Each of our carefully researched, styled, tested and distributed collections reflects a particular aesthetic and ethos. We hope some of these speak to your own style, and help you refine and redefine your own look and style philosophy in the process.
Each of our carefully researched, styled, tested and distributed collections reflects a particular aesthetic and ethos. We hope some of these speak to your own style, and help you refine and redefine your own look and style philosophy in the process.
March 23, 2022 28 min read
In the past few weeks Amanda Aragón has become a familiar, smiling face in the parkour community thanks in part to an Instagram reel (see below) in which she articulated a series of reasons why people over the age of 50 should start parkour. Amanda is also a music teacher, and the author of “Mi Abuelita does Parkour!” A delightful children’s book about a grandmother and grandson doing parkour together. Amanda’s practice and her point of view are inspiring, and I was truly grateful to sit down with her for a conversation about parkour, teaching, and getting comfortable being uncomfortable. After introductions, chatting briefly about dogs, and what The Motus Projects are, we plunged into the interview.
Amanda: You’re the first person that’s ever said, “Hey I want to interview you.” So I’m like, “Okay?”
Me: That’s kind of surprising actually.
Amanda: Not to me! It’s been kind of a fun ride the past week. I’ve even been asking some of the people in my class what their thoughts are on parkour over 50.
Me: That’s so valuable. I mean, it’s something that every parkour athlete will have to approach at some point. Do you have an athletic background?
Amanda: It’s interesting, I wasn’t really anything like an athlete at all in my younger days. I mean I did things with my friends, we’d ride our bikes, go for walks, I grew up in Southern California so we were outside a lot. Lots of roller skating, it was the 70’s! But I was never on a team, I never had the opportunity to do gymnastics or dance or anything. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started doing those things, because I was like, “I have the job, I control the calendar, and I have the keys to the car!” That’s when I really started exploring things, so I don’t really have that experience of what it was like before versus what it’s like now. Except I can say I used to do Irish Dance and go to competitions, but that would be a huge ask of me now since I haven’t done it for decades. I tried to do it a little bit recently and realized I do not have the muscle or stamina for that these days. The shin splints were not fun either! I feel like doing parkour is a little nicer because you’re moving every which way.
Me: I would totally agree with that, I’ve had little repetitive impact injuries and things, but those go away if you adapt your training for a while.
Amanda: We’d go into class on Sundays and our coach, Sean Hannah (@seananigoats), he’s a physical therapist and he’s the executive director of PKMove, which does PK Silver which is parkour specifically directed to people who are 60-80 years old. It’s really great, they deal with people in assisted living situations where they’re mostly sedentary and they bring parkour and balance training into that setting to get people moving, help them with fall prevention and strengthening. We’re not nearly to that level yet, but when we go to class, he always starts the class with, “Okay tell me about your aches and pains.” It’s great because we’re all over 50, you don’t ask people over 50 about their aches and pains, we’ll be here for 20 minutes. But the cool thing is that I can tell him, “Oh I think I pulled my hamstring, or my shoulder is bothering me.” He will always say, “Okay, well we can work on something else.” There’s always a way that you can participate, which is one of the great things about parkour.
Me: What a rockstar, that’s so cool!
Amanda: Yeah, and then our other coach in the over 40 class, Zach (@zwiegs), his parents are in the class. So that just gets to be hilarious at times. He’s much younger, Zach is like 21, so we’re all old enough to be his mom, it’s such a fun dynamic in that class. And Zach is the philosopher, he always has us sit down at the end of class, and as a teacher I always call it “circle time.” I don’t know if he appreciates me calling it that hahaha. But he’s always challenging us, telling us to do parkour outside this week, or make sure we do quadrupedal movement every day. He’s always giving us a challenge for the week and asking philosophical questions like, “How do you see your parkour practice growing in the coming years?” “Where do you see parkour taking you?” or “What are your goals for parkour?” He’s always sitting down and chatting with us at the end of class while we stretch. We just have the most amazing coaches, I gotta tell you.
