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Chappy Compiles with Marquis Bennett

Marquis Bennett is an undeniably strong and creative athlete. He exhibits practiced precision and unbridled power across all of his movements, with a freerunning style that seems uniquely American: incorporating anti-twists and off axis movements borrowed from snow sports, mixed alongside deceptively big parkour challenges. Marquis and I sat down for a conversation about his parkour journey and aspirations, what it means to be on a parkour team with athletes spread across a nation, teaching and more. 

Me: How are you doing man? 

Marquis: I’m doing pretty good, I’m in school right now, so considering I don’t have classes or anything today, I’m doing well.

Me: Nice, are you in school in Philadelphia?

Marquis: Yeah, well, a little bit outside of Philly. Still in Pennsylvania, it’s in a place called Oxford, it’s kinda in the middle of nowhere… But it’s about an hour outside of Philly.

Me: Do you mind if I ask what you’re going to school for?

Marquis: Yeah, I’m in school for health science, past that we’re gonna figure it out. Originally I was going to school for physical therapy. It’s still a possibility, but it’s an additional three years of school for me, so I’m not sure about all of that. But I’m definitely going to do the four years and see what I can do with it. I have so much time, I could switch my major tomorrow if I wanted to. I’m taking it one day at a time. 

Me: That’s a good outlook, rather than fitting your life into a grand scheme. Can you tell me a little bit about your athletic background?

Marquis: Yeah, I played football for about 7 years, all throughout my childhood. So from kindergarten all the way into middle school. Then I kinda played a little bit of every sport. My mom always had me in something, whether it was t-ball, tennis, or swimming, just a whole myriad of sports. So I was always pretty athletic as a kid. Then when I started parkour, around the beginning of high school, all of that just transferred over. My body was like, prepped.

Me: Okay, so you already knew how to move your body. What made you want to start parkour?

Marquis: Yeah exactly. And starting parkour was sort of an accident. I was trying to teach myself a backflip on my grass, and ended up just doing shitty back handsprings, but you know, close enough. I was just throwing my body around on grass for a few months, until my mom was like, “Okay you can’t do this anymore.” So she found me a gym, and I was just using their mats and stuff. And then I found out that we had a dedicated parkour gym here in Philly. It was called Pinnacle Parkour, and it was a great gym, but unfortunately it closed due to COVID. But that’s where I started learning the fundamentals, jump pre tech and all of that. Since then I’ve just been out training in whatever way inspires me.

Me: You’ve got so much power and style in your lines, how did you develop some of these skills?

Marquis: Thank you! Yeah, as far as power goes, I’ve always been a strong person. Also I’m pretty small, I’m only like 5’6” (167.6 cm) . Like I was saying, I played so many sports when I was younger, and I really feel like that helped my muscle development. With that and me being relatively small, I think it helps me a lot in certain scenarios. As far as the off-axis movement and stuff, I definitely get big inspiration from the Beans and Josh Malone. The whole ski-move, like, wave of movement is a huge inspiration. I also train with my one buddy, his name is E, and he also was a good person to teach me some of this stuff. Then my other homies, the Toasty Lizards, out in Portland, Oregon, I learned a lot from them. I’ve just been seeing a lot of movements like that and been really inspired. It’s crazy, half of my Instagram feed now is skiing rather than parkour, because it’s just so interesting. You know what I mean? I’ve been taking so many of those moves and trying to incorporate them into my lines.  

 

Me: It’s such an interesting way of moving, and it feels like it’s really taken hold of the American parkour scene specifically. It’s so cool to see. Who are your favorite athletes to watch?

Marquis: Favorite’s to watch? Damn… I mean offhand, I really like Verky’s technicality and style, Dom is always hilarious to watch, and Trevor from the Beans, who I mentioned before. He doesn’t have a lot of stuff out, but what is out there is excellent. Egg, obviously. Honestly, Egg’s movement is beyond so many people’s stuff. I would say them primarily for me. Also Joe Scandrett.  He does really interesting things.

Me: So you’re involved with Vocz, right?

Marquis: Yeah, that was a very recent addition actually. My guys Ezra and Colton, I met them a little over a year ago at Texas Winter Jam. We just immediately clicked, me and Ezra in particular have very similar training styles. I remember, I did a sideflip pre there that someone said only one or two people had ever done, and I did it with Josh Miller, so even the Toasty Lizards were there. And Toasty and Vocz, we kinda coincide a little bit, it’s just a whole group of people who really became homies. 

Me: Yeah, it seems like you guys, the Toasty Lizards guys, and the Beans, you’re all like the most tightly knit group as a whole in the U.S. right now. 

Marquis: Yeah for sure. 

Me: Can you tell me about your experience with the team? I noticed you haven’t shown up in their YouTube content yet. 

Marquis: Yeah yeah, so I went on a Portland trip this past summer separately from the YouTube video that came out last year. It was an amazing time, I did some of the best training I’ve ever done, and I’ve got clips that I’ve been holding onto since then because they’re that good. We’re putting them in little projects. So there is a little Toasty-Voczy project on the way, I can’t say too much more about it, but it’s on the way. I’m in it I promise hahaha. 

