At first glance, Empire Parkour looks similar to its neighbours. However, one look inside the facility, located in a commercial strip mall on Marquis Court, shows just how different it is.
“It’s like this door of opportunity has just opened for play in it so it’s very cool to see,” said Jordan Westad, co-owner of the new parkour gym.
In just over two months, Westad and Empire’s other owners, Tyler Harder and Logan Fedoruk, have turned this once-empty commercial unit into a parkour enthusiast’s paradise.
“We went from an empty space, [working] 15 hour days for two months,” Westad said. “Now, seeing the fruits of our labour actually being used by so many people is just tremendous.”
The facility is more than just a training ground to these parkour athletes.
“Gyms sort of become a hub for parkour communities. A gathering place for people and communities tend to come out of them,” Harder said. “We’re really excited to see how our community evolves in this space, how big it gets and how big we need to get to accommodate it.”
A big part of helping to grow the parkour community is getting young athletes interested and involved in the sport. The youngest age group for which Empire offers classes is four- to six-year-olds, and lessons for that age group are already completely booked.
“Getting these kids in at such a young age and getting a really good relationship with us is really good in terms of keeping them in the sport for a really long time,” Westad said.
The teaching model employed by instructors at Empire is simple but very effective, he says.
We’re very, very progression-based so it’s really important for us to show parents that we don’t start kids off doing the crazy things,” Westad said. “We start them off by breaking down each skill into the individual components.”
Class sizes are limited to eight students per teacher, allowing for more individual attention and a more hands-on learning experience, according to Westad.
These instructive sessions are a far cry from how one Empire teacher became involved in the sport.
“I was the crazy kid climbing [on my] roof, freaking my mom out when I was a kid,” Harder said. “Now, that’s just ballooned into this becoming a job, a career at this point.”
Although it’s just opened, the Empire team is already willing to adapt and make changes to their current design to evolve with the sport.
“We’re always going to be looking ahead. Parkour is all about where your next footstep is going and where you are jumping to next,” Westad explained.
“I think in terms of our movement, and in terms of our facility and philosophy, we have to be looking ahead, we have to be looking at the next jump we can take.”
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