This weekend, ninjas are invading Edina. Sort of.
While they may not be wearing masks or wielding swords, full-blown ninja aerial tactics will be on display Saturday when Fight or Flight Academy presents the third-annual Minnesota Summer Parkour & Freerunning Championships.
Chad Zwadlo, owner of Fight or Flight Academy, says that best of the best from all over the Midwest -- AND MAYBE THE WORLD! (our words, not his) -- will compete for the ultimate bragging rights.
"The competition is by invite only, because we want to make sure that everyone is on the same skill level," he says. "I'm expecting around 20 people to participate, but the event is open and free to anyone who wants to come out and watch."
Competitors will participate in a parkour speed round, freerunning freestyle rounds, and one-on-one matches judged on creativity, difficulty, and executions. After the pros get done showing off their skills, Fight or Flight will be hosting an open gym free of charge and open to anyone who wants to attend. This is the sixth competition of its kind to be held at the facility, with the group also playing host to a winter championship event as well.
Since opening their doors in September 2011, Fight or Flight has been known as one of the premier parkour and freerunning facilities in the country, offering traceurs (that's insider lingo that means "parkour and freerunning enthusiasts" to us non-acrobatic folks) of all ages and experiences levels the opportunity to channel their inner-ninjas in a fun, safe environment.
"We offer classes for everyone. We have kids as young as seven years old, and students as old as 46," Zwadlo continues. "Altogether we have about 100 students enrolled, but with trials and things like that there are upwards of 250 people who use the gym."
While parkour has always had a dedicated following, this summer it received a huge boost in visibility, thanks to the TV game show train wreck American Ninja Warrior (one of the Academy's members is actually a finalist). While Zwadlo and company do offer an ANW-type training class, he says that it isn't quite as easy as it looks.
"Our Ninja Warrior training retention is pretty low," he says. "Most people who come in and say that their goal is to be on the show usually don't last too long. Once they figure out that it's actually really hard, they tend to be less enthusiastic."
Ninjas aside, the Academy is continuing to grow by creating new classes and offerings for potential members, and renovating the facility to include plenty of new obstacles and updated décor.
"Our long-term goal is to open a second gym, but we're still a little ways from getting to that point," says Zwadlo. "For now, we're just hoping to keep spreading the word. We don't do any advertising or paid marketing; our members come from word of mouth, which is why we're constantly looking for new ways to bring people through the doors and teach them how to train in parkour and freerunning."
IF YOU GO:
Minnesota Summer Parkour & Freerunning Championships
Saturday, August 16, 3 p.m.
Fight or Flight Academy
All ages, Free