Manhattan Square Park is home to an ice rink, playground and spray park. Years ago it also featured an amphitheater with waterfalls and hosted outdoor concerts. The amphitheater is now unused and the concrete where the waterfalls once flowed is dry. However, the Rochester Parkour community has turned the unused area of the park into its own playground. Parkour practitioners called traceurs take advantage of the unique architecture and balance on railings, climb walls and jump across gaps.
“The park was designed by Lawrence Halprin, he designed a number of parks nationwide,” said Charles Moreland, co-founder and executive director of Rochester Parkour. “Every Halprin park in the United States will have a large parkour community around it. Halprin believed creative spaces will yield creative people and I think we’re pretty creative people. We use the public space very creatively and constructively.”
Parkour is the discipline of enhancing the capabilities of the human body to overcome obstacles. Parkour was inspired by Georges Hébert, who studied native tribes in Africa. Hebert’s studies became training for the French military. David Belle, the son of a French military firefighter, helped spread parkour around the world. Moreland said the discipline can include jumping, vaulting, climbing, swinging and rolling — basically everything but self defense and swimming.
Moreland, a Rochester resident, and Zachary Cohn started the Rochester Parkour community in 2007 while attending Rochester Institute of Technology. They built a gym in Rochester in April 2011. Rochester Parkour is New York’s first dedicated indoor parkour facility. The gym is entirely adjustable to suit the needs of those training. Moreland, Andrew Salmon and Nicole Suchy all teach classes at their location on Lincoln Avenue in Rochester. People come from as far as Buffalo and Syracuse to train.
Canandaigua resident Jonathan Moore discovered parkour while watching YouTube a year ago.
“I thought it looked really cool, how they could go over things and get from point A to point B really fast,” he said.
The 15-year-old worked at the discipline on his own at first and recently started taking classes through Rochester Parkour. He said the classes have helped him perfect his technique and learn new vaults.
Moreland said there are a lot of misconceptions about parkour. He said it isn’t about jumping off buildings and is not a reckless activity if practiced correctly.
“It’s probably one of the safest things I’ve ever done, I’ve never broken a bone in my body,” he said. “In the six years I’ve been doing this I can count how many times I’ve fallen on one hand.”