Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Keep Calm and...

So here's my day real quick: woke up two hours after my alarm was supposed to wake me (because I'm a beast at sleeping, not because I'm bad at waking up...), rushed to get ready and leave the house. Stepped outside to see that it snowed again and was still snowing, so I had to brush off my car and I knew traffic was going to take forever. I didn't want to be late to the school workshops today, but I still wanted to go to the gym to dismantle equipment and pack it into my car before I headed over there. The GPS was saying I'd make it... so I took the risk.

I went to the gym, dismantled all the metal rails and put them in the car. Next I picked up one of the smaller vault boxes and carried it down the stairs and was headed out the door with it. I was holding the box up with one arm and pushing the door open with the other. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my left hand. I looked over at my hand immediately, and realized there was a BEE on my palm. It had stung me. I yelled out a nice word in pain (use your imagination for that one) and flung the bee to the ground. I had actually seen that same bee on Monday night when I dropped off this smaller vault box at the gym. When I saw it, I thought "that's weird, they should all be dead...oh well" and let it bee (har har). My mistake I guess.

So I put the box into the car, put some snow on my hand right away and continued. I got in the car, rolled the window down and started to drive with my hand hanging out the window (it was probably about 15 degrees out withOUT the windchill while I was driving on the highway). I connected my phone to the stereo to put my music on. I set it to shuffle. The first song that comes on: "We Swarm" by The Glitch Mob. I laughed out loud for a little while. You gots good jokes, life... good jokes!

I kept my hand numb out the window for most of the 35-minute drive to the school in Riverside. I arrived there without any problems, carried the equipment in, and started setting up. The classes were pretty hectic, those kids had a ton of energy and quite a few of them didn't know how to deal with it! The vast majority ended up doing really well though, and learned a handful of movements. Oddly enough, in a K-5 school, the 1st graders were the best behaved!

Lunchtime rolled around. Kids started pouring into the gym, apparently that's where some of them spend their lunch period to eat (there are benches/ledges along the walls). One of them who had asked about getting my autograph before during the class came up to me and said he had paper now (I asked him to get paper and a pen when he asked me during the class, because I didn't have any). I dug a pen out of my bag and wrote something down for him real quick. Other kids saw this go down and immediately a huge line was formed. Some of them hadn't even taken the class with me yet, but the other kids had told them who I was. I wrote each kid a personalized message with their name (which I asked each of them, and made sure the spelling was correct) and my "autograph" (weird to say that). I handed out business cards to some of them (my business cards are more like trading cards with a photo covering one entire side, and there were about 12 different photos). My 30 or so cards that I had with me all disappeared fast. So that was half of my lunch period!!

I headed to a Jimmy John's that the staff told me was nearby. When I got to it, I began to turn into their odd entrance for their parking lot - at which point I realized there was a pole I needed to avoid on the right side of my car (I was turning right into the lot). So I made sure to avoid that pole... then realized I hadn't made sure to avoid the BUILDING on the other side of the car. I smashed up the front left of the car a little bit (just cosmetic, cracks/dents in the fiberglass). I actually laughed at myself again, backed up and pulled into a spot.

From there the day didn't get any more interesting really. I had more classes after lunch and before I knew it, the day was over. I saw a lot of the kids as I was heading out of the school with equipment and they were all saying bye and thank you and telling me stories. Kids are great!

So, to recap, I woke up two hours late (which was still 6:00am), drove probably around 200 miles today, packed and unpacked equipment from the car twice, got stung by a bee in the middle of a snowy winter, and drove my car straight into a building... and all of this happened for a workshop that I was doing for free (this particular school didn't have any sort of budget for this sort of thing). My favorite part - I was able to keep a good mood throughout the day.

The point of this blog? I believe that part of one's training should be keeping a positive attitude, and to not take life too seriously! Sometimes bad things will happen. It is up to us to find a way to get through them. Keep calm and train the mind. :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

School Testimonials

From Mr. Brian Kaye, principal at Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights, IL:

"The whole experience was great! I really appreciate the time and effort you took to walk me through the experience and then to actually follow-through on exactly what you said in our initial meeting. I know that you had to jump through the hoops in order to get into the classrooms, but I hope you can see why this was done for the benefit of the students. Your preparation and quick communication were indicators that you are serious and you are willing to do whatever is necessary to make this work. I sincerely appreciate and applaud your professionalism and persistence. I do hope that we'll be able to partner in the future and I wish you nothing but success in the future."

And from Mr. Colin Craig, Health & PE Teacher at Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights, IL:

"Having dreamed of teaching Parkour in my middle school PE classes for the past 5 years (but without knowing how to do so), I was thoroughly excited at the opportunity to bring Kurt Gowan to Thomas Middle School (Arlington Heights) to work with my 6 graders. Because of stereotypes and the way Parkour is portrayed in the media, it was a challenge at first to bring Parkour into the school. Kurt handled this with great professionalism and did a phenomenal job of alleviating the concerns my fellow staff and administration had. He explained how Parkour is a discipline- it’s not just a physical sport, but one that requires just as much, if not more, mental strength and endurance. It is about having the intrinsic motivation to push yourself to achieve more than you ever could- to overcome challenging obstacles with perseverance and discipline, focusing not on competing with others but in building camaraderie with others who share similar goals and passions. Kurt instills these values into his audience from the get-go, beginning each class with a unique warm-up that is fun and challenging but that also emphasizes the hard work it takes to develop the skills necessary to be successful in Parkour. Kurt leads by example as he participates fully in every activity he leads with the classes, which is astonishing considering the high intensity level of his warm-ups!

