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Getting from A to B: Parkour enthusiast jumps, flips over obstacles

By Dominic Valente - | Jan 18, 2016
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Vinny Grosso performs a "double-kong," a move used on parkour to jump horizontally from one obstacle to another on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at Arete Gymnastics in Lindon. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily herald

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Students learn different crawl and tumble techniques in Vinny Grosso's parkour class on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at Arete Gymnastics in Lindon. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily herald

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Vinny Grosso teaches his students how to do vaults in his parkour class on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at Arete Gymnastics in Lindon. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily herald

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Vinny Grosso teaches his students core strength and balance in his parkour class on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at Arete Gymnastics in Lindon. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily herald

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Students learn different crawl and tumble techniques in Vinny Grosso's parkour class on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 at Arete Gymnastics in Lindon. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily herald

Conventional wisdom says that to get from point A to point B, one must walk. But why walk when you can fly?

Vinny Grosso, a parkour enthusiast who has been teaching the art of movement for over six years, believes that putting one foot in front of the other just isn’t enough. He jumps, flips, vaults, sprints and plants over his obstacles to get his thrills.

”For me, parkour is a creative way to get from point A to point B,” Grosso said. “It’s a chance to look at the obstacles in front of you in a different way.”

And parkour is just that.

When he opens up his lessons each Saturday at Arete Gymnastics in Lindon, Grosso reminds his students that parkour is more than just jumping around and having fun. It’s a tool in which one’s body becomes more of a vehicle for creativity and pushing the limits.

There is, however, a controversial debate in the world of parkour: is it a sport, is it an art, or is it something differently entirely?

Grosso said the answer is not so simple.

”Many think of it as a sport, some think of it as an art form,” he said. “I definitely see it as both. It can’t just be one without the other.”

Parkour has a specific distinction from free running. At one point they were one in the same, but around 30 years ago, a chasm in philosophy caused the two to become very different.

Parkour at its basic function is the practice of getting from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. Free running, however, is considered more of an art form of self-expression. Think of it as motocross verses freestyle. One is about the tricks and flashy movements, and the other is about speed, power and efficiency. Parkour is the latter.

The sport began as many sports do – by not being a “sport” at first. It all started with Raymond Belle, a Frenchman who was in the military during World War I. Belle learned the art of movement while in military physical training. The training employed something called the “parcours du combattant,” which translates to assault course.

Ironically, while parkour is based in principle on movement, where the sport is actually going is a cloudy subject.

”I’m not sure where it will be in five. 10 years from now. But I have high hopes,” Grosso said. “I see it as being in the X-games, and maybe even the Olympics some day.”

Grosso wants to eventually open his own training facility, focusing on parkour and including activities like climbing, gymnastics and whatever else he can fit on site. While he has reservations about the state of parkour today, he has high hopes for the future of the sport, citing the relative obscurity martial arts only as recently as the 1950s.

”Fifty years ago nobody knew what it [martial arts] was, but now there’s a dojo on every block,” Grosso said. 

But what sort of catalyst does parkour need to be propelled into the mainstream world of sports? Television spots, big events, promoters are all things that parkour needs, but before that, a spark needs to happen. Grosso believes that spark will be competition.

Citing mixed martial arts and the exponential growth the sport has had over the last 20 years, Grosso believes that competition will eventually need to play a role in the progression of parkour, if proponents of the sport ever want it to peak out of the shadow of obscurity.

A youth counselor for troubled teens at a resident treatment center in Provo, Grosso sees parkour as not just a sport, an art form, or a vessel for self-expression. Rather he sees it as something bigger; a philosophy. Overcoming obstacles is the core principle of parkour, and he wants to employ that not only in that practice, but in everyday life.

”I want to have my therapy sessions… in the gym, more or less,” Grosso said as he laughed. “And even the idea of parkour, getting from A to B and overcoming any obstacles in your way, is a perfect metaphor. If you have problems in your life, learning how to overcome them is an extremely valuable skill. I want to teach that to kids.”

To learn more about Vinny and parkour in general, visit learnparkournow.com or visit him at Arete Gymnastics where he holds his parkour lessons ever Saturday from noon to 1 p.m.

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