This post originally appeared on The Obstacle Method – Max’s blog about obstacle course racing, parkour/free running, ancestral fitness, and more.
After interviewing Rowan, earlier this month, about parkour and coaching, I thought I would catch up with one of the talented coaches Rowan oversees – Spencer Barley.
I first met Spencer at jams years ago. Keen from a young age, Spencer has no-doubt devoted countless hours to the pursuit of movement and, so, will make for an interesting person to ask some questions to on parkour. Now residing in Wellington, he’s a Parkour Instructor for Movement Unleashed and a regular in the Wellington community.
1. From what I understand, you’ve been involved in parkour since you were a teenager. What has it been like growing up with parkour, and how has it helped you?
It’s been great! I got a chance to be involved in the growth of New Zealand Parkour, and its community. They were happy enough to have a socially defunct, thirteen year old introvert hanging around, and I think I learned a lot from just being there. On top of the physical and mental benefits of actually moving, I think being involved in a community, whether it’s a parkour one or not, is beneficial for anyone, especially a youth.
2. Since you’ve practiced from when you were a teenager, do you think this gives you beneficial insight when coaching other teenagers or young people?
I remember what it was like to be in their position, and I remember my own motivations. Parkour, at that age, is about fun. It’s play. Overcoming challenges with your friends; being outside; going on adventures. It can become more serious with time, but I try to let children just play. It’s how they grow after all.
3. What is it about parkour that inspires you to keep at it?
The playful element of Parkour doesn’t dissipate with time. It’s still great fun; I still laugh with my friends; I still enjoy finding and conquering new challenges. However, other incentives have entered the mix. There is the satisfaction of working towards, and accomplishing long term movement goals. But, to explain what really keeps me going; a role model of mine once said that “everything life has to offer can be found anywhere, in any position, in anything”. I try to use parkour to grow as a person; to encounter experiences which challenge my own assumptions of character, the world, society, and myself, in an attempt to holistically improve.
4. Your movements I believe have always been quite smooth – is aiming for smoothness something you purposely practice?
In the past, definitely. Now, I view ‘smoothness’ in movement to be a symptom of controlled, stable, movement. Stability, usefully, also leads to power. These days, the goal of my training is to achieve stability, in order to achieve quality.
5. What part of your movement repertoire are you currently working on practicing?
Stability through leg movements: jumping, running, striding, plyo’s, etc.
6. You’re also involved in the Architecture Appreciation Society. Can you tell us what the Architecture Appreciation Society is?
The Architecture Appreciation Society, or AAS, is a media group envisioned and wholly developed by Martini Miller. The goal is to promote parkour as a pursuit, and to document and advertise the Wellington training sessions. AAS is comprised of parkour athletes in Wellington, and NZ, who train together, create and share videos, and who try to foster the NZ Parkour community and its relationship with the wider community of New Zealand.
7. How do you find having cameras present affects the parkour experience?
I find the effect of cameras depends on the people being filmed, and the people doing the filming. Videos have been part of the Parkour culture for a long time now. Connections and friendships between cities and countries are maintained, and even built, through sharing videos. Showing our training, giving advice, feeling involved in parkour communities that are far, far, away. However, it can be easy to compromise to one’s ego, and make videos with the intention of gaining prestige. While that’s not necessarily bad, it changes the filming dynamic. Often it leads to pushing harder than one is ready for. Personally, I enjoy filming most when I ignore the niggle to impress others, or prove myself, and just enjoy what I’m doing, and where I am at in my training.
8. Where would you like to be with parkour in 3 years’ time?
A higher level athlete; A better Coach; Working solely with Parkour, teaching new and existing practitioners.
9. Anything else you’d like to add?
Have fun, stay safe. If you feel that you’ve hit a plateau in your training, remember, anything’s possible with the right information, you just have to find it. Come have a chat.
Thanks Spencer, for taking the time to express your thoughts and answer some questions.