The children are clearly distracted. They are warming up for their class but Talon Keener is doing some impressive moves and their eyes are riveted on him. He moves effortlessly from doing front flips over Tiegan Foley, who is doing a handstand, to side flips, to a wall spin (a cartwheel with his hands on the wall instead of the floor).
Keener, 19, is the Parkour instructor at Momentum Gymnastics. Parkour isn’t a sport as much as it is a combination of athletic movements that include climbing, jumping, running, balancing and gymnastic moves.
“There’s not an actual technique,” Keener explains. “It’s throwing your body any way you can. It’s a huge workout. Parkour is about moving efficiently and quickly, using inversions (flips), and creative stuff. You can add in breakdancing or martial arts.”
Parkour is a new class at Momentum Gymnastics. In the first week only a few signed up but that soon changed.
“After the first week – all the classes are full. I have waiting lists. It was all word of mouth,” says Shawnee Venables, owner and head coach of Momentum Gymnastics.
Venables decided to offer Parkour because she saw a lot of interest among the youth.
“All the kids are doing ‘street tricks.’ We thought we’d give them a place to learn it safely on a mat. It’s a little twist from gymnastics; it’s another kind of sport. It’s fun and it coincides nicely with the trampolining and power tumbling.”
Keener says Parkour is all based on progressions.
“You ‘level up’ to a certain trick. You start with forward rolls, then dive rolls then front flips, or Websters. It’s all just training, having fun, and letting all the energy out. The little ones do jump around – they might as well have some technique for it.”
Keener, who lives in Kelowna, has a varied athletic background that helped him with his Parkour including Japanese Jiujitsu (he’s a red belt) and kickboxing. His Parkour training was totally self-taught.
“I trained at the Okanagan Gymnastics Centre. I just went for drop-in. I trained myself.”
But Parkour is really about an urban setting, and Keener left the soft mat for the concrete.
“I was sponsored for skateboarding so I was comfortable doing this around concrete. People started saying, ‘You should teach this stuff.’”
Besides his work in Salmon Arm, Keener coaches at Kelowna Gymastix and works with youth who are in drug rehabilitation.
He lists a few of the practical benefits of Parkour training: conditioning, hand-eye coordination, body awareness (he explains if you slip on the ice your training kicks in and you roll out of it with no injury), and it helps with self-confidence. There is, after all, the total ‘awe’ factor.
“When you go to the movie theatre and you’re waiting outside and popping backflips – people stand in awe.”