YMCA Parkour is Turning the Town Upside Down
Everyone travels by moving from Point A to Point B. And in a reductionist definition, that’s what parkour is. Only difference is that parkour means doing it with style.
The freestyle walking, gymnastic-heavy sport/activity/lifestyle employs running, jumping, vaulting, swinging and any other tactic or natural feature available to make the mundane ninja. Developed by by French military in the ‘80s, parkour’s popularity spread through documentaries and Youtube recordings of spectacular tumbles and twists across urban landscapes.
It’s easy for newbs to see it and be entranced, but wildly intimidated.
That is a fear Tyler Boyce wants to eliminate.
For the last two years Boyce has been teaching parkour across the Rogue Valley to students from 5-44, showing them how to overcome their fears and move past physical obstacles by gaining mental confidence.
Boyce teaches six days a week at the Ashland YMCA as well as at a gym in Grants Pass. The second round of summer Parkour Camp for kids ages 7-12, runs August 3rd-7th.
But in true parkour fashion, there was a lot Boyce faced to get from Point A to Point Parkour instructor.
The 27-year-old Medford native was raised in a martial arts family and first became entranced with body movement through the study of Kenpo, a derivative focus from traditional karate.
“My third word was sword,” he says. “First was ‘milk’ (broken), second “juice” then sword.”
At 15, Boyce became a teacher in his local dojo and realized he could set a course in life to further his own skills by instructing others.
After graduating and teaching around the valley, Tyler sold all of his belongings and moved across the country to the outskirts of Vermont. Under the instructing of a Kung Fu master, Boyce studied the monkey branch of the ancient Chinese art while he lived a self described “Collecting water in a pale” lifestyle.
Shortly into this new tutelage, the pupil found out that his teacher also instructed specific tumbling classes at the nearby New Hampshire Center for Circus Arts (NECCA). One of the largest academies in the United States that trains those interested in pursuing circus arts simply as a hobby or as a career. The young kid who had studied cartoons every Saturday morning was finally able to learn acrobatic flips under a similar discipline he had trained with his whole life.
Parkour came as second nature to Tyler and he quickly rose to the top of each class at the academy. When it came time for him to move home a few years later, he knew that the best way to advance his own learning in Parkour was to teach it. As luck would have it, while searching Craigslist one day, an ad from the YMCA called for an instructor to teach Parkour. The YMCA was launching the new class in an effort to get young boys active. It had long offered gymnastics courses but it was mostly females that enrolled in them. The Parkour scene was non-existent when Tyler began teaching his classes. But since launch two years ago, the number of students has grown steadily.
“My system isn’t technocratic” Boyce says, “Everyone has a different body and is an individual.”
By asking students what they want to accomplish and what they are scared of, Tyler’s step by step approach allows the students to grow and train at a rate that they are comfortable with. While most come in wanting to learn how to flip, there are many steps involving coordination and confidence that must come first.
“I can teach a good focused kid a backflip in two months,” Tyler says.
Parents of the participants in the classes don’t have to worry about their children being instructed to handspring off a mailbox. YMCA code requires that all sessions are held inside. To recreate the urban setting where Parkour is most commonly practiced, Tyler moves foam obstacles into recreations of scenarios one would come across on the street. Imagining the foam as street objects hasn’t been a problem for students.
Surprisingly, a sport that requires so much tumbling and turning is statistically safe. In the two years that Tyler has been teaching the classes at the YMCA the only accident was a broken arm from a student dismounting a trampoline. The young male took a few weeks off to heal but has now fully returned to classes.
“People are always intimidated of the classes, but I tell them to come in one time and I’ll break that fear,” he says. “I’ll give you the most fun, difficult workout.”