I know you’ve heard of the Tapp Brothers, so the name Thomas Tapp should already ring a bell. This friendly 23-year old lives in Hollywood and is one half of the team behind the website LearnMoreParkour.com. As a professional parkour athlete he has appeared in multiple TV commercials, trains as a stuntman, and helps to test the courses for American Ninja Warrior.
I caught up with Thomas last weekend, and had a chance to learn more about his background and parkour training.
Here is a transcript of our conversation:
Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into parkour?
My twin brother and I grew up in Greenville, Texas and we come from a regular sports background of soccer and track. One day we were searching around on the Internet, and we came across a David Belle video. I thought it was super cool seeing him run across buildings and climb up things like Spiderman, and thought “Man, I got to try this!”
The first thing we did was to get on top of our roof and jump off like idiots!
After that we started training and took all of the discipline that we had learned from soccer and implemented it into our parkour. We were doing two-a-day sessions and trying to learn moves from the videos that we watched.
We would press pause, then play, trying to figure out what his (David B.) hands were doing, and then go outside and practice. We were 16 at that time, when our bodies were starting to develop with strength, so it made it easy to transfer the techniques.
Shortly after that, we started filming ourselves doing parkour moves.
Our parents freaked out and said that it would ruin our soccer career and that we shouldn’t do it! We told them we’d stop, to get them not to worry.
That was in ’06. But we kept on training, and started putting videos out on YouTube and emailing tons of people our video, like TV producers. Then we got picked up to do a commercial and had to come clean with our parents, because they had to sign the contract since we weren’t 18 at the time.
They were pissed off at first, but then when they found out we were going to be in a commercial they were okay with it.
What other TV appearances have you had?
Well, we did all of the testing for American Ninja Warrior in Dallas, to make sure the course wasn’t too easy and not too hard. And then they wanted us to come to Vegas as well.
We also did an international commercial for Heelys, which was pretty fun. They have this new board that they wanted to promote, and it was a pretty sick commercial; with a really good director on it. It had a lot of slow motion.
That was in 2010.
What’s the story behind LearnMoreParkour.com?
After we started training, we started to get hit-up constantly with emails or through our YouTube channel, with people saying:
“Hey, you’re doing really cool stuff. Can you teach us how to do it?”
After answering tons of these type of emails, we just decided to make a website to dedicated to helping people how to do it.
The first product we launched was “Get Your Backflip Now.” It was the first time we had ever made a product, so it was pretty hectic.
Then we launched the “Crash Course into Parkour” shortly after that, and it went a lot smoother!
It was difficult to make a living from the commercials, so the courses helped us to be able to just work on training parkour.
Now, we just moved out to California after meeting a stunt coordinator. And it’s been really awesome.
Anyhow, the website is really a resource for people who are just starting parkour, and is aimed at people from age 13 to their early 20’s. It’s really for people just starting off in their training.
For people who are experts or on the higher end – it’s not for those guys.
We’ve also done workshops and have started to teach classes over here – just small classes for now.
So, what’s life like in LA now that you’re out there?
Well, doing the stunt work has been great, but we realized that we like teaching parkour the most.
We’re going to mainly focus on training, teaching, and spreading parkour
Can you tell me about your parkour training over the course of a week?
I have it spread out so that this is how it goes: 3 to 4 days a week of training parkour and free running; and in between it’s conditioning. If I’m going really good with the training, sometimes it’ll be two workouts a day. For instance, I’ll do conditioning in the morning and then will go work free running later on that day.
One of the things that I really focus on is what I learned from Ryan Ford of APEX Movement, which is called the Training Triangle.
The three sides are the Physical, the Technical, and the Mental.
If you take care of those three things, then you’re on your way to becoming an ultimate parkour athlete.
The Physical is the conditioning, including work on fast twitch and slow twitch muscles.
The Technical is working on the parkour movement and breaking down what you really have to do in a move.
The Mental component is to help address fear, with techniques like using gradual progressions. It’s also about learning to stay positive and not get down on yourself when training.
What sort of specific conditioning are you doing nowadays?
Right now I’m gearing up for Ninja Warrior, so I’ve got a big rope to climb and some box jumps in my backyard that I use a lot.
Aside from the rope climb and box jumps, I do a lot of quadrupedal movement and butt scoots.
The butt scoot is an awesome movement to strengthening your core, where you balance on your butt with your hands by your hips, then lift up and scoot forward across the ground. It looks kind of ridiculous but it’s an extremely good workout.
I also like to use a weight vest for pull-ups and push-ups, and I’d be using weights for squats but I just don’t have access to a squat rack right now.
Most of my training right now is with body weight, or with a weight vest, and also picking up sand bags.
What’s your favorite exercise?
Definitely a pull-up. It’s so basic, but there are all sorts of variations that you can do: narrow grip, wide grip, regular form, chin-up style/reverse grip, side grip, and then circular pull-ups.
The Bartendaz are a neat resource – they’re awesome, and have inspired me a lot.
Another thing that I like to focus on is explosive power. I’ve noticed that a lot of parkour people don’t really train it that much. They’ll train at a slow pace all day, but it’s really important to train with explosive movements too.
If I’m doing pull-ups, I’ll raise myself up as fast as I can, then lower down slow.
Same thing with if I’m doing jumping precisions – really working on exploding.
Are you doing any cross training?
I do a lot of the agility training that we used to do for soccer. I’ll set-up cones and will work on cutting in and out really quick.
It’s kind of like the training that you see football people doing. Set-up a square and run between the cones or on different angles, even backwards for footwork.
What sort of advice do you have regarding injury prevention?
Gradual progressions are key.
Also, listening to your body in terms of fatigue and not going for risky stuff when you are tired or late in your training session.
You should also be working on conditioning your joints, in preparation for shock absorption.
Finally, what can people do when training to improve their movement flow during parkour?
Having good flexibility and mobility are important.
I’ve also found that a background in dance helps with flow, for body control. What really helped us was some training we did with break-dancing.
In terms of everyday training, it’s just essential to work on breaking down the movements, then drilling the moves together in a pattern. Visualize the progression from one move to another, then drill the movements.
Of course, just filming yourself can really help. You’ll see where you got sloppy and what movements you need to work on.
What you wear can help, too. Baggier pants and looser fitting clothes don’t restrict motion as much.
Well it’s been great talking with you, is there one last thing you’d like to mention?
Yeah – we just released a new product called our “In-home Fitness Training”, which again is for beginners and focuses on the physical side, the conditioning. It’s to help people build up the strength needed to train for parkour.
It’s really not about technique, but rather strength, flexibility, mobility and things like that. It’s a 60-day program and was launched a while ago.