Me: That’s amazing! So what was it that drew you into parkour at the very beginning?
Amanda: Hahaha it was kind of an accident! I didn’t know what parkour was. I was watching something with my son, probably Ninja Warrior, and I was like, “I want to do that here.” Whatever it was I was looking for, I couldn’t find a place where adults could start. But in that search parkour came up. There was a parkour gym nearby, and I had no idea what it was, so I looked at the website and the videos, and I just really thought that looked like fun. I remember thinking that vaulting looked really cool, so I wanted to learn to do vaults. Back in those days, haha that makes me feel like an old lady, but back in those days there was like an 8 week long, hour and a half per week class that was an introduction, very set and standardized, and it was really terrifying and awesome and I never looked back. Something about it drew me in. I wasn’t good at it, I was anything but good at it. The other people in the intro class would be working on kong vaults and I’d be over here trying to do a support, it was insane how bad I was, but the coaches always worked with me. There was something about being so uncomfortable and so bad at something, and I hate when people watch me. I realized right away that this was a place to grow. This was a place where I could get over some of that fear. I kept going back because it was a place to be afraid, be uncomfortable, and push through it.
Me: I love that. Just being well out of your comfort zone felt like a challenge.
Amanda: It was beyond a challenge! I would be pulling into the parking lot and muttering to myself, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I need to do this, I can go in there, I don’t belong there, I need to go in.” All the way from the parking lot and into the building because I was just so anxious to go in and do whatever they wanted me to do that day. My first coach, Michael Sliger (@michaelj.sliger), he’s a World Chase Tag guy, he’s a world class athlete, and he was our coach! Sometimes I think, as bad as I was at everything, it was Michael that made me keep going back. Coaches matter. Who the coach is, and how they relate to you and how they do things. Damn, he was a good coach. I just look back and remember that he would set something up and say, “Okay this thing is possible, but you’re going to have to start back here to work your way up to this point.” As an educator, I’m always judging the coaches, and he was such a natural. I just remember being so impressed with this kid, he just has such a natural intuition for how to relate to his students. So I’d be mumbling all the way from my car and into class, but as soon as I was in class, Michael made it safe. He created such a safe space. I’ve always heard about parkour culture, and he really created that culture in his class. After the intro class, I was in class with 12 and 13 year olds. It was me and teenage boys, and eventually one teenage girl, wooh! But there was one 50 year old man, and I was 50. So it was interesting to me to see how Michael, and not just Michael, the whole gym had this culture of acceptance. You’re here, and we’re gonna push you along, you know?
Me: That’s one of the things that’s so awesome about the parkour community is that there’s no barrier to entry, everyone is really welcoming and willing to help for the most part.
Amanda: I remember when I first started parkour, people asking me if I watched parkour videos. I said I did, but then I realized I didn't really, I watched Ted Talks. My favorite one was Charles Moreland, I can’t remember which state, but he owns a gym. But he had this really hilarious definition of parkour. “An activity in which young males perform dangerous and reckless stunts with the possibility of injury and or death for the sake of YouTube views.” But he had another definition that really stuck with me, “Unyielding challenges, unending progression, constant adaptation.” That I totally related to. So I was watching these great Ted Talks on parkour as a culture and as a discipline, and that was what really inspired me in the beginning. I remember these people talking about the parkour community, and then looking around the gym and seeing where that existed. And I felt that this was something really interesting, really unique.
Me: You train at Apex Denver, is that correct?
Amanda: Yes, I used to train at Apex Louisville, but they had to close the gym due to Covid. So I lost my gym, which is sad, but I’m at Apex Denver now, which is awesome because I’ve found juggling now too! There’s a circus group there who teach circus arts and train there as well, so there’s been a lot of crossover with circus and parkour recently, which is super awesome to see. It’s really fun to see the young adults on the World Chase Tag team, but here they are doing tramp wall, and partner acrobatics, and all kinds of stuff. It’s really different to have everything in the same gym. When they do parkour, we’ll make fun of them like, “You did a parkour!” It’s so much fun.
