This post originally appeared on Movement Unleashed in August 2013. However, as Movement Unleashed matures, I’ll be moving some posts I wrote for that site over to this blog which is a better fit for their tone or subject.
As this post was originally published in 2013 some facts may be out-of-date.
We arrived late to find people jumping off everything in sight – one corner of the Manic Room is built with various sized walls, bars line one wall, and a giant foam pit lines the other. Channeling the street environment where parkour originated, street art and graffiti cover many of the walls. Best of all we were allowed to grab chalk and write on the walls – a collection of signatures and self-indulgent team logos ensued. Looking around, the word “Parkour” covered a nicely slanted wall and “Freerunning” ran along the base of the foam pit – we had arrived at the first New Zealand parkour facility.
It’s located in an industrial section of Mt Maunganui where warehouses are aplenty. For gyms such as this old warehouses with high ceilings make for perfect spaces. The warehouse it’s built in merges with an equal sized warehouse next door. A passageway separates the neighboring business The Rock House, an indoor climbing facility owned by the same owners. While we were there it was closed for the parkour jam, so we didn’t get to see it operating like normal, but we did get to spend hours and hours and hours jumping on all the equipment.
The facility has equipment for the common parkour movements – there’s walls for precisions, vaults, wall runs and arm jumps; and enough room and mats for flips. There’s a foam pit, a trampoline, a tumbling track, a bar structure, a wall area, and flat area with movable obstacles such as vault boxes and a picnic table. Parkour equipment needs to be able to take some abuse, and the walls seemed to stand up to big jumps and impacts. The bars, bolted into one wall, were getting a little bit loose during the event from the precisions and laches, but hopefully this can easily be fixed up with some re-tightening of screws.
The only pieces of equipment for parkour missing are, as someone pointed out to me, a vaultable rail and a rail that’s low to the ground for beginner’s to learn rail precisions and balance. The bar structure has these, but they’re higher than beginner level. Nearby to the bar structure are slanted walls sprayed with words “parkour and tricking centre”. I don’t know how usable the place would be for the tricking, as there’s no sprung floor. However if we’re referring to the movements, such as flipping techniques, as opposed to the activity of ‘martial arts tricking’, then there’s definitely good equipment in the Manic Room for throwing flips and tricks.
Best of all, shoes are allowed. While gymnastics gyms can provide much of the same equipment such as foam pits, trampolines, vault boxes and etc, every gymnastics gym I’ve been to has insisted on taking shoes off before stepping foot on any of their equipment. Why exactly, I’m not sure. Something to do with damaging the mats or something. But in terms of parkour, the sensation of training in barefeet and the sensation of training in shoes are vastly different. And as parkour is predominantly trained outside in the street with shoes on, a gym that allows you to practice as you play is of great benefit.
To speak of gymnastics gyms, they can provide many of the same opportunities for movement – they have much of the same equipment for flips as the Manic Room. But the carry-over of skill learnt between what a gymnastics gym allows for and what actual parkour involves doesn’t quite match up. For example most gymnastics gyms have trampolines positioned next to their foam pit for learning movements. The added height from the trampoline assisted jump allows for extra time to rotate and the very soft landing from the foam is a life saver if you under or over rotate. However, nowhere in actual parkour do you find a surface that will give you jumping assistance, such as a trampoline. Parkour is off of hard surfaces. Manic Room has a higher level built next to their foam pit which allows for a drop into the pit from standing or running, and is thus a much closer match to parkour-specific situations. While it’s good to alter the landing from concrete to foam for learning flips, it’s a lot better for transferring the skills to the street if you can keep the take-off surface solid and/or raised. The gymnastic gyms I’ve been to are vary hesitant about height – they don’t like us stacking any equipment on top of each other. The Manic Room, in comparison, has some purposefully built-in places about one-story high for jumping off of. It’s good to have a space primarily for parkour, as opposed to primarily for gymnastics.
If you walk outside of Manic Room, directly across the street is another warehouse housing an indoor skate park, indoor sports courts, and a children’s trampoline park. Across the street on the other side of Manic Room is what looked like a surfing shop. The area in Mt Maunganui is becoming somewhat of a hub for ‘extreme sports’.
While it is the only indoor parkour facility at this point, it’s definitely a must train at facility. I can’t wait for more like this to open.