Kurt Gowan is proof positive that parkour is more accessible than you think. Unlike many other practitioners of the sport, Kurt had no real fitness background before he started teaching himself moves through online videos. Now, years later, Kurt owns his own business (Parkour Ways) and has partnered up with Brooklyn Boulders Chicago to teach “Discovery”-level classes for the uninitiated.
Hesitant to jump on board? Don’t worry! We offer a special $10 introductory rate for your first class, making the “parkour way” more accessible than ever. Learn more about Kurt, his background, and his interest in parkour below.
WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS BACKGROUND?
I actually had no background before I got into this, believe it or not. I think that’s what drew it to me most. I wasn’t interested in any team sports when I was in school. I never got into gymnastics or martial arts. I never had a formal fitness background, either.
My mom lost her job when I was 16 in high school. And that was the same year we started to have weightlifting introduced in high school. I took out some of my frustration with my mom and her job in the weightlifting room, but I had no idea what I was doing. I was gaining some strength, but possibly doing damage in the long run too.
HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER PARKOUR?
I actually can’t remember where I first came across it. My earliest memory was a Nike commercial where some guys were chasing a chicken. I don’t remember what the commercial was actually about. You know, the guys were jumping around, chasing that chicken, and it looked cool.
But that’s not what got me to go out and try it. Years later, I was working retail, and I just needed something else. Like a purpose basically. I was just going to work everyday to get a paycheck. I came across the videos online again and I started to think about it. All you need is your body. You don’t need any special equipment or anything. The videos I saw, the guys were just outside. So you don’t need a special place, really.
In the beginning, I would just go out on my own. I live on the border of Indiana so I would go out to Indiana in the morning so no one would be around and see me make a fool of myself. I would work on really small things, like trying to balance. For me, without the martial arts or gymnastics background, it was tough. Two or three seconds was a challenge in the beginning. From there, it was a whole lot of free time and a lot of fun when I got started. After being bored with my entire life, it was exciting to have something new where I didn’t need money to put into it, because I never really had money.
DID YOU EVENTUALLY GO TO OFFICIAL CLASSES?
It was a lot of self-taught stuff. I eventually found some guys in Chicago who were training. I found a very small group of guys near Indiana, and they were teaching by the time I met them. one of those guys taught me about the certification that I had no idea even existed. He put the original thought in my head that teaching is something you could get into with it.
They started teaching classes at a gymnastics facility in Indiana and I started hanging out at the classes because I already knew them. So I was just going to enjoy the training and enjoy a different setting. Eventually they asked me to show things and before I knew it, I was co-teaching and teaching my own stuff.
From there, I saw the opportunity in Chicago. No one was teaching it in an organized way. They were training outdoors on their own, but there wasn’t a definitive source to go to in Chicago. It was rough in the beginning. I didn’t know how to run a business in the beginning. But a lot of lucky connections got me connected with a gym and it snowballed from there.
HOW LONG AGO WAS THIS?
I started Parkour Ways in 2011. I was teaching out in Indiana in 2010.
I’ve been using this phrase a lot lately. It’s for anybody, but it’s not going to be for everybody. So anybody can do it if they want to get into it.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS PARKOUR CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED?
I got into it right when it started to take a pretty big turn. There’s a split between Parkour communities nowadays. There’s the side of it that we try to keep the original way it was trained, the way the guys in France who started it did it. I like the reasons they were doing it and the feel of what they were doing. The other side of it is guys doing Red Bull conversations and making Youtube videos and turning it into a flashy sport. Depending on where you go, the communities have different feels.
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN PARKOUR?
I’ve been using this phrase a lot lately. It’s for anybody, but it’s not going to be for everybody. So anybody can do it if they want to get into it. I started from a clean slate so it’s proof that for anybody, if they want to do it, they can do it as long as they have the time to put into it and make the training a priority. It’s all ages. That’s one of the nice things about it. It’s adaptable too. Not only can you do it anywhere, but there’s so many different movements that if you don’t want to do flips all over the place, you don’t have to do that. If you don’t want to take unnecessary risks, you don’t have to do that. There can be danger, but if you train the right way with the right mindset, you can avoid it.
WHAT CAN PEOPLE WHO TAKE THE BKB CLASS EXPECT?
We’re going to be doing basic movements. The Discovery level classes are an hour long. We talk about basic vaults, tumbling, how to keep yourself safe, learning how to land on the ground that’s not going to hurt you. We like to train with the mindset that we’re going to be doing it for a long time. The guys that started it, they’re 42 now and they’ve been doing it for 25 years and they’ve never had an injury. Our priority is keeping the classes smaller too so we know what students are capable of, too. We like to adapt things for people too. The beginner classes are for everybody.