Recently, I got the chance to interview Brian Taylor for issue #2 of 24-7 mag. We published a reader-friendly article, but I also wanted a chance to post the massive transcript that I got out of the full conversation. Enjoy!
Read the original at http://24-7mag.com/?page_id=683
We pinned down Denver’s Brian Taylor for a chat about personal style, teaching parkour, the origins of Bama’s Video Blog, and his experiences on the WFPF’s East Coast Crash Tour.
First things first. Who the heck are you and why should I care?
I am Brian Taylor, and you should care because I care who you are!
I’m a freerunner in Denver, CO. I’ve been doing this for over seven years, I’m one of the original freerunners in the state, and myself and a few other characters, we blossomed Colorado into one of the largest communities in the nation.
Tell me a bit about your journey. Where did you get started in movement, and how did you end up in parkour?
I’ve already lived three lives and I’m working on my fourth one right now. I was a martial artist for a long time and that transitioned through into dance — and all different kinds of dance, not just breakdancing, but breakdancing was my primary form of dancing, b-boying — and then that transitioned into freerunning when I moved out here to Colorado.
Where were you before Colorado?
I call Denver home, but I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama.
You’re a guy with a lot of style. What are your favorite effects, trademark accessories if you will?
The one [pant] leg up, that comes from bboying. I always thought it was cool, but then I got a tattoo on my right leg and I always used to pull my right pant leg up so I could show it off. After a while, it just became comfortable.
I’m always wearing crazy hats, I just, I like hats. I generally tend to be wearing wrist bands but those serve a functional purpose and they’re not just an accessory. I have a lot of tattoos on my forearms and I’ve got a lot of money and time invested in those tattoos. When I first started doing parkour I took a chunk of my wrist out on a gutter and it took a chunk of my tattoo with it. So I started wearing wrist bands as protection for my tattoos.
When you’re out running, what are your essentials for training? What lives in your bag?
A phone, in case I get hurt. I’ve walked for a mile on a broken ankle and that’s just not fun at all. Generally I run with a camelback, but no water in it, I take the bladder out just so I can put whatever in there I need. And a credit card so I can get some food.
Besides that, there’s been a few accessories lately — I’ve got a necklace that Yoann Leroux gave to me, so that never comes off of my body, ever. I wear a knee brace constantly and I’ve trashed my ankles so much over the years that now it’s a must that I wear ankle braces. I try and be as streamlined as possible.
You have a huge repertoire of motion. Are there any moves or type of movement that make you giddy to get to do?
I love any kind of circular motion. I’m a big fan of directional-changing movements and I do not like movements that force you to stop, so I’m always trying to figure out a way to twist out. Oleg Vorslav is a very big influence on me in that.
My favorite thing in the world is any motion that is going to catapult me forward — and I don’t mean kong, kash, dash, big jump or leap — I mean anything that I can do and not lose pace in carrying through to the next obstacle. So I prefer very linear runs, but when the linear run is not available to me, I like very circular motions.
My absolute most favorite move in my tricks is called a “raiz.” It’s like a sideflip but not like a sideflip, and it’s also like a back flashkick. If you took those two moves and you kind of mesh them together, you would have a raiz. That’s about the best I can describe it.
You’ve got a ton of videos online. How did Bama’s Video Blog come about?
I really, really wanted to do videos with parkour and freerunning. But then I snapped my ACL in half and dislocated my knee all at the same time. While I was rehabbing, I was looking at the world differently. Just because you shut down your running doesn’t mean your vision shuts down, you know, that “parkour vision.” And I decided that I wasn’t going to give up. I was like, I’m going to come back into this but I’ve got to do it differently — because I started seeing things differently, it was no longer “runner’s vision,” but it was more like… flow vision. I didn’t see “kong here, cat there,” I saw kong to cat to vault to stride. I would see connections of moves. So when I came back I was like well, I’ve got to get to that level. And I wanted to understand how I was moving so that I could learn how to connect one move into another seamlessly. And that’s where Bama’s Video Blog began. So I would set down a camera and I would watch the progression of movements. I just kept producing them and it was about a year later that I started to get a decent little following, and so I decided to continue doing it.
You’ve become like a virtual mentor to several runners, feeding tons of videos to the online community. How did you find your calling to become a trainer?
