Inspiring Urban Ninja’s at Eau Claire with Parkour

Written by Volunteer Blogger Rita Gore

Eau Claire Youth and Pre-school Director, Fan Wu, names two components that are front and centre in Youth programs at the YMCA.

“We give them space to make friends and give them a chance so they feel like they belong”

Wu is a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Parks and Recreation Program. She spends half her job teaching pre-school programs with names like Kangaroo Climbers and Gym and Swim. Badminton and Leadership are just two of the programs she facilitates for older youth.

Describing her typical workday Wu says: “I can have a stressful day at work dealing with paperwork, and then go and teach a class and everything will be better. They say the funniest things; I just like being with them. It’s a lot of fun!”

To experience one of the programs for youth, offered at the Eau Claire Y; I sat in on a Monday night Parkour class, for ages 12 and up.

Parkour was brand new to me. The on line description reads “utilizes movements such as rolls, vaults and climbing in combination with free running and free style gymnastics to navigate through any environment. Obstacles are seen as opportunities.” Watching on-line videos helped me grasp more, but once I got into the classroom it became obvious that there was much I had missed.

Apparently I wasn’t even pronouncing “Parkour” right, by the “eye-rolling” I got from the young man at the door of Studio C/D.

As the instructor Jim Sinclair and the students pulled mats, lifts and equipment out on the floor I quizzed parent, Charito Macaroy how her son Eric Knight came to be enrolled. “I heard about it from friends “Macaroy said. “It (Parkour) works both sides; there is order and control by the instructor, but its fun too”

She sees the class as a way for her son to be with friends, plus it’s a good way for him to be safely tryout the sport.

“It gets them away from computers and being active, instead” she says and at the end of class when Macaroy picks Eric up “every time he’s smiling.”  Now 15, Eric’s been coming to Y programs since the age of 5.

Another thing that appeals to this mom is that it’s non-competitive. “It is a way for Eric to interact with other kids where he doesn’t have to fight for position.”  The camaraderie and positive energy in the room is easy to spot.

The instructor just might have something to do with that. Says Macaroy “Jim is always calm and kind, but always in control; and he seems to love what he’s doing”

Terence Shoults(13) explains that after watching videos on the internet he decided “it looked like fun” so he “tried it outdoors on concrete.” Shoults is quick to admit “it did not work out, I hurt myself”. Enrolled in the Eau Claire class now, he reasons that “mastering the skills is going to make it safer;” and “let me perform like a ninja” he says with a smile.

Shoults says “agility and stamina” are part of what he’s learning; that plus the mental part “It makes you more aware of your body, and where it is”

Instructor Sinclair, acknowledges that he too, first learned Parkour skills “the hard way “; now he’s in demand for teaching the skills safely and creatively to others at Eau Claire YMCA and two other studios.

He’s taught students from 3- 55 years of age and believes that it’s an activity where age, weight, size or gender doesn’t matter.

Describing himself as “the poster boy for how you change, once you start Parkour,” Sinclair hints at the personal growth that’s occurred in his own life from learning to “overcome fears”

It looks like understanding the philosophy behind this activity is just as important as learning technique and strength building exercises. Parkour it’s said can have a positive impact on creativity, problem solving skills and attitude too.

Sinclair’s parting words make you think: “So much of Parkour is about perspective; your head defeats you before anything else” Sounds like this is a program where all of us could learn something.


Parkour is just one of the many programs available at Eau Claire for youth. Check the web-site to register for classes. For those teens looking for a less scheduled approach, Friday night is Drop-in night at Eau Claire. Options include basketball, badminton, swimming racquetball sports and break dancing.

Popular right now too is a Hip-Hop group whose members have organized themselves.

Wu describes this as “Pretty impressive actually, typically 30 dancers ages 15 and up appear Friday nights; the Y provides the studio space and the group runs itself.”

Youth will be the focus through-out Calgary, April 20-27 during Celebrate Youth Week. To see what’s happening check out:

Eau Claire YMCA will celebrate youth that week, by offering a 2 for 1 drop- in for Friday night. For what’s available at other YMCA’s check the website.