Parkour is so popular, a Saskatoon gym can’t keep up – Saskatoon

Parkour, the urban acrobatic sport, has seen such growth in recent years that a dedicated gym in Saskatoon has kids on waiting lists, eager to try the sport. Empire Parkour is happy that the sport is so successful and is currently looking to expand its gym.

Parkour is known for its big jumps, impressive flips and crazy climbs. Often taking place in an urban environment, athletes jump and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles in cities.

In 2019, Empire Parkour opened its doors to provide all Saskatoon residents with a place to practice their sk**ls in a safe, supervised location and continue training even when the city is covered in winter snow.

“We have seen the gymnasium grow to the point where we have around 300 children aged four and over and adults who come through every week. All this specifically to train parkour,” said Jordan Westad, co-owner and coach of Empire Parkour.

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Current sessions have 270 students registered and more on waiting lists. Westad says before they can accommodate more students, they need to expand their space.

“Everything in our gym is built from solid wood. This makes it difficult to change the configuration or add to it quickly. We need to make sure all of our equipment is safe and built to last,” Westad said.

The gym is an important venue for Saskatoon’s parkour community.

“One of the best things about parkour is the community around it. Everyone is always there to help each other and even if you go to another city for a jam, you will have friends right away,” said Tyler Harder, co-owner of Empire Parkour gym.

“This sport attracts young people who, like me, don’t really fit into typical team sports. Parkour offers very individual challenges and goals, but you can still train in a group and make friends that way,” Harder said.

That community aspect is also what motivates Gavin Robertson, a veteran parkour athlete from Saskatoon.

“There’s just something about the physical aspect that feels really satisfying. It’s really nice to be able to move around, try new things and chain together sequences of movements.

Robertson said safety is always the biggest concern when practicing parkour.

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“Everything you do has risk, but in parkour knowing your limits, starting easy and knowing how to fall helps a lot to mitigate that. Few people suffer serious injuries doing parkour, precisely because we prepare for bigger jumps and flips,” said Robertson.

The Empire Gym provides the community with a great place to work out, but parkour is often practiced in urban landscapes.

“We teach everyone to be friendly and courteous. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because we don’t want to be kicked out of the places we love to train. This is precisely why we stick to public ownership,” Westad explained.

According to Westad, conflicts do occur, but very rarely.

“A lot of times people just don’t understand what we do. They are afraid that we will endanger ourselves or others or vandalize property. In my experience, conversation and polite explanations resolve most of these issues.

When asked how to get started with parkour, all three athletes gave the same advice: “Nothing really prepares you for parkour other than parkour itself.” Start with easy things, learn to fall, and find friends to motivate you. Jordan started on his farm, jumping over fences and over hay bales,” Harder laughed.

The parkour community organizes weekly jams to test the sport with professional coaches at River Landing.

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Registration for the next cla*s session at Empire Parkour begins on October 31.

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