Me: So do you take classes and/or attend open gym sessions?
Amanda: I do both, we have the Over 40 class a couple of days a week, I’ve done some of the other classes, I was actually taking classes there before we had the Over 40 class. I think it was because I was there and I was so bad at level 1, but it wasn’t just me, also I think they had some requests for the class, because my coach Zach’s mom started in the class shortly after they introduced it. I think she was interested, but was already in her 50’s and wasn’t interested in trying a level 1 class. I think they started realizing that there were others out there who were a beginner level in our 40’s and 50’s . And even though it’s an over 40 class, there are tons of athletes in their 40’s who are phenomenal, like our coach Sean. I think they realized that those of us who were beginners and didn’t have an athletic background needed a place. Level 1 just wasn’t our place. I was in level 1 for over a year, and I felt like the greeter, “Hi welcome to level 1, I’ve been here for a year.” And then they would move to level two in a few months and I would greet the new students. I was always going to be in level 1 in my mind. Being in the Over 40 class, I’ve still felt like my coaches challenge me, it’s just a safe place to be with your peers. Sometimes we take a little longer to try things, we’re a little more fragile and need time to heal, but our coaches recognize that and find ways to make us feel safe and challenged. The peer group thing is fantastic, we get each other so much. We’re in the same place.
Me: That part of the community really deserves to be catered to a little bit. It’s easier to push yourself alongside other people who are in the same place you are mentally and physically. I wouldn’t want to start my parkour journey alongside a thirteen year old these days.
Amanda: Exactly, one of the things we were commenting on is the fact that Apex has created this space and it’s growing. We have the parents of some of these phenomenal athletes, and they think they can’t do this because all they see is the really high level of movement that they can’t reach. To them this is insane, they can’t climb walls, they can’t walk on eight foot high rails, they can’t do backflips. But, to have a community like ours where we’re barely getting over this vault, is really eye opening to some people. Our kind of mantra is, “It’s not always going to be pretty, but we’re going to complete the course.” It was just me and June (@juneau59) at first, and then a few others joined us, and as more people are seeing us, they’re becoming aware that this is an option, and Apex has made the space for it. At the same time, I’ll go to a level 1 class, or a time trials class, where I had a mini panic attack, but I still go to the other classes, I just feel safer and more comfortable with my own group. Maybe this summer I’ll try the level 1 class again, get out of my comfort zone a little bit.
Me: I would love to see a Parkour Moms T-shirt become a thing, that would be amazing.
Amanda: Hahaha I always call it “Old People Parkour,” that’s one of my favorites. We also have “Not Dead Yet,” that’s a popular one, really the Over 40, or PK Silver, or the Phoenixes, we just can’t decide on a name, but we all kind of own it. We know who we are, we don’t have any illusions about going back in time, we just hope to grow stronger, gain skills, get more flexible, and get better balance, we can see and feel it happening. But I always say I’ve already lived half my life, there’s no way. I’m not middle aged in that I’m going to live another 54 years, odds are really not in favor of that. For me it’s about acknowledging who we are. We are old enough to be the moms and dads of the coaches and kids training there. The way everyone is treated in the gym is just so kind, too. I went to an open gym a few weeks ago and asked one of the coaches to record me doing something, and when I played back the video there’s this man in the background watching. I’ve never met this man, but when I finished he clapped. I just thought, “Awe, that is so sweet.” One time I was working on a height challenge with my coach Charles, it was jumping a three foot gap between an eight foot high wall and a box. Once I looked down, and I was like, “Forget it.” So we came down, tried jumping the distance on the ground, and then before the end of class he asked me if I’d like to try the height challenge again. At the end of class I didn’t look down, I just looked across at my landing, counted down 3,2,1, and jumped. To my surprise, applause broke out across the gym! Other people had been watching the whole time, we hadn’t been making a lot of noise about it or anything, but people noticed me pushing through a challenge and really supported me. That’s what I see especially at Apex Denver. There is a really involved community. We’re doing our class and cheering on the people on the tramp wall, or the guys on the Chinese pole will cheer on someone doing some tricking, everyone has a moment where they can look around and see what’s going on.
