EP57: The Value Of Play With Rafe Kelley


About Rafe Kelley

Natural Movement has been Rafe's key theme in life since childhood. He was raised at the end of dirt road surrounded by forest, and it was in those woods where he found solace from the stresses of school as a child with ADHD and Dyslexia.

When he was 8 years old a mentor came into his life and became his full time teacher.  He saw Rafe in dire need for movement and gave him room to express it. He roughhoused with Rafe daily and allowed him to roam the woods for hours.  This allowed Rafe to overcome his disabilities so that by the time he turned 9 he was reading the Illiad and Odyssey to himself and by 13 he was actively studying anthropology and evolutionary biology which Rafe would go on to study in college.

At 6 years old Rafe started studying martial arts including in Tang Soo Do, Aikido and Kung Fu, Kick Boxing and BJJ in his childhood and teens, and Muay Thai, more BJJ, Capoeira and Systema as an adult.

At 15 he began studying gymnastics, and at 23 he discovered Parkour becoming one the first Parkour teachers in North America and co-founding parkour visions one of the most highly respected parkour teaching institutions in the world.

The discovery of parkour lead Rafe to a bigger question. He discovered parkour was like taking a layer off gymnastics and finding something deeper more primal, something more heroic, but it still felt like there was still something missing. Almost from the moment he encountered parkour he dreamed of creating a method that covered the full spectrum of primal human movements. The skills of the heroes of old. The capacity for movement that Rafe read about in tribal peoples all around the world in his ethnographic readings. He asked himself, "What does it mean to move like a human?"  His answer, "To be truly competent and to move as humans have evolved to move!"

Rafe reinvested himself in martial arts training, and weightlifting and then he encountered the work of George Herbert and Le Methode Naturelle and took his practice into the natural world. Climbing tree’s, lifting logs, swimming and carrying rocks under water.

Rafe connected with a similar thinker, Erwan Le Corre, and worked with him on his MovNat project for 2 years.  After realizing his and Erwan's ideas were not truly aligned, he chose to leave the natural movement concept behind for a time to focus on parkour to build a single foundational skill that could teach him about the pathway to mastery as a practitioner and as a teacher.

Over the 5 years Rafe was the head instructor at Parkour Visions and the ideas behind Evolve Move Play continued to gestate.  He started offering martial arts classes through the gym and slowly migrated to training primarily in nature again.  Rafe took an interest in other movement cultures, and in 2013 he felt it was time to walk away from the parkour gym and invest fully in Evolve Move Play.

Since then Rafe has traveled the world teaching, studying and immersing himself in movement and research.  His students have included world class parkour athletes and MMA fighters, and untrained grandmothers, and the common theme in their responses to his approach is that it's life changing on many levels.

Rafe's passion to is help people build the physical practice that will help make them the strongest, most adaptable and resilient version of themselves in movement and in life.


In This Episode We Discussed:

  • Research shows that for people with ADHD one of the best interventions you can give them is access to physical and social play.  When you put someone who has a high movement need in a low movement situation they will have attention issues, but giving them access to movement can be a more viable solution.
  • Rafe explains why rough and tumble play is extremely valuable for anti-social behavior because it allows a person develop a deep sense of empathy and the ability to negotiate.
  • We learn about the history of play and how it relates to our childhood development.
  • How we've lost touch with our roots in nature and we're missing out on crucial developmental stages as children.
  • How the industrial revolution has shaped our movement/exercise culture.
  • How the technological revolution is currently shaping our reality.
  • Rafe's primal aspects of human movement
  • The value of rough and tumble play for both boys and girls.
  • The healing aspect of rough and tumble play for men and women.
  • How we've lost the sophistication of how to play and how to recognize the energy with which we're playing.  Rafe explains how learning how to play translates to social and sexual development and relationships later in life.

Rafe's tips:  How to start a movement practice

  • Replace sitting in the chair time for sitting on the floor time - Aim for 30 minutes of being on the ground a day.

  • Walk - Go outside and explore

  • Engage in some kind of physical play - with your kids, dogs, etc.

  • Get involved in parkour - seek out your local parkour gym

  • Try a modern dance class in your community

  • Get involved in the contact improve community - Martial Arts - look for quality of teacher instead of the type of school.



Resources shared in this episode:

Reshaping Physical Education
By Margarete Streicher

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