Bristol has been selected as the venue for one of the country’s first “Parkour” gyms – the training discipline often associated with urban freerunning.
While the sport is becoming hugely popular all around the world – with over 100,000 people the UK alone regularly taking part in Parkour activities – only a small handful of specialist centres have so far been set up in this country to meet the demand for training facilities.
Max Lawrence, who runs a business called Parkour Jam and most recently established a major trampoline park near Paris, has chosen Bristol as the ideal location for the new venture and has briefed local property specialists Williams Gunter Hardwick to acquire a 5,000 to 8,000 sq ft property to host it.
Parkour, originally known as “Art du deplacement” (art of movement), was first developed in France and is a training discipline that originally developed from military obstacle course training and combines running, climbing, jumping and vaulting.
“Parkour is growing incredibly quickly in popularity amongst people of all ages,” Max says, “because it’s more challenging than running and far more fun.
“It is seen as a non-combative martial art because it requires discipline and if you take it seriously you can become very fit indeed – as well as extremely agile, as it makes different demands on the body to a straightforward gym session.
“It’s also a very social activity,” he adds, “and everyone can take part at their own level. It particularly appeals to children and adults who are not into traditional team sports such as rugby, football or prefer the freedom which Parkour offers in comparison to the rigid rules of gymnastics. It also builds their self-confidence – and I know that from my own children as well as what many parents tell me.”
Max first got involved with the sport after his two young sons tried it out with a local coach – and got hooked. “I could see what a fantastic activity it was for energetic children like mine, but I soon realised that we don’t have the venues where people can acquire the skills from experienced coaches. Parkour is all about movement outdoors, but the safe way to learn is in a specialised and coached environment where moves can be practised with very low risk of injury.”
Max Lawrence has spent several decades in the leisure sector, establishing successful boutique hotels and organising desert marathons as well as setting up popular trampoline parks. He believes Parkour is a branch of the fitness sector that is going to grow massively over the next few years.
“The traditional gymnasium sector is doing well at the moment, but I see Parkour as the next ‘big thing’ with the scope for many more specialist venues like this all around the country.
“I chose Bristol as our first venue simply because the city has such a great vibe – it’s a place where people love trying out new things.”
“The challenge we face,” adds Mike Woodliffe of Williams Gunter Hardwick, “is tracking down the right property to house the new venture. Bristol doesn’t have a great deal of empty space of any kind! Ideally, we are looking for up to 8,000 sq ft where a course can be set out and, alongside that, a hospitality space for spectators – perhaps on a mezzanine level.
“It could be an industrial property or warehouse, or even a disused church or public building – we have a completely open mind. It will need a minimum height as well, to allow for the climbing equipment. The search is on throughout the Greater Bristol area, and if anyone has a potential property for us to look at, we’d love to hear from them.”