It’s all road just pushing the buttons on a brain fail. What’s the app for learning languages? It bothers me when I can’t look up things. Do a lingo. Just like do a lingo ling. You’re not really learning the language. It’s just you’re not really doing enough hard mental work to learn how to use that language as an example of a place where learning doesn’t work very well.

Craig (00:57:11):
And I think for me, these conversations, like just conversations in general, I’m like, Oh, this is really hard. Like I break a sweat. And afterwards I’m like, Oh man, I need a meal. I’m starving, because you’re running your brain out like a 100% clock speed. So I love the struggle in the conversation and I find, I can figure out how to struggle just as much on a bouldering problem, two inches off the ground as I can in a conversation with another person. I’m like, "Oh, I can figure out how to struggle. I keep going back to, how are you being coherent at midnight?

Alex (00:57:46):
I’m not being coherent at all.


Storytime [57:49]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:57:49):
(chapter) All right, just like I mentioned before we started that I will be mindful of your time. Because we could just do this until, somebody knocks on your door, “What are you doing in there?” Which will happen at my house too? Let’s do story time and I’ll just serve it at you and see what you do, Alex. Is there a story that you’d like to share?

Alex (00:58:06):
I think a major one would be, let’s all just hang out together because of the big story. The big story that I have is traveling across a whole series of Parkour communities, from America to Eastern Europe, to Australia and a whole bunch of other places. And the big thing is they’re kind of weirdly fighting each other and at the same time, kind of not. So let’s forget that we are not, let’s forget the notion of separate practice. Let’s remember that we’re doing parkour and movement displacement pretty good by the way it go or parkour. So, I’m pretty sure that was a pretty bad way to go, but Hey, that’s what I’ve got.

Craig (00:58:54):
True.


Starting places for anthropology [58:55]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (00:58:56):
(chapter) Let’s see, you and I have, we just dove in the pool of anthropology. If somebody who’s listening to this went, "Wait, this is what? Where’s that good place to get started? I mean, can we read the Wikipedia article. First of all, if you’re listening, go read the Wikipedia article on ethnography. After they’ve done that, is there a good place that you recommend somebody go, if they’re interested in ethnography or anthropology in general?

Alex (00:59:24):
I mean taking a course, but the other thing about it would be, so right then wrote an amazing book about ethnography. One of the people who taught me, it’s called doing ethnography pretty straightforward at the same time, go back and read people like Margaret Mead, read people like Greg Downey, there’s so many people who are incredibly capable of delivering what this is from near anthropology to cultural anthropology. Just look up anthropology and then chase it up. I’d like to promote people looking at that stuff up. That’d be great.


Learning from podcasting [1:00:05]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (01:00:07):
(chapter) Let’s see we’ll link word magic. And what, is there anything you, I love when guests are home. I love and I hate when guests ask me questions, because then it’s like, Oh, I have to be real. But was there anything that you were thinking that you wanted to ask me about? Because I know, if I remember correctly, you kind of, when I said, “Hey, do you want to interview?” You were like, “What project is this?” Like you hadn’t seen it before. So was there anything that like after having, dipped in the pool a little bit then now you’re like, “Wait, what’s going on with-”

Alex (01:00:39):
Yeah, man. So Craig, how do you feel about talking to the people? How does it feel in relation to… So I think I’ve been way abstract. How does it feel to be in-between the idea of people who are good movement people who want to teach you a whole bunch of biomechanics. And then every once in a while we had extra people like myself. What does that tell you? Being in a weird in-between?

Craig (01:01:07):
Well, I think at one level it’s taught me how, Well, “Whoa.” I think that first world problems, super lucky to be able to have access. And I don’t just mean, because it’s 2020, and everybody learned how to use zoom. Things got a lot easier when all of a sudden it really had learned to use zoom. It used to be a lot harder to get people on calls. So just after doing a bunch of them, I’ve realized how lucky I am just to have access. And that, I mean access in terms of the racial aspect… Well, it’s nice that I’m alive in this period of time, I keep going. Well, people are going to look back in 300 years, whether or not they noticed anything I ever did. They’re going to look back and go, "Wow, what must’ve been like to actually know the people who started this, also there’s this real conflict.

