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Forge Parkour
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Forge ParkourWhat’s to Love:  I’ve been writing articles for Portland Family Adventures since 2007, and I’ve never seen such a beautiful facility built from scratch. Owner Austin Schatz’s father is an architect and did the design work – it’s phenomenal! From the outside, it has a futuristic look, which fits well with the evolving nature of Parkour. Inside, you’ll find a state-of-the-art facility where both adults and kids can explore the many obstacles, boxes, walls, ramps, bars, etc.

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You might be wondering, “What is Parkour?” I don’t think I’m qualified to offer much of an explanation, but take a look at the Wikipedia entry – I think this will clear it up a bit. You can also watch their Grand Opening video, which is amazing.

So, now that you have a better understanding of Parkour, you’ll want to head right over to Forge to give it a try! There are plenty of classes that provide instruction on how to get started. In these courses, you’ll learn warm-ups and common movements that will keep you safe including: landing, vaulting, climbing, and rolling.

Personally, I enjoyed the feel of their Open Gym class. Kids were free to explore, and parents were able to walk around the floor. Kids of all ages were helping each other, and instruction was given when needed. Many of the skills of Parkour are inherent; for example, jumping up on a box. However, can you jump on the box as efficiently as possible – using your forward momentum as energy? That is the beauty of learning Parkour.

Caveats: If you’re bringing other kids with you, make sure a parent completes the online waiver (see Insider Info below). You don’t want to get there and have kids be completely disappointed, because they cannot participate.

Please note (via website), “Students under 15 must have participated in at least 3 classes, students under 10 require parent participation.”

Website: Forge Parkour

Distance from Portland: It’s about 7 miles from downtown Portland near 97th and Stark (SE).

Recommended Ages: While certainly appealing to teens, Parkour is for everyone! If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like sports, but wants to be active, you should definitely give Parkour a try. If your kids are 6 and under, there is a special “Pre-K” open gym class. Their website states, “Kids 4 and under must be within arms reach of a parent/guardian and kids 5-6 must be within 10 feet of a parent/guardian.” You must watch your kids carefully!

Parental Stress Factor: There are times I was definitely a bit stressed watching after two 8 year old kids. I wasn’t worried about them getting hurt – I just didn’t want them to get in the way of others’ flips and jumps. While there are definitely lanes for some activities, open gym is a bit more chaotic with kids picking their own lines to explore. Make sure you help your kids understand that they have to look all around before attempting a run.

Physical Difficulty: Let’s not kid ourselves – Parkour can be incredibly physical and demanding. Pulling up onto a 7 or 8 foot box is not easy for most people. Jumping a 5 foot gap onto a small landing can be terrifying! If you’re new, I recommend taking a course, so you can learn some basic tips and techniques. Part of taking courses is learning your own limitations. The good news is that you don’t HAVE to jump up on the 8 foot box or jump huge gaps. Pick obstacles that are better suited for your strength and agility.

Family Fun Factor: Families could take the courses together, which is something I recommend. I’ve done this with my two sons at a different facility, and it was great to be in the class with them. There are also other options such as Parkour Fit and Parkour Games. This could be an opportunity to actually do something with a teen son or daughter!

Weather Considerations: An excellent indoor activity!

Insider Info:  You can complete the waiver online by creating an account. Click on the “Register/Log-in” button on their website. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are tighter fitting. You don’t want your feet moving around in big shoes. At the very least, lace-em-up!

Family Tips: Plenty of cubby space for your gear. It’s okay to bring outside snacks and water – you’ll just need to keep them out of the main gym area.

Technorati Tags: Parkour, Portland, Forge, family, friendly

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