Fitness for life | Parkour interest overflowing among Bellevue youth

Groussman finds inspiration from yoga and several other disciplines.  - Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter
Groussman finds inspiration from yoga and several other disciplines.
— image credit: Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter

When Todd Falconer, the athletic director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue, was approached by Issaquah-native Kyle Groussman about the notion of integrating Parkour into the programming, his reaction was uncertainty.

Like most, Falconer had seen the YouTube videos showing reckless teenagers and 20-somethings tossing their bodies around local parks and malls, sustaining gruesome injuries for sport.

"I was a little hesitant," Falconer said. "But within the first five minutes, he explained everything about what he did."

Unlike the popular notion of the fast-growing sport, which includes leaping between city rooftops and bouncing between concrete obstacles, Groussman has a holistic philosophy about fitness that uses Parkour as but one of its teaching tool. Taking inspiration from ancient Shaolin monks, yoga practitioners and modern sports science, Groussman created "MoveFree Academy," a program he describes as "the discipline of functional self-improvement through movement."

Groussman, who played soccer and baseball as a youngster, began learning about Parkour during his senior year at Skyline High School after seeing it showcased on the television show, "Ripley's Believe it or Not."

"They didn't even call it Parkour," he said. "I started to realize, I climbed trees, I did those kinds of challenges."

Groussman kept the idea of Parkour in his mind as he began a career in construction, where he developed a morning warm-up routine for co-workers, but didn't begin to pursue a greater focus on the sport until three years ago. That's when he and partner Rami Mackay, another enthusiast who has been an instructor for around two years, began MoveFree Academy.

"It became more and more popular," he said. "I saw a lot of potential."

Around the same time Groussman was ramping-up his interest in Parkour, an accrediting agency called "Art du Deplacement and Parkour Teaching," (ADAPT) brought its first certification program to the United States. The timing could not have been better, and led Groussman to an even greeter understanding of his own philosophies about kinetic motion, exercise and fitness. It also made him one of only two ADAPT certified Parkour instructors in the state.

After beginning the program at the Boys and Girls Club as a free offering for its teens, Groussman said his twice-weekly classes are now overflowing with youth ages 8-18. As parents see their children growing with the sport and gaining the physical fitness that comes with, they too have become interested.

He hopes to integrate MoveFree into the city's parks and recreation offerings and also wants to expand into Issaquah, Sammamamish and other neighboring cities.

"We want to sprinkle in Parkour and physical education into the community that is already there," Groussman said. "We don't have to build a big gym that costs a lot of money. It should be accessible to all and I feel like every city could this type of program that really teaches kids."

Groussman uses homemade obstacles to turn any area into an ideal place to practice. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

One of his many safety measures includes a stipulation that no participant jumps off of anything he or she cannot jump onto. JOSH SUMAN, BELLEVUE REPORTER

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