Craig (01:01:53):
I’m super aware of this confluence of perfect things that came together for me personally. So that’s one thing that took a while to realize that. At first I’m just like, “I’m just interviewing people, I don’t know what’s going on.” And then I kind of zoomed out, at one point when I got lonely like, “Whoa, there’s a lot of episodes here and there’s a lot of people talking about this.” So that’s one big thing which was super helpful for me personally, to sort of get my shed in order. If something goes wrong, that’s expected because so many other things have gone well, I’ve gone right. So that was like one big thing, was just the experience of doing it all. And then like stepping back from that and going, "Yeah. Okay, it’s important to be cognizant that that’s a thing. I think the other part was…

Craig (01:02:35):
And you touched on this before about, "Hey, you people over here, you can talk, be more like you can talk to these people and it’s just there needs to be more cross pollination and more communication, which the reason why I have communication, I guess my personal mission. But, I realized that that’s what I was doing. That was the thing I was just stuck on. So that, having like, I don’t want to say I had access to everybody, but having had access to everybody and having been the fly on the wall in a million other really great conversations, I’m just what the world needs, everybody needs to just do this more, have the luck of being able to maybe travel, maybe not traveling. We do it virtually, but-

Alex (01:03:18):
But communication is an excellent personal mission.

Craig (01:03:21):
Yeah.

Alex (01:03:22):
That’s a pretty good place to me.

Craig (01:03:24):
Yeah, cool. Does that answer your question? Or do you want it…

Alex (01:03:29):
Yeah, it will. Not unless you want to keep going.

Craig (01:03:30):
I don’t know if I have a third. It’s not so like having hung out. I haven’t hung out with everybody, but I would say there’s probably nobody that is further than two degrees of separation. Anybody in, and it’d be like, give me, not literally, but give me your name and I can ask somebody who would have direct access or at most, a second step. So that makes it feel like I’m a kid in a candy store, “Whoa, where do I want to go?” And the imposter syndrome of the movement aspect of it, is something that I continuously struggle with. I have had people say things to me like, “Wow, you really move really well.” And anybody who’s seen me move is like, “What?”

Craig (01:04:14):
But it has happened. And it’s total like, “What are you talking about?” All I did was I just did that one pushup on the first day. And then I just kept trying. So that physical imposter syndrome, you asked me like, “What about the experience of all these, of this wide range of people that I’ve talked to?” I’ve never was, I could think of hell, actually zero. There’s nobody who’s ever made me feel like I was a physical imposter in what I was doing.

Craig (01:04:39):
It’s always been exactly what we all know it’s supposed to be. And what we say it is, I haven’t encountered people, even when I have encountered people who have an ego or who are like, “Well, this is actually a thing it’s really this.” They’ve never been like, them, get outta here, fatso. I’ve never really gotten direct pushback. So that for me has been really helpful to be like, you need to get over that imposter syndrome.

Alex (01:04:58):
Can I say something here? And this is really important. I mean, it’s the fact that we are having this intellectual conversation, but I would challenge anybody who’s within the parkour community to think for a second. And remember that time a 14 year old kid turned around and said, “What authority do you have to teach me? You’re fat old and not able to do that 25 foot jump.” And then we have this entire soaring…

Alex (01:05:29):
Man, not even subculture, primary culture, the way that YouTube stacks on hits. And then you have all these videos of people doing incredible things. I mean, I’m a big fan of most of the people who are doing giant movement stuff. But if you were to ask some of the youngest students that I’ve had, they’re just like, "What? Who are you to teach me Parkour, fatso? This is something that I’ve received. Because what they think about is like giant ship. And I don’t want to name anybody.

Craig (01:06:05):
It’s spectacle.

