You know parkour as the sweaty and sexy freestyle art of finding a way over, under and through the urban obstacle course. You might scale a building, drop kick flights of stairs, monkey across scaffolding or even shimmy along a crane as James Bond stubbornly did in pursuit of a much smoother culprit in the 2006 release of Casino Royale.
You won’t immediately recognize the cityscape inside Origins Parkour and Athletic Facility.
But give yourself just a minute to watch a dozen six-year-olds vault off a wood beam overtop a three-foot block or drop into a summersault from a four-foot ledge and slowly this 10,000-square-foot gym on Main Street begins to look like it could be the concrete jungle outside.
“They’re going to come here to get more fit, get stronger and overcome challenges,” said Rene Scavington, the 26-year-old founder and co-owner of Origins. “Really, we’re pushing play. They can do different kinds of skills and we allow them to express themselves.”
At Origins, the canvas is the body as well as the obstacles.
“Fitness to most people is esthetic. To us, fitness is how efficient you are at moving your body,” he said.
For four years, Scavington along with other practitioners and instructors moonlighted inside gymnastic studios to build strength, finesse skills and improve technique. But the equipment was too soft or too specialized and the cautious landlords overly restrictive.
At Origins, there is a wide spring mat like the kind gymnasts use in a floor routine but otherwise the vaults are sturdier and are solid on every side like any concrete traffic divider. The bars are steel, like the varnished metal of a drain pipe, and a giant fixed structure at one end features stairs, windows of different sizes, some low walls and other very high ones just like you’d find anywhere in the city.
This is where a group of homeschooled kindergarten students were throwing themselves off a ledge Wednesday morning.
Cayden Wozniak, 6, dropped himself off the edge and face-planted onto a cushioned mat four feet below. He rolled to the side and came up grinning.
“I was trying to fly like this,” he said, stretching his arms overhead like Superman in flight.
Sati Longia, also 6, followed. He soared and tucked his head just as he hit the mat upside down, catching hang time as he bounced back to his feet. It was slick.
Origins Parkour is teaching physical literacy, the earliest stage of the long-term athlete development model that introduces children to basic movements and motor skills to promote bodily awareness as well as confident and comfort before advancing to more specific sports skills.
He doesn’t have to use the academic language of physical education, but Scavington, a personal trainer who graduated from Burnaby Mountain secondary, believes Parkour is excellent fitness and strength training that begins by getting newcomers to lift their own body weight.
Once a little-know military training exercise, Parkour, now commonly known as PK, was the anti-gym for the streets. At Origins and other similar gyms in Europe and North American, it’s been brought inside and introduced to the mainstream.
This summer at the sixth annual parkour competition, known as PKBC 6, the warehouse that now holds Origins was one of several sites that hosted challenges and workshops. Much like rock climbing and bouldering moved indoors during the ‘90s, inside training compliments outside application to expand the social, playful and competitive aspects of present-day parkour.
“There is a whole community of people who only run indoors on treadmills,” said Scavington. “We want to make this experience the same as outside.”