Me: That’s sick, I love hearing that, I’m stoked. 

Marquis: Yeah we do have a few things in the works, but they’re all still being conceptualized, I’ve done some demos for some things but we’re still deciding on direction. 

Me: So as far as working with the team is concerned, who does what for the team?

Marquis: That’s a good question. It’s a little different and difficult to answer, because it really depends on the project. We all kind of live all over the place. I’m on the East Coast in Philly, Ezra is in Portland on the West Coast, I believe Colton is still in Arkansas, but we’re super spread out. It depends on who is getting training done, I know that when I’m in school I’m not getting as much training in; if two people take a trip, we aren’t all gonna send in parts for the two person trip, you know? It depends a lot on the project. That’s one of things that I’ve been talking to the guys about, is doing a project where we all send in parts like weekly or monthly. But consistent content with all of us in it. I think it’s something we could easily do, but we wanna do it right.

Me: Who does your guys’ editing?

Marquis: Ezra and Colton do most of our editing, but I might try my hand at it. I haven’t been involved with the team up until a few months ago. I actually take photographs as well, so I am actually okay with photo editing and color grading and stuff, but Premier Pro is something I’m still learning. I definitely want to get better at it.

Me: From your Instagram it seems like you’ve been able to train in cities across the U.S. Which was your favorite place to train and why?

Marquis: Man, that’s a good question. Hmm… I’ve trained in Dallas, Portland, Baltimore, okay we drove around for a bit in New England… Offhand I would say Portland, Oregon. Just because of that week-long experience with the Lizards and Vocz guys, I did some of my best training there. Some of my personal favorite clips are from that trip, so I would definitely say Portland. Texas had some really great spots that I want to revisit, so that might be my runner up.

Me: Why Portland? Was it just the vibe, the spots?

Marquis: Definitely the vibe. It’s different for me coming from the East Coast. The general energy here is hustle and bustle, everyone going all the time. Going out to the West Coast, everything moves a little slower. It’s more relaxed, and I really liked that. I honestly feel like it helped with my training because I could slow down and think. Also the spots were completely different from what I was used to, so the movements I was doing out there were things that I didn’t have the obstacles or space to do here. 

Me: That’s really interesting. As far as your own training, do you prefer to train alone or with a group?

Marquis: Definitely with a group, all the time. I’ve had to train by myself a lot, especially while I’m in school, there aren’t very many people up here who train parkour. Even when I am home, I don’t have a car so I can’t drive into the city to go train, I have to get public transportation, and there’s work and stuff, so a lot of my training sessions end up being alone anyway. But I really prefer training with a group. 

Me: When you’re at home how often do you get to train with a group?

Marquis: A whole group? Not often. Normally I train with like one other person. And if we do get a solid three to five people, that might be once every three or four months.

Me: I feel that here man. Salt Lake City can feel pretty bare.

Marquis: Is the community out there dying down a little bit?

Me: It’s not so much dying down, I feel like there are probably a lot of people who do parkour in Utah, we’re either just spread out, or don’t know each other. I know I’ve got Calen Chan who’s like an hour from me, but I just don’t ever drive that far. 

Marquis: That’s how it feels here a little bit. It sucks because there are people who want to learn, but they don’t know where to go or who to ask. They don’t know who we are locally either, the community is just so small.

Me: Yeah I know what you mean, I feel like a lot of parkour athletes in America are super aware of teams and things in Europe, but aren’t terribly aware of the people here who are doing really cool stuff at the grassroots level. Like everyone knows Tempest, but not nearly enough people are aware of Vocz.

Marquis: Yeah, I feel like that is partially because of the duration of these other teams. Like Tempest has been around since before I started parkour I’m pretty sure. With the newer generation, we’ve only been around for a few years tops. It’s not really clear what’s going to stay or go. Some teams fall into obscurity, it happens. Tempest has done a good job of staying prominent. I don’t know what’s going to happen with our team, or anyone else, but there’s definitely potential for all of us to grow.

Me: Definitely. Is there any aspect of parkour you wish you could dedicate more time to?

Marquis: Probably teaching. I really enjoy teaching. But, like I was saying, the lack of a facility is an issue. I was teaching at Pinnacle Parkour, but that opportunity is gone. That’s something I really wish I could do more of. With few people knowing how to make contact with any of the coaches who used to work there, our ability to teach kinda disappeared just due to circumstances.

Me: I’ve taught at various gymnastics facilities for years, and it’s never the same as having a dedicated space. Have you thought about the potential for starting street session style classes, just teaching at spots?

Marquis: Yeah, actually a friend and I dabbled with that idea. We started having bi-weekly sessions, and we made flyers and stuff for it. It was weird, the numbers and stuff were really inconsistent. You’d get a lot of people coming out, or nobody. And it was kinda odd, because you couldn’t get new people to come out to train, the only people who showed up were people who already trained parkour. It was never fresh people, which is really what you want and how you grow as a community. It was weird, that was the target audience and we’d somehow completely missed it. My buddy and I are working on revising that process, so that we can eventually hit the end goal.

Me: That’s awesome man, I think parkour needs way more athletes who push and bring up the younger generation.

