Grappling with gravity
Revolution Parkour turns urban architecture into playground and offers enthusiasts an extreme challenge
You’ve probably seen parkour, but didn’t know what to call it.
The French sport jams breathtaking athleticism into the urban environment; its practitioners sprinting, jumping and weaving in and around the things we normally take for granted. That railing on the stairs may look like a good place for your hand, but in parkour, it’s also a good place for a foot-launching jump.
The parkour-thinking mind sees urban architecture as, literally, a playground.
Adam Dunlap is a 23-year-old, life-long Beaverton resident who runs Revolution Parkour and teaches a twice-weekly class in the discipline. He wants the public to know that the sport is not just insane stunts like those seen at the beginning of the James Bond film “Casino Royale” — it’s a serious training method.
“I think a lot of people see parkour incorrectly,” Dunlap says. “They haven’t made the connection that this is something people do.”
Dunlap admits that what first interested him in parkour were the incredible YouTube videos of elite practitioners like parkour-founder David Belle. But, as he focused his craft, his insight into the sport changed.
“The ideas of movement and how to move quickly are built into us,” Dunlap says. “You take from parkour what you want.”
Craziest thing you’ve ever seen
Parkour can best be described as an outgrowth of a particular French philosophy, which is built on the fluid movement of the physical body through urban spaces. It’s about encountering obstacles and overcoming them using both your wits and your physical prowess. If you look up videos online, it will also seem like the craziest thing you’ve ever seen.
Right after graduating from Oregon State University, Dunlap got a temporary job at Nike, but quickly grew restless. The office environment wasn’t for him. He decided to take his long-brewing interest in parkour and turn it into a business.
Revolution Parkour was intended first as a parkour-instruction program, then as a TV and film consulting firm. For the last year and a half, Dunlap has been teaching twice-weekly classes at ADAPT Training, and seen a steady increase in participation. Tuesday night, 25 students, from pre-teens to people in their 20s, attended the class to get a dose of Dunlap’s expert instruction.
And while the consulting side of the business has been slow going, with only a few projects here and there, Dunlap says that a potential deal with a new major-network television show is in the works.
To develop his training program, Dunlap took the effusive parkour technique videos that were available online and broke them down into step-by-step methodology. He stresses that while these techniques are tried and true, there isn’t necessarily one single way to do parkour. It’s always about doing what comes natural.
‘No parkour on the furniture’
Besides technique training, the class also gives its students extensive physical conditioning, focusing on lean-muscle, body-weight exercises rather than free weights.
“A lot of people just want to find a unique way to workout,” Dunlap says. “As far as I’m concerned, parkour is the best there is.”
Students at the class seem to agree. Brandon Latocki, a 21-year-old Beaverton resident who’s been going to the class since it started, seems to echo the obsession of a lot of dedicated parkour enthusiasts.
“I’ve been looking for my entire life for something to do,” he says, “and this is it.”
Another student, Rick King, 25, says he first saw parkour when he saw the videogame Mirror’s Edge, about a dystopian future where revolutionaries use parkour-like methods to combat an all-knowing, all-seeing government.
“I didn’t know it was an actual thing,” King says. “I showed up (to class) one day and have been hooked ever since.”
Gerald Wright, of Tigard, was watching his 12-year-old son take part in the class on Tuesday night. He says that he’s been impressed by the rigorous and professional nature of the class since his son started it a few weeks ago.
“How can you say no to a kid who wants to do something different?” Wright says. “We do have one rule though: no parkour on the furniture.”
An adrenaline rush
Dunlap says that most students interested in parkour are exactly who you’d expect: young men looking for an adrenaline rush. He’s quick to point out, however, that as parkour grows in recognition — and there’s every indication that it will — the people who participate will likely diversify. Just like how other extreme sports became mainstream in the ’90s, Dunlap expects parkour to do the same.
Dunlap says the local parkour community is small but passionate, and often gets together to take advantage of downtown Portland’s diverse architecture. He says that, unfortunately, the suburbs like Beaverton don’t offer the same obstacle-rich environment as urban areas.
In the end, Dunlap stresses the simple joys of the sport he loves and the independence of its movement. He also stresses that watching the elite athletes shouldn’t scare people off. Most people will never leap from such great heights.
“Just because you train,” he says, “doesn’t mean you can jump off a building.”
For more information, visit www.revolutionparkour.com.