I believe it is of the utmost importance to respect our teachers and acknowledge how we came to develop our theories and practice. Lately I have been thinking allot about my teachers and who my influences are, one thing that is clear is that it’s not only the people who were formally our teachers that we learn from. When I think of the very important lessons I have learned in movement and life it has been students and peers as often as teachers who have imparted them. Today one of those people Brandee Laird released her first full parkour video. It is awesome and I thought I would share it with you and a little bit of what I learned from her.
Brandee and Duncan Germain took over the head coaching role at Parkour Visions when I left and my ability to move on to this project was in part because of the deep trust I had in those two.
Brandee was one of the very early members of the Washington parkour scene. When I moved to Seattle to start what became Parkour Visions, she one of the first generation of apprentices. She and I did not always see eye to eye but she was incredibly dedicated to the teaching program and eventually we settled on enough common ground and her qualities as coach were apparent enough that she became one of first coaches to graduate the apprenticeship and become a full fledged coach at PKV.
My style of movement when we started PKV was influenced by gymnastics and my own personality towards being extremely linear and power biased. Brandee brought a completely different approach, we eventually crystallized some of these differences in the ideas of the low line vs high line in parkour. While I did much of the codification of this as far as how to teach it the genesis of most of these ideas was from Brandee, Tyson and Janine Cundy.
Due to our tendency to butt heads combined with her total reliability after she graduated the apprenticeship I largely let her develop her teaching method on her own with only small inputs.
What became clear over time was that Brandee was immensely effective as a coach producing some of the most popular classes at Parkour Visions and doing it in way that was very different from mine. I realized I needed to understand her approach better so that we could all as staff embody some of the qualities she had developed as a coach.
So I sat down with her for a memorable chat about why her classes had such a powerful effect on people.
The message that I got from that conversation was that while I had been focused on biomechanics, adaption to exercise and precise technical progressions what deeply interested Brandee was how to make every class an experience for the students. If my approach was coaching as science, Brandee’s was coaching as performance art, and this was reflected in the way people spoke about her classes, they were magical.
This is an element I think far too frequently ignored in fitness and movement teaching we don’t just teach bodies, we teach people and people are story tellers, make them believe in the story, make them passionate about it and they will approach their training with far more dedication and much better results.
The analogy that popped into my head to describe this was making every class a hero’s journey with fear and obstacles conquered, and triumph and acknowledgement at the end.
I learned many things during my time working with Brandee whether as student in my classes, a peer in training or one of the coaches I managed. The two most prominent are the value of lower impact more flowing approaches to locomotive practice, and to understand the art, performance and story elements to teaching and too training.
My challenge for you today is whether as teache or a mover, to take that into your practice, think about the story your building, the journey your on and focus on how to make it an beautiful story.