Mike Araujo: Coaching, World Chase Tag, and community

Episode summary

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Mike Araujo

Playing tag on national television was never something Mike Araujo imagined when he started training parkour. He discusses his path in parkour and the opportunities he’s gained from it. Mike shares his experiences with World Chase Tag, and his thoughts on competition. He explains his personal definition of parkour, sharing it with others, and his thoughts on how the community has changed.

Mike Araujo is an athlete and head coach with the Movement Creative. He has trained parkour in NYC for over a decade, and coached nearly as long. Mike often travels for parkour, and recently competed in World Chase Tag’s first USA based event.

Highlight [0:00]

Mike (00:00:04):
The thing I try to share the most when talking about parkour to non parkour practitioners or people who are just getting into it is that what you’re doing exactly doesn’t matter. It’s kind of the intention of your practice. And I think I’ve had this in my mind since I started was like it doesn’t matter what you do, doesn’t matter how far you jump or how big whatever your movement is. But it’s like the intention behind your practice. What are you pushing yourself towards?

Intro [0:33]

Movement and coaching [1:45]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Lache video and story, ideas of parkour as a kid
  • Beginnings of training vs now
  • Necessity of movement, finding what ‘moves you to move’
  • Changes in thinking and approach to coaching
“I think when I first started training I was in this mindset of like, everyone needs to do parkour because this is like the thing and I tried to pressure all my friends to do it. Now as I'm older it's like everyone needs to find the thing that moves them to move. Whether that be parkour or whatever other sport. I think as long as you're moving and connecting with people and your environment and stuff then you're on the right path.”

Mike Araujo

Making change [12:13]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Changing between coaching jobs to Movement Creative
  • The thought process of deciding and going through the change
  • Thinking through potential outcomes, looking at his own wants
  • Eventually taking the risk, continuing to look at changes
  • Choices that create some opportunities and control, the right opportunities for you personally
“Like thinking all right, if I made this switch what could the next couple of years look like? And then also my position at the old gym was changing. So thinking about how is this going to continue to change and is that what I want? Is that what's going to make me happy? And in what ways may or may not that make me happy? Like financially, socially, life goals situation, all that stuff. But I think with that type of change it's something like you can visualize and think about but you don't actually know what will happen until you make the change.”

Mike Araujo

World Chase Tag [20:09]

Defining and sharing parkour [29:29]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Why ask the question? Explaining to others, curiosity
  • Mike’s definition; different explanations
  • Sharing the passion, enthusiasm, who asks the question
  • Expressing how everyone can do parkour, showing it to people
  • Inspiring people; Jump London, Casino Royale chase scene
  • Dealing with ‘I could never do that’
  • Considering intentions, what you DO doesn’t matter

Craig (00:38:56):
If you don’t know what Jump London is type Jump space London in YouTube. Or if you see Seb do the Casino Royale run or you watch video from … Maybe that would be enough to ignite the passion for you to decide, I’m going to walk to lunch from my office. Or I’m going to go for a bike ride or a walk instead of watch whatever. That’s my personal opinion is I’ve come around to like the nah, I’m just going to share the passion as much as I can. It isn’t a tremendous amount. I have a limited amount of energy. But I’m just wondering if like … It sounds like you’ve been kind of veering toward that way but as a coach you’re still like directly tasked with deliver the thing. And I’m just wondering if you see yourself moving more and more toward inspiring other coaches or moving more toward imagining ways of delivering the material? What’s next beyond coaching?

Mike (00:39:48):
There were a few things there.

Craig (00:39:51):
I tend to do this. Would you like a sip from my fire hose?

Mike (00:39:57):
So yeah, going back I think often what is eye catching … Even if someone’s like, “Oh, show me something,” and you walk over, you ask them if they can do a squat, which they may or may not be able to do properly. And it made me wonder as you were saying it if my first experience of parkour being something that was 15 years ago, Jump Britain with Sebastien Foucan. Obviously everything they did in that documentary was amazing. Today or even at the time especially. But I wonder if now, someone being exposed to parkour seeing Roof Culture Asia or Ed Scott doing these flip precisions to railings.

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Craig (00:40:40):
Oh my god. Yes.

Mike (00:40:40):
That’s something we joked about. That was a ha ha back-

Craig (00:40:49):
Yeah, they post it on the board. Yeah. Let me see you do this. People do that. Max striding the tops of columns that are impossibly far apart.

Mike (00:40:54):
Yeah. Even that type of movement. Right?

Craig (00:40:55):
People on slack lines. I mean, there’s just so much stuff.

