My Journey to Level 7

My Journey to Level 7
by Matt Antis

Starting Parkour

When I first heard of parkour, in 2006, I thought many things about it—I remember thinking, Yeah, but what is it?  I would briefly stop and watch someone on the OSU campus doing parkour and I had no idea what I was looking at. Some of it looked cool, some of it looked juvenile—it was for boardless skateboarders and ex-gymnasts maybe, it was random/undisciplined, it was for a certain kind of person. I try parkour once and suck terribly. I can’t keep up with my training partner and I give up. I didn’t understand yet that parkour was for me. I was too busy comparing myself to someone else.

Fast forward to 2009, a gym is re-opening in a new location in Beaverton, Revolution Parkour—which is the largest parkour gym in the United States for about 2 years. A college roommate calls me and asks me to come to their Grand Opening. I ask if he needs any help. It turns out that he does and I run the front desk at Revolution Parkour for the Grand Opening. There is a picture in existence with myself at the old front desk—just a folding table and I’m helping the future owner of RVPK Gresham fill out a waiver while the future owner of RVPK Tualatin is walking through the door in the background (If you have this picture please send it to me because I can’t seem to find it!)

I’m at RVPK Beaverton for a single day because the following week I’m deployed with the Army National Guard to California, then Georgia and then Iraq.

I return from Iraq, marry my beautiful wife and get a job doing something new…er, something that motivates me to look for a new job every day, which leads to looking for self-employment opportunities, which finally leads to looking for investment opportunities. The phone rings. It’s my college roommate. He’s leaving for France, is selling his gym and needs someone to manage his other business while he’s away. While he explained the requirements of management for his other company I blurted out, “Sorry, what’s happening with the gym?”

There’s no way that my wife and I can afford to buy the gym but we consider being investors for someone else who can. We do our research and I take my first parkour class, then my second, then I realize that I’ve taken a class every day that week. At 26 years old I’m hooked. I love Revolution Parkour. The purchaser that my wife and I were going to give a loan to disappears (turns out family events have drawn him away but he forgets to tell everyone that he’s leaving.)

The calendar hits February. The owner is planning on leaving in less than two months, there is no buyer, and unless my wife and I think of something fast my favorite activity of all time is going to disappear. My wife and I pray for wisdom, we spend time creating multiple financial plans that would benefit both the owner—so that he gets the entire sum he’s requesting AND so we don’t start with an extreme financial burden. We make an offer.

One week later my wife and I own Revolution Parkour, with a pretty hefty payment we need to prepare for down the road so we work hard and we work fast. My wife and I combined put in nearly 4,000 hours of work in the first 7 months and the gym doubles in size. We consider ourselves the most blessed people on the planet because we consider ourselves to be a part of one of the most caring and kindest, truly altruistic communities in the entire world AND I get to do what I love. We still feel that way.

In the first 3 months of taking parkour classes I move up from Beginner Parkour to Intermediate Parkour (probably the equivalent of somewhere between level 2 and 3 today.) There are only two class levels in 2011. The problem that I’m having with progressing is that my back is still in a lot of pain from my time spent in the Army.

Backstory

                Rewinding to Iraq: The short version is that my 72,000lb vehicle was blown up about 10 feet off the ground and miraculously was able to go between 4-7mph after we landed. As soon as we parked the truck it shut off and didn’t start again. Count your BLESSINGS! Between stress, getting blown up and a previous Army rappelling injury my back was in need of some special care.

                I try everything, starting with chiropractic care, which sets the bones in my back but didn’t address the larger issues. I’m introduced to Alicia at Transformations Studio. After working with Alicia for about 3 months my underlying issues are eliminated. Turns out that my greater trochanter was rotated and stuck at 90 degrees, my sacrum was stuck to my pelvis and there were some other underlying issues with my fascia. After about 6 weeks things are looking really good. After 3 months I stop plateauing and I’m able to learn more parkour techniques and am getting stronger.

                If you are having any physical therapy needs or want your body to move more efficiently then I can’t recommend Transformations Studio enough.