The funny part is, I didn’t assert myself into that role, it just kind of kicked me in the face. When I started martial arts, I happened to be living next door to a jujitsu dojo, and I would go every day and watch the classes. And then the guy who ran the dojo, Mark Barlow, he pulls me into the class one day and lets me take a class for free. He used me as his throwing dummy, I guess that was how I paid for classes. [laughs] But he had this thing about him that when he spoke, you listened.
So eventually I started helping teach, and I loved it so freakin much. But when I stopped doing the martial art and I got into breakdancing, it was rare that I taught anybody anything. A few years went by and [my friends] Lorin Ball and Eli Worsencroft, we started teaching at a gym called 5280 Gymnastics and that was what really sparked the whole thing. I found that I could take concepts and break them down into simple forms. And I enjoyed it, I really, thoroughly enjoyed it. Seeing somebody get something new was just astonishing to me.
I started teaching at the gym that I currently teach at, which is Goodson Rec Center, and this is after I blew out my knee. So I started teaching there, and something magical happened: two students turned to four. Four to eight. Eight to sixteen. And these kids would show up and they would never stop showing up. [laughs] So, I don’t really know where it came from or how it came about, it just… it is, and it works, and I enjoy it. And I’ll continue to do it until I can’t do it anymore — or until I get tired of it, one of the two. At my current rate, I could probably keep going another 5-10 years — that’s until I get bored or break down, one of the two.
We’re of about the same age and hearing that we’ll probably have only another 5-10 years… I’d like to think there’s more time, but at the same time, that’s still going to be a lot to do.
Well, the thing is, is not trying to keep up with the kids ‘cause that’ll never happen. As you get older, change the way you think, change the way you train. You don’t see many videos of [David] Belle flying all over the place, and even when you see videos of the Yamikaze these days, their style has changed. They don’t do big drops. They don’t throw a lot of flips. They don’t go for the really dangerous, burly stuff but I’ll be damned if they’re not efficient man, they’re swift and efficient and clean. So it’s a give an take — age takes away flips and breeds more efficiency.
So it’s like the debate between parkour and freerunning, where you see people doing less of the tricking that people associate with freerunning and moving more towards the efficiency that embodies parkour.
You know what, I’m going to say this and you can quote me on this: F__k that debate, and here’s why. Every single word carries a slightly different meaning simply because it is how that definition applies to that person. For example, A to B, as fast as possible, using only the human body, in the most efficient form possible — well, for a 300-pound man, that’s getting on the sidewalk and walking yourself right down the sidewalk. Or somebody who does parkour and is in tip-top shape and is just pure thoroughbred by-the-texbook-definition of parkour, it’s using vaults and precisions only, no flips. There are people that say that a flip is not efficient, but I can show you kids in my classes right now that can front-flip over an obstacle faster than you can vault it. It’s all about perception, you know? It’s like freakin old-school Romeo and Juilet, a name — what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
I mean, Ryan Doyle says it the best: Saying that one type of movement is wrong is like saying, I’ve had a better life than you, because everything you’ve been through in your life influences the way you move. For example, martial arts and breakdancing influence the way I move. Parkour is my third major discipline. I’m not just gonna take all the stuff that I’ve done previous to this and just throw it out the window.
Since we’re talking about the personal nature of movement, you’ve done a lot of advocating for building your own style rather than copying moves around you. I want to know, when you’re moving, what’s the beat that drives you? What’s your inspiration? The people, the styles, art, music, what keeps you moving?
I was originally influenced by Oleg’s form of movement because you saw him having such a good time. “Russian Climber” wasn’t the one that inspired me, the all-time famous Oleg video, it was “Out of Time II.” I will say that there are people that I’m a fan of, but it’s not their movement that inspires me to move, it’s just my drive to move, I just want to move.
Music, I like it all. I’ve been known to be caught blasting anime theme tracks into my ears, I’m a big fan of Rise Against, big fan of Flobots… you wanna hear an interesting tidbit of information? Do you know who Brer Rabbit is, with the Flobots? He’s one of the MCs, he’s one of the rappers. He just so happens to be a student of mine, and a friend. I would actually do it the other way around, I would say he’s a friend of mine and a student.