When it came to teaching the actual Parkour movements, I was quite impressed with Kurt’s creative and resourceful planning. Even though he was given two 30-minute classes to teach my students, he was able to teach several great movements, including cat leaps, safety vaults, traversing walls, and other creative movements using equipment we already had (such as our gym bleachers and steppers), to bringing equipment he utilizes at his own studio/gym. Each lesson with packed with activities, keeping the students stimulated and challenged. I was blown away how well Kurt’s lessons were so progressively taught, with each movement leading up to a more advanced movement in a way that allowed students to make rewarding progress, keeping them engaged, excited and motivated. He provided ample opportunities for differentiation, encouraging students to work at a pace and level at which they were most comfortable, creating a safe environment for everyone. Kurt provided fantastic feedback, both visually and verbally, and worked individually with many students, steering them towards success. It was very exciting for me to see how few students could initially do a successful cat leap, and by the end of the period nearly all of them achieved success!

Finally, as great a job as Kurt did teaching them physical movements and instilling the values of hard work and perseverance, Kurt has a personal testimony that is so valuable for students to hear. The fact that Kurt admittedly was a non-athlete in high school, a video game junkie who was unsure about what he wanted out of life, amazed my students as they witnessed the incredible movements Kurt demonstrated in class. Kurt shared how he developed a passion for Parkour, and worked extremely hard to become good at it, and how this passion has flourished into a career that has led him to invaluable life experiences. This is a story that resonated greatly with many of my students, and already I have had a handful expressing a desire to sign up for classes with Parkour Ways. As a teacher, there is no greater joy for me than to see students discovering new interests and passions that will undoubtedly impact the person they will become!"

Thursday, December 5, 2013

TMS Workshops

This past Monday and Tuesday, I had the wonderful opportunity to step into a school and take over SIX entire PE classes for 6th graders throughout the day. The school is Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights, and I almost cannot begin to explain how awesome the experience was! Of course, I was there to introduce them to parkour - something many of the kids had heard of before, but almost none of them had tried or been correctly exposed to!

It took some time to get my foot in the door here. PE teacher Mr. Craig discovered me through the Parkour Ways Facebook page, having seen a post I made about wanting to get into more schools and putting together more workshop events. He ran it past his principal who, at first, was hesitant about idea because he was under the impression (as most are nowadays, can't blame him!) that parkour is about dangerous, silly tricks (not his words by the way).

It took a while for Mr. Craig to convince the principal, Mr. Kaye, to consider the idea. Once he did though, we set up a meeting to discuss what parkour actually is and after I confidently explained this to him, we continued the conversation to talk about what I could do with the kids! Mr. Kaye was then quite excited to bring the workshops to the kids and have them exposed to this wonderful discipline. Some weeks went by and more discussions were had, and eventually we had picked our dates!

Teaching these workshops was one of the best feelings I've ever had. Honestly, it was just down-right amazing. Some of you already know that I've done workshops with a school before, and most of you also know that I've taught countless kids now through my classes, but being IN the school made it so much different. It was like the school believed in me and what I do so much that they were welcoming me inside, and it was official.

I've completely changed from the kid who made trouble in school, didn't apply himself to anything, and didn't think he'd ever turn out to be anything. It was an eye-opener being on the other side of things, sitting and standing with the teachers, and it was really nice to be on the kids' side simultaneously, bringing them something fun and new that they were excited about.

I got to share a very brief version of my story with the kids at the end of day 2. I explained to them that I got into parkour without any prior background in any sports, martial arts, gymnastics, or even having taken any sort of formal fitness classes (aside from the PE classes I had at my own schools, which I cannot say did as well a job as Mr. Craig is doing with his kids...). I let them know and made sure they understood that parkour is for anyone, of any age, shape, or size.

I was a little tougher on the kids through day 1. The warm-up was more difficult, utilizing quadrupedal movement and my student-favorite "rest position" in between the variations. During the warm-up, I touched on subjects that are very important to me. The first thing I made sure I squeezed into the day was that parkour was not meant to be dangerous. Quite the contrary actually. Parkour (and even freerunning, which some are also confused about) is meant to be safe and the risks involved are meant to be taken in a managed fashion. I used my now-typical reference to the "flips and crazy tricks you see on YouTube or in the movies" and added a quick note that "it's not about jumping off of roofs either" to make a point that this was not what parkour is all about, and that it is not necessarily the goal of our training to be able to do these things.

As always, the warm-up was a way for me to open up their eyes to the fact that our training is difficult, and that it is a discipline. I did not completely exhaust the kids, though of course some had more trouble than others. I made sure with each class to take some moments to explain to them one of the main concepts or ideas behind the training: being strong to be useful. I elaborated and told them that "we want to be strong so that we can use that strength for a good reason... not just to lift heavier objects or to jump further, it's not about the numbers. We want to be stronger so that we can help other people."

During each of the quadrupedal movement blocks of the warm-ups, I specifically chose one of the variations and instructed the kids that they were going to "stay together" on this one. I was emphasizing the notion that we are doing this to be stronger, and another very important concept behind the training that I shared aloud with every class: "nobody is better than anybody." Kids these days, especially the athletic ones, need to understand that just because they can jump higher, run faster, throw a ball further, or whatever it is that they may do "better" than others, doesn't make them better than anyone else. I joined them for this chosen variation of the quadrupedal movement, so did Mr. Craig (who also participated in many other parts of the warm-ups, and I admire and applaud him for his participation!), and we moved as a group instead of as individuals. The kids, of which I had up to 25 at a time, were told to make sure they were paying attention to the rest of the group each time they took a step with this variation of the movement. If they got too far ahead of the group, they were to rejoin us in what was one big, wide line of wonderful people. They were also told that we would not leave anyone behind, and we didn't. Once in a while I'd stop moving and wait to see if the kids would notice. At first, they would keep going for a few steps and then take notice. Once we reached the center of the gym, they were paying much more attention to the others and were staying together even moreso.

