Nathan Muller (@nathanmuller14) is a talented athlete with an incredible pure parkour and ascent-heavy style that rivals the likes of Shane Griffin, the Pawson twins, and Darryl Stingley. I had the good fortune of sitting down with Nathan last week and discussing his parkour journey, mixing in climbing, and his recent part in Studio Session 2.
Me: How are you doing today man?
Nathan: I’m doing pretty good, having kind of a slow day. I’ve been kind of nervous about this, I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m not really a social person haha.
Me: Me either, this is probably about as social as I get. I guess we might as well jump into it then. When did you start training and what motivated you to start parkour?
Nathan: I started in 2013. The reason was that I had done water polo and swimming for most of my life. I didn’t really enjoy it though, and when I was 13 or so my parents let me quit. So I took a year off, and my parents started talking about putting me back in sports. My brother had been doing parkour at a local gymnastics gym, and so my parents enrolled me in the parkour summer camp that he was coaching. The first day I went in and I wasn’t interested in parkour at all, but by the end of the day it was like, “Okay I just learned how to kong vault, this is sick.”
Me: Okay, so you didn’t come from any kind of climbing background?
Nathan: No, just swimming and water polo, and maybe a bit of soccer and baseball, but barely any. I’ve actually done very little rock climbing at all, maybe a couple of times in my life.
Me: How long have you been training at Origins Parkour?
Nathan: That’s kind of a tough question to answer. Origins has always been a big thing for me, because obviously it's such a cool gym, but it’s actually kind of far for me. I live about an hour away from the Vancouver gym. So I had gone like a year of training parkour and had only visited the gym once for an open practice session. I wasn’t able to take classes because my parents weren’t really willing to drive that distance every few days. Which is kind of funny, because when I did water polo I went to practices in Vancouver. So I went to Origins here and there throughout the year, and then when the Port Moody gym opened I started training there a little more. I think it’s only been a couple of years, maybe 2019 when I really started training there. So I took a few classes, and eventually started coaching there. It was working there that really got me training, and involved with the community and stuff. I was separate from all of that for a while since I was just doing stuff at the gymnastics gym by my house.
Me: It sounds like your parents weren’t especially supportive of parkour.
Nathan: They were for the most part. I think it was mostly that they wanted me to stay active in something, regardless of what it was. I don’t know if they regretted it eventually or not. Part of it might be that when I was in water polo, I was performing at a pretty high level, so they were maybe more willing to pursue that because of the opportunities it could afford me. Whereas they might see parkour as something purely recreational. I don’t know really, I think they might have been tired of driving the distance from water polo too.
Me: Yeah that’s a tough sell, “Hey dad, drive me an hour so I can jump off of things.”
Nathan: Exactly, “You can jump off of things here.”
Me: So when did the dynamic ascent style parkour start to appeal to you?
Nathan: So at the gymnastics gym where I first started training I didn’t really have the kind of equipment or a space to train those movements very easily. We didn’t really have a place to do any cat hangs or anything like that. So when I started going to Origins more, cat-backs were something brand new to me, so I spent all of my time just doing cat-backs and descents and stuff. I gravitated to it because there were just so many opportunities for those movements. That’s when it started, and I was inspired by Tom Coppola (@tomjumps) and his videos Ascension and Ascension 2, and I thought those were so cool, but I’d never been able to practice any of that stuff, that’s really where it started. I found that when I was training in the gymnastics gym I was doing almost exclusively jumps, and I got tendonitis. So climbing is a nice break when my legs aren’t in great condition.
Me: That’s something I wanted to talk about, because you’ve got people like Shane Griffin and Toby Segar who are preaching the potential benefits of a climbing parkour style as athletes get older and move away from power challenges. What are your thoughts on that?
Nathan: I really agree with that. George McGowan is someone who I always looked up to, so in my early training I was doing a lot of plyos and front-flips and stuff. It’s funny because I don’t do very many jumps in my posts on Instagram anymore. I find that doing that many jumps is very hard on your body, and climbing has very little impact. Wall runs are likely the hardest impact of all ascent skills. But yeah, I definitely think it’s something that you can train a lot more and not worry about trashing your body.
