Pursuing freerunning at greater heights

After finding mainstream sports uninteresting, Owen Yee turned to parkour for its appealing acrobatics.

While many students athletes spend their weekends practicing basketball or soccer, Diamond Bar High School junior Owen Yee works on his flips and maneuverability in a less popular sport: parkour.

In parkour, the participant moves quickly and overcomes existing structures such as walls, rails and uneven ground to reach a destination. People can practice parkour recreationally or competitively.

The word parkour originated from a French military obstacle course called “parcours du combattant.”

“I started parkour not just because it was flashy, but also because I was horrible at other sports, especially soccer and basketball, which I had played for most of my elementary school years,” Yee said via Instagram.

Yee first learned how to do parkour at a gym in Covina when he was in fifth grade. He now trains at Firestorm Freerunning in Santa Ana, which offers classes in tumbling, tricking, parkour, aerial silks, breakdance and trampoline.

“My gym teaches a combination of parkour and tricking known as freerunning. I practice flipping, vaulting, tricking, bar movement, and some tumbling,” Yee said.

He said he practices parkour in the gym every Sunday night, sometimes staying later to build his skills more during open gym, which is when the gym allows everyone train on their own. Yee has not participated in parkour competitions, but he is training to join his gym’s competition team.  

When he started practicing parkour again before his freshman year, he intended to build strength and endurance for track and field. Even though he joined drumline instead of track, Yee said the parkour training boosted his confidence and made it easier for him to march for longer times with a heavy drum.  

“The most important thing I learned while practicing parkour was how to break down and comprehend techniques,” Yee said. “As with most movement and tricking based activities, parkour has damaging consequences.”

Yee said he also started parkour because of his interest in the television series “American Ninja Warrior.” In this sports entertainment show, competitors attempt to complete a number of difficult obstacle courses in hopes of being named an American Ninja Warrior.

The gym Yee currently goes to offers a Ninja Warrior class, which teaches skills in areas including gymnastics, rock climbing and parkour and helps those taking the class develop their stamina to overcome obstacles from “American Ninja Warrior.”

“I am definitely interested in participating in ‘American Ninja Warrior,’” Yee said. “I have attempted several of the obstacles from the show at my gym including the salmon ladder and the warped wall.”