During one of the classes, I also felt the need to talk to the kids about one of the other very important aspects of parkour: the spirit of "never giving up". One student in particular was having a very difficult time with the quadrupedal movement, and had actually burst into tears while still completing the exercise. This student was not giving up, though, and I could tell she had that fight in her that could really do something amazing in the future. I got down and helped this student finish crossing the gym on all-fours while the other kids watched and waited in the "rest position" (it is not a rest, for those of you who have not seen my classes). Once the student was back with the others, I paused the session (they still remained in "rest position") while I talked to them again.

"Another important thing about parkour is that you never give up", I told them. "Life is hard. Life is not easy. If you are thinking life will be easy for you, I can tell you right now that you are wrong." I was on the verge of tears myself as I explained this to these sixth-graders, thinking about the things that I've been through over the years and how many of these will go through similar things, maybe even worse. I thought about my mom, who died of cancer in 2010; she was and is one of the biggest reasons and inspirations for me to do what I am doing with my life now.

"Life can get very tough, extremely hard sometimes. We need to be strong, to never give up."

After the warm-ups we moved on to working on cat leaps and the kids were able to really enjoy trying something fun and exciting to them. They all listened attentively to my instructions as I broke the movement down for them and gave them new things to focus on as they tried the jumps. Toward the end, we also worked on traversing in the cat position and most of the kids also took a crack at climbing up from the cat position into what is commonly referred to as a "top-off" (arms straight, hands on the top of the wall, feet dangling), before trying to skillfully climb back down into the cat position.

Day two was much more lighthearted and playful. The warm-up was still challenging of course! But we worked on a few more creative movements and I got to show the kids some more advanced movements that they could aspire to work up to. At the end, we took these wonderful group shots that you've seen spread through this post. To see the rest of the photos, check out the album on the gallery page here.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

Black Friday: Stampedes of incredibly greedy consumers with absolutely no regard for others, literally fighting each other over crap that we DO NOT NEED and WILL NEVER NEED.

If you haven't yet noticed (not sure how you couldn't have noticed...), I'm just as much about the spirit of parkour/art du déplacement as I am the movements themselves. I like to share things that I think are important here. This discipline is not just about the jumping, it's about learning how to be a better person. I like to share things that show the kind of spirit I think people should have, and things that show the opposite - the evil, the dark things that people should avoid and/or strive to get rid of in their lives...

Black Friday. The words have always had a negative tone in my mind, after working 7 years in electronics retail. The number of people that come out for these deals is ridiculous, and even more ridiculous is the attitudes that they come out with, and the sheer ignorance, disrespect, and cruelty to others on display. WHO in their right mind values a discount on a TV or computer more than someone's well-being, or LIFE even??? This country is in a very bad way, and Black Friday continues to show us just how bad it is getting. Seriously, take a few minutes to watch these videos and read the tweets listed underneath:

Not enough to convince you? How about this story about a Wal-Mart employee trampled to death in 2008?

This has got to stop, or we're in big trouble. Next year, we will be putting together efforts to get people to #ForgetBlackFriday.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

Lately I have been talking quite a bit about the importance of helping others, and emphasizing that it is a large part of this discipline of parkour and art du déplacement, and yes, even freerunning. I cannot stress this point enough.

This discipline... the movements we use... let us take a deeper look into what it all is for. Let us come to truly understand why it is that we continue to do these things that we do. I am not just talking about parkour/ADD/freerunning, but life itself (although I will be relating this to our particular discipline of movement). Take a moment and really focus on this. Let it sink in. Especially those of us who are "beginners" in this discipline.

It is not just about the jumping, the climbing or the running. It is not simply about trying to achieve a further jump distance, or to build aesthetically pleasing, toned muscles. It is not entirely about trying to have fun and escape boredom. It is not only about overcoming fears, taking managed risks to push your limits and surpass levels you never imagined you would reach. It is not solely a matter of building confidence in every day life, learning to overcome all types of obstacles and discovering creative solutions to complex situations and problems. It is not merely never giving up, learning to struggle and understanding when it is okay or the right time to let go and move on.

That was a whole lot of "not" - but don't be confused, the discipline does include all of that.

This discipline, even with its endless array of physical aspects, is actually a mindset more than anything else. By "mindset", I do not mean to say that you go out to train and get "in the zone" for training. I do not speak of a "zone" where we are pumping with adrenaline, excited to beast our way through a workout and come out on "top", having learned a new movement or finally "broken a jump" (doing a jump for the first time; often this phrase is used when the jump was difficult for you to wrap your head around or took a bit of training to accomplish). For those of you that have been to one of my classes or events before: I am not talking about a "zone" in which you are struggling to complete a round of quadrupedal movement without giving up, either. We should learn and strive to be in this "zone" all the time.

This "zone" I speak of is really more of a perspective, a way of looking at the world and people around you. A perspective and an understanding of our purpose. When we are training physically, it is a perspective of the reasons we are doing so. When we are struggling (as in those rounds of quadrupedal movement we have grown to love so much... right?), it is a deeper understanding of what really drives us in order to keep going. It is an understanding of our desire to keep trying, no matter what pain it brings us, how long it takes, how much further we have to go. It is a perspective of the connections we have to literally everything around us, whether we can see it or not.

Above, I used the word "beginners" and I put it in quotes. We are all beginners. In this discipline, I believe that there are no beginners and there are no masters. Yes, some people have come to be able to move in ways that others see and sometimes desire to achieve (or maybe even immediately assume that they could never achieve it, which is just not true). But, the biggest difference between "beginners" and the real "masters" of this discipline is just a matter of that perspective, that understanding.