Me: That’s such an important piece of the parkour community, that everyone recognizes that we’re all just working on self improvement, and that should be appreciated regardless of how big or small.
Amanda: A lot of us, I’m sure this goes across all ages, but certainly in the Over 40 class, there are a lot of us who feel self conscious. Whether that’s being at the gym, making our efforts and not looking as good as the younger people, or our own kids in some cases, and so having that support across the gym is huge. Apex hasn’t had many competitions since Covid, but in their most recent competition they decided to add an over 40 division. Then we found out that there were people over 40 who were actually good, like our coach Sean, and all of us were like, “We don’t want to compete against them.” Apex decided, since there were five of us, that they would also add an over 50 category, just for us. Not only was it super sweet, but the way they set up the event, it wasn’t just the five of us with our families, we were being cheered on by over 100 people. I think what really mattered there was the recognition that we wanted to be involved, and Apex made it possible. We can talk all about accessibility and starting at any age or level, but when we’re talking about older people with no athletic ability, the barrier of entry is different. It’s more about, “Am I going to be mocked? Am I going to be accepted? Am I making a fool of myself?” Because my colleagues at work still tease me about the fact that I do parkour. Like something will happen and a coworker will say, “Hey Amanda, go do some parkour.” And I respond, “Okay!” Or when I’m teaching I’ll have small children run up behind me, because they just run right up to you, and I’ll have to use proprioception to either avoid them, or if I fall, I safety roll, which has really helped me in a lot of situations. Which is why I wrote the book hahaha. I love that Apex is trying to make parkour accessible where the rubber meets the road. There was a competition recently, and I was talking with one of the coaches about the competition, and he actually called me to talk about some of the obstacles that were going to be in the competition and if I thought I could handle them. And then he spent some time with our coaches to make it really accessible so that I could be a part of the competition. This was a much better experience compared to another competition I attended, where I showed up and realized that I couldn’t complete the course, it was too difficult for me. The fact that they looked at that and said, “We talk about making this sport accessible, let’s put our money where our mouth is. You are welcome here and we want you to see how fun this can be.”
Me: That really is so heartwarming.
Amanda: It is to me!
Me: I think it resonates with a lot of people. Your practice and things are being shared all over the place, by people who are really influential in the community. And part of what’s cool about that is that you haven’t put these people on a pedestal like the rest of the community, you’re just grateful that they enjoy what you’re doing, and it’s so fun and uplifting.
Amanda: Hahaha I don’t even know who they are. I had to have my coaches explain to me who some of these people are, and why it’s significant that they commented on or shared my posts. People will say, “So and so posted a comment,” and I have no idea who they’re talking about. I almost feel like it’s wasted on me because I don’t recognize the significance! For me, I fangirl over the World Chase Tag people, and my own coaches. My coaches and the people I train with, if they throw me a like or comment on a post, I’m like, “Yes!” I mean, I’m a teacher so maybe I’m seeing this from a different point of view, but the relationship between coaches and their students, it can’t be overemphasized how important that is. Like I said, Michael is really the reason I stayed with it for so long, then I got to work with Max Hummel (@myax_h), also of World Chase Tag fame, thank you very much. And Amos Rendao (@amosrendao), who taught me underbars, I took some classes with him, but they were my first coaches. Coaches really do matter, they’re all so dear to my heart. If I get a like from Michael, or Max or Amos, or Renae Dambly (@renaedambly), then that makes my day.
Me: That’s so cool that the people in the sport who matter the most to you are the people who made the sport accessible and inclusive, not necessarily the elite level athletes that draw in a lot of the parkour community.