Alex (01:06:05):
Yeah, it’s spectacle [crosstalk 01:06:08]

Craig (01:06:08):
Well, I’m but the same spectacle that they’re wowed by. I see [crosstalk 01:06:09]

Alex (01:06:09):
Go again, me too. [crosstalk 01:06:12] And some of those guys, mostly guys, again, incredible movement. And some of the ladies coming up are also just incredibly amazing. But, sitting down and talking about it is a good way to get somebody to point a finger at you and say, “Why don’t you move, man?”

Craig (01:06:30):
Let’s see that now maybe I’m hiding because there have been a couple of awkward… I’m normally the person, in the second or first row of any crowd, like if there’s something going on, I’m there, but I’m not like on today, your presentation is by so-and-so. So now, I’m, “I don’t put myself out there for that kind of thing.” I don’t actually teach hardcore, for fun or for profit. And I don’t put myself out there as a movement coach kind of thing. But, that’s a good point. Valid pushback on my… I haven’t been actually criticized because I had a privilege and I’m hiding.

Alex (01:07:07):
Hey, I’m not saying like, "Hey, I can’t do 25 foot jumps. I can’t do giant roof gaps. I’m not making videos about traveling across the world. And I’m doing incredible lines in exotic places. All we can do is just do our own parkour, right?


Billboard for the world [1:07:30]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (01:07:32):
(chapter) Just kind of a throw away. But if you could have, this is a classic Tim Ferris. If you can have a billboard, one billboard anywhere, like Times Square or Beijing, assuming that everybody who sees it can understand what it says, what would you put on it?

Alex (01:07:47):
Good question.

Craig (01:07:48):
I steal it from the best.

Alex (01:07:51):
Likewise, it’s a pretty good question. Bloody hell I don’t know. Anything that I do will mess you up. Don’t trust me, would be the billboard.

Craig (01:08:01):
You Anthropologist, you.


Anthropology moments [1:08:04]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (01:08:01):
(chapter) Did you ever have moments when you were in the anthologizing? That’s not a thing. When you were doing your research, did you ever have moments that… I know that you have to be aware as an anthropologist. I know that you must be aware of like, "Well, I cannot be in, like I’m going to be affecting the people that I’m studying. But did you ever have like really Vertiginous like, the vertigo of, “Oh my God, I’m actually capturing something that’s really important.”

Alex (01:08:34):
Absolutely. So this is one of those moments where I get to plug. I’m delivering a course, but I’ve delivered many a time. The trick to being an anthropologist is to demolish your notion of self right off the bat. It’s a weird thing to do, but think about it this way. Anthropology is the science of humanity. Paleontology is the science of paly ants. We’re talking about obviously rocks and things and any kind of science generally involves a human being looking at a thing. And that’s a very comfortable position to be in.

Alex (01:09:13):
Anthropology is the science of human beings looking at other human beings. And that genuinely just is a really difficult in fact that place to be. So the big thing about that is that the first step to being a decent anthropologist is to just slice yourself down in the middle, figuring out how you work and then get vaguely close to the way that other people interact with others. The notion of bias is something that we take for granted.

Alex (01:09:44):
Anthropology is the science of people. We don’t have a laboratory. We can’t put a baby inside a closed chamber and blast Taylor Swift at them for the next 10 years to see the effects of Taylor Swift. We just have to see the effects of Taylor Swift on the baby, in the general world. So it’s crazy. You, end up being a kind of weird tool of analysis. And the first thing that you need to do is become aware of the fact that you want the tool of analysis.

Alex (01:10:16):
So anthropology is something that I absolutely love. It’s one of those things that forces me to dissect everything that I say at every moment and every given time. And it is something that doesn’t stop. My partner is, the burden she carries is something that we all like to, I’d praise that for him.

Craig (01:10:48):
What’s the community, sorry, a community like thinking in the context of parkour already free running? What’s the community that you want it to get to, but you didn’t for whatever reason.