Our "beginners" just have not yet opened their eyes to a way of life in which boundaries do not really exist. The boundaries may always be there - but they are never a definitive end to your path. Physical world boundaries, like handrails and walls. Mental boundaries within, like telling yourself that you cannot do this, or could never do that. Emotional and social boundaries, like feelings of inadequacy, loneliness or inferiority (and the opposites: things like cockiness, having an ego, or feelings of superiority). These things do exist. But they can also all be overcome. There are no "beginners" because there is no end.

Perhaps the most important part of this perspective I have begun to try to put into words is the understanding that we are in this together. Whatever "this" is. We are, each and every one of us, a part of this planet and even the endless universe it belongs to. Divisions between us have, for whatever reason(s), been fabricated in our minds and continue to drive us further and further from our planet and each other every day. We are not apart from our environments. We are included in them, not just surrounded by them. We are not apart from one another either.

Our geographic coordinates do not have any bearing on our importance to this world. Those who argue that their country is "better" than any other are only fooling themselves. We developed countries together as the human race. We searched the world looking for new places, perhaps for new people with which to interact. In our explorations and discoveries we "created" all of these logical but still completely imaginary divisions of ourselves: tribes, villages, towns, cities, counties, states, provinces, countries, continents and the like. We created these divisions but we drew out maps of these lands as well - I would like to think that these maps were an attempt to organize things in a way such that we could find our way back "home" and to stay connected with the ones that we love.

We could now locate each other, no matter how far we may part. At some point (I would suspect out of fear of the unknown and a lack of trust, or out of unmanaged anger or a lack of understanding) this all turned into this "us versus them" mentality. Somebody drew lines on those maps, and somehow we came to believe that those lines were real boundaries and that we are separate people. We now live in a world where wars are started, fights and arguments are common, competition is a part of every day life, and too many have joined this generally unhappy conglomerate of people who believe that they need to achieve a certain standard of modern living. No number of dollars will truly make you happy, no brand name clothing will make you "better" than another human being, nobody really cares what kind of car you drive, how big your TV is or what your rank is in that popular videogame.

We all live and we will all die. Life can and will be unfair at times, for some more than others (the unequal distribution of the unfairness is part of the unfairness...). Part of this perspective is also understanding that fact and accepting it, growing to love your life and all that are or is included in it. However, we should also strive to take care of one another, so that we may continue to provide this wonderful opportunity of life for future generations.

Back to the focus of this article (or rather, coming back to the relation to parkour/ADD/freerunning). This "mindset", "zone", "perspective"... call it what you want really... I believe that this is the spirit of our discipline. It is not a spirit that is only to be paired with our vaults, precision jumps, cat leaps or any of our many movements.

The spirit carries through all of life. The training of the spirit (no matter how or what it is that you train) helps us discover, re-discover, and share this connection. Through this connection... through the spirit... we can come together, understand and love one another non-selectively, and move forward... always together, because we can never really be apart.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Philippines Fundraiser Event Follow-Up

Tonight's fundraiser event for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was a success, I'd say! We had about 15 people in the gym, and once everyone got settled in we started a great warm-up together, and of course, finished it together! Everyone did an awesome job, putting in effort and pushing through the tough exercises. Before the warm-up got started I explained that the it would be quite difficult.

The idea behind the difficulty (well, besides the fact that we always like to make it difficult...) was to go through a struggle together, not just with the people sharing the room with us at the time, but to share some of the struggle these survivors of the typhoon are going through over there on the other side of the planet as well. In our struggle, we were linked with them, connected through the spirit of this discipline.

We raised $223 tonight, that brings our numbers to $348 total so far with our fundraising efforts!! I was very pleased with the donations made tonight, I felt that people were really giving what they could and weren't just there for a $5 workout or open gym. It means a lot to me, and to this family the money will be sent to. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing this experience with us tonight, and I hope to see you all again soon. More photos and a video to come later!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Schedule Page

New schedule page is up! It's pretty simple, but very effective. Features:

  • Quickly see today's activities and the next 6 days of classes/events. Browse past and future dates as well!
  • See how many students are signed up and whether or not there is space left in each class.
  • Easily spot classes that are starting soon (dimmed and marked "PAST DEADLINE"), classes that have already passed (dimmed) or classes that have been canceled (red).
  • Find your preferred class type and location easily with color-coded titles and borders.
  • Simply click on a class or event to open up the MindBody schedule to the week of that date.

All of this is viewed directly on our page. If anyone has any suggestions for this, please do share! Keep in mind this took me a week to figure out and accomplish, so not too many complaints please. ;)

Also, if you didn't already know, you're now able to sign in for classes quickly and easily with your smartphone (iPhone/android) with the new MindBody Connect app! Look for it in the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

See the New Schedule Page Now

Friday, November 15, 2013

Response to Response

In response to my post "A Very Important Discussion" and Stephane's blog "The SPLIT", Chad Zwadlo of Fight or Flight Academy in Minnesota had this to say:

First Chad, let me say that my article was in no way directed at you, your community, or your operations. If you took it that way, then maybe you aren't confident in the way you are doing things yourself. I know that your movements are great, and that you can teach movements. And don't get me wrong, you're absolutely right that I have not been to your gym or any of your classes, so I'm not pointing a finger. I just don't understand how you took it as a finger pointed at you, when it was not.

For you to tell me that I am "not teaching them to understand" is offensive to me. I make my best efforts to get these kids to understand what it's really about. Hence my avoiding teaching them flips all together. Neglecting them? I am not neglecting them in any way, shape, or form. The problem is the media and the "practitioners" who allow them and things like Red Bull to come into the picture and completely misconstrue what we do. The problem is the people who just throw trick after trick and post it on YouTube to get views, and then call it parkour or freerunning. No matter how long someone has been training or how many years they've spent off-camera, it doesn't negate their effects on the public's views of the discipline when they do this sort of thing NOW. It's just as much one's responsibility to stay on track and properly represent the discipline as it is everyone else's. If you can't do that, then don't call it parkour or freerunning, because it wouldn't be those things.