Mike (00:40:57):
Yeah. Max is a great example because he’s got beautiful stride technique and you can watch him stride across rails or columns or whatever and I think because of where he’s doing it, it immediately becomes this thing where some people are like, “That looks really cool.” And sometimes people have also the reaction of like, “But I could never do it.” But if they were to watch a triple jumper on a track, the idea might be like, “I could do that with a bunch of training. He’s just had a bunch of practice and he’s an athlete. He’s in sports.” Whereas, you watch Max stride up high or on something extremely precise, you’re like, oh, he’s doing something superhuman, potentially. Because most people are so disconnected from movement as a whole, maybe they identify more with an organized sport. But then you see people out on the street doing things and I think the shift is like, “That’s a little bit more risky. I could never do that because of X, Y, and Z.” And they don’t see the process that Max had of literally striding on the floor. Or any athlete. We all practice jumping on the floor before we go even half a foot off the ground.

Craig (00:42:06):
Yeah. The elite level that … For example, Olympics. But there are other elite venues for performance and competition. But at that elite level, you’re getting to the point where standard ante for the game is all your passion, all your effort, 100%. That’s the ante. And then did you get the DNA draw? Did you get the coach? There’s all this other stuff you really can’t control that much. Then maybe you can get to that preme Olympic level. And what I’ve always loved about art du déplacement parkour is, no, I got off the sofa … I mean, not literally off the sofa. I got off the sofa when I was 40 and just went, “I don’t know. I can’t even do a push-up.” And I’m not good but all of my progress … Some people in my age cohort go, “Oh my god.” Like people who are my age. So when you see people like Max Henry or I’m going to say even yourself, you’re not anywhere near the top fraction of a percent of the Olympic competitors in terms of DNA and genes. It’s like, no, you did everything that you could with what you were given. So you tend to find your own path. You find your own skillset. You find your own …

Craig (00:43:19):
There’ll probably be Olympic chase taggers at some point who would run over the people who are currently winning. But I think just the random people who see it, they miss out. They’re like, no, the things you think are amazing and dangerous and spectacular, they’re actually more achievable for you than the triple jump at the Olympics or the world class rock climber. Now, there’s an asterisk on this. There are people in parkour and ADD and movement spaces who are operating at that level and they are up there at that level. But most people that you would see-

Mike (00:43:57):
Yeah. I think the thing I try to share the most when talking about parkour to non parkour practitioners or people who are just getting into it is that what you’re doing exactly doesn’t matter. It’s kind of the intention of your practice. And I think I’ve had this in my mind since I started was it doesn’t matter what you do, doesn’t matter how far you jump or how big whatever your movement is, but it’s the intention behind your practice. What are you pushing yourself towards? Obviously there’s a container of that where you’re using only your body and the environment, but I think other than that parkour is just a practice where you’re trying to connect with your body by using your environment around you. And I think that makes it highly accessible for anyone to do it as a sport. Whether it be someone who’s highly athletic, someone who might be older and trying to start moving again, or in many other ways as well. It’s a sport that requires no equipment and no specific space.

Superpowers [45:40]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Eating, “Fat Mike;” Generally nutritious, but does indulge
  • Funny, goofy and lighthearted; keeping perspective
  • Sonder, being a background character in other people’s lives

Success [49:44]

Recharging [50:51]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Tended toward extroversion, but more introverted recently
  • Necessity of personal practice
  • Effects of COVID on movement practice, reflection

Events and community [55:05]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • What to share with the world, reflecting
  • Story of community events, how they’ve grown and changed
  • 4 the Love of Movement (4tlom) camp stories, unique experience
  • Types of events and why they’re important; workshops, competitions, camps
  • Competitions as personal growth and reflection opportunity
  • Community in and around competition
  • Max Henry, PK Silver

Mike (00:55:19):
Super. Super. I thought about what experiences I may have had that I can offer interesting insight into. So yeah, I know World Chase Tag was one and then from there, kind of the world of competition in parkour. And then that had me thinking what was 2020 like for parkour and how did it change? Because we’re a very event driven community.

Craig (00:55:43):
But we didn’t use to be. Before I started it didn’t use to be.

Mike (00:55:48):
Yeah. Absolutely.

Craig (00:55:49):
Used to be very much an organic, three or four people jumping on stuff kind of thing.

Mike (00:55:53):
Yeah. My first training session was … Mark Toorock used to be on the Urban Freeflow team. So he was, as far as I know back then, bouncing between London and the east coast. My first jam where I learned about parkour. I’d done it in my neighborhood and then we found a website and all this stuff, whatever. We go to this training session, a jam, and there were probably over 30 people there. And this is in 2005.

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Craig (00:56:21):
That’s a lot. That’s big.

