Parkour continues to grow rapidly worldwide and further establishes itself as a top skill-building sport for athletes of all ages. As the popularity of parkour builds, more businesses capitalizing on the sport’s popularity are popping up around the globe.
In this article, we’re going to explore gyms and athletic programs that offer some version of parkour. We have noticed a number a excellent parkour gyms around the world, and unfortunately many more programs that are merely using parkour as a bait and switch to get clients in the door. We’re going to address some red flags one may notice when they visit one of these gyms to help our readers be able to spot a legitimate parkour gym and parkour program so readers may separate legit parkour gyms form the imitators.
What makes a good parkour gym?
Before we jump in, I feel it's important to establish the “why”. Why differentiate a “good” program from one that doesn’t meet our high standards? It’s a matter of safety and clarity.
Parkour demands safety. Recklessly training parkour or receiving poor coaching can lead to serious injury (as in any sport). Furthermore, calling yourself a “parkour gym/ parkour program” when in reality you’re a kid’s gymnastics studio can seriously turn people off to parkour and have them walk away thinking “THAT'S what parkour is??”.
Our goal is to both direct readers to the safest most effective parkour programs all while giving a proper platform to the gyms that truly understand what parkour is and how to teach it.
Legitimate Parkour Programs
Parkour gyms are just that, gyms purpose-built for the soul function for creating athletes and teaching them how to safely do Parkour. Here are some key ways to know you’re in a legit parkour gym.
1.) The gym’s website says “Parkour” right in the homepage banner.
Many wana-be parkour gyms will avoid using the word “parkour” in their marketing materials. The reason for this is that Parkour programs are hard to get insurance for and parkour insurance policies are typically more expensive than a “ninja” or “gymnastics” program. Insurance is there to protect both the gym and the athletes. If you’re in a gym that says they do parkour but its not mentioned on their site directly, they might not be insured to run the program. Yikes.
A parkour gym’s website should say “Parkour” on the home page.
2.) The majority of the training area is obviously for Parkour
Many businesses try and cast a wide net and offer a variety of sports all under one roof. One gym might have a Ninja zone, Gymnastics equipment, pole dancing poles, trampoline section, indoor skate park, and a tiny section for parkour. The problem this causes is that this may reflect the training and knowhow of the staff and owners. One coach might be able to teach you some basic parkour vaults, some ninja stuff, and how to use a hover board. However, you likely wont find a coach who is highly specialized in parkour training and the nuanced knowledge required to take a parkour beginner to a robust competitive parkour athlete.
Trampoline, Tumbling, Gymnastics, Ninja, Parkour
Gyms that offer a large number of sports tend to be more dangerous and have a lower quality of building standards. The gym shown in this photo has a history of broken parkour structures. One even breaking in the middle of a parkour competition for adults in 2013. The gym looks fun for an open gym session, but their staff’s attention is simply spread too thin to offer a robust parkour curriculum.
There are certainly acceptations to this rule, especially if all the other conditions on this list are met. Take a gym like Parkour & Performing arts academy in the Sacramento area. This parkour gym offers a number of other sports, like martial arts and performing arts lessons. However, it’s clear when walking into their gym and talking to their parkour coaches that they are a legit parkour gym. Parkour is their focus, and they offer other movements on the side. A handful of parkour companies fall into this situation, Other legit parkour gyms that offer a number of sports could be, Firestorm Freerunning or Motive Movement. The key to look out for is how high on their priority list is teaching parkour, and doing it well.
3.) Your gym has a head coach who specializes in parkour training and curriculum design.
Similar to point number 2, if a gym teaches a huge variety of sports, it’s likely that their head coach (if they have one) is also spread thin between the disciplines. This lack of focus will trickle down to the rest of the coaching staff. Dedicated parkour gyms have knowledgeable parkour instructors with a focused head coach to provide effective education for the whole team.
Head coaches are able to train other coaches in the nuances of parkour and strength building.
4.) Your Parkour gym has a defined curriculum.
While parkour is highly creative and encourages improvisation within your movements, there are a base set of fundamental skills every parkour athlete should learn. Legitimate parkour programs will be able to clearly define your parkour journey down to the movement and method. Gyms often have a level-up process like the checklist and wrist band system found at Freedom in Motion Parkour Gym. Ask your gym what their parkour curriculum is and see how much detail they are ready to go into about it.
Checklists offer a clear path to mastering Parkour
5.) The coaches actually train parkour themselves
Parkour is an extremely nuanced sport and requires personal experience and understanding in order to then be able to help guide a new student through their own learning process. Look for a parkour gym who has coaches who can be seen training parkour while off the clock as one of their personal passions.
Parkour coaches practicing parkour for fun.
6.) The coaches have a parkour coaching certification
The most respected parkour gyms out there will send their coaches through some kind of established coaching certification process. Certifications like the one’s offered by Freedom in Motion, Apex, or Parkour Generations give the coach a vital understanding of class management, class programming, strength training and injury prevention. Ask your gym if the parkour coaches are certified. If not, send them to one of the aforementioned legit parkour programs offering a certification.
Lecture portion during a Freedom in Motion parkour certification.
A legit parkour gym will offer the following
The word “Parkour” is clear on their marketing materials
A purpose-built parkour gym, composed of parkour training equipment.
They have a Head Coach for their parkour program
The gym’s caches are following a robust parkour curriculum
The coaches themselves love parkour and practice it often while not at work
The parkour coaches have received a parkour certification
Is your gym not 100% legit?
At the time of writing this article, Parkour gyms are not yet as common as a typical gymnastic gym or martial art center. We recognize that often times the only option close to you may be a not-so-legit parkour program. When this is the case, totally go check it out. Let them know how much you value parkour and want to get the best coaching and equipment possible. You, by voting with your dollars, may help the gym shift more focus to parkour!
Of course, Parkour was born outdoors and one doesn’t necessarily need a parkour gym to learn. You can teach yourself nearly every move there is by watching online tutorials (like these ones) and heading to a nearby park and taking it one step at a time. Train Safe! We recommend always having a training partner.
Want us to investigate any gyms near you? Comment them below and we will check them out and reply!