I don't hate indoor training. I have no problem with gyms. As I said to you in my comment on Facebook about this, indoor gyms are an unfortunate necessity in our country that is so concerned about liability and lawsuits. What I DON'T like is the fancy gyms that are set up in order to make money, to satisfy investors, to sell products and use the money to make bigger videos filled with even more tricks and to sell more products. This is not parkour or freerunning; there is no spirit in doing these things.

I teach in gyms, too. I don't own a gym, let alone a parkour-specific gym, but I have my equipment and it's used indoors just like yours (except where it can be used outdoors at one of the gyms). "Don't judge based on what you think you've seen on YouTube" - if that's the only thing you've given us to go by, then that is your fault, not ours. I have spent the past 12 years in poverty and I can't always afford to go places. If you don't want us to judge you based on what you put out there, then don't put it out there...

I don't want there to be bad blood between us. I really liked the time we got to spend together at the Ninja Warrior event. But I don't appreciate the way you turned this around and pointed the blame at me/us. I noticed that when you posted this on Facebook you said you tend to write without thinking first, so I'm hoping some of it was just that! Or maybe my writing was not well-enough written to avoid this misunderstanding, too.

To finish this off, I don't have a problem with what you do or how you do it. It's your life, after all. But for people to take something that is defined as a discipline and make it something entirely different (or even with completely opposite goal) and to taint it to the point that the original values are almost unknown or non-existent, is not right. Call it something else if you want to do it differently (that is not directed specifically at you, but to everyone who has that opposite goal).

Thank you for responding!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Very Important Discussion

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES." That's what was echoing through my mind while reading this quick little blog recently published by Stephane Vigroux (one of the first practitioners of parkour):

Unfortunately, I doubt that very many will truly understand the meaning of what he is telling us here. Even fewer will actually do something about it or speak up.

I've had a HUGE problem with the way "parkour" has been growing here in the USA. It has been TERRIBLY misrepresented, abused, and the spirit of the discipline is non-existent in so many "parkour communities" and events like Red Bull's "Art of Motion". This problem I have had with the way the discipline is being misrepresented is exactly the reason that I am thinking about changing the name of Parkour Ways to something that doesn't use the word "parkour" in it. These newer groups, younger kids and the media are all ruining what parkour once was.

Competitions have no place in this discipline.

Parkour is not a way to show off (and neither is freerunning).

Parkour is not a means to defy laws or to be anti-social in any way.

Parkour is not about taking risks just for the sake of taking risks or to impress others.

Parkour is definitely not a way of getting more "likes" with a damn YouTube channel, no matter how good you are at making videos or doing "tricks" or "stunts".

Parkour is not about starting a fancy gym to make money (and a fancier gym doesn't make your "team" better, either).

Parkour is not about "teams" or pointless sponsorship for monetary or materialistic gain.

The reasons that I do not "do a flip" for you when you ask are:

1. I'm not a dog trained to do tricks for you on command.
2. Because I don't care about flips much at all.

I do not train flips, teach flips, or plan to teach flips any time in the near future because the word "parkour" has lost so much of its meaning that it is appalling to me.

Parkour has become a JOKE in this country. "Hardcore parkour!" is insulting and as much as I loved The Office, I hate what they did to the name with that episode. People refer to parkour as an "extreme sport". It is NOT extreme and it is NOT a sport.

I leave you with a quote from the aforementioned blog:

I've had a lot of time to observe it growing and evolving, and I came to the conclusion, and I can honestly say today, that the Redbullion crowd (a term coined by Sebastien Foucan to describe the virus that is diluting our movement) and those looking to show off are NOT doing parkour! They are NOT training the same discipline that we created in France all those years ago.

UPDATE: My response to a response to this blog -

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Financial Hardships

FINANCIAL HARDSHIP: It has been a big part of my life and it is something I have come to understand well. I want my classes and services to be available to anyone who may need them. Art du déplacement can CHANGE LIVES and that's exactly what I'm setting out to do with my teaching, with Parkour Ways.

To all current, prospective, and future students: if you're in a state of financial hardship, feel free to reach out to me and I will work with you. I teach this for a LIVING, not to make MONEY. I'm not in the business of ripping people off or getting rich. I want to help others.

You can send me an email to to inquire about this. Please be honest about your situation and what you can afford, as I too am in a state of financial hardship and have been for the past 12 years.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NBC's "1st Look"

Tonight I had the pleasure of shooting a segment for NBC's new lifestyle/travel show with host Audrina Patridge (MTV's The Hills, Dancing with the Stars). The episode won't air for another couple of months (around January, I was told), but I'm very excited to see it all put together! Audrina joined me and a few of my adult students outdoors in the cool evening for a beginner's look into what parkour is and is all about! She was excited to get started and learn more about the discipline, and it was great to see that genuine interest in what I do and teach from her. She's a great girl!

As with every class or event I teach, we started with a warm-up. I think Audrina quickly realized that this was going to be a bit tougher than she expected! After the warm-up, we moved to some other areas and started showing her some of the movement training that we do with our beginners. We started simple with balance, walking on a rail. Audrina tackled that one quite well, showed great control in her steps and really had her mind on what she was doing as she moved down the rail. Next, I took her over to a wall and a rail to show her the Safety Vault. She picked this one up pretty fast and was moving over those obstacles in no time!

The NBC team had quite a few questions about parkour for myself, Travis Tetting (a fellow instructor from Wisconsin Parkour who came down to help with the segment) and a few of my students, too. I can't wait to see the finished product! See what else we did and the rest of what Audrina tried in January on NBC!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spreading Reach

Lattof YMCA in Des Plaines, Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights, the new 32 Forty community center in Bridgeport... I'm very busy setting up classes and workshops all over the place!

