Rick Seedman and Mark Leitz are part of the international bodyweight team, the Bar-Barians.
Founded in 2004 in the USA by Zef Zakaveli and Jay Planche, they are now the most recognised street workout team worldwide.
We caught up with the New York based duo during their time in London ahead of their workshop as part of a Bar-Baric Tour.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Can you tell us what you’re up to and what you’ve been doing over in London?
Rick: We’ve hooked up with our UK brothers to spread the Bar-barians’ style of training to the UK people. We’ve done huge weekend semiars at CrossFit Central London, a workshop at CrossFit Worcestershire, and working with the Bar-barians classes at CrossFit P360 and the West London YMCA.
We’ve checked out your YouTube channel (Barbarians2K) and were blown away with the stuff you guys do in the workout parks. How did you guys get involved with this and does it take a long time to be able to perform those gymnastic style moves?
Rick: I’ve been involved with Bar-barians since 2007. Like most people, I saw Zef and Jude’s videos online and was so blown away that I had to contact them and begin learning. The endurance and strength is something that cannot be rushed, it simply takes time to attain and perfect. It’s a never ending journey.
Mark: I got involved with Bar-barians when I moved to New York in 2009. Rick brought me to the park to work out with some of the guys in Brooklyn, my first day in town and I was instantly impressed by it. The time it takes someone to achieve a goal is really unique to the individual. The main factor, I believe, is consistency and proper training. Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.
What’s your favorite part of this type of training?
Mark: Individually, I really enjoy the variety that it offers, there are countless routines out there. Every workout can be completely different from the last. As a whole, I feel that this type of training has a lot more camaraderie between participants than other forms of exercise. There’s something special about it that brings people together.
Rick: I enjoy that much of our training is partner and team oriented and we work together to complete the workouts. Many of the routines we make are team specific and can only be completed as a team. This creates and environment where we are continuously pushing each other to improve. The more we workout together, the more we build relationships with each other and the stronger we become.
We’ve heard that a favourite park to train in is Primrose Hill in Camden, North London. Have you guys been to train there and do you have a favourite park in NY? If so how does it compare to Primrose Hill or other London parks for apparatus and layout?
Rick: Yes, our UK counterparts took us to Primrose Hill. It’s a really spacious and clean set-up they have there. We’ve seen the space in many videos, though to see their park in person was a real treat! It felt like we were in YouTube in person! The park set ups in New York are usually smaller and tighter. Tompkins Square Park (Manhattan) has become known as the ‘home’ of the Bar-barians through online videos. In comparison, TSP’s bars are higher and thicker which creates it’s own challenges. TSP is also surrounded by basketball courts. It’s on a rubber mat, not grass, and the bars are very close together. I like the layout at Primrose much better but I prefer the bars at home best.
There seem to be a few decent parks in and around London and the street workout movement seems to be catching on over here recently but we’ve heard you’re pretty spoilt for choice for decent workout parks over there in the States and there are many different teams/crews practicing it. Is it pretty big business and does it get coverage of any kind?
Mark: New York City is blessed with a lot of parks with good bar set ups. The parks are older than the advent of Street Workout so it’s not a product of that, however we have begun to notice much more attention being paid to outdoor public fitness equipment. It’s definitely catching on in the States but is nowhere near as popular as it is in Eastern Europe. However, coverage of what we’re doing in the States is picking up, especially with other countries.
What was your sports/fitness backgrounds before getting into calisthenics/street workout?
Rick: I’ve had an interest in sport and movement for as long as I can remember. I recall as a 5-year old attempting front flips in the grass on the side of my house! Mark and I grew up together and would race down the street doing handstands. I have always been challenging myself physically and mentally.
Mark: I’ve always been very active. Pick up basketball is a favorite of mine. I was on the wrestling team in high school and in college. In terms of strength training I mostly just lifted weights from college until the time that I really got into this style of training.
Who influenced you guys the most getting into this and who is out there at the moment making waves in this movement?
Rick: My original influences are the Barbarians’ founders Zef and Jude. Their training approach and fitness levels are what captured my interest and directed my passion in this specific training. Now there are many people making big moves in the calisthenics’ world, Denis Minin for one. He pours his whole heart into this movement, building parks, getting kids involved and putting on international competitions.
Mark: Bar-barians have always been the biggest influence on me in regards to this training. Everyone on this team is exceptional at what they do. They were the first people I saw doing this and have continued to inspire and motivate me to improve constantly.
As with any movement, it will eventually become more mainstream and street workout is no different. There are various competitions (mainly in Eastern Europe) and different organisations forming. There’s even a street workout ‘world champion.’ Do you like that this is happening or would you rather see it kept on a more low key, urban level?
Mark: I think it’s great that more people are getting excited about working out and especially through calisthenics. I’d love to see it become something big but it’s important that good people with the right intentions are the ones that get it there.
From the competitions you’ve attended, what did you like/what did you dislike? What would you change?
Rick: I’ve been to Ukraine’s Workout-Fest twice and preparing for this year’s one at the end of the month. I’ve also competed in the Nation’s Cup in Moscow. Both of these competitions were very high level. There seems to be a few different aspects to the sport: momentum style, controlled style, holds, and reps. My concern is for this sport is to be original and to be around forever. I think at times it can appear too similar to gymnastics. If it continues in that direction I think it will just fade away. What I see different about Street Workout is that it has it all, combining reps with holds, with freestyle and team routines. Many times there is a lean towards one particular style. I think for success there needs to be the full package.
We’ve heard about a film maker from NY called B. Rain Bennett who’s traveling the world, attending competitions and meeting up with bar athletes like yourselves for a documentary he’s working on called ‘Raise Up’, which is about the global street workout movement. Have you guys had chance to meet up with him at all yet?
Mark: Yeah, we’ve actually met him in New York and here in London. I think what he’s doing is really cool and can give a lot of exposure for this movement and the different people around the world doing this, especially the ones in lesser known areas.
Surely there’s only so much you can do on a high bar and a set of parallel bars. Is it difficult to keep coming up with different moves and keeping it creative? Do you guys have any ‘signature moves’?
Rick: I beg to differ! I believe there are unlimited moves and combinations the human body is capable of performing on the bars. I do agree that one of the hardest things to do is coming up with new moves and ideas that no one has ever seen. This challenge is what makes the training not only physical work but throws vision and art into the mix. I’ve probably become known for my slow and smooth style, hence the name Slikric
Mark: It’s not always about moves with me. In fact, I’m much more focused on continuously coming up with more creative and challenging training routines. As a musician, I compare it to music. There are only 12 different chromatic notes (in Western music) and despite that limited number, new pieces of music have continuously been made for hundreds of years.
What’s your future plans for the team and what are you guys working on at the moment?
Rick: I’ve been teaching fitness now for over 12 years. I have a huge passion for the education side of Bar-barians. Mark and I have been coming up with tons of new curricula for all different levels, groups sizes, and interests through classes, workshops, and seminars and have had much success. Barbarians is the future of training.
Mark: The education and training with others is definitely where most of my interest lies so I’m constantly trying to think of new ways to create opportunities to work with others and share our style of training. We’ve done two workshops in the high school that Orlando (Bar-barian)
is a teacher at. I’d love to work closer with schools and even see this be a part of physical education’s curriculum the future.
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