With 5 years experience coaching parkour for NZ Parkour and Movement Unleashed to hundreds of people, including youth, adults, private groups and personal training – it’s safe to say Rowan is one of the leading parkour coaches in New Zealand. Together Rowan and I started Movement Unleashed in 2013 to pass parkour and functional fitness on to others. Having a parkour coach as a friend, I shouldn’t waste the opportunity to hear his thoughts so I managed to track him down for an interview.
1. You and I started training parkour when it was very small in NZ, before there were organisations and businesses involved in it. What’s it like to have been involved with seeing parkour in NZ grow from a just handful of people, to increasing public recognition and people running classes?
Well it’s been pretty inspiring and motivating, sometimes even scary. I came to realise that as a group we were the role models for hundreds of kids and young adults and if we stepped wrong it could have negative consequences beyond ourselves. It caused a lot of us to grow up very quickly, to get together and discus and plan. It was from this that NZ Parkour basically came about.
2. How has your experience of parkour changed from being a practitioner to being a coach? Does it affect your own practice?
Yes it has changed pretty much everything. Before I was teaching, parkour was mainly a physical discipline with no real rules or boundaries. Once I started teaching I came to realise that there were rules, as simple as not jumping too much to preserve the knees and as complex as the potential consequences of us training in an area for too long or how our Spartan style training method would influence the egos of our students unintentionally.
3. Parkour is a philosophy as well as a physical practice. How do you strike a balance between passing on both of these aspects to students?
First, it’s hard. Really hard, most students don’t want to know it or don’t even know it exists until they have been training for a few months. Most of the time I try to just lead by example and just a word here and there. Part of that mentality is freedom, so I try not to force it upon them but instead let them decide/learn for themselves.
4. One of my goals when starting Movement Unleashed was to change people’s perceptions of seeing parkour as “recklessly jumping off rooftops” to seeing it as an accessible fitness method, do you think Movement Unleashed has been successful in this?
Mostly yes, far less people see it as dangerous these days. I’ve been balancing on a rail somewhere and a group of people who I’ve never met will say I’m doing parkour and discuss what it’s about with each other without me saying a word (I’m too busy trying to stay on the rail after all).
5. If you could give 3 quick tips to someone new to parkour, what would they be?
Climb through trees, play around with jumping with precision as far as you can, and be as quiet with your movement as you can.
6. In five years time, where would you like to see parkour in NZ?
I hope it’s regarded as a near complete approach to learning movement, with the same training mindset as most martial arts. We’re nearly there now but it’s still seen as an alternative sport rather than a discipline.
7. What’s next for your own movement practice? What’s next for your coaching practice?
As I’ve learnt more and more about movement I’ve come to realise that posture is incredibly important to not just stay healthy but to actually get the most out of it in terms of strength and range of motion. Sadly it’s also incredibly easy to neglect so I’m focusing this year upon fixing this gap in my knowledge, hopefully I can help out my students more effectively afterwards.
8. Anything else you’d like to add?
Parkour is known as the art of movement, it’s many things, because every person approaches it in their own way but primarily it’s about moving, about understanding your body and mind. At the end of the day Parkour is a tool that anybody can use to overcome the obstacles in their life. Max and I started Movement Unleashed with this tool without any real business training. We helped start up NZ Parkour. Many others in that first group have done similar things all over New Zealand and the same is happening around the world. What has parkour taught me? It’s that I don’t know what is or is not possible, so maybe I should just try… and often it actually works!
Rowan is an Owner and Instructor at Movement Unleashed which runs regular weekly classes in parkour, with exercises that can be scaled for all ages and abilities. To learn more and to find out about classes visit www.movementunleashed.com.