This one will be big: I had a meeting at the Chicago Waldorf School this morning. We're rolling things forward to get me teaching a legitimate parkour/Art du Déplacement class to their high school kids during their school day. If we can't make that happen, we will push forward to make it an extra-curricular activity option!

My next scheduled meeting is with the Munster, Indiana Parks Department. I look forward to figuring out how and where I can provide my classes to the Munster area through their recreational program.

Do you want parkour/ADD classes somewhere? Shoot us an email with your suggestions and information to:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Small Bits (Video)

This is just a short and very simple little video I threw together with a few clips recorded while out for a photo shoot with my good friend, David Joseph Gall. Check out the photos as well here:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Trip to Québec

Here are a few photos from the last day of our trip to Québec this past week. We taught two Art du Déplacement classes for ADD Québec while we were there. It was an amazing group of people, we really enjoyed working with them and the students were wonderful to be with as well. There is a ton of great spirit here! The photos are from our climb up to the top of Mont Sainte Anne on August 30th, 2013:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No Classes Until 9/14

This September there will be a break in the schedule of classes. I will be taking a long trip by land to Québec, Houston, and ultimately to Mexico. I'm taking this trip with John Conway, we'll be teaching classes while in Québec. We'll be traveling mostly by bus and foot to get around; we've both agreed not to travel by air, to make the trip more interesting (and cheaper).

This trip is part of a new set of goals after collecting some thoughts about our lives and what we want to accomplish. Parkour Ways will be undergoing some very big changes, including a name change in the near(ish) future. Everything will transition with transparency, reasons for the changes and our new goals will all be shared with those who are interested to know. This blog will likely be the medium by which that information will be shared.

Immediate changes will include the offering of some lengthened classes. Prices will remain the same. The 24 hour rule for class registrations has been cut down to 2 hours (you can now sign up for a class up to two hours before it starts). Above is a preview of the new logo we'll be transitioning to.

Gerardo, our new up and coming instructor, will be taking the ADAPT Level 1 parkour instructor certification this week and will be assisting at the annual Wisconsin Parkour/Parkour Generations/Parkour Generations Americas Jubilee this weekend.

I'll be back this Saturday to run a race checkpoint at the 2013 CityChase USA event, but will immediately return to Wisconsin to finish up the event with Gerardo and bring him back home to Chicago. Last year's CityChase USA event was amazing and I look forward to putting more of this year's competitors through quite a bit of struggle together!

I hope that you all continue to train throughout the month when you can. We will be with you all in spirit during our adventures and as we seek to discover more about ourselves and what we will do with our lives. This is not the end, but rather the beginning of something much larger!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Parkour Life

Check out these awesome short documentaries from Julie Angel featuring Chris Rowat of Parkour Generations. Scroll down to read about my parkour life and my goals for Parkour Ways.

Teaching parkour is my life now and will continue to be my life. My goal is to create a safer and more reliable community in this area for people who want to learn parkour. There are too many people aimlessly jumping around and calling it parkour, or trying to throw the biggest most extreme tricks to impress others and calling it parkour. That is not what parkour is. With that said, another part of my goal is to get rid of these terrible misconceptions of parkour. There are too many groups, teams, organizations, companies, whatever you call them - ruining the original spirit of parkour. I want to give people a place to train and a community to train real parkour with.

Another goal is to give other people the opportunity to work for Parkour Ways - doing something that they love where they aren't treated badly and they are appreciated. Working 7 years in retail really left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to working for other companies and I want to help some of my friends find work that doesn't require them to do something they don't want to do or go somewhere that they dread, day in and day out.

Perhaps the largest part of my goal is to help people live better lives. To help people get through rough times, to show people what they are capable of, to show them that they can get through anything. I want to help people become strong not just physically, but mentally. If I can't achieve anything else I mentioned above, I want to at least achieve this.

I'll make one thing absolutely clear: my goal is NOT to make money. Yes, I need to make a living. And yes, sometimes I will need money to move this organization forward to achieve the goals I just laid out. But Parkour Ways will never be about making money, and I will see to it that that is how it remains. I wish to continue to develop other instructors that can help me achieve my goals and I will always hand-pick these instructors based on my beliefs in parkour and my trust in them to uphold these goals and this spirit.

What are your life goals? Share them in comments here below, in the Parkour Ways group on Facebook, or you could even shoot us an email to share with us:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Way Forward

This is an amazing documentary and I definitely recommend that you make the time to watch this through. The quick film (49 minutes) touches on very many aspects of parkour that I think a lot of people should think about and learn about.

At the start of the video they briefly discuss what parkour is, how it got started, and other common things. Martin Svenselius of Parkour Academy Stockholm did a wonderful job of explaining things. The documentary also includes some insight into the minds of those who are running organizations that teach parkour. Martin explains that he would much rather be able to do what he does without money involved, but that it just isn't possible now.

Chris Rowat of Parkour Generations also makes an appearance in the film, discussing many issues including getting paid for instructing parkour, competitions in parkour and sponsorships. If you want to know how I feel about those subjects, watch the film and listen to Chris' words. I wholeheartedly agree with everything that he had to say!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Nature's Gym Tour

I got to spend some time with Christian Litke last week, a new friend of mine I met last year when I did my scene for Shameless. Christian has been traveling the country with his wife Gina for Merrell and REI in this awesome van filled with some fitness equipment. They stop off in various places and set up different physical challenges for people to take.

