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Sweaty boys aged between 7 and 27 filled the gymnasium at San Diego United Training Center on Sunday, February 13. The boys jumped and flipped over mats and off walls to the sound of thumping music during the center’s parkour clinic — an event to raise funds for a parkour park.

The website Parkourpedia.com describes the sport as a “spirit/philosophy that incorporates a method of moving within your environment and approaching obstacles of any kind.” The activity involves “running on foot, moving quadrupedally, jumping, climbing, and other methods of catching yourself, grabbing hold of things, and hanging frpm things, rolling and balancing.” David Belle, a Frenchman, is credited as the founder of parkour. Practitioners of parkour are called traceurs.

Coaches from San Diego United, Victory Gymnastics, and San Diego Parkour donated their time and experience to teach tricks such as dive rolls, wall flips, and standing backflips. The two-hour clinic drew 40 participants, each of whom paid $25 to take part.

Joe Gram, 26-year-old co-owner of San Diego United (along with his 22-year-old brother, Daniel), began to offer parkour classes in December 2010. Joe compares the parkour culture of today to skateboarding in the 1990s. “Parkour is new, it’s edgy, it’s very similar to what was happening then.” He admits that skateboard parks did dull some of that edge and says that when he first suggested the parkour park to traceurs, “a lot of them were concerned about the commercialization” of their sport.

Lysander “Stitch” Luansing, Jr, a 22-year-old traceur and lead parkour coach at Victory Gymnastics, says he’s conflicted about the park. While on one hand, “it shows that the discipline is really growing,” it also “takes away from the adaptivity of [parkour]. Because they’re laying out obstacles, there’s no looking at something and asking what can I do with it,” he says.

The park will be built next door to San Diego United’s gym and will include obstacles as well as rubber flooring of the kind found at kiddie parks. Gram estimates the park will cost $5000.

Pictured: Tumblers at San Diego United Training Center

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