Feeling the need for speed, leaping

Gretel Daugherty/The Daily Sentinel

A “kong” vault, demonstrated by parkour instructor Drew Zain, is one of many techniques Zain teaches to students.

By MELINDA MAWDSLEY
The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel

GRAND JUNCTION (AP) – Some people see stairs as, well, stairs. But not Grand Junction’s Drew Zain and Jesse Coquoz. They see stairs as so much more.

Zain and Coquoz are advanced “traceurs,” or men who practice parkour, so to them stairs – and other structures like rails, bars and walls – are potential obstacles to flip over or vault using moves such as “speed,” “kong,” “dash” or “kash” – a combination of a “kong” and “dash.”

Zain, 20, and Coquoz, 21, teach parkour locally and have noticed an increased interest in the form of movement around obstacles that is one part athletic and one part artistic.

“It’s not gymnastics; it’s not martial arts,” Zain said. “It’s parkour.”

Zain teaches several parkour classes for all levels at Defy Gravity while Coquoz teaches a class at KidzPlex, but may add another based on popularity, he said.

Both men teach young children and adults in the same classes.

“Age is just a number in parkour,” Coquoz said.

At a recent Wednesday evening class at Defy Gravity, Zain spent more than an hour instructing nearly a dozen students how to jump from a platform and immediately roll out in one continuous motion before they all moved to an actual vault to practice leaping obstacles.

“I like it,” Zain yelled at his students as music blared in the background. “I like it.”

Although parkour should not be confused with gymnastics or martial arts, as Zain stated, there are obvious athletic traits to the craft.

In fact, the origins of parkour can be traced back decades to the French, who used parkour as a military technique to get around and over obstacles or away from enemies in an efficient manner, according to Americanparkour.com.

The movement gained a more prominent place in pop culture after the 2006 release of the James Bond movie “Casino Royale,” which featured a parkour-heavy chase scene early in the film, according to a 2007 article in The New Yorker.

Since then, parkour has been seen in numerous other feature films, most notably 2010’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” with Jake Gyllenhaal.

To the untrained eye, somebody practicing parkour is simply running away or leaping and twisting over things. To the trained eye, however, that same character is using learned techniques to move around obstacles in his or her own way.

“People say it’s a sport, but nowadays it’s more of an art form,” Zain said.”

One of Zain’s students at Defy Gravity is Jordan Cole, 12, a relative newcomer to parkour.

“It’s really fun,” Cole said. “I’ve learned how to flip and jump from the top bar to the lower bar and dive.”

Zain first became interested in parkour after seeing others practicing it 18 months ago in downtown Grand Junction.

“I didn’t know what it was,” Zain said.

He searched online for an explanation. He began to teach himself the moves through videos.

Coquoz, on the other hand, credited a college roommate at Colorado Mesa University for teaching him.

“The campus is one of our favorite places to train,” he said, referring to himself and his students. “There and downtown.”

Places like downtown Grand Junction or the Colorado Mesa campus have existing structures that rarely – if ever – move, allowing “traceurs” or “traceuses,” female parkour practicers, to individually create their own style of movement around those obstacles, which brings us back to the stairs.

Admittedly, Zain catches himself driving or walking around, spotting stairs, walls, etc., and thinking, “How could I kong that and precision that gap? ... I see something and just want to do it. It’s fun.”

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