Mike (00:56:22):
Like late 2005. So me and my brother got there because I needed a chaperone to get on the subway. And yeah, it was like, wow, this is a thing. This is a thing people do. So we hung out all day and I probably … Yeah. Even though it’s quite a while ago it’s a very clear memory in my head. But the next jam I went to that was posted on the message board at time was two people and that was it. And then moving forward that’s what it was most likely. It was me and maybe two other people. Maybe five-ish if it was a weekend and people wanted to come out and it was nice weather. But yeah, it was very small and as time went on bigger events or bigger jams started happening. This idea of the national jam in the US started happening where different cities would host these larger weekend gatherings and I think even back then a big one would be considered maybe 30-ish people. And now you have these events in camps.

Craig (00:57:28):
Multi hundred people.

Mike (00:57:29):
Yeah. Very crazy. I think the largest one I’ve been to maybe … I don’t know. So hard to tell because people kind of come in and out. I know Beast Coast has had quite a large turnout. But more recently I’d say 4 the Love of Movement, hosted in Den Haag, was such a crazy turnout because it’s a camp. So no one really needs to leave. We got there one day early and it was like, oh, there’s some people here and-

Craig (00:58:01):
This is nice.

Mike (00:58:02):
Yeah. So there’s the main setup for training and then there was another scaffold set up purely for hammocks. And-

Craig (00:58:09):
For the hanging humans.

Mike (00:58:11):
Yeah. We set up ours and it was like, oh, there’s a few people. And then by the end of the next day which is like the official first day, any part where you could strap a hammock was tiered three high at least. Like there was someone above you, under you. People also just laid on the floor under you so you had to be careful getting out of the hammock. And it was such a crazy experience to kind of be in a place for a weekend and you don’t have to leave, all the food is provided for you. There’s a little store around the corner. You’re surrounded by people who want to do the same thing as you. And yeah, I mean, starting from my first jam and going to there, I wouldn’t have imagined that’s where parkour would go. To these weekend camps, these multi hundred people events.

Mike (00:58:54):
For 4 the Love of Movement there’s no specific thing to go for. There’s no workshop. I mean, there’s high level athletes there I guess you could meet, but there’s no coaching going on. There’s no speaking or anything like that like you might get at some other events. Everyone travels in literally just to train and that’s it. I think some events in the US have a similar thing. Up in Boston there’s the Hub Jam, which they’ve pretty much had the same formula every year is come and hang out this weekend and we’re all going to train. And it kind of kicks off the training season. Late spring, early summer. But there’s nothing special to go there for. I mean, obviously parkour is special to everyone who goes there but there’s no-

Craig (00:59:37):
Yeah. There’s no big spreadsheet like be here at two and be there at three. I think there’s an ecosystem or a spread of types of events. And really in there in the mix is structured classes in a built space like the classic parkour gym. I think that’s a kind of gathering. And yeah, it happens on Tuesday at 7:00 and you show up with 17 friends or whatever. And all those different things, I think those are all necessary. For a while I used to think, “Oh, I should be training outside. You’re in a built space.” Like if it’s so cold your hands are numb, then run faster or go inside. Quit with the … Do your pushups indoors. But now I’m thinking like no, it really is … If we want whatever this movement practice is that we all love, if you want that to really be approachable by everybody then you need to figure out what … Oh, this person? They need to have a drill sergeant tell them to do their burpees and then do the thing and then run here and then sprint there and then come back and do this. They need that. They need the one on one. Let’s go train with [inaudible 01:00:34].

Craig (01:00:35):
Then there are people who are like, “Yeah. Okay. We’re going to walk on this line and learn balance.” So there’s going to be different things that are just going to call to each person. And I just love … Even in the United States you look around and you’re like, “There’s this jam over here. This one’s been going for a million years. This one is huge and organized and there’s scheduled speakers and everything’s scheduled to five minutes. And then this one over here is just like hey, whatever, show up.” I love that because you can … If you’ve got the cajones and you want to go push yourself, you can go to … Oh, I don’t want to go to that event because it scares the crap out of me. I’m going. I’ve done that kind of thing. And boy, does that make you grow? Like what did I do? But invariably, as long as you’re reasonably smart about it, you’re not going to get into serious trouble. You know?

Mike (01:01:18):
Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly the reason I go-

Craig (01:01:22):
But that’s like the DNA. The DNA is like yeah, we got everything. What do you want? And who are you? Then go where you’re called. Go where you feel you’re called. Not where they actually call you like, “Craig, get over here.” Not that kind of call. Go where you feel compelled to go.

