A dialogue between Enrique Arellano, his former student. Original posting can be found here, in Spanish.
I met Franco at the end of 2016, thanks to a mutual friend. I was his student. I attended his parkour, handstand, and acroyoga classes. At that time, he was still engaged in his profession, which is Physics. Now, four years later, it is the movement that sustains his life. I contacted him and we talked. Thanks to technology, me from my home and he from Tierra Langla, in Lunahuaná. He came with an interest in learning about the culture of the place . “I am a traveler,” he tells me. «I am constantly looking for new things. To go out and change. To pedal ». He also told me about the beginning of his practice and what it consists of.
You studied pure physics. Did that make you want to explore movement?
Yes. While studying physics I got to know parkour, I got to know movement. I started training in tandem. Moving between the physical community and the parkour community meant a mixture of sensations, of experiences. In each community in which I have been involved the process has developed. Various universes. Among these, a feedback between analytical mind and creativity. Left side, right side of the brain. A more theoretical vision for physics, and a super practical vision for training.
How do you start your practice?
It starts with a friend who takes me to make bars… lots of bars. I remember being like three weeks without being able to flex my elbow. I could not write and had to take practice. Concentrating was very difficult. All day I thought about pain. And it was very funny. There I understood what it was to be a rookie. I don’t think something so intense has happened to me since. At most I’ve been with … I don’t know how to say it in Spanish … Lactic acid …
The shoelaces …
Yes. One week maximum. And it starts in a self-taught way. This friend who takes me to barbell, also takes me to train some parkour. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but some videos I had seen. We were a semi-organized group of people in which each one went on their own. We trained twice a week, sometimes three. Free. Suddenly someone was teaching the other what they were learning. Everything was very organic, very communal, very artist in that sense. Hobbysta. Nobody was professional. There were no teachers and we all learned together. And that beginning gave me the basis for now to continue developing other aspects of the practice. Sometimes you don’t recognize that base until after several years. Now, among the things I learned, I recognize curiosity, play, exploration, mixed with discipline, decision-making, stress management, risk management.
That beginning, how long ago was it?
That was in 2010.
And in these ten years, between which disciplines have you moved?
I started out as an avid parkour servant. But after two, three years, I started to think and I said to myself “I am more than this. All the things I am learning are and are not both parkour. ” Because my way of seeing things extended to trying different methodologies from different fields, due to the natural interest of continuing to learn new things, and of continuing to generate the best accessories for parkour. Then I discovered Pilates and I was going to study Pilates, to practice Pilates. Boom! I saw that my parkour improved a lot. It activated the transverse abdominis. Then I would develop my dorsiflexion and realize that my precision jump was greatly increased simply by having a greater range of motion. I trained ballet and found tools to jump incredibly high. So I was giving here and here. I discovered calisthenics, already as a field, and all the gymnastic elements that are now the basis for my physical conditioning. Hands down, the best that exists with its own weight. I also discover dance very quickly. Contemporary dance. This changed me a bit.
Because in it there is a lot of exploration, a lot of new patterns. The world of improvisation is unstructured. What is improvisation? It is not doing whatever. There is a whole speech inside. It’s like playing. Nor is it that they tell you “Now, play”. What do you do? It is not like this. For example, soccer is a game, basketball is a game, lifting weights is a game. By this I mean “game” as a structure, a framework with certain rules, certain edges that tell you what is and what is not allowed. And within that context and reference, you must improvise, explore, make decisions. The games can be specific such as table games or sports games. Or they can be more subtle, like “Let’s pitch a tent.” It is also a game because it has certain rules. You want someone to come in, to be on the floor, to be able to lie down well. Or the game of making food. There are also rules. If you make the fire very high, it will burn you, and if the fire is very low, it will not cook. So by play I mean that structure that restricts you a bit, but gives wings to freedom. It is finding freedom in restriction. Contemporary dance, and improvisation in particular, teaches me a lot that. Which is something that I already knew somehow. I think we all know it, only that, finding it from experience and practice and giving it time, makes it become part of you and you embody the idea. they teach me that a lot. Which is something that I already knew somehow. I think we all know it, only that, finding it from experience and practice and giving it time, makes it become part of you and you embody the idea. they teach me that a lot. Which is something that I already knew somehow. I think we all know it, only that, finding it from experience and practice and giving it time, makes it become part of you and you embody the idea.
It is like becoming aware of what one knows or can do.
True. Improvisation allows you to frame yourself in different situations, and what that implies is invaluable. Improvisation complements all practice. Life itself is a great game, a great improvisational context. That you are in the body that you are gives you a framework in which to improvise. We walk in a certain way and not in another because of our biomechanics. We are restricted by it. Each person, with their ailments and ranges of motion, is part of the game. The body is the base framework to decide and continue to progress.