Alex (01:10:59):
Well, I think the big one would be, me being me. Me present as a tool of ethnography. So here I am, I’m actually quite tall and broad shoulder. I am a fit white dude, and there are places that I can’t go. Either, the Neo-Nazis love me, but having said that, like there are places that I can’t go, or in terms of women and women of color and transactional communities, then I have absolute respect. I have no access to that. Th

Craig (01:11:32):
Yeah, and if you can-

Alex (01:11:32):
And fair enough.

Craig (01:11:34):
Do your work?

Alex (01:11:35):
Yeah. I mean, I am, as I said before, I am the tool of the ethnographic process. I am the scientist that gets to do all that stuff. And central is the idea that I understand my limitation. There are places I can’t go and couldn’t probably do work on.

Craig (01:11:54):
Yeah, cool.


Parkour community and space [1:11:56]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (01:11:57):
(chapter) What about… So I’m always like, “Ooh, there are things that I would ask you, if we weren’t recording.”

Alex (01:12:05):
Go on please.

Craig (01:12:05):
What I always going to ask you is like, from the anthropologists point of view, who’s doing the most damage currently in the Parkour ADHD Space?

Alex (01:12:18):
I don’t know. The biggest thing for me is, there’s no such thing as damage. I mean, once upon a time when I was writing my PhD and all you have to do is go back and it’s available, you can Google, the PhD that I wrote. I was really excited about the idea that Parkour is going to introduce or ADHD practices going to introduce this conception of movement into a sport centric space.

Alex (01:12:46):
Because the reality is the Western world is obsessed with sport. We like to measure the beauty of parkour is that somebody like me, and again, I’m quite large. But at the same time, my upper body strength is great. I’m a Neanderthal, literally. It’s a wonderful thing to be. I get to throw myself with my upper body strength and it’s not an issue. But if you ask me to run for a long time, I’m going to get very tired, very quickly.

Alex (01:13:19):
So, there’s a whole bunch of movements that come from springing and striding that are incredibly effective, but there’s also a bunch of movements that come from things like Dino’s and things like Kappa. So we get that kind of stuff and it allows our practice to sort of exist within this beautiful system where everybody is good at something. Here I am with my hearts and flowers. But what we end up doing is we ended up standardizing and working towards some kind of perfected system that completely locks up people like me.

Alex (01:13:52):
And this is something that I do get to present. I’m very heavy as a person. So I will never be able to stride like Callum Day or a whole bunch of those people. So it worries me that we have this process where we’re transforming parkour into a discipline that looks very similar to gymnastics while pretending that we don’t like domestics. The whole thing, anti-FIG process, is really interesting to me because we fight the FIG and we standardize ourselves in a way that really seems similar to what they would want to.

Craig (01:14:32):
Two Friday and we need to create a comparable thing that can fight against it.

Alex (01:14:37):
And the simple-

Craig (01:14:40):
You also make good points about-

Alex (01:14:40):
Yeah, go on.

Craig (01:14:45):
Can good companies like profit oriented entities that teach or that create products or whatever can positive companies arise from within the community. And I think what you said was, “Yes, it can.” So I have always had the opinion that I’m not personally interested in being part of the fight against FIG, but I do love the way Max Henry was the first person I heard say this, “I want it to be that when you go to purple cows shows up, that there’s already 17 clothing brands run by people who are passionate and are in the committee, and there are 17 video. And they’re like, everything is all occupied by people whose heart is in it.”

Craig (01:15:25):
And we’re going to disagree with some of the way those companies have chosen to maneuver or what they’ve chosen to create, but I’d rather have the disagreement with somebody whose heart is raised on the same thing kind of thing. Kind of thanks a lot, I’m kind of coming back to that idea of, I think Parkour ADT have problems, but it’s nothing that I don’t think the people who were involved can’t solve, I guess not, it doesn’t have, I hate to say this, enough cancer, but it isn’t. There’s an inherent problem in the nature of the practice, which leads to necessary disaster.