I got to try out the Merrell Barefoot Run Bare Access 2, one of Merrell's newer shoes in their Barefoot Run line. The shoe was incredibly comfortable as soon as I slipped it on, without having to wear it in at all. It's pretty flexible and has a Vibram brand sole. The grip was pretty good on everything I walked on, ran on, or jumped to... including the van!

Check out the photos they posted to instagram while were were out:

If you're looking for some new minimalist shoes to try out, definitely try these. I also got to try a pair of the Barefoot Run Vapor Glove. They're also super comfortable and are closer to the feel of a very small shoe, like a Feiyue, except the sole seemed like it could be more durable with the Vibram rubber.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This video speaks volumes. Not just of external beauty, but of all the kinds of beauty and potential we have within ourselves as well. Sometimes we just don't see it, and it's nice to be reminded that it's there.

Think about this the next time you're out training. The next time you're out there and maybe you're thinking to yourself "I'm no good at this" or "I'm not good enough". There is always something to be proud of, something to appreciate.

Share this with others that might need to hear the same message. Next time you're training with a friend or just talking about training, make sure to point out the things they're doing well. This doesn't have to apply only to your training. Let people know how beautiful they are, in any way!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

LaSalle Language Academy Parkour Workshops

Both classes of sixth graders (32 kids in each class) at LaSalle Language Academy in Chicago will be skipping class (with teachers and parents, of course) to join me for a one-hour mid-week parkour workshop (outdoors and away from the school) for three weeks - starting next Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Teachers have already started prepping the students with videos and other materials. Very excited to get these kids introduced to the discipline.

LaSalle sixth graders... get ready to work harder than you ever imagined you could or would during school hours. ;)

I'm excited to work with LaSalle Language Academy, especially after reading their mission statement:

"The LaSalle Language Academy community will create an environment that inspires in every child a love of learning, global understanding and respect for the uniqueness of each individual. LaSalle will develop graduates who are life-long, resourceful learners, and reflective, contributing citizens of the world."

Being a globally growing discipline, parkour definitely inspires one to learn about their body, their mind, their role in society and the world, and about other communities and cultures across the planet. Some of the common mottoes in parkour, "Être fort pour être utile" ("Be Strong to Be Useful", adopted from Georges Hébert) and "Être et Durer" ("To Be and To Last") seem to align perfectly with the Academy's desire to create those life-long, contributing citizens.

Would you like Parkour Ways to come to your school or facility and put on some workshops? Send an email to with your inquiries.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Parkour Is Not Wrong

Today is/was my birthday. I went out with John Conway to train. We broke some new jumps, drilled some simpler ones, put a good flow together, and... stood up against a very rude woman who came out from the park community center we were training at to yell at us. She was very impolite. I tried to start a conversation with her but she was being incredibly rude. Her tone alone was very offensive as she began to yell. I believe the first words she spoke out of the door were:

"I don't have to tell you guys to get down right? You guys are old enough to know you can't be doing this."

In these situations, we typically leave without any protest, especially if the person asking us to leave is polite. In this specific situation, however, I just couldn't let this one pass. Not only did I disagree with her implicit notion that older people cannot move like we were, but I also was not very fond of her tone and overall mannerism towards us. I actually tried to tell her that we could move on to another spot, to which she immediately barked back:

"You need to get down right now."

That put me over the line. By that I mean I made the decision to stand my ground, not that I was going to explode as she had done. As I started to step down off of the small, two-foot tall wall that I was standing atop to speak with her, I said to her:

"You don't have to be rude about it."

Her response?

"Obviously I do. I saw you guys from the window right here."

So, in her mind, seeing us out the window of her building doing our jump safely and controlled without any damage to any property... that gives her the right to come out and be rude to us? I'm sorry, but I don't think so. There was no reason for her to treat us in the manner she was treating us. Maybe she deals with punk skateboarder kids all the time, but she definitely noticed that we were older... and if she really did see me doing my jump from her window, then she would also realize that we did NOT have skateboards anywhere on or near us.

I stepped down off of the wall and began to ask:

"What are we doing wrong?"

I got no answer as the woman turned and walked back into the doorway she had just come out of to spew her pent up anger at us. Maybe she was having a bad day at the job, I don't know. But she had no right to talk to us the way she did. We weren't doing anything wrong. If she were to approach us politely and with respect, she might have discovered that she was speaking to two professional instructors. Instructors who have taught hundreds of people about this discipline. An instructor who is also a stuntman and business owner, and another instructor who has taught this discipline internationally in the Philippines. Instructors who take their movement very seriously and attempt to move peoples' minds and lives with it.

Instead, she scampered back into her building having only upset me. I had no desire to leave, especially after I had tried to talk with her and explain what it was that we were doing. Even if she didn't have time for me to explain (it really would have taken only a minute or two), she could have politely said that and asked us to carry on.

I made the decision to stay there (I was driving today) and so we kept training whatever we felt like training. We were still well within view of her windows, though we didn't see her again.

Another parks department employee came out, a man this time. He was a bit hostile at first (probably from whatever the woman told him inside). I got him to understand that we were NOT skateboarding (amazing how many people think we can skateboard without any boards) which is what the lady had told him we were doing, he later disclosed to us. I asked him if I could explain what we were doing and who we were. He agreed to let me explain. It took me about 45 seconds to inform him that we are certified instructors, that I do this for a living, that we are not harming any property, and a brief explanation of how we move. He was very nice and didn't even ask us to leave after that. He did, however, mention that they were having a meeting in the room we could see through the big window in the front and that we might be distracting them inside. Though I don't think it's our fault if their meeting is too boring to keep their minds focused, we made the polite move.

We moved on to another spot around the side of the building. While there, we saw ACTUAL skateboarders (loud teenagers, so many crashing sounds of their boards slamming things) approach the building and start skating around the same area the lady had demanded us to leave. We did not see anyone ask them to leave.