Well, continuing with the question you asked me, after the improvisation I went through the individual acrobatics and the duet acrobatics. Thai massage and improvisational contact. These areas of movement caught my attention; I discovered them almost together. The game is no longer one, but two. You develop other qualities. There is a very interesting phrase: “Dancing alone is like dancing with your imagination. Dancing in pairs or more, like dancing with reality ”. What does reality mean? They are those external factors that stress your life. For example, the fact that you can see leaves moving through the window. You don’t control the leaves. You don’t generate air either. The leaves are and the air occurs. You are just interacting with all of it. You see the leaves and you breathe that air. In dance contact improvisation that happens. You dance with a body that simply is. It is neither more nor less. Not like that, not like that. It is only and with that reality one improvises. One generates more dance. The practices I mention are just a few. My research continued, but I feel like it may open up too much already. What I would like to add is that my research stopped looking for depth, to look for transversality. That is, it sought to advance in different disciplines in parallel. Under that philosophy is that now I learn and practice daily for hours. And it happens that this has radiated outwards and I find myself accompanying people in their processes. Giving classes and traveling. But I feel like it can open up too much already. What I would like to add is that my research stopped looking for depth, to look for transversality. That is, it sought to advance in different disciplines in parallel. Under that philosophy is that now I learn and practice daily for hours. And it happens that this has radiated outwards and I find myself accompanying people in their processes. Giving classes and traveling. But I feel like it can open up too much already. What I would like to add is that my research stopped looking for depth, to look for transversality. That is, it sought to advance in different disciplines in parallel. Under that philosophy is that now I learn and practice daily for hours. And it happens that this has radiated outwards and I find myself accompanying people in their processes. Giving classes and traveling.
“Life itself is a great game, a great improvisational context. That you are in the body that you are gives you a framework in which to improvise. […] The body is the base framework for deciding and continuing to progress.”
How incredible this trip you are telling me. I find it curious that to improve your performance in one discipline, parkour, you began to investigate others. How would you define your practice now?
First, my interest in improving my parkour, rather than parkour itself, was a matter of care. “I want to take care of my body. I want to do this forever. I want to become indestructible. ” I can say that I have come a long way in that line. Also, along the way, I have learned that being indestructible is a direction rather than a goal. That by going in that direction one has to accept that one is also going the other way: towards destruction. Success comes with failure. Strength with weakness. It is not that they are diametrically opposite poles, in that you go north and no longer go south. It is an imaginary polarity; They come in a pack of two. If you pursue destruction, you will find indestructibility. If you chase the shadow, you will find light. If you head towards depression, you will find joy. Lifetime. Drive. Emergence. Be reborn. So at that time I was playing parkour. There I discovered the interest of increasing that ability to be able to play longer and better every day. I think that defines it.
So you have kept the basic idea of knowing your limits that parkour provides. Because that’s what it’s about, right? Despite the fact that one might think when seeing it “This is jumping over obstacles, climbing walls, running on the cornices of buildings.”
That is a bit what happens when narrating. Everything that is body implies experience, it implies being red-handed. It is as if I wanted to teach you by audio how to make bread. There will be a limit. I could show you a thousand ways, but nothing would replace your hands in the dough. The text, even the audiovisual, has limits. There will come a point where the words will redound and will be the same as those that describe other processes, such as risk taking. You can also find the same risk control discourse with people who do yoga, or with people who do weightlifting, or with people who do swimming. Experience is something that is far from words. Words try to approximate experience, but it is difficult to replace it.
I would like to return to that idea of playing within restrictions. Limited joint mobility is a restriction. But exercises can be found in which it is not an impediment. You mentioned the word reality. So, with work — developing that mobility — one can change one’s reality and explore other areas.
We must realize, applying this philosophy of deepening transversally, how each discipline addresses mobility. For some systems it can be everything; for others, a complement. I also like to put it in this perspective: there is a game that I call the game of beinghuman. You have a body with certain characteristics. Grab a shark, grab a whale, grab a reptile. Each one has a particular body, a different reality. Evolution has unleashed Homo Sapiens, which is us, and we have a certain biomechanics, a natural possibility. If you see bones, they are predisposed to do certain things. I think that a very important goal of mobility training is that you can express that naturalness with grace, with subtlety, with emotion. If I want to stand upside down, but my anatomy tells me that I can’t bring my arm to 180 °, then that’s my limitation and it’s great. But wanting to restore that naturalness to the body is a good direction to go. The sedentary world makes you stop hanging, for example. That you stop flexing your shoulders upward from your head. Or that we have the habit of having our head forward, with our chin down. Let’s go to the gacha; We do not develop that natural extension of the neutral neck and that look at eye level, but a little lower. Where the eyes go, the tension goes, attention. What I mean is that the sedentary posture takes you away from that naturalness of the human who is made to climb, who is made to run, who is made to be on the ground. In my perspective, a good mobility work should aim, in a first layer, to restore that naturalness. And this is very important. Whether you want to spread your legs, stand on your hands or do bridges, if you have a good base, it will accompany you for a lifetime. Right now I am making a distinction between basic and advanced things, but finally that distinction does not exist. Everything is basic. Difficult is a category that we project from our teaching, our society.