Amanda: I think there’s a lot of truth in that for other people as well. Maybe people don’t realize it as much, maybe it’s just us in the Over 40 class with so many decades of life experience, but I’ll tell you what, when our coach gives us a high five it really matters to us. They know where I started and they see the progress. Your coaches deserve so much appreciation.
Me: What are your goals or aspirations for your practice?
Amanda: Okay so it sounds completely unrelated, but my first goal for my practice is to write another book. For a long time, parkour for me has been about the mental game. Early on I realized that it was opening me up to things I had been closed off to for such a long time. Whether it was being seen, performing, or putting my writing out there. I have all of these stories from years and years of writing that I’ve never shared with anyone. But now, I’ve written and published a book. When people asked where parkour could take me, or what my practice could be, I used to always say that I wanted to do a kong vault, or I wanted to do a pull-up. I still can’t do those things now, but those goals aren’t the ones that matter to me anymore. The goals that matter to me are about what I can do in an open gym, or at the park, looking for challenges and seeing how I can push myself beyond where I’m comfortable, because a lot of the time I feel like I’m holding back. And like with my writing, I wrote a book, but can I tell people about it, is it okay? This guy asked me to do an interview, can I do that? Who the heck am I to be interviewed about anything, I don’t even do parkour that well. But you know, that’s what I look at and I start to see that my goals are a little nebulous. Right now my goal is to get this second book published. I don’t know why but this one is a little harder to write. It’s only 700 words, but when you limit yourself like that, every word has to be the right one!
Me: I agree completely. I’ve been writing since elementary school, and never wrote anything that I was particularly proud to share with anyone, until I started writing about parkour. The way that parkour can really help you improve your self worth and help you explore challenges beyond the physical is really amazing. It’s about doing and feeling better on your own terms.
Amanda: I’m always amazed by how many philosophers we have in the community. You’re writing these blogs, and I know Amos was doing a lot of writing, but the number of people who really think about their practice is incredible. There are so many people who put really deep thought into what parkour is and does. I don’t know if other sports do this because, like I was an Irish dancer, dancing every single day, and I never thought about it like this. I look at parkour, and I think about it a lot more. It’s really interesting that parkour brings this out in people.
Me: I think that it might be those “parkour eyes,” you know what I mean? Like you’re always looking for challenges to overcome, and that kind of extends outside of parkour as well. What would you say to those who would like to start parkour, but don’t have access to the same fantastic gym and coaches that you have?
Amanda: You know, it depends on the person. There are so many programs online, like PK Silver is doing some online learning stuff, Ryan Ford has done some online programs, and I love him, he’s one of my heroes. But when I did finally start to move away from watching Ted Talks, I would watch videos on how to do a step vault, and some beginner moves. I think that when you’re older and you want to start something like this, it is easier to start with a coach or someone who can kind of guide you. But for me, I’ve always been someone who plays at the playground. If I was walking to the store and passed by a planter box or something, I’d be up on that wall balancing along it. I was in my 40’s and I was doing that. Vaulting just gave me another level to get off of the ground a little bit. I don’t have a specific answer I guess, but my answer is, if you’re brave enough then get out there and play. For me, playing at the park was way easier than going to the parkour gym. If I’m at the park, then people don’t know me, I don’t know them, and I’m just some crazy old lady, walking on the handrails. That didn’t bother me at all. But at the gym it was like, “Oh, they know parkour.” I didn’t want them to see me stumbling across the gym.
Me: That’s so interesting! One of the biggest mental battles for early parkour practitioners is often going outside to a public space to train, because of the fears that you talked about having in class, fear of being seen, making a fool out of themselves, or falling down in front of people they don’t know. You’ve really cultivated your child mind and turned outdoor training into playing, and that is an awesome philosophy that I think would benefit a lot of beginners in the sport.
