Shie Boon dropped out thrice because he felt restricted by school. At 25, he took over a parkour school to deliver what he thought education should be. Here’s his Merchant Story.
Shie Boon was almost ‘successful’
At twenty years old, Shie Boon looked set for life.
Early on, he struggled in school. But he had finally earned a place in university to study programming. It looked like he was on the path to good job prospects and a high-paying job.
His parents were proud of what he had achieved.
But Shie Boon was not so sure that he wanted to follow the straight path to ‘success’. He questioned himself: was university the right path for him?
Hating Empty Rules
Like other Singaporeans, Shie Boon served for two years in the army before he went to University. Those two years gave him a lot to think about. Military service was everything he hated about empty rules and regimentation. And going to university would mean more of the same.
Shie Boon had already spent two decades in school, struggling with rules and structure. Another four years of following a timetable and sitting in class sounded like a nightmare to him.
Growing up in Singapore, Shie Boon hated how there was only one ‘right’ answer. Nobody seemed to want to explore other answers, or create their own; they were subdued and silent.
To him, going to university meant accepting that one right answer. There could be no room for exploration or creativity.
MOVE Academy‘s Bambini (junior) class. It’s what Shie Boon wished school was – fuelled by exploration, curiosity, and camaraderie
When he got out of the army, Shie Boon turned down his university placement. His parents were extremely disappointed. They couldn’t understand what Shie Boon was thinking. To them, he had traded away a secure career for an uncertain future.
Shie Boon enrolled in a diploma for dance, hoping that arts would offer a more well-rounded education. He was disappointed when it turned out to be the same: a syllabus that put knowledge over meaning, memorisation over understanding.
Shie Boon was starting to regret his decision. He hadn’t found what he was looking for. He was too old to start a career as a professional dancer. He felt like he had wasted his time and money. He wanted to drop out, but was worried about disappointing his family again.
But just when everything was bleak, Shie Boon took his first Art du Deplacement class with MOVE Academy Singapore. It was love at first sight; it was everything Shie Boon had been looking for.
The founders of Art du Déplacement teaching the workshop in Singapore. On the far right is Shie Boon and Chau Belle; also in the picture are Laurent Piemontesi and Ševo Saša
Parkour gave Shie Boon a direction to pursue
There are many expressions of parkour; but Shie Boon fell in love with Art du Déplacement, ‘the art of movement’. The art was not about physical stunts, but about the values of developing yourself and others to become stronger: physically, mentally, and ethically.
It was the holistic education that Shie Boon had been searching for all his life – that he could not find in a classroom. Throughout his life, school and society told him there was only one right answer. Parkour told him that all answers had potential.
Most of all, Shie Boon loved how individual perspectives were respected and protected. You had to understand your emotions, be spiritually aware, and had the freedom to choose your own challenges and express yourself. Learning parkour was everything that school and the army were not.
After a few more classes, Shie Boon was sure. He had found a direction and ran with all his might forward. He dropped out of his dance diploma and started working. During the day, he worked as a retail assistant to pay for parkour classes at night. He attended every class.
Just nine months later, Shie Boon completed his assistant coaching certification and joined MOVE Academy Singapore full time. It was one of his proudest moments, and one he remembers fondly.
One of the founders of Art du Deplacement, Chau Belle, presented Shie Boon with a T-Shirt on the day of his certification. He has kept it to this day — tattered and worn as it was from training — because of how much it meant to him.
Finally, he had succeeded at something that he had chosen to do. It didn’t matter that he was only an assistant coach, or that he wasn’t being paid much. He felt certain in his love for parkour and the community.
A young Shie Boon, sans shirt. He’s smiling inside. (Move Academy FB)
But soon after Shie Boon joined, MOVE Academy was in real danger of closing.
Taking over the business to keep it going
Many things happened at once. The business was unprofitable, and the owner wanted to exit. The coaches had a falling out. Some coaches took students with them to start a new, rival parkour school. The head coach burned out and took a break. The number of paying students dropped to single digits.
The once-thriving community was now in tatters. The business was on the brink of death.
And, Shie Boon was the only one left.
He was 25. He was the newest coach. He knew nothing about running a business. And he had to decide whether to take over the business or to let it close down.
School did not prepare him for this. He had to lead classes, market to new students, and manage the business. He needed to figure things out by himself – and there was nobody to tell him what the correct answer was.
But this time, Shie Boon was not going to drop out. Not after decades of searching for his purpose. He was not going to let his dreams disappear on him.
This time, there was only one right answer: He would do whatever it took to keep MOVE Academy open.
Shie Boon’s persistence inspired others to join him
He went to the remaining students, and personally asked them to stay with the academy. He taught every class and nurtured the community, speaking to new and experienced students alike.
Slowly, the community responded to his fierce optimism. One of the students, Desmond, volunteered to help with the Academy’s marketing and it turned out to be a huge blessing. Desmond remains part of the management today.
Unlike before, Shie Boon did not doubt or second-guess himself. And everything fell into place once he started moving forward.
He struck up a random conversation with an old lady who was walking with a trolley. She had a weak sense of balance, and often fell and injured herself. She pushed the shopping trolley everywhere she went for support.
Shie Boon started teaching her basic parkour exercises, to help her with her balance and how to fall safely. In less than 3 months, she had improved so much she was walking steadily without the trolley, on her own two feet.
Shie Boon helped retiree Ann walk unaided through parkour exercises (News Coverage)
The story about the old lady doing parkour went viral. Many new students signed up with MOVE Academy. What was most surprising was how many older students signed up – to this day, parkour for seniors remains one of MOVE’s most popular classes.
His family reconnected with him after seeing the transformation he went through. His mother began to learn parkour as well. She had seen how parkour had given Shie Boon confidence and purpose, and she couldn’t be happier that he had found a direction for himself.
Seniors signed up for Parkour, and the Prime Minister of Singapore even commented on the story.
Shie Boon has started a Movement
Shie Boon set out to pursue his vision of holistic education and ended up inspiring others to join his cause. A movement coach and advanced parkour practitioners have all joined MOVE Academy Singapore to help Shie Boon expand classes beyond parkour.
MOVE also saw an influx of new students inspired by the inclusive, welcoming community – the same community that Shie Boon experienced when he was a student.
Move Academy boasts a diverse community of students across ages, gender, and races.
Shie Boon is no longer in school, but the learning continues in the school of life. MOVE has had to face some difficult business challenges, including the COVID-19 period. The team figured out how to adapt to changing conditions and moved classes online.
For him, Art du Déplacement gave him the confidence to trust himself and to try out different answers and approaches. Now, he is building his own full-fledged school, one that educates meaning before knowledge. He calls it Teadent – a mixing of the words ‘Teacher’ and ‘Student’ – and aims to be the global leader for truly holistic education.
Shie Boon felt restricted by the rote learning in school. He found his own path and is building a better way to teach – and learn.
Shie Boon (first left) leading the movement.
Watch the full feature here about Move Academy’s senior parkour class here:
Parkour will no longer just be for the young anymore. Find out from these ladies how Parkour is a great way for everyone to build a strong body, mind and spirit. :)Learn more about our teaching methodology, and try your first class with us at www.moveacademy.sg!
Posted by MOVE Academy Singapore on Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Shie Boon is the Director of MOVE Academy Singapore. Read more about classes here.