Me: What is the biggest difficulty you’ve faced in parkour?
Nathan: That’s a hard one to answer. I definitely feel like my body is fragile, like I’ve been trying to do more of everything and my body isn’t having it. My ankles have been giving me problems, my knees are feeling decent right now, but the ankles have been feeling weak, and that’s frustrating. I’ve been doing a lot of strength training recently to combat that. But for the most part I’d say that I just want my body to be stronger and more durable because I’d like to train way more than I do already. I train 3 or 4 times per week, but it depends on my body. It also depends on my motivation, which is frustrating because it wasn’t always that way. Now if I’m not feeling in the mood the session is just bad. It’s hard to get into the mindset if I'm not there already, and I end up feeling very negatively about the session. It’s a tough one, because I shouldn’t rely on that, but I’ve found that the quality of my movement is directly affected by my mood that day.
Me: So many people look to parkour as an escape, so that’s interesting.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s how it was for me too. Lately I’ve been trying to take it more seriously, and I guess it’s becoming something that I’m taking too seriously and I’m sucking the fun out of it a little. It’s just frustrating because on a day where I feel really good, I’ll hit hard challenges really easily, and if I’m even slightly negative I’ll struggle with what feels like everything. It does still make me happy, I still love parkour obviously.
Me: It sounds like you're treating it the way a professional athlete would, like your performance really matters to you.
Nathan: Yeah, it means so much to me that I want to be the best I can be. At the same time, striving to be that good, or making it so important can make it less fun sometimes.
Me: That’s a sentiment that I hear a lot actually. Along those lines, do you have any goals for competition or anything like that?
Nathan: That’s funny, I want to be really good but competition doesn’t interest me that much. It’s just an aspect of parkour that I don’t see myself enjoying. A lot of people have tried to convince me to try NAPC and things like that, but it feels like I would ruin the experience for myself because of the internal pressure I place on my performance sometimes. I don’t feel like I could go in there and just be happy for the experience regardless of the outcome. I think for now it’s something I avoid, but I might try it out eventually, you never know. I don’t really travel much for parkour either. I’m very much a homebody. Like I go to the gym, train outside around here, but I don’t travel much. I would like to, but I really like routine and consistency hahaha.
Me: You recently released a video with Darryl Stingley (@iamwavezilla), can you talk about coming up with lines that were complementary to another person’s movement? Did you collaborate on the lines, or each come up with your own? (Watch the video below!)
Nathan: So Rene Scavington (@resorigins) gave me like three weeks' notice and asked, “Hey we’re doing a sequel to Studio Session with Darryl, do you want to be in it?” I jumped on the idea, but I was terrified. For the next three weeks I was in the gym five days a week trying to come up with stuff, and wanted to be able to hit all of these lines when Darryl arrived. When he got there, he obviously hadn’t been able to plan anything yet. So we didn’t really collaborate on the lines at all. He definitely gave me some tips during filming for mindset stuff and cleaning up the lines. Then there are a couple of lines in the video that were basically just improvised by us on the day of. He made all of his lines on the spot, and there’s this one near the end of the video where he does this huge swing and front-flips out of the precision, and the whole thing was amazing to see. It took him like 20 minutes to plan and execute the whole thing, and it was insanely hard. For me it was like a panic to plan my moves to perfection, and then he came in and just smashed everything.
Me: That’s funny, with the home-field advantage you over-prepared.
Nathan: Yeah seriously. I was wondering if I was in his position and just came in and had to work on my lines right away, what would I have done? I would not have come up with anything good hahaha. But at the same time, walking into a brand new space, maybe it could be inspiring or something.
Me: Your styles compliment each other in the first place.
Nathan: I guess that’s another thing I should mention, when I talked about Tom Coppola being an inspiration, Darryl was hugely inspirational to me as well. He didn’t have much on YouTube, and so I actually downloaded Instagram just so that I could watch Darryl. So he was probably the biggest inspiration for my current style. When I got Instagram I didn’t think I would post anything really, I just wanted to watch all of these amazing athletes. And then I figured I’d post a few things.