Trials

                At the end of 2012 we begin to develop a series of levels and challenges to help our Intermediate and Advanced students’ progress, myself included. It seems that the advanced students have hit a collective plateau and many of our open gym only students are missing out on training everything—they were only focusing on what they were good at but were starting to plateau there as well.

                Finally in October of 2013 the Revolution Parkour staff are content with the levels and challenges for the Revolution Parkour Trials. We introduce them to our students. Our students leave Trials amazed. There were things that they didn’t realize that they could do and leave encouraged to train more at those techniques. There are things that they are terrible at which reveals something that they can really work hard at. For myself, there were things that I was avoiding in my training—precisions specifically. I wasn’t very good at them but I knew that if I wanted to progress then I needed to work on them. Over the course of the next season my love for precisions grew and as I became better and better at them the more I wanted to train them.

                In October 2013 I’m able to pass the first 4 Trials (which puts me at Class Level 6), barely passing the 4th. The next month I fail the 5th Trial (Class Level 7) terribly. I’m only able to pass 1 of the 5 challenges. This really excites me as there are 4 different challenges that are just within reach that I know I’ll be able to pass if I just train regularly at them and don’t quit.

                So, I continue taking 3-5 classes per week to keep all of my skills sharp and improve at even the things that I’m currently good at BUT I spend 1-2 open gyms per week to focus on the 4 challenges that I failed at.

                Every season I get one more challenge, until I have all of the challenges but 1. That last challenge took an additional 3 months of practice. Then finally in January 2015 I pass the 5th Trial (Level 7.) I am over the moon. The 5th Trial (Level 7) was the most difficult 30 minutes in my life up to that point. More physical than anything I ever did in the Army (and I went through Airborne with a fractured fibula.) I take the 6th Trial (Class Level 8) and boom! I’m happy to learn that I fail all 5 challenges! That’s 5 more things that I get to work on!

Diet and Food Troubles Part 1

                I realize that if I’m going to get some of these heights and distances I might need to start training AND eating like an athlete. I research. I research a lot. I find conflicting information everywhere. The age of experimentation begins while I look for something sustainable—I tell myself that I’m not looking for any quick fixes. I start eating better and I get stronger and leaner.

I never really cared about how I looked before. It was always more important how I was able to move…to have that feeling of freedom over chiseled features but I realize that the better I look the easier it is to move. Discipline is difficult so I find myself unable to sustain the diet I’m on but I still have some improvement in my training and I’m able to complete 2 of the 5 challenges for the 6th Trial (Level 8.)

My training continues.

Class Passports

                In 2016, the Revolution Parkour instructors decide for many reasons (of which I would like to write at a later time) to make a small book for each class level that has all of the techniques, distances and heights that we would like our students to know and do before moving up to the next class level. It is our hope that students will attend open gym more, self-train more outside or in the gym, and set goals for leveling up, improving oneself and having more fun—because we firmly believe that the more you can do the more fun you will have.

                It takes us a year to write the books which we call Class Passports (because they get stamped like a passport when they are completed.) In 2017 the passports are given to members and available to all of the Revolution Parkour locations (3 locations at this point.)

                I go through all of the Passports making sure I didn’t miss anything while I was moving up the Levels and I get to Class Level 6 and I’m stumped. There are things in here that I don’t have No Mind, sure I can do them but I can’t do them subconsciously yet! There’s no way! There are also a handful of techniques that are not represented in the Trials that I neglected in my training—things like Cast Starts, Lateral Tacs and rail precisions at a certain height. Oh my! This is great! I have more things to work on and I’m super happy about that because they are much easier than the Trials challenges that I’ve been working on.

                I take a break from the Trials challenges and decide that I want to work on passing the Level 6 Class Passport before moving on.

                In 2016-2017 I’m training between 6-7 hours of parkour and 3-4 hours of Muay Thai over at KMAC each week and feeling great. I’m 32 and am starting to discount all of the stories I heard from my original parkour instructors Chris M. and Ryland L. (who were in their mid-30’s when they started parkour.)

