North Texas Daily

Jump start: new UNT student brings parkour to campus

Jump start: new UNT student brings parkour to campus

Jump start: new UNT student brings parkour to campus
April 01
01:36 2014

Akshay Mirchandani // Staff Writer

It’s the summer after his senior year and Travis Hensley is on the roof of his high school, Denton Ryan.

With another friend, he’s staring at about a 13-foot long gap that leads to another part of the roof, which has about a four-foot ledge to it. It looks terrifying, but they want to jump.

His friend goes first and runs full speed along the edge of the building, with a 35-foot drop straight to concrete to his right, and leaps over the gap. A second of silence passes and Hensley hears a thud on the other side of the gap, signaling that his friend landed safely.

Hensley follows him, jumps – and makes it. But jumps and moves like this are commonplace for Hensley, who participates in the sport of parkour.

“I just fell in love with the free spirit of it. I’ve always liked physical activity, I just never liked the structure of sports and the pressure,” Hensley said. “Really, I just do it because I want to do it. It’s fun. I’m not really an adrenaline junkie or anything like that. I find the control of it more pleasing than the scariness.”

Parkour’s origins

Parkour originated from France, created by an ex-military man and firefighter named Raymond Belle. He had a philosophy of strength and preparation, and his son, David Belle, developed it into a movement that became known as parkour. The sport began to spread in Europe in the late 1990s and has found its way to Denton in the form of the UNT Parkour Club.

“Parkour is, in layman’s term, the most efficient way to move through an environment,” said Hensley, club president and a business and entrepreneurship freshman. “It really just depends on what the environment has put in front of you. Whether it’s jumping, vaulting, climbing, landing, rolling, whatever it takes.”

Bringing it to UNT

Hensley was first introduced to parkour at Denton Ryan. He used to come to UNT campus to train, but said he was asked to leave when security guards found out he wasn’t a student.

After deciding to attend UNT last year, Hensley started an official parkour club through OrgSync, a social network that connects students through interests, in an attempt to get together with others interested. Today, the club has grown to 14 members who meet every Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the amphitheater by the Life Sciences Complex.

The club doesn’t have any older instructors, but Hensley is a certified parkour coach and helps run the meetings. Anyone can join by simply showing up and then joining the Facebook group. Depending on how many people show up, the club will sometimes venture to other parts of campus to train and practice.

“On days where it’s just two or three, we might travel the entire campus,” Hensley said. “On days where we have 10, we might just stay in certain sports and play games or something like that. Or we’ll go through a warm-up regimen and let people have the freedom to do whatever they please. We lay down some ground rules on what not to do.”

The club is open to people of all skill levels, such as business finance junior Peter Roome, who just started practicing parkour this March. Roome said he has enjoyed the fun nature of the club and said that it has provided him with immense physical exercise.

“It’s great for your core,” Roome said. “The first day I did it, I’m glad it’s on a Friday, because the next day I couldn’t get up until like 3 p.m. just because my abs were hurting so much.”

Senior international exchange student Christopher Moser said he got into parkour in Austria right before coming to the United States. Initially disappointed that there wasn’t a club at UNT when he first arrived, he was very excited to join the club that Hensley created. He also said that there are certain qualities that someone that does Parkour has to have.

“You definitely have to be brave, especially when you want to do back flips or something like that,” Moser said. “You also have to be kind of in a good condition from the fitness standpoint. But if you’re not in a good condition, you just start a bit slower and you will definitely be able to learn it.”

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Across the metroplex

The club doesn’t hold meets or performances, but instead functions as an outlet for students that are into Parkour, or want to try it, and have fun. However, parkour in Denton goes beyond just the club.

Hensley and another friend helped UNT alum Kenny Chamberlin create a Denton-based company called Primal Parkour last summer.

Anyone can join the company’s classes by registering online for a monthly membership of $55 for four weeks or private lessons starting at $20 an hour for one person. They travel all over DFW offering parkour classes.

Hensley is majoring in business entrepreneurship to learn as much as he can and apply it to Primal Parkour.

“We wanted to have a positive message,” Hensley said. “As of right now, we teach classes for kids and adults. We also have clothing like T-shirts and hats, and there’s a lot of stuff we want to do with it. Our first big goal is we want to open a gym. But we’re just taking it slow.”

The parkour exposure that has come to Denton is one of the main reasons that Roome ended up joining the club and said that it could attract more interested people.

“It’s great. Without the exposure I probably wouldn’t have went out and done this on my own,” Roome said. “I think there are more people who feel empowered to try it and I feel like more people want to try it, especially with the increasing popularity of the sport itself.”

With the company and club in the fold, Hensley hopes that parkour in Denton keeps growing and expanding.

“It could die out just as easily as it could flourish. I’m hoping for the latter,” Hensley said. “I want it to get bigger. I want people to realize you don’t have to be superhuman or an idiot to try it. You just have to have an open mind and just be willing to play. That’s really all it is, just getting back to that child like mindset of ‘hey can I do this?’ and try it.”

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Center photo: Hensley jumps forward while looking ahead for his next move. The club welcomes anyone to its practices. Photo by Jeff Woo / Contributing Photographer 

Bottom photo: UNT alum Kenny Chamberlin front flips over a table with other members of the group sitting. The club usually meets on Fridays at the amphitheater near the Life Sciences Complex. Photos by Jeff Woo, Contributing Photographer

Feature photo: Business freshman Travis Hensley sticks out his right leg towards his landing spot. His interest in parkour began in high school. Photo by Jeff Woo / Contributing Photographer

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