Author: Holly J Coley
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the premiere parkour gym of the Hudson Valley, Innate Movement Parkour. Located at The Shirt Factory in Kingston, NY, its opening is one more piece of proof that our area is growing mightier by the day.
If your only knowledge of parkour is what you’ve seen on YouTube, you may think it’s an extreme sport. And with some practitioners springing from rooftops or bouncing from railings, the assumption is understandable. It’s just also wrong.
In Parkour, practitioners move from one space to another by creative means. They may run, jump, climb or any number of things to get to a specific destination using obstacles, natural or man-made, to assist them. While there is certainly a physical element at play, there is also a mental component that’s just as important, if not more so. “There’s a lot of misconceptions about what the discipline is,” says Dylan Johanson, founder and head coach of Innate Movement Parkour.
When Dylan first saw a clip of parkour he gravitated toward the discipline right away. “It immediately resonated with me,” he remembers. He began experimenting on his own, trying different movements in parks and alleys which didn’t always bring the best results. “I didn’t really know how to train,” he admits. “I was getting a little banged up.” He searched for support and local resources but came up empty handed. “It just didn’t exist around here,” he says.
Eventually he found his way to Parkour Generations, an international organization that’s the ultimate resource for anyone looking to learn more about the discipline. They played an instrumental role in the developing of his skills and by 2013 he was practicing consistently. He now holds an ADAPT level 1 certification in parkour teaching and has trained with several of the movement’s founders, including Chau Belle and Yann Hnautra. He attended the ADAPT Level 2 course and is currently preparing for the level 2 assessments, a grueling two-day process designed to push the body and mind to its limits.
After becoming certified, Dylan set his sights on bringing the practice to the Hudson Valley. He wanted to provide the local support and guidance that he had struggled to find early in his training. The Shirt Factory was an ideal place to set up shop. “I’m really excited about the midtown revitalization efforts that are going on,” he says. “Anyone who’s been paying attention knows there’s been a coordinated effort to bring this neighborhood back and support the thriving artist community that it has and is becoming. I wanted to be part of that.”
Six days a week, Innate Movement Parkour hosts a variety of classes. They offer summer camps for children, ages 7- 15, as well as group classes, private sessions, private group sessions, strength training, obstacle course classes, and Parkour Fit, a class that focuses more on the physical conditioning aspect of the discipline. Members come in all ages, shapes and fitness levels. “You start wherever you’re at physically and mentally, and try to progress from there and try to be better than you were yesterday,” says Dylan. “It’s totally non-competitive. You’re not comparing yourself to others.”
The gym also has open studio time where students can come to practice in a safe but less structured setting. It’s important for them to discover what Dylan refers to as their own “parkour vision” where they start imagining various ways to move through obstacles without the direction of a coach.
Classes are held inside, as well as outdoors. “The spirit of parkour is outside,” Dylan says. It’s one of the reason he wanted to have the gym in Kingston. “Parkour, part of its culture, is an urban discipline. It just sort of made sense being in the middle of the city. A lot of time our warm ups are jogging around the neighborhood or climbing on this or that thing and jumping around.”
Once a month the gym has an adult beginner workshop, perfect for the parkour curious to come and familiarize themselves with basic terms, skills, and concepts so they’ll be prepared for the all-levels classes. Those are more challenge-based and include a warm up, an intense physical conditioning period, and then challenges where you progress from one space, like a rope, to another, like a pipe.
“Progression is one of the big concepts of parkour that makes it possible,” explains Dylan. “Everything needs to be scalable…If the final outcome is swinging from a pipe and catching yourself on a wall, the first step in that progression is being able to hold yourself in a dead hang.” Even when a student can’t complete a challenge they can participate by working on the specific step they are trying to master.
Mastery is another key concept of parkour and its one that is sometimes overshadowed by the impressive-sometimes mind blowing-movements. Similar to martial arts, parkour is just as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. It’s not about climbing tall buildings or putting yourself in harm’s way and Dylan works hard to break these misconceptions when he teaches.
“[Parkour] is a holistic movement training system to improve yourself and become a more ideal version of yourself as a human, both physically, and psycho-emotionally,” he explains. “And it’s the process by which we struggle towards that goal by challenging ourselves with obstacles. That’s it. Anything that falls under that umbrella is parkour. What’s interesting is that the intentionality is important. The fact you’re challenging yourself to improve yourself and progress to that end matters.”
And believe it or not, people enjoy being challenged. It promotes inner growth and self-discovery. When we get too comfortable we also become stagnant. People come to Innate Movement Parkour unsure of their skills and leave with the knowledge that they’re far more capable than they realize. Plus, it’s fun and speaks to the inner child in all of us who longs to jump and play. Parkour encourages exploration and problem solving skills we don’t usually encounter in our modern life. Of course, becoming more fit and the endorphin release is a nice perk too.
If you’re interested in learning the practice but doubt you have the stuff, Dylan encourages you to step outside your comfort zone and give it a go. “The main thing that we’re trying to do in parkour is achieve self-mastery,” he says. “Recklessness has no place in parkour. We’re very careful in the way we progress.”
Innate Movement Parkour is located at the Shirt Factory on 77 Cornell Street, suite 117, in Kingston, NY. To Learn more about Innate Movement Parkour and their classes, visit their official website. And don’t forget to follow them on Instagram. While you’re at it, follow us as well.
This story originally appeared in The Mighty Mite.
Hudson Valley based writer.