History of Parkour Ways

Parkour Ways is an organization created and run by me, Kurt Gowan, since September, 2011. My goal with Parkour Ways was to provide professional, reliable parkour instruction to Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.

When I started to get into parkour, I didn't have access to professional instruction - it just wasn't available. I was bored with my life. Working several years in electronics retail will do that (to myself and many others, I’m sure of it). I started my “training” by watching videos on YouTube, like many tend to do. I ended up with some pretty hefty knee injuries from improper training and trying to go "too big, too fast" (those injuries have long since subsided, thankfully). I quickly realized I needed to find a new way to go about my training.

In the beginning, most of my sessions were in Chicago though I did have the occasional solo session out here in Northwest Indiana. I live in Illinois, but just on the border of Indiana. Been here all my life. Traveling to Chicago for training was getting to be too expensive. I stumbled upon a group of practitioners in my area – right over the border in fact. One of these practitioners was John Conway – now my best friend and one of the greatest practitioners I’ve had the pleasure of meeting (referring more to his mindset and the way he views parkour, not a comparison between his movement and others’).

John helped me to discover a new way to look at parkour. Whether it was his intention or not, he helped me to see it as a way to better myself, not just something to do with my boredom (though it definitely does away with boredom as well). I soon learned that John had an instructor certification for parkour, the ADAPT certification (www.AdaptQualifications.com). He had traveled all the way to the United Kingdom to obtain this certification – and that certainly caught my attention.

Soon, I was attending John’s classes at a nearby gymnastics facility in Indiana where I often assisted him in showing the “noobs” the “ropes”. Helping others discover what they could do with their movement was a fantastic feeling – a feeling that grew on me very, very quickly. Ever since I had helped teach the kindergarteners when I was in 5th grade, I had some fondness in my heart for teaching others. Little did I know; that fondness would grow to be my life and my mission.

In June of 2010, my mom died after a heartbreaking struggle with cancer. I loved my mom; she was always there for us and always took care of us (single mom, 3 kids, 2 grandkids). Witnessing her struggle with cancer and even her struggles before that diagnosis was really tough. My mom was the first important person in my life to die… the first person to die who I had really known. I hid it pretty well, but it hit me extremely hard.

Her passing made me realize a few things. One of those things was that I did not want to die doing something for a living that I did not want to be doing. Surprisingly, electronics retail sales were NOT what I wanted to do (gasp!). Another one of those things was that I needed to take some risks sometimes and be unafraid of change if I ever wanted to move forward (two things I think my mom really had trouble with, to be honest). Yet another was that home ownership is expensive and rough, and yes even one more: how hard it is to deal with my brother when his decisions will have an effect on you, too!

Combine those two life lessons and you get this: I went through 3 jobs (fired from one, quit the second), dropped out of college and quit the last job I had without having another one lined up.

I dropped out of school because I realized that sitting at the computer all day every day was exactly what my mom did for over 30 years at Chase (it was “First National Bank of Chicago” when she started there, then "First Chicago Bank", then "Bank One", etc.) – and I thought that maybe that had something to do with her seemingly never-ending stress and anxiety. Don’t worry; that was not the only reason I dropped out. The further I got into school and my program (Computer Engineering Technology), the less I enjoyed it and the more I realized that online school is really just the incredibly expensive equivalent of Googling and YouTubing everything...

I had a dream one night that I was at work at Best Buy talking with a friend/co-worker and the manager approached us and said something. I cannot remember what the manager said (and it wasn’t any real-life manager, just the manager in the dream – honest), but it somehow dissatisfied me and I got up, told the manager I was quitting, and walked out of the building. Days later, I quit my job at Best Buy just three days before Black Friday… anyone in retail can tell you that this is a huge no-no. I wanted to burn that bridge and never look back. Check! Thank you, subconscious!

By this time, I had my own ADAPT parkour instructor certification and a desire to start teaching parkour in Chicago. Originally, John and I were working together to create an entity in which we would both run. Little known fact – he actually came up with the name “Parkour Ways” when we were brainstorming for our brand (don’t worry - I have a piece of paper with his signature now saying that it’s allllll mine! Muahaha!). Months went by and I went through a WHOLE lot of planning, designing, programming, talking, emailing… you get the idea. With the help and advice of a few other people, Parkour Ways eventually came to fruition - and here I am today!

Thanks for reading, I hope this helps everyone understand a bit where I've come from and how Parkour Ways got started. Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me in this endeavor!