Amanda: I think that there’s a little bit of freedom in being older as well. Having that gray hair, having the wrinkles; when I’m out there, I’ve never heard “hardcore parkour,” or “do a backflip.” I don’t think that’s going to happen hahaha. I think when you’re younger and stronger, you’re more likely to get those comments, or get chased off of the premises. I don’t see myself dealing with that in most cases. People leave you alone when you look like someone’s mom or grandma waiting to pick them up and you’re just wandering around. I’ve never even been asked, “That looks dangerous, should you be doing that?” The only people who don’t leave me alone are the kids! I remember one time I was outside a rec center, where they have some lovely handrails, and there were some kids, maybe 10-12 years old. I was walking on the handrails, and suddenly I looked behind me, and all of them had hopped up on the rails too! I thought,”Ooh, I’m a bad influence! Or maybe I’m a good influence.” I think I’m pretty safe in that regard. I’m safe from the “abuse” if you will, of people making fun of you, or saying stupid things. But if I see you at the park, I will one hundred percent yell, “Do a backflip!” and then I’ll come join you when you swear at me hahaha.
Me: (It was difficult to contain my jealousy at the fact that she’s never dealt with comments and kick-offs that plague nearly every training session of mine, but I pushed it down.) Since you have started watching more parkour athletes, who are your favorites to watch?
Amanda: Golly, I mean, it’s gotta be some of the kids at the gym. And because I watch from the heart, it doesn’t have to be the coolest stuff, it sounds horrible, but if I see someone do a double flip at three stories high between two buildings, I’m like, “eh.” But boy, if I see Michael or Renae, or one of my coaches doing a lache precision onto a rail, I’m like, “Ooh I love that.” It really inspires me. If I see some of the athletes out there who aren’t doing really big crazy stuff, that inspires me, because they’re doing things that I can do. So if I’m watching from the heart, and my boys or my girls do the hard stuff, I just love those kids. When it looks like the next step for me, I get inspired. So keep posting all of those things that you think are goofy or dumb, or too easy, because they keep me going.
Me: It’s funny, I was talking with Noah Heath (@northstreetboogie) a while ago. He and I were talking about a video he made, called Boomtown. And he talked a lot about how the movement in the video isn’t an especially high level, and that’s not what they were going for. The more important part of the video was conveying their message, and the parkour was almost secondary. It’s really resonating and makes the sport feel inclusive.
Amanda: Absolutely, that’s great! As a teacher I really feel like representation matters. I read a lot of picture books to my students, and when I look at the illustrations, I want to see my students reflected and represented. Most of my students are not white, and I want to see them in these books. Someone pointed out to me that a large part of why my videos are getting traction online is because representation matters. That I’m out there as an older, larger woman doing parkour. And that’s what it means to me when I see people who aren’t doing the higher level stuff. It’s good representation and it motivates me to keep going. Going back to the beginning of the conversation, we always talk about the parkour community being welcoming and accessible to all. But if you go to a jam, you don’t necessarily see that representation across the board. Especially not older folks. I remember June and I texting each other about a jam like, “Are you going to the jam?” “I’ll go if you go.” Because we aren’t sure if we’ll be in the way, or if we’ll be able to do anything. But the more that we explore and expand that over 40 and over 50 beginner level, the easier it will be to encourage people to keep moving at that age, or even to start moving at that age. So I think it’s really important to build that representation so that people can see what’s possible. Everyone told me I would end up in the emergency room, but not yet!
Me: Are there any injuries you’ve dealt with since starting parkour?
