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When you’re watching athlete and free running devotee Basilio Montilla, it’s easy to forget that propelling yourself towards and off a building with acrobatic ease isn’t the norm. But whether he’s hurtling six feet above the ground or ricocheting across concrete surfaces, Montilla makes it look effortless. Of course free running is anything but--something the Bronx-born 28-year-old well knows. A practitioner and teacher of the discipline for over ten years, Montilla has honed both the musculature and the mentality that it takes to turn every urban surface into an athletic opportunity. Here, we talk to Montilla about meccas of the free running world, training days, and staying motivated.
Have sports and fitness always been an integral part of your life?
I have always been keen on trying to find ways to stay active. I was always trying to play some kind of sport or activity within the streets or playgrounds.
What first piqued your interest in free running/ Parkour?
I loved how Parkour was about moving differently. For me, it was like a gateway to being outside the norm, to be different from the average person. It allowed me to express myself in ways I didn't think possible.
How did you start training?
I was going through a breakdance phase and while researching tutorials on b-boy moves, I stumbled upon a Parkour video. It was one of a handful of Parkour videos at the time. I continued to research what was Parkour all about. I've been hooked ever since.
What does a training day look like for you, from start to finish?
These days, aside from Parkour, I've been focusing heavily on boxing and martial arts training. So a typical training day would be boxing/martial arts in the morning, teach my Parkour classes in the afternoon, and then some personal Parkour training at night.
Is there any part of the body that’s more important to focus on in free running than another?
All equally important. The stronger and more fit you are overall, the better you will move.
Does Parkour change the way you look at your city and surroundings?
I like to say practicing Parkour gives you "Parkour Vision." It really does make you look at your environment in a completely different way. The more you train, and the more experienced you become, the more opportunities you will see to use your environment for training.
Where's the most insane place you’ve taken your skills outside of NYC?
At the Dame Du Lac, in Lisses, France. The structure there is like the mecca of Parkour. It was great to finally visit and train on it after having only viewed it in videos over the years.
What are the best or most unexpected urban surfaces to work with?
Almost any surface is best to work with. It really depends on what techniques you want to drill. Generally, as long as the surface isn't slippery or slick it should be fine.
As a Parkour instructor, what do you find people struggle with the most when they start?
Getting people accustomed to moving their own body weight, and getting them out of their comfort zone.
How important is it to train in a gym before taking your moves outside?
It’s not important to train in a gym before taking your Parkour training outside. Originally, Parkour was meant to be trained outside in the first place. You start out with the basics and gradually work your way up from there. The more you train, the more you're aware of what you can and can’t do. Safety is of the utmost importance in Parkour. With the right mindset and attitude, anyone can begin training outside. A gymnastics facility or Parkour-oriented gym can be really helpful when it comes to trying to learn specific acrobatic moves.
What keeps you motivated?
Trying to be the best I can be, both physically and mentally.
How do you deal with challenges?
I deal with challenges the same way I deal with obstacles in Parkour: I overcome them.