Parkour training NYC
Parkour, the sport that treats features of the urban landscape like an obstacle course to be run over and around, is normally practiced outside. But 12-year-old Henry Friedman runs up walls, does backflips, swings from bars, and swan-dives off a 15-foot platform into a pit of foam — all from the comforts of indoors.
At Bklyn Beast in Bushwick, New York’s first parkour gym, the skinny Brooklyn Heights native turns into Spider-Man.
The space is decked with structures nonexistent in other gyms. There’s the maze of bars 10 feet off the ground, a 20-foot warped wall with multiple bars for different skill levels, and multileveled vaults and window frames that students leap over and through.
But why mimic obstacles readily found on the city’s streets? After all, doesn’t the beauty of parkour lie in how it need not be done in a gym?
“I certainly never learned in a gym, ” admits Bklyn Beast co-owner and parkour instructor Luciano Acuna Jr.
“But this is safer for the students, ” he says of the hundreds of young parkour enthusiasts who train there. “I got banged up a lot and dislocated a lot of fingers. These kids can try bigger and better moves without risking their health.”
For Friedman, it’s all about the fun. “Parkour combines everything that I love to do, ” he says. “I just love being active and pushing myself to the limit. It’s like walking, combined with gymnastics, but even cooler.”
Commonly known as freestyle walking, parkour is broadly defined as the art of flowing through obstacles with ease. The acrobatic art form developed out of military obstacle course training in France and arrived in America in the 2000s via YouTube videos. Parkour made its big-screen debut in movies like “Casino Royale, ” “Hot Fuzz” and “Rush Hour.”
Bklyn Beast, which opened earlier this year, was started by four former gymnastics instructors. The 4, 000-square-foot training facility — complete with a spring floor, dance floor, trampoline and foam pit — mirrors its gritty surroundings in Bushwick. The ventilation system consists of old paint cans joined together. The bar where students rest their fruit juices is a repurposed I-beam covered in polyurethane. And the walls are covered in murals created by a local graffiti artist.
“We wanted the gym to reflect the character of Bushwick while also providing a safe environment for students to practice parkour, ” says co-owner Masi “Yahya” James. “Dance, acrobatics, capoeira and gymnastics all use the same free-spirited skills as parkour. Nothing is choreographed. So parkour becomes a natural extension of interests for dancers, gymnasts and acrobats.”