I'm sick of being associated with those who are nothing like us. We are respectful and respectable, kind people. We are polite and honest. When the police approach us in the areas in which we train (it happens plenty, believe me... I was actually hoping the woman had called the police today) and ask what we are doing - we straight up tell them:

"Yes, I was climbing on that building."

We briefly explain to them that we are training parkour and that it is a discipline. We are in no way trying to harm these environments or anyone in or around them. They always appreciate our honesty. We never run away... and we will never have to because we are doing nothing wrong.

Sometimes after we explain who we are and what we're doing, people will still ask us to leave. When they do so in a polite manner, I have no problem with it. I understand there are liability issues and not everyone can get past those and trust that we will not take legal action if we were to get hurt on their properties (which we would never even fathom doing).

Please, share this story so that others might be inclined to let our practitioners at least explain what it is that they are doing. Not everyone who trains parkour does so recklessly. At least give them a chance to explain or the benefit of a doubt that they are as I have just explained. Thank you.

-Kurt Gowan

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beauty in Life and Parkour

Parents, singles, and children alike... everyone... should all watch the video below. A big part of the reason I really enjoy teaching kids is to help them build confidence and strength to endure the types of things in life that this video speaks of. Not everyone makes it through the tough times - but we can sure try to help them make it. Not everyone will have troubles like these, not everyone will be bullied, not everyone will come to a point in life where they're so overwhelmed that they're unsure whether they could continue or not. But there are many who will, and they will need our help. Past or present.

Learning to overcome obstacles with parkour, pushing yourself to your limits or what you think is your breaking point and then to KEEP GOING - to endure, to persevere, to struggle but not lose hope. To fight for something worth fighting for - getting over those obstacles and making it out ALIVE and STRONGER and finding the BEAUTY in the pits and depths life sometimes tosses us into.

Fight for your life - fight for the things you need and the things that are important to you and disregard those who tell you that you "can't" have it or that it just "won't work". Disregard those who tell you that it's "too hard" or "unlikely". Disregard those who tell you that it can be done but that YOU are not the one who can do it. FIGHT for the life you feel you need... because you DESERVE it.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Q&A For A Student

I was contacted by Elle, a student at Kingsborough Community College, the other day to do a short interview through email and I thought I'd share the questions and my responses.

1) How did you get involved in parkour?
I got involved in parkour mainly out of boredom. I had seen parkour in the earlier past, but had never considered trying it. My life got to a point where I was just going to work at a retail store 5 or more days a week, taking home a paycheck, and not really getting anything more out of my life. I needed something new, something exciting, something to help keep me in shape, and something fun. When I came across parkour again on the internet in 2008 I thought "maybe I should give it a try". It took some time to actually commit to even trying it out and starting any kind of real training, but I stuck with it, found others to train with, and kept at it ever since!

2) Do you have any quotes or philosophy that help motivate you as you train?
This is a tougher question to answer, as there is a plethora of philosophy behind the training and so many quotes are floating around out there now. As far as while I'm training goes, I have somewhat of an innate desire to improve things and to become a better person (in all ways, not just parkour movements or physical qualities). So I don't often need much external motivation aside from what already comes from within. However, quotes like "be strong to be useful" and "we start together, we finish together" certainly give me an extra push and help to remind me that I'm not just doing this for myself and I'm not doing it alone.

3) What does parkour mean to you?
These questions get tougher and tougher! Parkour has become my whole life really. That may sound silly to some, especially those who have only seen what is on YouTube or in other media, but it has really grown to engulf my entire life. There is hardly a moment that passes where I'm not thinking about how something would affect my training, or how I can better a part of my training, or how I can teach a particular movement or concept better, and so on. If you were to take parkour out of my life, or at least what parkour is to me, you would be left with an empty shell. You'd have my personality still, feelings and such, but there wouldn't be any reason to my being. You would wonder what my purpose was (even moreso, if you wondered this already).

4) What is your biggest accomplishment as an athlete and an individual?
I would have to say my biggest accomplishment is getting through what I've been through to come out creating the life I have now. I know that will sound very vague or general, but I'm not sure how else to put it. I am proud of the life I've made, proud of the person I've turned out to be, proud of the things I've been through and the things I continue to endure day in and day out. I've struggled, in fact I am still struggling even now, but I still wake up the next day ready to push through it all again, stronger and more ready than I was the day before. Perhaps some days I am weaker or less ready, some days I do have failures and mistakes, but I take even these as accomplishments because I am still here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

UNP Needs Your Help!

ATTENTION EVERYONE!! We need help making this event happen! We\'re helping kids and adults learn movement skills that will help them lead a healthier, happier life through workshops and obstacle courses that we\'re building ourselves.

We need to hit our goal by January 26th (just 9 days away) for the event to happen, so we need a LOT of help. Watch the video, read about the event, and register or just donate - click the image above to get to the Kickstarter page!

Please share this on your Facebook wall, tweet it, email it to everyone you know, post it on Tumblr and Google+ and Instagram and YouTube and talk about it!!! Help us spread the word!!!! Thank you!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Urban Ninja Project Needs Your Help!

Help make our 2nd community-built weekend of movement skills workshops and indoor obstacle course racing a reality!

Similar to the Ninja Warrior Games event we put on in November (, we are hoping to put on another weekend event for February in Schaumburg. The last event was a ton of fun and we all had a blast, but to be honest - the event blasted a hole in our wallets, too.

We loved the first event and look forward to doing the next one, but WE NEED YOUR HELP! In order to make sure we can afford to put on this event, we've set up a Kickstarter project to collect event registrations and donations for our cause. Please take a few moments to watch our video, read the page, register and/or donate, and then SHARE IT WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!! We really need your help to get this project out there!

Thank you all for your support and general awesomeness. We hope to see you there!