Marquis: Yeah, it’s not like basketball you know? You don’t just get into parkour, it takes a very specific kind of person. If more people were exposed to it, more of the right kind of people would see it and see the possibilities it brings, and work towards it.

Me: That’s a really worthy passion project. Do you have any aspirations yourself as far as skills, competitions or personal development?

Marquis: Yes and no. I feel like everyone’s goals are to “be better.” And aside from that, that’s kinda it for me. If you would have asked me that question two or three years ago, I would have said I wanted to win all kinds of competitions, go to all of these places, and I still will try and do some of these things, but more from a standpoint of seeing how much I’ve grown, as opposed to competing against others. I would do it just to see where I am amongst my peers, and see what they do. In terms of goals, I just want to travel, and do parkour in more places. That’s really it. 

Me: So what changed in the “grindset” over the past two or three years?

Marquis: I don’t know. There’s like certain moves that I see while I scroll Instagram right? People hitting triple fulls, hard skills, something that’s feasible but takes a lot of work. And I’ll look at that and see that it’s really cool, and I can’t triple full, but I can double pretty well, and if I pushed for like two or three months, it would probably be possible for me. And I could grind to get that skill, but I don’t think that would make me as happy as flying through the air on an axis I’ve never flipped on before. For me, I just have a different priority now I guess. It seems like when you’re entering all of these competitions, you need to have the “big skills.” Triple full, double side, double flyaway, worm cast, you know the moves. I feel like people get locked into a specific moving style because they focus so much time on those competition skills and runs. Be more creative. It doesn’t need to be the most difficult thing to make me happy, as long as it pushes me to move my body differently than I already have. A lot of those moves I’ve already done, or I’m really close, or I can tell that I could get it if I really put the effort in. I would rather put my time and effort into something else.

Me: Yeah, you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into the same moves everyone else is doing.

Marquis: Yeah. And don’t get me wrong, I would still be down to enter competitions, because competing is so much fun. I don’t necessarily compete to win, I just compete to see where I’m at in comparison to my peers, who I should look up to, and learn from people who are the best at what they do, and hopefully I can teach something as well. 

Me: I really relate to what you said about working skills that make you happy. I’ve been moving away from big twisting and double flipping as well, and exploring more of the flat-spin and fun moves, and it’s really fulfilling to do something different.

Marquis: Exactly. It’s like, I could train for three hours and drill triple fulls, or I could do some weird different stuff I’ve never done before. I don’t know.

Me: I feel that. What are your hobbies outside of parkour?

Marquis: It’s funny, it’s like you get to a point where parkour takes up so much of your life hahaha. I enjoy photography, I skateboard a little bit, not very well, that’s pretty much it. Every day is either training, or a rest day, or I go to the gym with my friend, that’s kind of it. It’s really either being creative up here (pointing to his head) or being creative with my body. 

Me: So it sounds like you condition outside of parkour as well?

Marquis: Yeah, only a little bit honestly. It’s just like, “Oh man I haven’t had a chance to train in a week, I should probably go to the gym.” That would be a more accurate description hahaha. 

Me: I understand completely hahaha. So my final question, and the most important: What is your preferred parkour shoe?

Marquis: Oh man, I was kind of hoping you’d ask this question. (Marquis gets up to go retrieve his shoes.)

Me: Yes man! Haha, I love a prepared interviewee, what have you got for us?

Marquis: So this is my daily driver. (He holds up an affectionately beat-up pair of Reebok Classic Nylons.) The Reebok Classic, can’t go wrong with it. It has this padding on bottom, which is great because I do some pretty heavy stuff sometimes. But, I also just got these, my Nike SB Alleyoops. I like the Nike’s because they’re lighter than the Reeboks. But, the sole is still perfect and they bend really nicely. Also the toe box on my Nikes is really protective, where the Reeboks like bend in a little bit. If you jump at a wall and miss and hit your toe, the Reebok won’t protect you for shit, but the Nikes will. I’ve only trained in my Nikes once or twice, but I love them.

Me: Do you prefer a skate shoe or athletic shoe “feel?”

Marquis: I don’t mind either. In general, the athletic shoe feel, because the Reeboks are wider than the Alleyoops, and I have wide feet so they’re more comfortable for me. But when training it depends on what I’m doing. Like if I’m doing flip precisions then I want the skate shoe, because it’s a little thinner and I can feel everything better. But if I’m doing a 14 foot plyo, then I want the Reeboks no question, I feel more protected when I’m hitting. 

Me: Well thank you so much for your time, man. I appreciate you talking to me.

Marquis: Of course, this has been awesome, man. 

The way Marquis moves speaks volumes about his work ethic and raw talent for parkour, and his drive to reach out and help inspire such traits in others is more than commendable, it’s necessary.  You can follow Marquis on Instagram, @marquis.pk or catch him in the next Vocz production on YouTube. If we all put on the pressure, maybe they’ll release these fabled Portland clips. Until then, we all wait patiently for more kick ass parkour.

 

Media Credit:

Photos courtesy of Marquis Bennett

Instagram content courtesy of Marquis Bennett