I’m heavily influenced by my environment, like, what I see around me. That really has a lot to do with it, and trying to be as creative as possible in an environment is an interesting situation because like, today I might not be so inspired. I might go and only be able to see six moves. But it tends to be when I walk away from that location that I start getting all these ideas. I wish I really had something profound to say in this area. I just look at things and I’m like, “Huh. Let’s try this, see what happens.” It only works out really well probably 15-20% of the time. Other times, it generally winds with me on my ass going, “That didn’t work!”
You’ve been all over. Where are your favorite spots to train?
That’s the crazy thing is, I shoot videos in location because it’s easy to set the camera down and to shoot a video, but I don’t like to train in one spot. I have always been the art of the journey. When we started doing parkour here in Denver, it was myself and Nathan Leite and Eli Worsencroft. There were days to where we would literally start on one side of downtown Denver and wind up on the other side of downtown Denver, never hitting the same move twice. So as far as single locations, I could name a hundred, but they would be… there’s this curb on 12th street and there’s this handrail on Broadway that I like to hit, but never just one singular location.
You did the WFPF Crash Tour on the East Coast recently, I really want to hear about that.
There were things about the Crash Tour that I’m a little disappointed in… like you’ll notice that I’m not in any of the videos, really. That was probably the most annoying thing about the Crash Tour but other than that, it was amazing. I am employed by the WFPF but that employment is coming to an end and we’ll get into that in a minute. We started in Tampa at the Art of Motion where I met Yoann, and that’s where I met Marcus [Gustafson] for the first time and Jason Paul and some of those other guys.
The traveling was interesting and difficult all at the same time because A) I got to hang out with all of these really amazing athletes, some of the most world-reknowned athletes in our discipline, and B) I was a cat-herder. [laughs] The thing about being the guy in charge with getting freerunners from Point A to Point B is that freerunners like to find their own Point A to Point B, and sometimes get caught up at Point A-and-a-half, or Point A-and-three-quarters, and they like to stay there. It was really difficult because I’m the only guy on the tour with an American phone, right? [laughs] Now, the flip side to that was, I got to know these guys on a deep level. Not just, “Hey, I went and jammed with Jason Paul” or “Hey, I went and jammed with Cato Aspmo,” you know? We all got to experience new places together because even though I had been all over the East Coast previously, I’d never seen the East Coast “parkour-style.”
And these were guys from all over the world?
Basically they were from all over Europe, and here they wind up in America. I think that a couple of them had actually been to America before this but not to this great of a scale. And there were unique types all over, there were crazy, outgoing types, I mean — freakin Yoann Leroux, man. It’s amazing hanging out with him, because he’s all over the place, he’s always happy, and then there’s… Cato. And Cato is always happy too, but you look at him and he looks like he’s going to eat you. You look at his jawline and you’re like, “How many cars have you eaten today, Cato?” [laughs] But at the same time, he’s a big teddy bear. And Marcus was really chill, really relaxed. And Jason was awesome because his philosophy on life is so unique, he’s just so “go with it,” no matter what it is, just go with it.
I also noticed that the other superstars have noticed you — like when Yoann did his interview for the first issue of 24-7 mag, and your name came up.
You know, honestly, that caught me off-guard too. [laugh] I love Yoann to death and I consider him a dear friend. We clicked almost immediately, and every chance we get to hang out together is amazing. But you know, the thing is — those guys, they’re more in tune with what’s going on in the community than most people in the community are. And it’s not like they’re just paying attention to each other. There’s cultural differences all the way across the board, but they’re just really freaking cool people. I’ve been very blessed to have met so many of those people and be able to walk away with those experiences.
You mentioned that your employment with WFPF is coming to an end?
For a number of months I have worked as the Creative Director for the WFPF. I built www.parkourplayhouse.com, www.knowobstacles.com, and I did a little design work on the [KO] shoe. They have assisted me in more ways than I can mention, so I have nothing but good things to say about the WFPF. However, I am drawing my employment with them to a close simply because my fiancee and I are to a point in our lives to where we need steady, hefty paychecks. I’m currently in search for the full-health-and-dental-benefit type of job, the classic nine-to-fiver. It’s not because anybody did anything wrong or there’s any bad blood, it’s just that my life is pulling me in a different direction and so I have to go that way.