So, the categories of easy, difficult, advanced, have been built by the lifestyle we lead?
By the narrative.
I now think of a member of one of those tribes that still exist. I imagine him in a deep squat position in front of the campfire. Maintains that naturalness of which you speak. He could probably spend many hours in that position. Just like a baby could. For them everything is natural. If there was no sedentary lifestyle, for us too, right?
Maybe Likewise, without detracting from the lifestyles that exist, a great learning opportunity is to try to restore those natural mechanisms that occur in humans. And rescuing your idea a bit, I can say that the human body likes variety. An overstatement of this is specialization. Because it’s like you’re always looking for the next challenge. Start digging and digging. Find gold and dig and dig. It stays on that route. But the new can not only be in one direction, but in all the directions one wants. One can find enlightenment in a flower or in dying. You can find the magic of the universe by praying or in a war. What I mean is that you can find novelty anywhere. You may not have that varied country or tribal life; However, you can find similar features – or even more – where you already are. The learnings are within everything you will find. And submitting yourself to this external variety helps you to know a variety that is within you; and trigger it.
Would you say that in these times it is necessary for people to move? … I don’t know if it is well said like this: “let it move.”
Moving is a very general thing, and it doesn’t just land on the body. The body is a vehicle towards your present. If you are upset, this manifests itself in him. It is indisputable. The mind, on the contrary, takes you to the past and the future. It is like a crazy monkey who likes to be everywhere. There are days when he is very restless and does not allow you to be in the now. He throws coconuts at you. But it is their nature and you must understand and accept it. Hug her. If you really understand and embrace it, it won’t be a problem. It will be a problem if you resist. You create tension for a reality that you cannot change. But it is a reality that informs you so that you can make decisions and, step by step, get to the places that you may want, and that you may arrive at some point. Or maybe not. Much is said about mind control. That the mind is the driver and the body is the vehicle. That the mind tells the body what to do; and yes, I do not contradict that, but also the other sense works. The body, from presence, from contemplation, from meditation, is a very direct vehicle for obtaining feedback. We can talk a lot about the benefits and why you should move, but I think a very important reason is that moving, particularly the body, is an authentic and honest practice of presence. You are here and now enjoying the experience of having a body. That is where the issue of presence goes. For some it may be listening to music. For others, sing a song while waiting for the bus. Or write in the journal. All are presence practices. So if I were to recommend to people in general why to move I would tell them to move because it is also a practice of presence.
And if they said to you “Why move with body weight?”, What would you say? Because someone might say “I go to the gym and I have a presence there. I must be concentrated, I must feel ”.
Both, I would say. With body weight, with weights, on the farm, in the room, on the computer. As long as it is a practice of presence, they all comply. I can go a little deeper and accentuate the “additive-free” characteristic of moving with body weight, and find the answer there, a very big answer: You don’t need anything else. The fact of undressing, of being vulnerable, of exposing yourself, of not depending on anything other than the now. That your movement does not depend on the clothes you wear, the shoes you wear, the aesthetics. I think a good starting point is the philosophy of minimalism. Less is more. This is a phrase that resonates a lot in my head, in an age when there is too much information. If I showed you the video, right now I’m seeing I don’t know how many types of plants and how many types of rocks. The simple fact of closing your eyes is an act of rebellion against this society that wants to add layers and layers of things. Removing layers is also interesting. And this way of seeing things is amalgamated with the idea of training barefoot, without polo. You alone in the desert. Of course, sometimes it makes you use the weights, it causes you to use the walls, it causes you to use other objects. But basic minimalism. This has a very strong impact on the rest of our lives, not only in training. If you seek movement, you find stillness. If you seek stillness, you find movement. causes using the walls, causes using other objects. But basic minimalism. This has a very strong impact on the rest of our lives, not only in training. If you seek movement, you find stillness. If you seek stillness, you find movement. causes using the walls, causes using other objects. But basic minimalism. This has a very strong impact on the rest of our lives, not only in training. If you seek movement, you find stillness. If you seek stillness, you find movement.
“The simple act of closing our eyes is an act of rebellion against this society that wants to add layers and layers of things to us.”
Moving allows one to face life, doesn’t it?
Yes. From what we talked about before: emotional management, stress management, mind management. But more than a management, it is a collaboration. It is understanding how emotions work, how the body works, and how the mind works. And also understand the embrace of these three universes. I already said it: the body is a vehicle that directs the present; the mind usually goes to the past or the future; and the emotion has a lag. One who is angry, no matter how much he receives information that clarifies the situation, he will remain angry. There is a latency. And the body responds to that. The mind wants to handle the emotions and the body. Emotions want to control the mind and body. And the body, those two. Managing the body is managing your present. In short, movement, as a practice of presence, helps improve the quality of life
More on Franco can be found at Franco Phang Training on Facebook and @ franco.spb on Instagram.