- Chunny Baker
Get to know John
"Any comments, questions, stories, revelations, feedback or anything else want to say?" That's something you'll often hear John say when he is teaching classes or workshops. So, diving in, we asked... what is John's story?
What would you like to tell us about yourself?
If you haven't gathered already, I enjoy movement. I have a appreciation for movement beyond the normal execution of everyday activities. I've always been impressed with what people can accomplish. I enjoy watching and drawing inspiration from dance, martial arts and other forms of body performance or acrobatics. Outside physical movement, I have recently finished a degree in Animation. I like bringing things to life through animation. For me parkour and animation are parts of the same sphere: one part I am exploring movement physically, and the other through creativity.
I play with a range of creative endeavours. I can sometimes be found drawing, playing guitar (if poorly), making visual art (usually in form of video art), digital drawing, or using random programs to try and make stuff. For those that know me, it is no secret that I am a bit of a chocoholic.
How did you discover Parkour and when did you begin training?
I discovered parkour around 2003, from playing games - I was quite into the game Prince of Persia. I was drawn to the act of running on walls and the acrobatics within the game, which I found very appealing. While playing this game these actions made me feel like a hero. So being inspired from this game I wanted to explore the world more look into the behind the scenes go into the lore and character design of the game.
Through this process I came across a post on a forum which said “People run on walls in real life.” Following this lead I came across early footage of the Yamakasi. "This is awesome" I thought, so began devouring whatever I could on the subject. I started training “Yamakasi.1’ I soon realised the group was called 'Yamakasi' and I was training 'Art du displacement' or 'parkour'. Started to refer to my movements as parkour.
When I discovered this, I was a active teen who enjoyed tree climbing and chasing games and just associated parkour with what I was already doing. I was in a small country hub town in NSW, so nobody was training where I was. I tried to convince some friends to join me but their responses were “You learn first then teach us.”
I started by trying to incorporate parkour training into my everyday. I would often walk to school so would use this time to play on with balance by balancing on the curb or peoples fences as i walked to school. As i was inspired from the wall running from Prince of Persia; a lot of my initial training was playing with vertical walls.
In my early days of training i would go down to the local park after I finished work and slowly start experimenting with movement and teaching myself movements. I would do this by downloading whatever videos I could onto my camcorder, film myself then compare footage with the downloaded footage. Through this experimentation I grew more confident in my movements and started to set challenges for myself - like to keep off the ground at the park, or challenge myself in arena type activities where would hang from the roof for the majority of time at recess during school. Drawing some inspiration from Bruce Lee, when walking to and from school would run at any hill I came to. I was excited and driven to become a ninja-type through my training so a lot of my movements were focused on stealth.
It seems like you had passion when starting out. You mention you starting during school, did you do much else before Parkour?
I was active and enjoyed movements and sports but never did anything outside of the compulsory we had to do in school. Just from different factors in life.
Parkour can involve a range of different types of activities, do you have any training goals? What are your personal training goals?
Yeah I have loose goals I would like to work towards. So, I would like to improve overall health of movement- I feel I have not been paying much attention to my body, so I have built up so small injuries that I have been ignoring. So, to help with this I will be focusing on improving flexibility and mobility, and just getting back to basics of movements, to help improve overall body health and get to a more satisfying, sustainable state for my training habits.
How do you approach physical training and conditioning?
I like making games or being playful in movements, this means that the movements can be fun and rewarding. Sometimes I try to go full serious mode in training - but this results in a lack of motivation for me. Also the reverse: if I am too chilled with myself I feel like I am not doing enough to be progressing or improving. It is a balance. If I am training with others I can help motivate the group and work together to help each other and end up with a stronger training mentality.
Is weight training suitable for Parkour?
Yes I believe so. I have done very little weight training myself but have seen the benefits from others who weight train. I have done some parkour and body weight conditioning with a weighted vest, I did play with weighted armbands and ankle things for a bit. If training safely I believe can be benefit to compliment other training, but not something I would do as an only source of strength training.
So you mentioned having small injuries recently How do you stay motivated to train through difficult times?
Look, it can be hard. It can be a real downer to be injured in any way that can impact training. I often try to find other methods of training that allows me to still do something despite whatever is holding me back. Sometimes heading out to a training space or being with others can be source of motivation that can help through this period. But that atmosphere can also be detrimental as it can be likely that a challenge comes up that I am tempted to do despite the injuries.
What is your favourite aspect of parkour?
So, my favorite part of parkour is the range of different types of training and play that can be involved. Each day can be something different if you wanted it to be, and still can have more to learn and try. I really enjoy flow and fluidity, trying to link together motions so can play with a space as soft and flowy as possible.
I also quite enjoy the group mentality of all trying and attempting to work towards a similar challenge or goal. For example, group conditioning is pretty rewarding.
Your love of flow can be seen translating into the way you move and train it can be quite mesmerising to watch you move. How do you train for flow?
Ah, a bit of self promotion here, I will be running a workshop on how to be flowy, or techniques I have played with that I often incorporate into my training to be more flowy. Fluidity Methods is on 23rd of March from 11am, meeting at Birrarung Marr. The cost is $30.00 I will be going through some techniques which discuss how I became so flowy.
But some small advice I can say would be to start slow and experiment with what your body can do. The more you understand what you can do, the better off you can end up being.
Thanks for sharing with us!
Thank you, for speaking with me I am always happy to share and exchange knowledge, and answer questions.
In the upcoming second of this interview, we chat with John about advice for parkour, inspirations, training in different weather, different training methodologies, different communities, and his thoughts on media
Originally Posted to MELBOURNE IN MOTION
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