Amanda: The two biggest ones were a sprain in my AC joint, and I rolled my ankle super super badly. The ankle roll was disappointing because it was such a good class that day too! I was like, “Damn!” But it must have looked bad too, because I rolled my ankle, but also did a safety roll to try and mitigate some of the impact. So I’m on the floor there, and I look up and I have two coaches standing over me, not just my own coach, but someone from another class asking, “Are you okay?” Other than that, I’ve had a bunch of bruises and scrapes, and we like to joke, “If you leave without a bruise, were you even in class?” The shoulder sprain landed me in my physician’s office, and when I told her that I do parkour, she had no idea what it was and immediately went to Wikipedia and searched parkour, and I was like, “Don’t look there! I don’t jump off roofs!” When I injured my shoulder, it was something that kind of frustrated me because my physician more or less said, “You’re over 50, you have this injury, you should get used to it.” Almost like it isn’t going to get better, like, “You’re on the path to death now, you should just let it go.” It isn’t at all what she said, she has much better bedside manner than that, but it struck me when she was talking about my strength, flexibility, and what’s possible, as though it could only get worse. I was just like, “God, just no.” That wasn’t who I chose to be. If you ask my coaches, they’d tell you that I’m still making progress. All of us in the Over 40 class are really good for showing each other how far we’ve come. But that really is the paradigm in which we live, that as we get older, things get worse, and you need to accept that. But I’m still chasing little kids around my classroom, hauling instruments, and setting up risers. I'm still doing everything and parkour is a big part of that. I love that about the parkour community, the idea of endless progression. When the world says that everything is just regression until you die. That’s why our motto is, “We’re not dead yet.”
Me: I’d like to talk about your book a little bit. Firstly, how often do you get a chance to train with your grandson?
Amanda: I don’t have a grandson! He’s one of the kids from the gym.
Me: You’re kidding. That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard! I can cross out like 10 of my questions now hahaha.
Amanda: Hahahaha shhhh… don’t tell anyone! My son is 18, he’s a senior in high school. We have a joke since the book came out, but it’s kind of serious too, that I would have killed him if I were a grandma already. But I wrote the book from the perspective of a grandma, and because I’m not an artist at all, I tried to do like a stick figure storyboard, and I couldn’t even do that. So I just did it with words. I wanted the main character to be a grandma so that I would have the three generations, grandma, son, and grandson. At 54 I could have been a grandma, but since I’m not, I put up an ad at the gym that said I needed a child to model for this picture book, and one person replied. The parents of this boy, Dylan, replied, he was so excited, and had such a great spirit. Then I needed someone to be the dad, and I was like, “Well, me and Dylan are really white.” So I reached out to Pete, who I met at a jam, and he’s the sweetest human being on the planet. And I had my coach Zach who agreed to be the photographer, and Pete and Zach got along great. We took a short break at one point, and we were all messing around at the library on this brick wall, and I took a step back while the boys were doing some stuff. But Pete, Zach, and Dylan were chased off by a security guard who told them they couldn’t train on the premises, and I was like, “My one chance to be chased off by security, and I missed it!” I had just been on that same wall five minutes ago, and it wasn’t fair that they got told to leave and I didn’t! The couple of hours we spent out there were so much fun though. Especially since Pete, who was playing the dad who doesn’t want his son doing parkour, is such a good athlete. So Zach and Pete started making up this backstory about why this dad is so against parkour, and how he survived some tragic accident early in his life. I was like, “You guys are making up an anime here!” I was thinking I should write the story of this dad and give it to them for being so much fun. That’ll be the third book hahaha, the tragic story of this poor dad.
Me: So what can you say about the next book, without giving too much away?
Amanda: I’m really excited about the next book. I refer to “Mi Abuelita” as my practice book, because I’d never published anything, so I had the chance to see what did and didn’t work, and the “Oh if only we’d had,” moments. But this next book is going to be a game of add-on, so it’s going to need a lot more people. I feel like this next one will have a wider draw, since it’s not about multi-generational parkour. Although I do feel that parkour athletes are getting older and starting families, so as that’s happening I think parkour children’s books are going to be more of a thing. I would encourage other author’s to get out there and make them, especially if you have artistic abilities! I don’t need to be the only one doing this hahaha. I’m learning more about myself as an author as I write these, too. Like, “Okay if it’s a game of add-on then there has to be a line, and I have to go to the park and make one.” So I picked out where I wanted to take the photos, and decided on the line, because if I didn’t know that then I couldn’t write about it. So I was out there Sunday morning trying the line a few different ways, thinking about how I can make this line better myself, and eventually I’m just out there doing it for fun. But doing it a few times really helped me see what I’m trying to describe in my head. For “Mi Abuelita” it was a little more simple, and the movement didn’t matter as much. This one is much more sight specific, so it’s a lot more involved.
