January 12, 2017
Watching parkour – in person, at a playground, or on one of more than 13 million YouTube videos – the first impression is it’s a mash-up of American Ninja Warrior/Simone Biles’ gymnastics routine/urban form of "Temple Run" come to life.
The acrobatic moves like leaping from walls and over gaps, ground rolls and precision jumping make it seem like an adrenaline sport. But if you watch the physical discipline, as it is defined, especially without a dubstep soundtrack, something much different is happening.
“We focus on failure. If we want to jump to something we focus on every way you can fail that,” said Andy Taylor, owner of the Philadelphia location.
“After you’ve failed every way you can, you learn how to do it safely. You don’t just freeze and stick your arm out, you grab the bar and lower yourself down. Then you can truly go for it.”
Taylor, a master electrician by trade, moved to the area a year ago from Florida to build the Princeton, N.J. location. The East Falls spot on Scotts Lane, the fourth in the franchise, is set to be the flagship, with more than 11,000 square feet of space.
Taylor says the early response has been amazing, with more than 40 paid members and “tons” of drop-ins. This past weekend, two birthday parties brought groups of 40 and 20, respectively. The crowd is mostly 13- to 20-year-old males, currently, but Taylor is working on expanding the clientele, claiming the discipline is for everyone, even a 3-year-old and 66-year old who visited.
"A lot of times, we overcomplicate things like exercise when the root is just getting out, moving and playing. I like feeling as if I can use my body however I like to,” said Tatiano, who started training at 16 and aims to be at PPK three days a week.
"I’ve been an athlete all my life,” said Nate Jensen, 23, who teaches classes and has been with PPK for five years.
“I’ve always been the weirdo of the group and tried to experiment on the playground. I took my playfulness serious in this style of training. It’s always a challenge, physically and mentally.”
Beginner classes teach three moves and are adjusted to skill level. Taylor makes the experience welcoming, instilling the mentality of removing the impact on your joints.
The blue-haired Taylor, like many young boys, wanted to be Spider-man, or any superhero who was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He soon realized his powers were mortal. So, he did pushups.
“Pushups don’t get you Spider-man,” he lamented.
“Or you can come to this parkour gym,” said Taylor.
Saturday, Jan. 21st is the grand opening of PPK, with free seminars and workshops starting at 3 pm. It's located at 3500 Scotts Lane, Philadelphia.