Me: Then it turns out you’re fucking good hahaha! Do you have any projects you’re currently working on?
Nathan: Hahaha thank you, I appreciate that. And it’s tough to say. I wouldn’t say that I’ve got anything really developed, but I do want to make some actual videos outside. Not just clips, but actual outdoor parkour lines. I’ve got a bunch of spots and lines worked out in my mind that I’ve never really filmed; it’s not really a work in progress, but it’s something I want to approach more. A big thing for me is that in the gym I’ll film myself on a tripod, and work for three hours perfecting something because I’m very much a perfectionist. But outside I don’t really have that luxury, usually someone else is filming me and I don’t want to take up their time, I don’t have the amount of time I would like to spend at any one particular spot, so a lot of the time I feel like the stuff I do outside isn’t good enough. Or that it’s just not where I want it yet, so I want to visit the spots a bunch of times and be sure that I’ve got the ideal line before I film anything. At the same time, I might never start then. I’m hoping to get started on a video project this summer.
Me: What are your goals for your parkour?
Nathan: I’m pretty happy with where I’m at now, but at the same time I’m not satisfied at all. My style is going in the direction I wanted to go. I would like to add a lot more skills to differentiate myself. I want to add a few more flips; when I started I was really interested in flipping, but I stopped training it as much when I really got into the true parkour side of things. So I’d like to work on flip precisions and things like that, but that’s gonna take some time to get those down. I just want a broader skill set, and I’d like to get more creative stuff in there. At the start of my parkour, watching big plyos was really cool, but without being at the spots you don’t really understand the scale. So you see huge jumps and it starts to feel like you’ve seen this same sequence of movements a thousand times, and it can get boring to watch. So that’s another reason that I want to differentiate a little bit, so my skills don’t look cookie cutter you know?
Me: What are your aspirations outside of parkour?
Nathan: Yeah… um… Parkour is what I think about basically all the time. Which maybe isn’t the greatest thing. In 2020 I was in school for a degree in physics, but I dropped out when online classes started because of Covid and burnout. I might return, but right now I don’t see it happening, because even if I did, I’m not sure what I would want to do with a physics degree anyway. Basically I’m just working at Origins and training as much as I can. I’m not sure what I want to do other than parkour, which obviously I can’t just do parkour forever, especially since I haven’t monetized it in any way. I’m in one of those tough spots where I’m trying to decide what I want to do.
Me: Van life, I’m telling you! Just pack up and drive somewhere hahaha.
Nathan: Hahaha yeah just travel around in a van doing parkour, sounds pretty great!
Me: Hell yeah haha. So final question. What is your preferred parkour shoe?
Nathan: Right, this one’s pretty easy for me. I’ve only had three or four brands of shoes that I’ve tried for parkour, but I would definitely say Strike Movement. The Haze’s specifically, the ones Darryl made. Before those I wore Adidas Essential 3’s, which were nowhere close to the Strike Movements. I wore the New Balance Minimus at one point, because everyone was wearing minimalist shoes, but I didn’t like the way they fit, and they had a weird toe point that was uncomfortable. Strike Movement Haze’s are the shoe for me, absolutely.
Me: That’s all I’ve got for you man!
Nathan: Awesome, it was a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
The style of parkour that appears to come so easily to Nathan is the product of years of grueling work, perfecting the fundamentals of parkour until they can no longer be considered basic, and are performed on a scale that far outmatches many other athletes. Nathan’s style is one that is becoming less and less common as parkour is taken to extremes in the realm of flipping. I’m excited to see Nathan’s progression in the coming years, as an athlete who is already so well developed, he can only go up from here–pun intended. Check out more of Nathan Muller on Origins Parkour’s YouTube channel, featured below.
Media Credit: All photos herein were provided by Nathan Miller
Video thanks to Origins Parkour