Opening the Door to Parkour
When entering the Bay Area Movement (BAM) studio in San Jose, a buzz of energy and excitement fills the air. Huge wooden structures loom overhead, waiting for people to leap from them—into a foam pit, of course. A large spring-loaded floor, similar to what gymnasts use to reduce impact when training, takes up the center of the studio. A group of young kids and teenagers vigorously exercise under an instructor’s watchful eye, anticipating the moment when they’re free to practice the moves and techniques they’ve been working on.
Parkour, the sport of moving quickly and smoothly through an area, often urban, might sound like it appeals to a niche interest group, but as partners and co-founders Angel Abiang, Jr. and Diana Silva explain their journey, it becomes apparent how many people in the Bay Area have taken up this sport.
Angel and Diana, husband and wife of 10 years, discovered parkour through their son, Ryan. When he was four years old, he loved anything to do with ninjas. He became interested in online parkour videos because the athletes’ style was similar to that of ninjas. Ryan had no interest in conventional sports; he wanted to do parkour. Angel recalls this time fondly: “We would have loved it then if he’d just liked something easy, like soccer, but we knew we had to find something he wanted to do.”
They found Frank Fuentes, who was teaching parkour in Bay Area public parks. Frank had no formal class structure or meeting place—he just taught any kids that were interested. “We would use whatever we could find,” says Frank. “We’d be outside in a park using an old mattress for a mat.” Frank was already a close friend of another parkour enthusiast, Desheay Jenkins, and eventually, Angel, Diana, Frank, and Desheay sat down to discuss the possibility of starting an official parkour program. After finally securing a small space, they quickly realized they needed more room to keep up with demand. When they came across a large warehouse off Senter Road, they’d found the space they’d been looking for.
Parkour might be the most well-known style of urban athletics, but there’s also tricking, freerunning, and other specific techniques. The team didn’t want to alienate any one style, so they named their business Bay Area Movement, using the term movement to include all styles. Inclusivity, in terms of style and clientele, is important to the team. “There is a perception that people who do parkour are like skateboarders or punks,” says Angel. “That’s just not true. By starting these classes, we’re introducing it as a family activity, something parents can feel comfortable having their kids participate in.”
Today, BAM offers a wide range of classes for all age groups: for beginners as young as five years old, for preteens and teens, for adults, and recently, for women specifically. “We decided to introduce the women’s class to work on moves that are more customized for them,” says Diana. “So far, everyone has loved it. The women in the class are great; they cheer each other on in class and support each other.”
Angel, Diana, Desheay, and Frank welcome anyone and everyone to come try a class. With a little hard work and patience, anyone might be able to perform astonishing leaps, vaults, and rolls.
Written by Michelle Runde
Photography by Scott MacDonald
This article originally appeared in Issue 8.1 “Sight and Sound”