Parkour Is Not Wrong

Today is/was my birthday. I went out with John Conway to train. We broke some new jumps, drilled some simpler ones, put a good flow together, and... stood up against a very rude woman who came out from the park community center we were training at to yell at us. She was very impolite. I tried to start a conversation with her but she was being incredibly rude. Her tone alone was very offensive as she began to yell. I believe the first words she spoke out of the door were:

"I don't have to tell you guys to get down right? You guys are old enough to know you can't be doing this."

In these situations, we typically leave without any protest, especially if the person asking us to leave is polite. In this specific situation, however, I just couldn't let this one pass. Not only did I disagree with her implicit notion that older people cannot move like we were, but I also was not very fond of her tone and overall mannerism towards us. I actually tried to tell her that we could move on to another spot, to which she immediately barked back:

"You need to get down right now."

That put me over the line. By that I mean I made the decision to stand my ground, not that I was going to explode as she had done. As I started to step down off of the small, two-foot tall wall that I was standing atop to speak with her, I said to her:

"You don't have to be rude about it."

Her response?

"Obviously I do. I saw you guys from the window right here."

So, in her mind, seeing us out the window of her building doing our jump safely and controlled without any damage to any property... that gives her the right to come out and be rude to us? I'm sorry, but I don't think so. There was no reason for her to treat us in the manner she was treating us. Maybe she deals with punk skateboarder kids all the time, but she definitely noticed that we were older... and if she really did see me doing my jump from her window, then she would also realize that we did NOT have skateboards anywhere on or near us.

I stepped down off of the wall and began to ask:

"What are we doing wrong?"

I got no answer as the woman turned and walked back into the doorway she had just come out of to spew her pent up anger at us. Maybe she was having a bad day at the job, I don't know. But she had no right to talk to us the way she did. We weren't doing anything wrong. If she were to approach us politely and with respect, she might have discovered that she was speaking to two professional instructors. Instructors who have taught hundreds of people about this discipline. An instructor who is also a stuntman and business owner, and another instructor who has taught this discipline internationally in the Philippines. Instructors who take their movement very seriously and attempt to move peoples' minds and lives with it.

Instead, she scampered back into her building having only upset me. I had no desire to leave, especially after I had tried to talk with her and explain what it was that we were doing. Even if she didn't have time for me to explain (it really would have taken only a minute or two), she could have politely said that and asked us to carry on.

I made the decision to stay there (I was driving today) and so we kept training whatever we felt like training. We were still well within view of her windows, though we didn't see her again.

Another parks department employee came out, a man this time. He was a bit hostile at first (probably from whatever the woman told him inside). I got him to understand that we were NOT skateboarding (amazing how many people think we can skateboard without any boards) which is what the lady had told him we were doing, he later disclosed to us. I asked him if I could explain what we were doing and who we were. He agreed to let me explain. It took me about 45 seconds to inform him that we are certified instructors, that I do this for a living, that we are not harming any property, and a brief explanation of how we move. He was very nice and didn't even ask us to leave after that. He did, however, mention that they were having a meeting in the room we could see through the big window in the front and that we might be distracting them inside. Though I don't think it's our fault if their meeting is too boring to keep their minds focused, we made the polite move.

We moved on to another spot around the side of the building. While there, we saw ACTUAL skateboarders (loud teenagers, so many crashing sounds of their boards slamming things) approach the building and start skating around the same area the lady had demanded us to leave. We did not see anyone ask them to leave.

I'm sick of being associated with those who are nothing like us. We are respectful and respectable, kind people. We are polite and honest. When the police approach us in the areas in which we train (it happens plenty, believe me... I was actually hoping the woman had called the police today) and ask what we are doing - we straight up tell them:

"Yes, I was climbing on that building."

We briefly explain to them that we are training parkour and that it is a discipline. We are in no way trying to harm these environments or anyone in or around them. They always appreciate our honesty. We never run away... and we will never have to because we are doing nothing wrong.

Sometimes after we explain who we are and what we're doing, people will still ask us to leave. When they do so in a polite manner, I have no problem with it. I understand there are liability issues and not everyone can get past those and trust that we will not take legal action if we were to get hurt on their properties (which we would never even fathom doing).

Please, share this story so that others might be inclined to let our practitioners at least explain what it is that they are doing. Not everyone who trains parkour does so recklessly. At least give them a chance to explain or the benefit of a doubt that they are as I have just explained. Thank you.

-Kurt Gowan