Daily Court Reporter - News Ohio facility jumps on growing popularity of parkour
Ohio facility jumps on growing popularity of parkour
BRANDON KLEIN, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Richard Skowronski said he often cringes when he sees how mainstream media represents parkour.
Usually it's in the form of daredevil stunts such as viral videos, where people leap across rooftops.
But Skowronski, a coach at Parkour Horizons gym in Worthington, said the discipline has its own underlining philosophy.
Parkour's roots trace back to 1902 when George Herbert, a French Naval lieutenant, coordinated the evacuation of 700 people at the outskirts of a town on the Caribbean Island of Martinique, according to the World Freerunning Parkour Federation.
He noticed that the indigenous people could overcome obstacles in their path with more ease compared to their European counterparts.
He later observed similar skills in Africa during his extensive travels.
It helped formulate a physical training discipline called the natural method that became the basis for French military training.
The French Special Forces further developed Herbert's work and became known as "parcours du combattant" in French, or "the path of the warrior" in the English translation.
Years later, Raymond Belle, a fireman and veteran of the French Special Forces, would introduce the discipline to his son David and his friends. The group adapted Belle's teaching to its own natural setting, which gave birth to the discipline now known as parkour.
Practitioners now train to quickly navigate obstacles in their environment without the aid of equipment, through movements such as running, swinging, and climbing.
"There's no moment where we're really safe in life," Skowronski said. "Parkour is only as risky and dangerous as the individual practicing it makes it."
After establishing a parkour community in central Ohio, Joseph Torchia, Nick Kelly, Brad Duncan and Chris Wilson co-founded Parkour Horizons in 2008.
The community started as a club at The Ohio State University but had to become its own entity because of liability issues, Skowronski said.
During the same year of its founding, Torchia and the others ran the first international parkour seminars in Columbus. In 2010, they hosted the country's first coaching certification course.
Classes were taught outdoors around the OSU campus and expanded to other parts of central Ohio before Parkour Horizons co-founders opened their gym at 7020 Huntley Road in March 2015.
The 1,300-square-foot facility's equipment can be moved around to make up for the lack of space and teach the fundamentals of parkour, Skowronski said.
Skowronski, an Ohio native, has studied parkour for 13 years. He spent a majority of that time in Hawaii helping to develop the parkour community.
But whenever he visited central Ohio, Skowronski would connect with Parkour Horizons, which lead to a full-time position.
Skowronski decided to relocate his family back to Ohio because the cost of living was more affordable compared with Hawaii.
Some of the co-founders have moved on to new ventures. Kelly handles more of the gym's business side, while Torchia, who still directs and coaches, is now at law school in Washington D.C. but will return.
With four full-time staff members, Skowronski said staffing is a challenge because parkour is now a niche discipline compared with other physical activities.
"Parkour is really difficult to staff for coaches specifically because the type of movements and the focus on the movements is a lot of different from gymnastics and martial arts," he said. "We're looking for such a specified individual ... individuals who understand the philosophy."
Parkour Horizons now offers 16 classes each for different age groups with an average of eight to 10 people attending each class.
The clientele has shifted from the business' OSU days when it catered to a college-aged crowd and has seen an increase in younger children and women participation. It has also worked with children that have autism. Skowronski said he cringes when only young males participating in parkour activities are represented in the mainstream.
"Parkour is for everyone ... everybody should have the opportunity (to learn)," he said.
Additionally, the atmosphere of the gym revolves around community support. Skowronski said he enjoys watching people overcoming similar struggles that he's had.
"It's about being a better version of the person you were yesterday," he said.
Date Published: May 24, 2018