Mike (01:01:36):
Yeah. I think you see something like Rendezvous, which is a good mix of structured lessons or workshops, whatever you might want to call it, and there’s plenty of free time to train on your own, to meet more people and that’s such a good balance. And then you have something like Art of Motion or NAPC, which is a competition. You’re more likely going to go there if you are a high level athlete or you’re practicing specifically for competition. But even those events, the event itself has no … I don’t want to say it doesn’t have the community aspect to it. But people are there to compete. Not necessarily to train or to practice. They’re there to compete. But on either side of the events you have people showing up a few days early. You have people staying like a week late. Because they know that for the weekend I’m in competition mode and I got into competitions like NAPC and stuff. Not because I’m hyper competitive. In fact like ball sports growing up like never called to me. Like the basic stuff. The common sports. But it added this novelty to my practice and I recognized I was uncomfortable in that space. So how well I do in the standings doesn’t matter to me. That’s not what I’m coming out of it. If I win, wow. But-

Craig (01:02:54):
Who didn’t show up?

Mike (01:02:55):
Yeah. Who? Exactly. But it’s more so after the competition I can reflect on like how did I feel during this moment or that moment. I’ve gone multiple years in a row and it’s like okay well the very first year I was a bag of nerves and totally bombed and whatever. And then successive years it’s like all right, was I nervous still? What was I nervous about? Was I nervous about the challenges, the crowd, nervous about competing in athletes that I looked up to? Was it one of those things? Was it all of those things? Was I physically in a spot where I felt confident or was my training really poor leading up to it? So yeah that’s my go to for competitions. That’s what drew me to those. And then yeah, now you get to see a new place. You get to see people once a year. You know everyone’s going to be there. And you guys kind of get to takeover this little city or wherever-

Craig (01:03:46):
A little playground. Air quoting little playground that’s exactly designed for the thing that makes us all get excited.

Mike (01:03:51):

Craig (01:03:51):
Yes please.

Storytime [1:07:59]

Parkour events [1:16:44]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • 2022 as a potential big year for events
  • Shift in community attitude towards social media through pandemic
  • Return to long form video via quarantine
  • Parkour videos with further concept, deeper topics
  • 2020 as strange open creative opportunity

Mike (01:21:45):
Yeah. I mean I hope that once people are back out to training and going to events that we continue to get these kind of like big video projects which are really ingrained in parkour culture. I think the ones that came out in 2020, once people had time to be locked up inside and maybe they had more time to edit or do whatever was holding them back from finishing that project. But we just did a screening for these two films. Controlled Decent from Winston Yang and Trials Morales from Darryl Stingley and those are both long form videos but it’s not just a video of them traveling somewhere and training. It’s not even just like a show reel of them training. They both wanted to say something very specific unrelated to parkour with these projects. And maybe 2020 gave them the space to do it. But I would love to see more projects like that where there was more being said than like look how hard I’ve been training recently or whatever else.

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Craig (01:22:45):
Yeah. The famous jump cut. The famous cut. The famous super cut. Oh please. Can’t tell you how fast I skip past those.

Mike (01:22:54):
I see more artists kind of crossing over. There are a lot of … Obviously film and photography are huge for us and you have people now … Maybe brave enough is the term is to use to say like I’m selling prints if anyone wants any of my parkour photography. There are parkour calendars. There are parkour podcast popping up more and more. And seeing all these avenues open up for people and people given the space to say like, “Well, I’m home anyway, I can try it out.” Worst case-

Craig (01:23:24):
What could possibly go wrong.

Mike (01:23:25):
Worst case, it’s not real life right now anyway right?

Craig (01:23:27):

Mike (01:23:27):
Like we’re all kind of doing our thing. So I think if we can maintain that part while returning to the I want to go jump on everything and meet everyone and travel all over the place mentality as we return to a more normal setup, I think will cool. I think it would be really good. Like the roaring '20s. The roaring 2020s.

3 words [1:23:51]

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Craig (01:23:52):
Well, I think that’s a good a place as any to wrap up so I will just say … And of course the final question. Three words to describe your practice.

Mike (01:24:02):
I listened to a few episodes. I knew this was coming.

Craig (01:24:05):
Everybody does but it actually doesn’t help.

Mike (01:24:07):
Yeah. Yeah.

Craig (01:24:08):
It’s not meant to be like a skewer you question. It’s just meant to be a whole opportunity for you to have the last say.

Mike (01:24:17):
Well I did some reflecting and I guess three words I would use would be train to connect and that would be to yourself, your environment, people around you, whatever it is. It can be all of those things or one of those things.

Craig (01:24:32):
[crosstalk 01:24:32].

Mike (01:24:32):
Yeah. I think that’s one of the most beautiful parts of parkour is … For me specifically, it’s been a huge social thing for me. Did not have many friends growing up. So starting training parkour was I had to connect to people if I wanted to learn because that was the only way to learn back then was to talk with people. So yeah, connecting to others, learning more about yourself obviously and connecting to your environment I think is huge.