Awesome Flips to Free Running: An Interview with Parkourist Ronnie Shalvis
"He'd fly through the air with the greatest of ease." While the song might refer to The Trapeze Man, this inspiring parkourist needs no net and no trapeze. Ronnie Shalvis is a professional free runner and parkourist. He has an amazing outlook on life and how he incorporates his love for his sport into his life. He has performed his craft at various conventions as well as made several videos, some of which include popular icons from gaming and comic culture.
GameSkinny got the chance to catch up to Ronnie and ask a few questions. From the beginnings of his career and love for parkour and free running to advice for beginners, we got an amazing look at the mind of this athlete.
How old were you when you first started learning parkour, and what inspired your first attempts?
Ronnie Shalvis (RS): I was 15 years old. I was inspired by online parkour videos I saw of David Belle the founder of parkour. Also being a fan of Jackie Chan and Spider-Man also inspired me to want to learn that type of movement.
What inspired you to take it to the professional level?
RS: After about 4 years of doing parkour, I felt I had progressed to a point that I could start doing it professionally. I also loved it so much that there isn't anything else I would rather be doing.
Was fear of heights ever an issue for you? If so, how did you overcome that fear?
RS: I once was afraid of heights when I was younger. I actually overcome the fear climbing mountain, and on the edge of a sheer cliff being able to see the beauty all around and the feeling of freedom it brought inspired me to overcome my fear of heights. So it was more a change of mental perspective; learning to see beauty from up high instead of danger.
You have taken on the roles of Spider-man and Altair from Assassin's Creed. Are there any other personas you've taken on or plan to take on? Who would be your favorite role?
RS: I have taken on the roll of Santa Clause as well. I would love to incorporate other super heroes or character from movies like Star Wars and James Bond. There is also a game called Mirror's Edge that is parkour based and I would love to incorporate that into a video as well.
On your YouTube channel, you have lots of helpful how-to videos for learning parkour. What advice would you offer new people to the sport?
RS: When first learning parkour, people need to understand that parkour isn't all about the big jumps and flips, eventually you can get there, but in the beginning it is about exploring what your own body is capable of doing and progressing from there. Learning to play and have fun with it almost like a child does on a playground. Also conditioning and exercise is important to support certain parkour moves that require strength or impact.
Parkour takes a lot of discipline and training. How do you make it seem so effortless in appearance?
RS: A lot of it is learning body control and learning how to be light on the feet, which comes through years of practice. I often try mimic video game characters or movies to capture the type of style I am going for which often gives the effortless appearance.
What sort of injuries have you had over the years?
RS: Minor injuries, such as twisted ankles, scrapes and bruises. No serious injuries because I train very carefully and slowly progress so my body is always ready for the next move I am learning.
What can you tell us so far about your journey on season six of American Ninja Warrior? They just showed the first week of the Denver qualifiers and you placed in the top 30 contenders to move on to the next round in Denver.
RS: It was a lot of fun, it was great meeting other people with the same passion I have. It's also a great way to just see how I am at adapting my skills to new environments and obstacles. We only get one shot at the course with no practice so it's all or nothing.
You mentioned in your vlog when you and your family were headed to Denver that your upper body strength was not as well trained as your agility. Will you focus on that and head back to American Ninja Warrior another year?
RS: If I go back another year I will definitely spend more time training my upper body strength so that I can be more balanced in my abilities.
What does it take to get to American Ninja Warrior?
RS: They pick contestants based on different attributes. Such as Skills, strength, profession, family and even inspiring stories can get someone on the show it's all about what will look good on TV and the individual's personality.
Do you play video games? If so, what are some of your favorites?
RS: Yes I do play video games on occasion. I have enjoyed the Assassin's Creed games as well as Tomb Raider, Mirror's Edge and The Elder Scrolls.
What would you like to tell kids who may be looking up at you as a role model?
RS: I want kids to learn to train safe when learning parkour, there is risk in many sports especially if not trained correctly but parkour if trained correctly, kids can avoid serious injuries. I also would let them know that my success doesn't come from my talent alone, that is actually a small part. But for me it has come from the friends I have made and the people I have met through out my life because they have provided me opportunities. And really those came because I was nice to people and always a friendly person. So I would tell kids that being friendly and nice to everyone is a powerful tool to be successful. To me success isn't about how I accomplished everything myself, it's how I used the aid of others to make the most of what I could become.
We thank Ronnie for his time and look forward to more of his wonderful journey of his sport. You can find Ronnie's awesome videos and tutorials over on YouTube on his channel, Ronnie Street Stunts.