                I’m at Muay Thai and we’re doing a drill that we often do at the end of training and I just can’t do it…my stomach is dying inside. It feels like I have an ulcer that spawned an ulcer that started smoking because it’s on fire. Well bummer. I have to quit early that night and I decide to take a few weeks off.

Health Problems and Food Troubles Part 2

                The short version: I was misdiagnosed with Hypothyroidism for 2 years, I’m severely allergic to eggs and many other foods, I went without proper dietary fat, Omega-3’s and some other key nutritional elements for over a year after avoiding food on my allergy list and finally, at the beginning of 2019, have gotten out of a severe-long-lasting-horrible brain fog that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

                I have learned so much about health, wellness and diet in the last 4 years and I plan on sharing more details when I’m ready.

                After five months of proper diet and a few months of regular training (I had to take about a year off due to extreme fatigue) I was finally able to train on what was left in the Level 6 Class Passport!

Level 7, Baby!

                On Monday, April 29th I officially passed Level 6 and am now a Level 7 student in both Trials and Class Passports. I’m so excited to be practicing for the Trials again. I’m closer than ever. My parkour goals are now to get one more challenge for Class Level 8 through the Trials route AND to train with my sons when they are old enough. It’s important to set goals. I had to take a lot of time off to get healthy again and to figure things out (we also helped start a gym in Hillsboro—The Movement Park, during that time which you should totally go visit if you haven’t yet!)

                Why am I writing all of this down? I want to encourage you. It might just be that you’re in a season of life where you’re not sure where things are headed. I know I wasn’t! Maybe you’re thinking more about your finances then your waistline, or a career path, or continuing education or finishing what you’ve started. We all get it, we’ve been there.

It’s more important than ever, due to many of life’s distractions, to set and remember your goals for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being that is you. The way that you envision yourself becomes your vision. Do you see yourself helping others? Getting stronger to be more useful? Learning more to solve the problems in this life? I encourage you to Dream. Then create a mission and make goals to make that dream come true and adjust as you learn along the way. Put the vision, mission and goals in a place where you can read them every day.

                The physical discipline of parkour is full of amazing metaphors, it’s NOT about getting to Level 7. It is about being better than you were yesterday. It’s about growing, because when you’re not growing you’re dead and we can all use some more life. I find myself doing well when all there is balance between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth.

Growing Rules

                Physical: If I train for 2 hours per week that’s not enough to grow. If I train for 7 hours per week I need to take one day of training off that week to allow a proper amount of rest. If I train high impact/intensity for 3 hours in a week then I need to use the other 3 training days to do nothing more than walk and do recovery exercises.

                Mental: For every 1 hour that I read I allow 15 minutes to think about what I read. Spend 1-2 hours every week imagining. Spend the same number of physical training hours that week growing my knowledge on a subject.

                Emotional: For me food is extremely emotional. Most of my emotional growing rules involve the discipline revolving around food. Emotional stability is largely connected to how focused I am on being disciplined and my discipline is very much correlated to my memory. I use a calendar for reminders that motivate me just before mealtimes. The second thing that I do is have regular discussions with my wife. She is always willing to help me grow. The last thing that has helped my emotional growth is to learn to love criticism in regards to my craft—my techne. There is more pain in emotional growth than physical, I’m really glad that I have the parkour metaphor of progression to help me keep going.

                Spiritual: I believe that the most important of these is to know who you are, a child of God, and where you are going. As a believer in Jesus Christ I want to be more like Jesus whose capacity for grace and demonstration of unconditional love is immeasurable. If I am to be more like my savior, Jesus, then I need to spend time with him in the gospels and in prayer. This needs to happen daily because I realize more and more everyday how much I need patience (I’m a Dad) and kindness.

Conclusion

                Have you started? Keep going! Have you yet to start? Start! We’ll help you if we can! Are you not sure what goals to make? That’s okay. Decide to have faith. Start moving. It’s hard to steer a parked car.