Earlier this winter, a group of ‘youngsters’ – an adventurous gang of 30-something moms – jumped at the chance to try out The Monkey Vault Movement Training Centre, Canada’s only parkour gym.
Parkour, sometimes referred to as freerunning, often conjures up images of super-fit ninja-swift stuntmen acrobating in places that defy gravity. (While this is certainly not me, my moments spent crawling through tunnels and jumping over toys and furniture chasing a toddler have to count for something.)
So armed with enthusiasm, curiosity and a desire to get out and active with some girlfriends, we made our way to an industrial loft at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Stockyards district in the city’s west end.
The 10,000 square-foot indoor cityscape equipped with pipes, poles, wooden structures, walls and stairwells is where bodies young and old meet to learn and practice how to move.
Our instructor and gym owner Dan Iaboni is fit, friendly and passionate about parkour, having started the Toronto scene over 15 years ago when the parkour playground was all outside. He opened his first gym in 2008 and moved to this new location last year.
While other parkour-ers were practicing their latest challenge or challenging each other, Iaboni led us beginners through a number of basic moves – how to climb a wall, swing through a window and walk on bars – slowly building our confidence after each attempt. All the while, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool (and way easier) for our kids to try this?
Yes little monkeys are welcome. Any first-timers five-years-and-up can take a one-on-one or group intro class. Once they’ve had a run-through on safety, terminology and basic techniques, there are classes, drop-in sessions and birthday parties where these littler and more nimble bodies can challenge themselves and build confidence while running, climbing, jumping and just having fun.
For us elders, parkour definitely had us pushing some boundaries (and pulling some muscles) but all in all feeling pretty rad with each small achievement. In the end, I am not quite sure if it made me feel older or young again. Let’s go with the latter.
Here is a video to get you or your monkeys in TOw inspired. You will never look at an open window the same way again.
How to get moving: The Monkey Vault is open daily from 12 pm to 10 pm (Mondays 3 pm to 10 pm), offering classes (for teens and youth), private instruction and drop-in sessions. Contact them by email or phone to set up a group or private intro class before dropping in. While there is supervision with veteran parkour-ers on-site, there is no instruction during open gym. Busiest time is on weekends. If you’re looking for a quieter go, swing by on weekdays when they open at noon.
What to bring: Clothes you can move in. Runners. Food and drink (there is water for purchase.) Cash-only.