Me: That sounds really fun. When are you trying to have the book finished?
Amanda: I do have a deadline in mind, I’m hoping for the middle of June. But oh boy, we’ll see how it turns out. I’m on my third complete rewrite. So I wrote it one way, then I rewrote it another way, and now I’m doing it again so that I can nail down the style that I want for this book. I even tried making it rhyme. It was a pain in the butt, and by the time I finished it I was like, “Eh, it rhymes, but I don’t like it.” Who knows, it might end up rhyming hahaha. I have no regrets about the time I’ve spent on it so far. I have some ideas in my head but I haven’t landed there yet.
Me: You’re also a music teacher, can you talk to me about your teaching career?
Amanda: Well this is my 25th year teaching, and I don’t know if you’ve heard but this year kind of sucks as a teacher. It’s been really rough. Parkour is like my outlet, alongside making music. I do talk to my students about parkour a lot, and we’ve had the coaches come to our school a few times. We showed them the first World Chase Tag when Apex won, and they loved that. And then when the coaches came in, one of the coaches was Rob Schihl (@rob_schihl) from the Chase Tag team, and they were so excited. They’re so invested now. There are times when my students are low energy, and I’ll clap my hands together and say, “Alright everyone, quadrupedal movements around the room.” Some of the kids are racing, some of us are moving a little slower, but I love bringing it into my classroom. Going back to my coaches, I noticed early on that Michael had an influence on my teaching. Being the lowest student in class all the time, and seeing how he responded in class, I brought it back to my students and made my classroom a different place.
Me: What have you brought into the classroom specifically?
Amanda: Well the first thing was actively saying, “It’s okay to fail.” That we are going to fail until suddenly we don’t, and even then, we might still fail a few more times. Celebrating progress. Performing arts puts you out there, and even in a class like middle school guitar where there are 25 kids playing instruments, the individuals still feel exposed. So to really create a culture of respecting each other’s progress, where you’re at, what improvements you can make, working with someone else and commend them on something they do well, and help with something they’re struggling with. I’ve always done that to a certain extent, but parkour has made me more aware of it. In music I was always one of the best in the class, but at parkour, I’m the worst in the class. It really brought to my attention how I could help my students who are really struggling. And being so self conscious about being seen, in the classroom I wasn’t really thinking about it, but in parkour I would cringe when we would take turns doing something. Now I understand my students' feelings when they cringe and don’t want to be in front of the class, and I can help make the classroom a safe and inviting space for them.
Me: I think if we had more teachers putting forth that kind of effort, and students knew that their teachers are always improving, always learning, and doing their best for their students all the time, it would make a world of difference.
Amanda: It’s really fun sometimes too, they’ll say to each other, “You know she does parkour right?” and I can say things like, “Hey, I love parkour as much as the next person, but you cannot climb that table.”
My conversation with Amanda took me straight back to learning from my favorite teachers growing up. The teachers whose message and drive for helping students inspired me to try and do the same. With the plaudits that Amanda showers on her own coaches, she certainly deserves the praise and admiration of her own students. Schools would be a better place if every teacher took the same care of their students and pride in their work as Amanda does. The biggest takeaway that I got from our talk was that coaches and teachers really matter. The people who put their effort and time into improving someone else, those are some of the most valuable people in the world, and especially in the parkour community. Coaches and teachers alike, we at The Motus Projects salute you. For those who are thinking of starting parkour, whether you’re a young upstart, or old and gray, parkour is a sport that will welcome you with open arms, and gives back to its practitioners in surprising and wonderful ways.
To purchase “Mi Abuelita does Parkour!”
For more info on parkour programs at any age:
PKMove- @pkmove on Instagram, or www.pkmove.org
Special thanks to Amanda Aragón and her Over 40 class for the photos