Parkour Guys Invade Miami for This Weekend's Freerunning Jam

​Elastic people and daredevil gymnast types: If you haven't already tried it out, parkour is probably the after-school activity for you. This is a sport many have never probably heard about, which involves flipping about, defying gravity, and using your brain and body in new and original ways. 

Those who parkour and freerun are called traceurs. They'll be having a "jam" this Memorial Day weekend, where athletes get together and learn new techniques. The annual Miami CommUNITY Jam takes place from Friday through Monday. They'll be visiting locations all over town. We spoke with avid traceur Noah Gonzalez, who gave us ignorant folk a great primer on the sport. Now we feel like experts.

Cultist: What is parkour? 

Gonzalez: Parkour is the discipline of moving from point A to point B in the quickest way possible, the most direct way. Any obstacle that gets in your way, you're supposed to overcome your obstacle. 

How do you become good at it? 

You have to practice. It involves a lot of jumping, vaulting, a lot of training like gymnastics or even like training very similar to track and field. Things like that. There'd be a lot of jumping, sprinting.

How does someone get into it? How did you get into parkour? 

There's groups. I mean, the sport really took off about four or five years ago in the U.S. but it's been around since post-World War II. It started in France after this guy was stationed somewhere in Africa. I forget the details of it, but basically he was stationed and the people there were training and using their body weight and things like this, and then basically, he brought it back and he talked to firefighters in France. And it helps them, when you're in a burning building it helps them jump from building to building, if the buildings are close.

And it became a recreational sport, and then it came over to the U.S. I got into it because I saw something on the Discovery Channel about it and then I started a group with another friend of mine and then the sport just became an incredible thing. It became known throughout the U.S. in very pocketed areas like New York, Miami, and Colorado. 

What is the upcoming event going to be like? What can we expect from it? 

The upcoming event's going to be groups from all over Florida coming down to Miami. There's a big group called Miami Freerunning, they were in a show called Jump City, G4  are going to be there. All the big parkour groups from Miami are going to be there, and a lot of the parkour groups from across Florida, and other parts of the U.S. are going to come down and they're going to partake in workshops, teaching people who want to learn the sport.

We're going to two different parkour based gyms, so they'll be like safety and things like that, they're going to teach about what parkour is, how to train in it, and how to find people in your area that train in it. We're having big name guys from across Europe coming over as well. So, it's going to be a very big exhibition of the sport.

Is this something someone can make money doing? 

Yeah, quite a few people have started up their own gyms. They've started in an AT&T commercial, movies. The movie Takers, there's parkour in that. The movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop, they have two traceurs in there. In that movie, there are two freerunners in there from a team called Team Tempest. The Miami Freerunning guys are actually in the movie Takers. They do Chris Brown's stunts in that movie. 

What is the thing you're most looking forward to with this event? 

I'm looking forward to expanding the knowledge of the sport, expanding the knowledge of the groups that do partake in it in the city of Miami and in Broward. But we really want to bring people out and really see that... It's really a scene, a lot of the guys that come out now used to just sit around and play video games. They really didn't feel like they had a place, they didn't fit into any one group.

They didn't fit into the break dancers, they don't fit into the gamers, things like that. They were partially in those groups, but not fully part of those groups. Then they come out and experience something a little different, get people out of the house and really see that there's something different and new out there, not just skateboarding, and things like that. There's a new activity that doesn't require anything really but a good pair of sneakers.

Orientation starts Friday at Grace Baptist Church (19301 SW 127th Ave., Miami). Saturday, guests will meet FIU (11000 SW 107 Avenue, Miami) at 10 a.m. and then at 2 p.m., on to Miami Freerunning Academy (1498 Northwest 78th Avenue, Miami). Admission is $10.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy