There was this park in Yonghe with huge rocks you can jump from and do all sorts of things. I would train there myself every day and people would stand around watching and taking pictures. My buddy came across a bulletin board that said: ‘We’re looking for the jumping black guy. We want to train his jumping exercise with him’. We contacted them and held a little workshop. I didn’t really know that much, but just showed them what I knew and went from there. We started training together, finding new spots, jumping around; and from that, someone asked me to be in a commercial and then I started shooting commercials.

Over time, my Chinese got better because I was teaching in Chinese. When you have to teach something in a language that’s not your own, you tend to adapt it a lot easier especially when you’re connecting it with movement. I think the biggest challenge was being in a foreign country and trying to navigate through finding opportunity. 

One day, Reebok called about a new shoot and wanted to get someone to come promote it. We said Yamakasi, who were the original 9 guys who started the discipline called l'art du déplacement/ Art of Displacement. They flew Chau in and we got to meet like the Michael Jordan of the sport.

He taught us what it was really about: how to really push yourself, how to really train, how it’s about helping other people and pushing each other to be strong. He never came with any sort of ego; like you want to learn, I’ll teach you, but you have to do the work.

Our way of training was really hard- some days we do 1000 push ups, 1000 squats, run 5k. You would be surprised what you can achieve with a group of people when you push- everyone’s energy just comes together. He told us about how these guys would play games to push each other. They had rules and it was never about someone trying to be the best or better than somebody. It was about strengthening the bond between each other.

I think the mentality that comes from training and conditioning is almost like therapy through movement: you're constantly pushing yourself past what you think you can do and that carries over into life and how you handle situations. It carries over into how you deal with your career. I used to be a really angry person; I would get angry quite easily and didn’t know how to deal with difficult situations. I used to avoid conflict. Now, whatever comes my way, I’ll deal with it. I’ve been poor, I’ve been out on the street, I’ve made lots of money, I’ve lost money... I’ve encountered a wide variety of situations and feel like I wouldn’t be able to have handled all of it as well if it had not have been for my training and this discipline.

Chau was really pushing us to build a community and make it accessible because people are seeing it as an extreme sport, not a respectable discipline. Over the next couple years, my friends and I started experimenting and holding free classes. We started working really hard to become better at the discipline, and then doing a lot of work. We became the first ADD (art du déplacement) academy in Asia to open.

Sometimes, I do something and people are like, ‘I can’t do that.’ And then, I start to break it down, and you see it click. When it clicks, you have it and you don’t lose it. And when you start doing other stuff, it comes together. I know what it’s like for it not to click and you’re constantly doubting, but then it clicks and this light goes on. Completely trust in your abilities and don't think so much about the process as you're focusing in that moment in what you're doing. It comes through repetition and practicing movements to the point where you’re just doing it and you’re completely instinctual in what it is that you’re doing. I’m good at teaching and getting people to realize their potential so that’s where I focus: trying to help people be better than me so they can share that. You never know who you’re teaching.

My focus is to help people, help myself, and just be the best version of me and go from there. I make music, I play music, I play pretend on TV, I jump around, I teach people to jump around. That’s my life. Whether you’re religious or not, and have something you believe in and your abilities, it can’t just be that. You have to work. You can make it happen and you have to really want it. Whenever it’s time to work, you gotta turn off your phone. You can’t be hanging out all the time, out at the club chasing girls or chasing guys, posting stuff on Facebook...You gotta get stuff done.

People always think 'this person is so lucky' or 'that person is so talented', but no, I work my ass off to get here and I’m still not where I want to be. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m going to get to where I’m going at some point if I keep pushing. You have to have that drive and use it as a tool instead of letting it hold you back. And, surround yourself with people who are going to hold you responsible for yourself. Get yourself into an environment where people are pushing you to move forward and not trying to hold you back. 


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Elim Loi