I have one final hurrah with the WFPF. I am currently rebuilding the entire WFPF website from scratch. You can print this: I think [the current site] blows. It’s getting a 100% complete overhaul. We now have the WFPF site, and there is a social networking site attached to that site. We swapped over to a wordpress format, we have brought in a brand-new framework for the social networking and it’s gonna allow text chat, video chat, audio chat, people are going to be able to open their own forums, there’s a news feed just like on Facebook. We’re paying special attention to the affiliates, to the athletes and events that we’ve done, photo galleries, video galleries, things like that. There’s some other unique things that we’re throwing in there like, we’re going to have some featured writers, so those people will actually have access to a unique portion of the site built just for them.
You mentioned your fiancee earlier. What’s she think of your incredibly active lifestyle?
My fiancee and I have the best relationship on the planet as far as we’re concerned. We have always been of the philosophy that, she is a unique human being and I am a unique human being. I think it’s amazing because she can be a part of my life, she supports me in everything I do, she’s there to pick me up when I get jacked up, she puts me back together when I’m broken, and she supports me in every single aspect of my parkour life — but she does not infringe upon it. She keeps herself at a distance and she lets me do my thing. She knows the names of all the moves and she knows who everybody is and helps me play host when I have all these international guys from around the world come in — I mean, I’ve had just about all of them in my house. But she just… keeps a distance and lets me do my thing. So we talk about it a lot, but as far as actually us doing the same physical activities, no it doesn’t happen, we just don’t have time. Our lives flow in different directions.
Ok, here’s one: Plan me a jam. Where are we going?
The best jams you’ll ever find are here in Denver. Even though I know there are people all across the country that’ll say, “No, screw that, they’re here!” but they’re here in Denver because of our vibe. As far as the States go, it’s here. Downtown Denver offers some of the most unique geometry that I have seen in all of my journeys, because you can be doing one thing, go two blocks, and then all of a sudden everything has changed. We have very mixed styles here, so you’re always going to see a little bit of everything. You’re gonna see tons of names there — you’re gonna see people like Ryan Ford, John Reynolds, and Noah Mittman, You’re going to see names that are nationally known and some that are internationally known. And then again you’re gonna see Joe Smith and John Doe, and they may not be internationally known but they’re gonna give you some awesome advice or you’re gonna be able to teach them something, and they’re gonna happily learn with a smile on their face. So, Denver is the place to go to a jam, doesn’t matter where. We’ve been known to throw down on a curb.
You’ve gotten to run around with some of the most widely-known faces in the community, and you’re helping to train the next generation. I want to know what names you’ll be looking out for in upcoming months. Who’s on your watch list?
I am always excited to watch my students grow. I don’t see things in months anymore, but rather in years.
I am interested in watching Stephan Armijo, Noah MIttman, John Reynolds over the next few years. I’ve got a couple of students that will be promising as well. But if none of them ever become superstars… I am cool with that, just as long as they have fun… cause isn’t that what it’s really all about anyway?
You’ve done your share of interviews, so here’s my cop-out. What are the questions that YOU want to answer?
There is so much about me that exists outside of parkour and before parkour. I like questions about philosophy but I really like questions to where the answer just kinda shakes the bee’s nest, you know? I’ve never been one to play by the rules.
I like thought-provoking questions, things that’ll get folks riled up and have them sending you hate mail, I love those kinds of questions — because it shows the world that I’m a human being, I’m a real person — and for so many people that are going to read this, there’s a life outside of parkour, you know? And some of these kids, this is their first discipline. And this stuff will consume them, they’re hidden inside of this globe and they think that the only thing that is ever going on in the world was, somebody developed a freaking cat-grab. There’s so much more to life. So I like questions that’ll make people think, that’ll make them understand that. And then I really like the questions about my perspective on things that have happened — like I really enjoyed when we were talking about the Crash Tour. That’s a whole side that I didn’t get to express to anybody, besides my fiancee. So, those sort of questions.
Have more questions for Brian, or want to just drop him a line? Hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out his new portfolio site for other projects at www.robotwithachainsaw.com
For archives of Bama’s Video Blog, go to http://www.youtube.com/user/hybridfreerunning
And see Brian’s latest videos at his new spot on vimeo.com/bvbproduction