Alumni reclaim play with parkour

Follow Mindy Mozer on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

Zac Cohn ’10

Charles Moreland ’10 (multidisciplinary studies) walks on a railing and scales a wall while Andrew Salmon ’10 (multidisciplinary studies) jumps a vault and lands with a roll.

“We are not risk-takers,” Salmon says before demonstrating his next move. “We don’t want to get hurt.”

Moreland and Salmon have made a business by playing it safe in a sport that at first glance would make mothers cringe. It’s called parkour and their RocPK gym celebrated its first anniversary this spring. Parkour participants look at and react to the world differently. Instead of walking around obstacles, they jump or climb them. Curbs become balance beams. Park benches transform into vaults.

“We are using these obstacles as a way to not only challenge ourselves physically but also challenge ourselves mentally and figure out how we can become better critical thinkers, more adept at understanding circumstances and situations,” Moreland says.

But parkour takes practice and discipline, which is why the two opened a gym in 2011. Although it looks dangerous, when done right the sport is safe, Moreland and Salmon say, adding that their students are confident, and coordinated. Both Moreland, who works as a personal trainer at RIT, and Salmon, who is a dancer in PUSH Physical Theatre, were introduced to the sport by friend Zac Cohn ’10 (multidisciplinary studies).

Cohn got interested in parkour as a high school student in Maryland. When he came to RIT, he says, he was one of few people in the area doing it. He encouraged his friends in the RIT Tae Kwon Do Club to give it a try and the group began meeting at Manhattan Square Park in Rochester on Saturdays. By the time Cohn graduated, he says, more than 50 people would join him each Saturday. Moreland and Salmon still practice in the park with at least a dozen people who have RIT ties. And they teach three to four classes a day at their gym. Their clients range in age from 5 to 65.

“We started the gym because we take what we do very seriously and we are convinced that it is probably one of the safest things we have ever done,” Salmon says.

Cohn also remains active with parkour. He is on the board of directors for Parkour Visions, a nonprofit organization in Seattle. He works for Startup Weekend, which teaches entrepreneurship all over the world.

He couldn’t be more proud of Moreland and Salmon for continuing to grow the Rochester parkour community.

“Play is really an important aspect of people’s happiness,” Cohn says. “Parkour is a great way to reclaim that element of play.”