On Sunday, October 5th, I ran a free "Parkour and Obstacle Coursing Workshop" at Zenith Gymnastics in Rochester, New York.
I've been working with Zenith Gymnastics through the RIT Gymnastics club since the end of last summer. I was calling all the local gyms I could find, trying to find somewhere that would give us access to their equipment and facilities and let us train there. After some negotiation, RIT Gymnastics started going there weekly, learning from Sasha and Maria Kourbatova - Russian olympic gold metalists and leaders in their fields. We learned a lot over the year, and we're looking forward to a very successful second year with them!
Amy, the owner of Zenith Gymnastics, has been trying to expand her boys program. My roommate, co-founder of Rochester Parkour, and President of the RIT Gymnastics Club Charles Moreland, offered his help and has begun to teach some of the Boy's Gymnastics classes at Zenith.
Back in August, I called Amy to confirm plans for Gymnastics this year. At the end of this call, I proposed to her the idea of starting a Parkour class. She was interested in the idea, and told me to develop a curriculum and some flyers. I came up with several different ways for the class to work, depending on some of Amy's goals, and we finally settled on a 4 week class aimed towards Zenith's primary demographic, 8-14 year olds.
Yesterday, I ran a free workshop at Zenith to generate some interest. Five kids arrived, and there were between eight and ten more on the list of people interested. Two brothers, around age 9, two fourteen year olds, and a seven year old.
We started with some fun running drills up and down the gym, then I introduced them to QM (Quadrupedal Motion). We did more of what I called a "gorilla run," a fast and galloping motion. After a minute or two of practice with this, I wanted to start getting them engaged.
One thing I've learned in my experience with Taekwondo is that kids are very easily distracted. In fact, I've made a chart:
You can't argue with science this sound.
In order to keep the kids entertained and on topic, I mixed a lot of games into the class. The first game we played is QM Tag. You have to stay on all fours, and then the person who is it has to tag someone's elbows. They enjoyed this a lot, and it was a great way to warm them up.
After a few other warmup activities, we moved straight into an obstacle course.
I started by showing them a simple safety vault over a balance beam, and then they landed, immediately QMed under a second balance beam, and then stood up and vaulted over a third. After that, pull-overs on the uneven bars, QM-balance on a balance beam (floor height), jumping over some blocks, some more qm, and then some precision jumps to and from tape on the floor.
We broke it down, piece by piece, so A) I could teach them some of the basics of a technique to overcome that obstacle, and B) so I could make sure they were doing it safely. The only thing people really had problems with was the pull-overs, and so I stood there and assisted them.
Later on, we played a game of PDQ (a game where the goal is to jump on people's feet), ran through another obstacle course, climbed ropes, and jumped in a foam pit!
The two brothers picked it up immediately. While I only showed them the safety vault, they were already modifying it into what looked like a two-handed speed vault. They plowed through all the vaulting and QM and balance. Later on, we were practicing rope climbs. Once they were done and waiting for the other three boys, they asked me if they could practice the pull-overs. I don't really know why this left such an impression on me, but I told them of course they could and watched as they figured out how to do it themselves!
The two fourteen year olds did quite well also, they had some problems with the rope climb and the pull-overs, but they didn't give up! That's another thing that really left an impact on me. Even when they couldn't do it, they were thinking about how to practice or how to build enough strength to do it. I can barely remember all these kids' names, and I'm already so proud of them.
All in all, it was a great experience. The kids had an enormous amount of fun and were really excited about coming back (one of them even signed up for the www.AmericanParkour.com forums already... I didn't even reference it! He must be doing his own research) Amy is very excited about Zenith being the only gym with a Parkour class for 400 miles (er, 200 miles. Stupid Toronto...), and I'm very excited to be teaching it!
For now, there's only one class a week: Sunday's at 1PM. The age range is 8-14 (although I'm sure plus or minus a year won't hurt much). If you are interested in a class, but you or your child is not within this age range, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and call Zenith and let us know. If there is enough interest, we would love to open up more classes.
If you are interested in registering for the Zenith Gymnastics Parkour and Obstacle Coursing Class, please call Zenith at 585-292-5370 and let them know! Zenith Gymnastics is located in Winton Place just off the East end of Brighton Henrietta Townline Road.