I strode toward a sleepy little house in a picturesque suburbia nestled in the hills near Alpine, Utah. Ringing the doorbell, I was quickly greeted by a casual, smiling young trio. I introduced myself and they ushered me into a small front room and each plopped down on a couch. The relaxed atmosphere and was a stark contrast to the rabid-blooded videos I’d seen online—I was surprised to find them so calm and cordial. I fired up my tape recorder and three members of the CBR stunt team, Braxton McAllister, Robert Bennett and Ben Alexander schooled me on everything from how to become a stunt person, to Danny Trejo and David Bowie, all the way to the state of free running in Utah.
CBR, whose name comes from the founding members’ names, has a variety of online videos that feature everything from martial arts fights to parkour (also known as free running). They’re martial artists, free runners and friends, but when it comes down to it, they’re stuntmen. “We consider ourselves stuntmen who specialize in different areas,” explained Bennett. “There are a few who practice parkour and there are a few others who practice fighting, but we all practice stunt work.”
Most of the team got their start when they were young. They hung out and beat each other up in McAllister’s backyard, but their biggest influences were kung fu movies. “We’d watch Jackie Chan movies and try to remake them ourselves, so ever since we were maybe 15 or 16, we’ve been doing a bunch of crazy stuff,” Alexander said.
According to the group, the best films to learn from are the old Hong Kong action films. Along with taking martial arts and parkour classes, movies are the best place to get started. “[Hong King films] have a different style than Hollywood, which just has tons of explosions,” said Alexander. “Hong Kong movies have real stunts, people doing double backflips onto their stomachs or smashing through glass tables and things.”
Many members of the CBR team aren’t just hobbyists, either—they’re pros. Both McAllister and Bennett attended the International Stunt School in Seattle, where they learned the stunt trade. “They taught us everything,” said Bennett. “They taught us stunt driving, how to do high falls from a building, they set us on fire, we did wire work, and lots of weapons fighting.”
Their training has let them transition from watching action movies to being in them. Members have been featured in everything from commercials to YouTube videos to feature films alongside names like Danny Trejo. The team also does live events, and recently performed at the Riverwoods Circus Party in Provo, and also hope to perform at the upcoming Craft Lake City. “We love to do live events. Our YouTube videos are mainly just us practicing and having fun,” McAllister said, and Bennett agreed, saying, “We like to have material online just to show what we can do and our range so we’ve got stunts and fighting and so forth.”
While the team is moving forward professionally, stunt work and free running isn’t extremely popular in Utah. Bennett, who works as a parkour instructor at High Altitude Tumbling and Cheer, the only gym in Utah with a dedicated parkour area, explained that, “There’s not a huge community in Utah, it’s hard to create a hub that everybody goes to,” but as Alexander said, it’s growing. “Parkour is becoming more popular. I hear more about it as people start learning what it is. There are skate parks and you see people there all the time, but a lot of people don’t know that there are actually parkour gyms.”
The parkour community has grown enough to put together a handful of local competitions, but nothing in comparison to Red Bull’s free running competition, “The Art of Motion,” which the team hopes to attend one day. The team is no stranger to competitive events—Bennett has attended four local competitions and team member Chris Romrell was in Las Vegas competing in the American Ninja Warrior competition at the time of the interview.
Although these men are professionals at kicking ass, they still have a sense of humor. When I asked who would win in a fight between Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chuck Norris and Johnny Cage (from Mortal Kombat), they agreed that Jackie Chan is a stage fighter, and that Johnny Cage doesn’t count because he got his butt handed to him in Mortal Kombat 2. Bennett put his vote towards Jet Li, while Alexander claimed Bruce Lee would come back from the dead and beat them all. McAllister, however, said that Labrynth-era David Bowie and his “magical pouch” (I’m guessing he’s referring to Bowie’s ridiculous bulge) could take them all on.
The crew settled their laughter to express their interest in promoting stunt work and free running in Utah. Bennett said, “If anyone wants to learn stunts or practice and train with us, feel free to contact us. We love meeting new people. Whatever we can do to build awareness for good stuntmen and women in Utah is what we want to do.”
You can check out more on the CBR stunt team on their Facebook page, or their YouTube channel. Also be sure to check out Chris Romrell on American Ninja Warrior this July.