Alex (01:15:59):
Not at all. I mean, the big thing about it is, I guess the parkour panels were taking a huge swing at that, then the commercialization that was happening at the time. If you look at the sports networks and the stuff that MTV was doing, and you look at what Red Bull was doing, that’s the stuff that I really wanted to Slack off at the same time. Bloody hell like, moving collective. There’s a whole bunch of every single group of people who are really just manufacturing parkour stuff, is fantastic. I’m a 100% behind the idea of people who are doing good work. And I mean, Hey, why not? I’m merchandise when it comes to moving well at the same time, we’ve got a whole bunch of accountability that we need to maintain.

Alex (01:16:53):
And the second that, a certain groups get to hang out in third world countries and exploit the notion that they’re white to make videos about stuff that happens to them for the excitement of… Fails. We should probably take a second as a community and say, probably shouldn’t be okay with that. So one of the things that I genuinely believe is that anybody who’s part of this movement, subculture gets assigned, it’s ethics. I have no commitment to the conception of a singular direction, because that’s gone. That train has gone a long time ago.

Alex (01:17:37):
I think we should be able to sit down and turn around and say when somebody takes away the notion of parkour to advertise stuff, that’s really bad for everyone. We should probably have an opinion on it. I mean, the only thing that generates us as a movement practice is the fact that we all practice together and just like any martial art or any other movement practice before us, we should be able to sit down and have a strong opinion about what’s okay and what’s not okay.

Alex (01:18:08):
I like to think that Parkour won’t advertise things like alcohol, because it’s a lot of fun to do we drunk alcohol, but it shouldn’t be something that we’re all behind. I like to think the parkour will advertise things like exploitative tourist industries, there’s going to be people doing that. But I don’t like to think that’s going to be part of our brand. So in a weird way, I guess I’ve got strong opinions about that stuff. And I’m okay with getting beat up about those.

Craig (01:18:42):
I don’t know that you’ll get, but I know what you mean about, you’re going to get pushed back.

Alex (01:18:45):
Yeah. I mean, one of the big things that’s going to happen is that somebody is going to turn around.

Craig (01:18:49):
That come out from me.

Alex (01:18:50):
No. And one of the things that’s going to happen is that somebody is going to turn around and say, “The classic Neo-Liberal conception, this is a movement practice. We all need to make a living.” And why would you want to give them the way of this genuine engagement that these movement people want to have? If they want to have a brand on their back while they’re doing their thing, it’s fantastic. And 90% of the time, that’s absolutely fine. But one of the things that’s really interesting about it is, I think the uplifting potential of this discipline and I do in that winky philosophical language, believe in the uplifting potential with this discipline, is that we’ve come up with it in order to be able to deal with a whole bunch of fucked up stuff, that relates to our environment.

Alex (01:19:35):
As an anthropologist, I think everything is adaptive. And I think that the second that we turn around and we say this adaptive things should be integrated into the maladaptive practices. I think that we’re kind of defeating ourselves. And I mean, that’s the pattern or the wasting scar. I don’t know whether I’m making sense?

Craig (01:19:55):
Yes, no I-

Alex (01:19:56):
That makes sense?

Craig (01:19:57):
Yes. That makes sense to me and I agree.


3 words [1:20:01]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig (01:20:01):
(chapter) So I think that one of the things that took a long time to learn is, talking to people in conversation is like going to a well. You get buckets of clear water, but eventually you went one time, too many. So I had learned when to stop. So I think I will just say, and of course the final question, three words to describe your practice.

Alex (01:20:21):
Three words, “Don’t trust me.”

Craig (01:20:24):
Brilliant. That’s an excellent way to demonstrate self-awareness. Beautiful. Alex it was, I should have said everybody, that was a distinct pleasure to get to talk to you. Somewhere that’s been on my radar, to talk to you for a while, and I’m glad I waited as long as I did. And I’m pretty damn sure this will not be our last conversation recorded or otherwise. So it was a pleasure. Thanks again. Huge, thank you for staying up or getting up to tolerate my East Coast Time Zone, it’s been pleasure.

Alex (01:20:53):
Thank you, Craig.