The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

A parkour gym? In my little prairie city?

By in Culture

When you think of parkour, your mind probably jumps to the dark ages of the late 2000s with teenagers epically failing at trivial challenges. Either that, or that one ridiculous episode of The Office

Throw your preconceptions to the wind because parkour has changed drastically since then. Saskatoon has just opened its very first parkour gym, Empire Parkour. 

It is owned by a Saskatchewan­born team that has spent tireless hours performing and teaching parkour to cultivate a thriving community and amass enough coin to fulfill their dream of opening a gym.

The sport developed from firefighting training in France in the 80s and has expanded globally. From megacities in Europe and Asia to residential areas in India and Kenya, the blazing inferno of parkour’s popularity expanded, its flames touching people worldwide like a metaphorical Pentecost. 

Eventually, parkour reached the status of internet sensation and suddenly everyone wanted to know how to flip off walls and jump jaw-droppingly large roof gaps near their own homes. Places like England, Greece and Italy had cities quickly dubbed parkour hotspots as the sport caught on faster than anyone could have imagined.

However, it isn’t easy for a city to have its name put on the parkour radar. In most cases, it takes intricate urban locations to jump off of — or a state-of-the-art gym. So how did our pancake of a province get one?

In Saskatoon’s case, the heart of the parkour gym lies in the community. Since the late 2000s, the number of active participants in the community has only grown. Saskatoon gained the reputation of one of Canada’s highly active parkour communities, attending national events year-round with friends from across the country. Fast forward to the present day and we see all those years of community manifesting in a physical way — a gym, right here in Saskatoon.

Empire Parkour opened its doors for the first time to the general public on Sept. 7, 2019. The immaculate structures, rock­-solid bar cage, plethora of portable boxes and rail trainers effortlessly supported well over 100 experienced athletes, over-eager kids — and yes, even some slightly skeptical adults. 

The culmination of years of work and one incredibly labor-intensive summer full of 12- to 14-hour work days led to a fruitful opening day to kick off what the team hopes will be the start of countless years in business.

You’re probably thinking these trained athletes obviously enjoy exploring the new parkour gym down to its seams, but how are normal folk supposed to find things to do in such a space? There must be some safer option, no? Maybe somewhere that offers a similarly exhilarating experience minus the hard surfaces, and perhaps with a gentler learning curve?

We’ve all seen the videos of people walking on skyscrapers and abundance of cringe­inducing fails that blow up online and this might give the impression that parkour is for those with no inhibitions, fear or pain receptors. 

I assure you from first-hand experience, the folks at Empire Parkour have safety at the forefront of their minds. Their tailored curriculum highlights safe procedures and softer groundwork before anything else — you learn to fall, build basic spatial awareness and practice body control before attempting more advanced movements. 

Parkour’s metamorphosis has been more spectacular and far larger than ever anticipated considering its humble origins. It created a space for one of the most welcoming athletic communities. So give this extreme sport a shot right here in your own city. Exercise can be so boring — why not spice it up a bit?

Gavin Robertson

Photo: Tyler Harder/ Supplied

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